Category Archives: cameras in the cupboard

Cameras in the Cupboard #11

Nikon Nikkormat

The workhorse. My third SLR was a Nikon Nikkormat, so was my fourth, fifth and sixth.

Nikon Nikkormat

In fact I used Nikkormat cameras from when I bought the first one in 1973 to when I decided to go digital in 2002.

I was hooked on the Nikkormat the first time one of my friends from the Geelong Camera Club let me use his briefly. The view finder was much brighter than the SLR I was using at the time and the prints were sharper.

Over the next 29 years I wore out several bodies, replacing them when they couldn’t be repaired economically. I usually had two Nikkormat bodies in my camera bag, a black one for black and white film and a silver one loaded with colour.

Nikon made the Nikkormat FT from 1965 to 1967, then the FTn from 1967 to 1975. I had examples of both over the years.

I now have 6 large ring binders of negatives, all taken with a Nikon Nikkormat. My favourite camera of all time.

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Cameras in the Cupboard #10

Petri FT

Another first. The Petri FT was my first SLR and my third camera.  I had been using the Agfa rangefinder for a while and was now interested enough in photography to want to start developing and printing my own black and white images. And it seemed that to be a serious photographer, I had to have an SLR.

Petri FT, my first SLR

I had no idea about SLR’s, I had no one to ask and very little information available. I had been working for about 18 months in Melbourne and had saved some money so I started going to the camera stores.

One camera store was advertising ‘the perfect camera for the new photographer’, a Petri FT – $95. So I bought it. And so began years of learning to develop film, print images, mix chemicals, build darkrooms, enter competitions, trying to get better, disappontments, great expense and eventually going digital. And along the way I have met some fun and talented people.

The Petri is a Japanese camera. The company began making SLRs in the late ’50s and the Petri FT went into production in 1967. I bought mine in 1970, probably at the end of the production run. The company brought out several other FT models (FTE, FT EE, FT II) before going bankrupt in 1978.

It had a couple of odd features: the shutter release was on the front of the body and angled at 45 degrees but it worked well when you got used to it. That large lever beside the shutter release is the depth of field control, press it back to stop down the lens to check the depth of focus. I have never seen one like that before or since.

The Petri FT wasn’t a high quality camera, it was on a par with the early Praktika and Yashica SLRs, but it got me started on a life-long journey of taking pictures and producing my own prints.

Cameras in the Cupboard #9

Ilford Sportsman



This is another camera that just “turned up” in my unofficial collection. For those of you who haven’t been following this blog closely (and why haven’t you?), I don’t collect cameras, they just sort of appear.

The Ilford Sportsman was made by the German company Dacora for the British photographic film and paper manufacturer, Ilford. The first model (the Mark 1) was introduced in 1957. It was designed to compete with the Kodak Retinette range of cameras. The last of the line, the Mark 5, was introduced in 1967.

My camera seems to be the Mark 2 model from 1959.

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Cameras in the Cupboard #8

Zeiss Ikon Contina

One of the cameras in the cupboard has a significant place in my life for a number of reasons. It is a Zeiss Ikon Contina.

In 1955 my mother’s eldest sister, my aunt Ruth, decided to leave our home town of Geelong and travel to Europe. This was not a common thing to do in the 1950s. Apart from the fact that it involved a 6 week voyage by ship, it was virtually unknown for a young country girl to travel unescorted to Europe for an indefinite stay.

Ruth got work in London, met up with several other women from various parts of the world and spent every available minute of the next six years touring Britain and Europe. She returned home after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1961.

I think Ruth’s Zeiss Ikon is a Contina 1a, made between 1954 and 1957. However, it has the Novar f3.5 lens, which means it was made prior to 1956. I am not sure if the camera was purchased here before she left or as soon as she arrived in England.

It is a very simple camera without rangefinder-type focussing, just a distance scale on the lens. There is no light meter either, but the lens is adjustable from f3.5 to f22.

