The "What Were They Thinking?" Design Awards

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by kevin_bourque, Aug 21, 2004.

  1. Hi Everyone -

    Do you sometimes wonder if manufacturers actually use their products
    before they ship them?

    My previous post about M42 cameras reminded my of a Chinon CM-4 I
    used to own. It mostly worked well, but only if you ignored the

    First, it was the three LED "stoplight" style. Technically this is
    not a flaw, but I don't like them ("it's not a bug, it's a feature").

    Second, the LEDs were on the viewfinder frame, not inside the
    camera. You think they would be visible in the corner of your eye,
    but no (at least not my eye).

    Last, the meter set new marks for being influenced by light coming
    through the viewfinder. If your eye was anything but plastered
    against the finder, the meter would pick up the light and cheerfully
    suggest that you underexpose the picture. Yuk.

    So let's hear your nomination. Best submission gets a sealed copy of
    Microsoft Bob.
  2. Those ... things ... that appear to be SLRs bearing the Canon name but actually have an optical viewfinder (a bad one) through the "prism". They're of flimsy plastic and came fully equipped with a handle grip flash on the side. I've seen dozens of these abominations in pawn shops and thrift stores.

    Did Canon actually authorize these horrors?
  3. Lex, i think those are called canomatics, and are just plastic toys made to fool people who don't pay attention. Same like the so-called "nipon" which has a "color optical lens" :) etcetc.
  4. Why do most exposure counters count up? When you put a roll of film in the camera you know if it's 20, 24, or 36 or whatever number of exposures. A week later you may have forgotten. My Kodak Retina and Olympus Pen D count down and you know when you are about to come to the end. (You can sometimes squeeze out an extra frame or two by manually turning the counter beyond zero.)The counter dials are chrome on black so you know it's a count down system.
  5. The Canon EF's AE hold button is on the top left side of the camera, so you can hold the exposure with one hand, focus with the other hand, and trigger the shutter with your third hand.

    Then there are those Voigtlander folders with the shutter release on the door--very elegant when they fold and unfold, but just far enough out to impart motion to the lens, if you're not careful.

    Nikon CoolPix 990--offers full manual control, and gives you the option to reassign functions to different buttons. You can set it up so that the jog wheel changes either aperture or shutter speed, but to make the jog wheel focus manually, you have to hold down another button at the same time, as if on a manual focus camera you would want to be changing the exposure constantly from moment to moment, but only refocusing occasionally.

    Even though Voigtlander figured out how to design a 120 frame counter on the Superb TLR by 1933 that could measure film travel directly with a feeler wheel, the early Linhof Rollex rollfilm backs made into the 1950s (the ones with the knob) were designed so that the film was metered by turning the knob an absolute number of turns. Today these backs produce overlapping frames with many film types, because they depended on the film and backing being a certain minimum thickness.
  6. The Pentax K1000 will not meter when set to ASA 25 and 1/1000 or 1/500, or ASA 64 at 1/1000. Not that meter reads erratically or anything, it's just dead at those settings. I can see those engineers thinking "Well, no one's ever gonna use Kodachrome 25 in this baby, so we don't need those settings."
  7. My nominee in the Classic Division is the Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta with a frame counter which only allows 11 frames on a roll of 120 film.
  8. Agfa Optima II. There was a 'one'? What the hell!?
  9. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    Any rnagefinder like the Braun Gloria or Voigtlander Prominent with the focusing knob where the rewind knob is on a normal camera WHAT a PIA

    Canon F-1N screens have the name/number on the side you have to put in the viewfinder first meaning you have to completley remove it to see which screen you have in the camera. For most screens it's not a problem but with the Super Brights the J and K screens they all look exactly alike just a plain matte. I have all six and wish it was easier to tell which was in the camera.

    NIKON's that focus backwards LOL
  10. The film advance winder on the Diana and all its clones sounds like a 1/2" drive ratchet wrench. It's designed to be LOUD.
  11. I don't remember which point and shoots did this or why but some cameras had you put the film in the right side and roll to the left. This meant that your pictures were upside down on the roll.

