"Ette" cameras

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by podstawek, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. We Poles see men and women in things, everywhere. A "house" is him, "floor" is her, and "scisors" are two women. High gender dependance makes our language interesting in a synesthetic sort of way I would say, and very close to the heart, but it complicates things, too. Well, a camera, for example, is male in Polish, but only if it is just a camera. If it is a particular camera, then it depends on the brand, or even on the model. Nikon is still him, but Yashica is a woman. Canon – boy. Zorkij – girl. Lomo – neutral (the same gender as a "child" in Polish). And it could go on an on like this. Still, since a generic "camera" is masculine, the few cameras manufactured in Poland when the very limited Polish camera industry still existed, were all named like men. Druh, Ami, Start, Fenix (camera names you may never heard of and that is perfectly normal), they were all boys. The only example I can think of is the girl Alfa, but she is exceptional and obscure in many ways, and honestly it did not even look like a proper male camera. Alfa deserves a separate article anyway.
    Yet, even though I started with Polish because it is familiar to me, of course strong gender dependance is not limited to Polish language. All Slavic languages have it, and the French too. Which brings me to the actual subject, i.e. the cameras whose names end with the French feminine dimunitive ending "ette". When I realized just how many of these existed, I started by trying to figure out which was first. Out of those "ettes" I was able to find, Kodak Retinette seems to be the earliest. The one featured here is a 35 mm viewfinder camera, while the first Retinettes were folders, but the name was apparently catchy so Kodak used it for very different designs.
    • AkArette (from 47)
    • Arette (from 56)
    • Beirette (from 58)
    • Dacora Dignette (Ilford took it and made a man of it: Ilford Sportsman) (from 55)
    • Kodak Retinette (from 39)
    • Paxette (from 51)
    • Regulette (?)
    • Agfa Isolette (from 51)
    • Agfa Silette (from 57)
    • Zeiss Icon Continette (from 60)
    Please feel free to add to that list -- I'd be happy to know more.
    I have one Dignette, and one Retinette, plus an Ilford Sportsman based on the former, unfortunately without the diminutive ending. The example featured today is Kodak Retinette IA, a camera I bought for the equivalent of a few dollars, in very good condition. It was dirty and everything was stiff, but all it needed to get back to life was good cleaning, inside and outside. I did not need to disassemble the shutter; it started opening and closing properly after I worked it for a while.
    The lens is not overly fast, and the selection of shutter speeds is not very rich. Also, this is just a simple viewfinder with no meter. But I must say this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing camera I have handled -- very well made, with all mechanisms working very smoothly (almost no force needed to wind the film -- I don't know how they did that), and above all very small design (the camera is smaller than it appears on photographs).
    The second viewing window you see is for "lightened" framing lines; it is not a rangefinder.
    Not much more to say, really, apart from summing all up in "ette" terms: Retinette has a filigree silhouette, the lens casts pleasing vignette, and though the quality of images is a bit of a roulette (no meter + "guess" rangefinder), they are still good enough even for a gazette.
    All photos taken on cheap Superia 200, using only Sunny 16 for metering, and my best guess for measuring the distance. Developed in the cheapest chain lab, poorly scanned. I'm planning to improve at least on the last bit in my future posts here.

    Someone I met at our local car auction. 1/60 s, f/8, distance: 3 meters.


    Running in school corridor. I forgot to note the settings, but the conditions were suboptimal for ISO 200.


    Butterfly. 1/30; f/8; 1.7 meters


    Bus stop. 1/60 s, f/8, distance: 3 meters.


    Close distance. 1/125 s, f/8, distance: below 1 meter.
  2. Nice idea, nice shots.
    Can you tell the gender by looking between the lens elements? I'm a little curious about the gender of my old DDR cameras? Praktica and Praktina, female? Pentacon, male?
  3. Yes, JDM, you are correct. You've got 2 girls and a boy, at least per my inborn idiosyncratic perception.
  4. despite the fact that it is a language description as opposed to company history of camera specific. It is a very interesting
    look at another part of the world and how people look at names.
    thank you for sharing this, it is siomething We Would never have considered.
    I know Poland and the entire eastern block went thru generations where you were told
    " just prodice the raw materiaials ( food lumber etec) and WE ( country un named) will make the cars and cameras."
    despite tghat some technical indiustries survived.
  5. I'm not an etymologist etc but I'm pretty sure the "ette" in french doesn't really determine gender... this dimunitive implies small or little. That said; maybe all "little" things are indeed feminine. In French all nouns are one or the other! Love that butterfly shot especially! It's not especially small but if it was.. Papillonette!
  6. Wonderful photos. The running child is perfect. Exploding with joy.
    I always liked Suzanne Pleshette .
  7. As usual, any post following Gene's will have little gravity, but I have a question. If a Canon is a boy, is a Canonete (e.g., QL 17) a transexual, transgendered, or just confused? I'm not judging, just curious.
  8. There must be an Yvette somewhere! Gene... that's definitely a classic.
  9. Walter, thanks God those time have been over for 20 years, and thanks God I'm old enough to remember! (I was a teenager when the communism collapsed).