For a simple camera, it is very solid, heavy and well made. My aunt was a fastidious woman and the Contina is in superb condition. I am struggling to find a mark on it, even with a magnifying glass. The leather carrying case is also in unmarked condition. One might be tempted to think that is has never been used, but I know it travelled around Europe for six years, and I have the boxes of slides to prove it.

Unfortunately Ruth was neither a good, nor prolific photographer. A lot of her images are badly underexposed.

But this camera represents a number of things in my life. The trip up from Geelong to Station Pier in Melbourne is one of my earliest memories and my first trip to Melbourne. It was the first time I ever saw a passenger ship, and the only time I have ever waved one goodbye, with the streamer throwing and a band playing.

And on the way home I got to ride in the dicky seat of my uncle’s 1936 Plymouth coupe.

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Cameras in the Cupboard #7

Agfa Clack

This is another purchase. I saw it sitting in a second-hand junk shop complete with its “leather” case and instruction leaflet and I just had to add it to the collection.

The Clack began production in 1953 and continued through until 1965. A twelve-year production run is unheard of in the digital age.

The camera is very simple, basically just an update of the early box cameras. The Clack takes 120 roll film and the whole roll/spool assembly slides out of the camera so it can be loaded. The image size is 6×9 (centimetres) and only 8 shots fit on a roll.

The Clack has two shutter speeds, normal and bulb. But it does also have two aperture settings, one for sun and one for overcast.

And, I have to confess, at the moment it isn’t in a cupboard. It is in a packing crate under the stairs. But it will be unpacked and back in a collection cupboard eventually.

The photo of the Agfa Clack was taken ‘strobist’ style with a Canon 580EX 11 flash fired through a Westcott umbrella just to the left of the camera and a large white reflector just to the right to provide some shadow fill.

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Cameras in the Cupboard #6

Agfa Optima 1

This little Agfa range finder was my second camera. But it also had several firsts to its credit. It was my first 35mm camera. It was the first camera I bought with my own money and it was the first time I used colour film.

Agfa Optima 1 - my second camera

As my interested in photography grew, I wanted to move up from the Instamatic 25 to something a little more sophisticated. By this time I had started at my first job and a colleague recommended that I find a nice range finder camera. Not being able to afford a Leica, I looked around for something used but in good condition and found this Agfa.
Agfa introduced the Optima 1 in 1961. I would have purchased mine in 1969 or early 1970. It has four distance settings for focus and an f.stop range from 2.8 to 22. The Optima 1 only took films up to ISO 200, but had a clever little device for indicating a correct exposure and it didn’t require a battery.

When you took up the pressure on the shutter, a dot at the top of the range finder either displayed green or red, indicating the light level for the shot.

I still have a number of boxes of slides I took with this camera. They are all either Fujicolor, Perutz or Agfa. I don’t think I ever put any of the nearly-departed Kodachrome through it.

The Agfa Optima 1 didn’t stay in use for very long. My interest in black and white photography and developing and printing my own film was growing. By 1970, I had moved on to my first Single Lens Reflex (SLR). But that is another post.

Cameras in the Cupboard #5

As I have mentioned before, my family, especially my mother’s side, always seemed to have had a camera on hand at family gatherings; birthdays, Christmas, picnics and the like. So I grew up thinking that having a camera and photographing family events was just what people did.

The first camera I remember is my father’s Kodak Brownie ‘C’.

A lot of the early photos of my immediate family were taken with this camera, it might even have taken the picture of my mother and father in the previous post.

I remember playing with the camera as a child (very carefully and under supervision, of course). I was fascinated by the dim images in the viewing screens. Because the camera took 6cmx9cm negatives  on 620 film, it could take an image in either portrait or landscape format and had a viewing screen for each one (the two little portholes above the lens). It was virtually impossible to make out any detail unless the subject was bathed in bright sunlight.

This camera is the start of my photographic story. I took my first photo with this corroded old piece of family history. And it was the first camera to take a photograph of me.