    You wouldn't think it would make any difference but some drug store processing machines where programed to automatically assume that what was on top was sky and set the exposure accordingly.
  12. How about the original Canon 7? No accessory shoe on the camera (they finally made a clip-on job available)! Or how about the virtually useless framelines on the current Leicas -- they cover 80% of the image when the lenses are focused at their closest setting? Totally worthless for real-world photography (anyone who can afford a Leica is gonna have an SLR to use for closeups). And the Vertical running shutter on Contax cameras, when they actually held the patent on the Leica shutter. (Nikon was smart enough to copy the Nikon body but put in the Leica horizontal shutter).
  13. Rollei 35 and its variants. - If you weren't one of the fortunate few who bought the Rube Goldberg accessory flash bracket and PC cord adapter, you rather quickly developed a liking for orienting the camera into the portrait position for flash exposures.
  14. All bottom-loading Leicas and Leica clones. It took them until 1954 (M cameras) to figure out that it might be useful to be able to see where the film is going?
  15. Nikon's Nikkormat FT design -- setting the ASA required a strong
    fingernail and then you had to reseat the lens when you changed
    your ASA setting. Especially when every other SLR had an asa
    setting dial on the top deck or front of the camera.
  16. I can live with the Contaflex lack of automatic mirror return, even taking off the back to load film, but having focus only be in the center of the viewfinder was in my mind WAY behind the times. Also, way too many of the cameras in our era make it so hard to see and set apertures and/or shutter speeds without holding the camera upside down, etc. One of the best designed cameras is the not highly enough regarded Ricoh 500 post-war RF-beautiful rapid trigger wind; smooth focus with large, secure focus levers; bright, large viewfinder; best implementation of EV I have ever seen-easy to "unlock" setting and apertures and shutter speeds are visible right on top of the lens mount. One of the best cameras I own. Another ergonomic winner is the Konica II/IIa RF.
  17. a m

    a m

    The Nikon F3, which is superb in most ways, has the minature +/- indicator up at the top of the viewfinder to show the exposure. And, if you need the display lit up, there is a red button next to the prism that is next to impossible to depress. And the light is a pale red glow.

    Many folks now love the Leica M5, but I recall that the meter was klunky to interpret with its 2 indicator pointers. Also, the meter was very sensitive, but, in low light, you could not see the display because not enough light came through the little illumination window. Also, the M5 could not use a motor or winder at a time when the use of battery-operated winders was really taking off among press and sports photographers. It might have been a great sales success if it had been introduced 5 or 10 years earlier.
  18. Mark, it's been 25 years since I shot with a Nikkormat, but I still automatically turn the aperture ring all the way back and forth every time I mount a lens, and I've been using PENTAX ever since 1980! (Talk about conditioning!)
  19. Voigtlander Bessa 6X9 folders with coupled rangefinder. If you accidentally close the camera when not focused at infinity the cameras folding mechanism gets stuck. A REAL PAIN IN THE ASS!!!! I've had to disassemble my bessa rf several times to open the damn thing, why couldn't they just copy from zeiss.
  20. The two Nikkormat Ftn's of mine index as Bill mentioned. The older FT variant required one to align the ASA to the lenses max aperture. The FT has no auto indexing gizmo; ie no ratchet/catch; which records the peak/max aperture. The indexing of the Ftn sets the maximum aperture ratch gizmo. If worn; it may not catch. The older FT variant has no shutter speeds in the viewfinder; and has no narrow weighted meter. The FS variant has easy lens indexing :)
  21. Charles said:<br>
    > Why do most exposure counters count up?<br>
    It's worse that that sometimes. Why does my Canon Eos-5 count up, but my second body, a Canon EOS Kiss/Rebel, count down?! Frustrating decision...
  22. What about the Linhoff 220 press camera? A 6x7 format camera with a sub-2
    inch baseline rangefinder; a permanently fixed pistol grip which made it
    impossible to use in landscape mode; and, best of all, a lever wind that made
    working the bolt action of an ancient .303 Lee-Enfield rifle seem like winding
    a Swiss watch..........
  23. Re Bill Mitchell 7:02 PM- I thought the vertical running shutter allowed a faster X synch speed with a constant velocity shutter. Are there problems with a vertical running shutter?
  24. My candidate for lack of imagination is the 2x3 Busch Pressman. As far as I know, Busch never made a roll film adapter for it. I asked a friend to design one for me. He hogged one out of solid aluminum on his Bridgeport and it accepted Graflex rf adapter and with its ingeniously designed ground glass holder, it worked out beautifully. I was doing a lot of copy work for art exhibition panels. I knew about the long awkward rf adapter made by third party, but I didn't like it at all. Just to show how dumb I am, I sold or swapped the Busch with built- to- order adapter that Karl spent many a night working or week end on and gave me as a gift. Shame on me! I switched to 2x3 Speed Graphic with Graflox back some years later. And still later, sold it and bought another Busch with no rf adapter, which I still have. I challenge the bromide, "wisdom comes with old age." Not in my case.