    Chuck, please don't do this to me. Even if you have some insider information about "ettes" being less feminine than I thought, keep it secret -- I don't want my infatuation for Retinette to evaporate just like this.
    Gene, I don't think this Pleshette was shot with Retinette (looks MF to me), but I still like the picture. And the subject!

    Michael, to me Canon is a boy, and Canonette is a girl. Having the two names together on one camera's faceplate is a bit like having sweet and sour chicken -- weird, still good.
  10. "Ette" in French does indeed indicate a female person/object (the corresponding male diminutive is "et").
    The oldest "ette" camera I can think of without looking through my MKeow is the Zeiss Cocarette (1926).
  11. Also, please don't go and verbally castrate male cameras. There never was a "Canonette"; the name is "Canonet" (male).
  12. Great photographs, Adam, love your free-wheeling style. The car-park portrait and the window particularly appeal. Glad you like the Retinette; I have a IIB which I really enjoy using. To me, the "ette" suffix always meant "a lesser version of..", as in the Retinette being a junior version of the Retina...I'd never considered the gender of my cameras, but I can see I'll have to change my ways....
  13. Nice Series, Adam. Love the butterfly portrait and the glass on the window. Darn good focus estimating there. I have a Retinette 022 here:
    I don't do as well with the guess-a-focus system so I cheated. I haven't shot with it since. I still know what to do with the old "girl" but, like you, have found it so nicely made it's hard to let it go.
  14. Rodenstock "Citonette" 1932 !
    A 645 folder (for 120 rollfilms) with a 2,9/75mm lens (not coated) called "Rodenstock Trinar Anastigmat" and a Deckel Compur shutter.
    Not a bad camera, and still working perfectly (and useful too, it fits in rather small pockets)
  15. Gene M,
    Yes, I pick the running child as the best of the series. I always envied Bob Newhart each night when he crawled into bed with her. Suzanne, that is, not the little girl. JohnW
  16. Here's a Camerette:


  17. Silhouette (Soviet cameras made in 1970es three models). All male in Russian
    Fedette (rather rare collectible camera from 1937) is female
  18. Bonsignore, what a faux pas on my part. It's because I've never had a Canonet, only read good things about it. So it's an all-boy camera...
    Rick, thank you! Also, it is true that in most cases "ette" ending means a budget version of a more advanced camera, but there is at least one exception that I know of, and that is Agfa Isolette which is definitely a more complex (folder) design than Agfa Isola which I have and which is one of the simplest-built cameras I've seen.
    Louis, your images have so much less grain! I guess this boils down to the quality of film, development, and scanning. Not to mention the quality of the photographer :). I really like them.
  19. Paul, your Citonette wins, it is the earliest example so far. I haven't heard of the camera before. That is a fast lens for a folder, too!
    Marc, a very informative read. I still have a lot to learn; you may laugh at me, but I didn't know Graflex ever made an SLR... as a matter of fact I didn't know large-format SLRs existed at all!
    Kozma, strangely enough the Soviet Silhouette is also male in Polish; probably because we harden the pronunciation and shift the stress from the ultimate syllable (as it should be placed for "ette" cameras) to the pre-ultimate one, making it sound more like "SiLUet". I have never heard of Fedette though, but from what you are saying it has been introduced before all the cameras I mentioned (but after Paul's Citonette).
  20. No. The Zeiss Cocarette (see my post on 2 March) beats the Citonette by six years. Actually when the Citonette was introduced, the Cocarette was already out of production. McKeow dixit.
  21. Bonsignore, I am sorry, I must have missed the date in your post. In that case, Cocarette is of course the earliest of these.

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