Kodak made the Brownie ‘C’ from 1946 to 1957. In 1953 the design of the front plate changed slightly, making my father’s camera a pre-1953 model. In fact, judging from some of the photos, he certainly owned it in 1949, so it is an earlier model. It still has its original canvas carry case, although the strap has broken.

Also posted in collection, equipment

Cameras in the Cupboard #4

Minolta SRT101

This is the most recent addition to my small collection. I never owned a Minolta SRT101, but it was a direct competitor with the type of camera I did use for more than 20 years and several of my friends used them. This camera was removed from the boot of a car in an underground carpark and passed to me under the cover of darkness.

In other words, a friend gave it to me and happened to bring it along when we all went out to a show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival last Saturday night. Thanks Graham!

Although the shutter is broken and the camera no longer works, it is in excellent condition with hardly a mark on it. It came with an owner’s manual, filters, cleaning brush and cloth, cable release and two Vivitar lenses; a 24mm and an 85-205mm zoom. The lenses look brand new. The whole lot came in a cute 1970s style camera bag. This is a very typical, and very well looked after, amateur photographer’s kit from the great golden age of 35mm film cameras. I am very pleased to add it to the collection.

Minolta made the SRT101 between 1966 and 1975. It is an-all metal construction which gives it a heavy, solid feel. The big innovation was the use of two CdS cells in the metering system. This was done to compensate for the brightness of the sky to prevent over-exposing, and to give a better average meter reading across the whole field of view.

Cameras in the Cupboard #3

My First Camera

Kodak Instamatic 25

The Kodak Instamatic 25 was produced between 1966 and 1972. I received mine as a Christmas present from my parents in 1967. I would like to think that mum and dad were trying to nurture my budding photographic talent, but I think dad was just tired of me ‘borrowing’ his box Brownie when he wasn’t looking and using all his film.

It came in a box with a plastic lid (not unlike a shirt box) along with the strap (not attached to the body), a film cartridge (126 format), a flash cube, an extender to raise the flash cube above the camera and a small instruction book.

It has two shutter speeds: full sun and shade/flash. Apart from the film advance, the only other control is the shutter release.

With prints

I put a lot of films through this camera, I think I still have them all. It is hard to explain to people of the current generation, but cameras weren’t that common in the ’60s and ’70s. Very few of my friends families had cameras, and I don’t think any of my close friends did.

I consider myself to be very fortunate to have been given a camera so early and to have had a chance to find out how much I liked making pictures.

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Cameras in the Cupboard #2

Zorki 4

The second in this series of cameras in my cupboard is a Russian Soviet Zorki 4. It is another purchase; in fact it was the first item I ever won in an eBay auction.

The Zorki was made by the KMZ factory in a suburb of Moscow. The factory began producing cameras heavily based on pre-war Leicas just after the Second World War. The Zorki 4 was made from 1956 to 1973 and more than 1.7 million were produced, according to the Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras by J. L Princelle.

From what I can work out, my camera was produced somewhere in the late 1960s. It is a classic rangefinder with a few quirks. It’s heavy and solid, made out of serious metal, not plastic. The shutter and the shutter speed dial are interconnected, so you have to cock the shutter before setting the shutter speed.

The old Zorki has had quite a few films through it over the years but it is still in good working order. There are a few wear marks on the body and a scuff on the front lens element but apart from that all is good.

Reviewers have claimed that the images from the Zorki and the other Russian Leica copy, the FED, were as good as an image from a Leica.

And the Zorki has the added advantage of a Leica-compatible screw mount lens, so there is no reason why you can’t put a Summicron on the front of it.

I can’t afford a genuine pre-war Leica, but a Zorki isn’t a bad substitute.


A work colleague read this post and requested that I change the word ‘Russian’ to Soviet’. His reasoning is that the entire production run of the Zorki 4 was produced under the Soviet regime and isn’t exclusively Russian. And as Mikhail comes from Russia, who am I to disagree?

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