    Camera fickle,

  25. Regarding Jani's post on the Bessa--My Bessa II will close properly with the focus set anywhere, so they seem to have fixed that one.
  26. Hi, Charles. I think that strobes weren't around when the Contax and Leica shutters were designed. In fact, the X-sync speed on both my Leica 111F and Contax 11A is 1/25 sec. I presume that the Contax shutter has the same transet time across the aperture because it's heavier. Nikon probably opted for the simpler shutter because on the original Contax it was extremely complex, with variation of both the speed and the slit width, and was probably beyond their ability to reliabily manufacture. Lucky for them, eh?
  27. The Xenon strobe was invented about 1923 by Dr Edgerton of MIT. The FT17-30 flashtube was used during the war; and before; a massive 40k wattseconds. Dr Edgerton is the milk drop splash photographer; bullets in flight; XXX trigers. The X sync in cameras is for "Xenon". Strobes in school photo work; photobooths; were common; before the common kilroy bought a strobe.
  28. The Leningrad, where if you fail to notice that you've run out of spring power (easy to do)
    and set the self timer there's no way to avoid breaking the timer when you wind the
    camera back up.

    The Mamiya Super 23/Universal with bare metal finder and minimal eye relief. I've
    destroyed not one but two eyeglass lenses on this thing, and I have the more scratch-
    resistant glass lenses!

    The Mamiya Press system also gets nominated for the worst grip ever. Unlike Linhof's side
    grip, which is angled, this dead-vertical grip requires your wrist to be twisted to the very
    limit when holding the camera at eye-level. I can get off maybe two shots before the
    profanities start streaming up my arm. I mean, they copied the stupid stuff off the Linhof
    Press, like the backwards, left-eye-favoring rangefinder and the tilt back, why couldn't
    they have copied the good stuff too?

    Any and all Argus lensmounts.

    The Contax roll-top-desk shutter

    The Contax nowhere-to-put-my-fingers rangefinder. Was this designed by emigre
    Yakuza? And after all that inconvenience for the incredibly long rangefinder, they never
    bothered to produce a lens fast enough to actually need that much accuracy

    The Kiev III (and probably the Contax it was based on) that locks onto infinity focus. Not
    that an infinity lock is a bad idea, but one that deploys automatically and can't be disabled
    makes focusing in the 30 foot range nearly impossible.

    The Olympus E-10 (digital): On playback, there's no way to get from 1x to 4x without
    several-second stops to re-read the image at 2x and 3x, exacerbated by the fact that you
    can't change images while zoomed in. Comparing sucessive images at 4x for shake takes
    nearly a minute. It also gets anti-kudos for having no way to delete more than one image
    at a time (other than "delete all").

    Putting a press shutter in the Minolta Hi-Matic 9. Offers no advantage over the standard
    cock-while-winding, except an incredibly effortless wind stroke. Where you pay is the big,
    big spring (this is the only 1/500th press shutter ever made AFAIK) you have to cock when
    pressing the shutter. Mine destroyed 3 cable releases (none made it past 10 shots) before I
    had the sense to give up.

    The Minolta Hi-Matic AF: Allegedly the world's first autofocus camera. Chooses more or
    less randomly between a "mountains" setting and a "group of people' setting.

    The Minolta XD-5 and XD-11 (and perhaps other 70's Minolta SLRs) have a meter that has
    no way of indicating "sorry, too dark"--it just lights up the LED that woud be correct if it
    was getting the minimum amount of light it can sense. With TMZ in a dark room you can
    get massive underexposure this way. Also, if you have it on aperture prioty stopped down
    with slow film, and fire it with the lenscap on, it locks up for a 90-second-plus exposure.

    But my favorite is the Soviet F-21 half-frame spy camera. It has an interchangable
    lensmount. They produced three lenses for it: a 28/2.0, a 28/2.8 and a 28/4.0.
  29. Roger; thanks for the tip about the Lennigrad self timer!
  30. Olympus Pen FT, whose TTL meter was a greater pain to use than the later, not greater, Exakta RTL 1000's.

    The Pen FT's meter was coupled to the shutter speed setting, indicated the aperture to set. Sounds almost ok, eh?

    But and however, the meter wasn't cross coupled to the lens aperture setting and there was no provision for stop down match needle metering. Instead, the meter's scale ran from 1 to 7 and Olympus supplied little tapes marked 1 through 7 to attach correctly to the lenses. That's right, putting the magic scale on the lens was the buyer's responsibility, not the factory's.

    To use the Pen FT's on-board meter, the user peeped through the finder, composed, focused, and saw the number the meter's needle pointed to. Then the user lowered the camera from the eye, turned the lens' aperture setting to the seemingly arbitrary number (I think it was actually the number of stops down from wide open that was right for the shutter speed selected), raised the camera back to the eye, focused and composed again, and shot.

    On the plus side, the Pen FT was pretty and compact. And there was no dark slide to worry about too.

    After the friendly helpful salesman explained all this to me, I couldn't stop laughing.


  31. I think the Pen F had a radical high strobe sync speed; for a 1960's slr.
  32. My nomination: Konica Hexar AF for it's hidden features (in combination with a next to useless manual). After not using the camera for a while I tend to forget what to do to get the camera into silent mode or change the iso setting. I just wonder what undocumented features I have yet to find!
  33. Dishonorable Mention: The crappy plastic and metal detachable hotshoes on the Olympus OM-1 and OM-2 series. The seemed deliberately designed to break, especially considering the size and weight of the T32 and other flash units. I've never seen a fully functional, 100% reliable shoe for these cameras. No wonder some of the shoes bore the word "Fix" - it's a reminder to keep a bottle of super glue in your camera bag to fix the thing at least once a week.

    Besides, the OM-1 and -2 series look better with bare prisms.
  34. Ooh wait, wait, I forgot one--the Alpa Reflex, the SLR with a rangefinder.

    Say what you will about Soviet camera design, but when they made an SLR out of a
    rangefinder body even the commies remembered to take the rangefinder off.
  35. Regarding the Linhof 220--they have a picture of a prototype model for the design in _The Linhof Story_ (Okay, I own a copy of _The Linhof Story_--how geeky is that?!), and the design looks like a high-end broadcast microphone from the 1960s--

    (and if you think we're geeky, this comes from a site dedicated to vintage microphones, with pictures of over 100 different microphones indexed by manufacturer and model number).
  36. Here are my votes:

    The Argus 21 markfinder camera had an interchangeable lens - but no extra lenses were ever made for it! (the lens was actualy removable for use as an enlarger lens)

    The Russian Lubitel TLR camera has the worst viewfinder ever made, its like looking through the bottom of a bottle.

    The Kodak 'Fling' - one of the world's worst marketing disasters along with New Coke and the Edsel.

    Any camera with no way of affixing a strap

    Advantix cameras
  37. Oh, there are good ones, aren't they?

    Shutter priority automation. Who was it in the 70's that made it seemingly impossible for Canon (on the AE-1) and many others to set shutter speed based on a user selected aperture? Even in my Navy days, just starting out in photography, I did realize the simple uselessness of that automation for any kind of "user" photography.

    Mamiya 7: Rangefinder is delicate. What were they thinking for charging so much money only to have the users need to carry screwdrivers with them lest they be stuck with an RF that'll go past (or won't reach) infinity in the distant field?

    Mamiya Universal's backs with wind locks such that a gentle suggestion of a bump to 'em will allow one to wind on. Of course, if you are just checking if you DID indeed already wind on, there's another frame gone...

    Cameras with dark slides and standard backs sans darkslide holders. Same with standard lens caps.
  38. Busch Pressman D: Geared shift.

    Of all the movements to gear, why bother with shift. Also there is no lock for the shift, so this could be a source of looseness.
  39. Ilex dial-set shutters. I've opened these up and wondered if they could have ever worked even when new.

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