What are your picks for the most beautiful SLRs?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Sep 22, 2007.

  1. As I said on another thread on why one collects, I think that the original prism 35mm SLR,the Contax S, is one of three cameras I would say are the most beautiful SLRs ever made. It was made by Zeiss Ikon in the Russian occupied zone,what became VEB Pentacon later. The other two are the Asahi Pentax S2 and the Nikon F without the meter. Of course, there were many later versions with essentially the same bodies, but there's always something about the first of a kind, isn't there? I'm curious to see what other collectors consider the "most beautiful" SLRs.
    charles_escott_new likes this.
  2. 1. Nikon F3
    2. Pentax Spotmatic
    3. Canon FTb
    4. Minolta XD-11
    5. Nikon FE2
  3. The original Canon F1 looks great. It has class.
    charles_escott_new likes this.
  4. Not technically a "classic" by the forum standards, OM1. Later versions got progressively more cluttered. Early SLRs with the "naked" prism without the flash shoe on top def have a higher esthetic quality to me.
  5. 1. Exakta VXIIa: http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/exakta-vx2a.jpg

    2. Olympus Pen F: http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/penfs.jpg

    3. Olympus OM1: http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/oms.jpg

    4. Contax (Pentacon) F: http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/pcon-fm.jpg
  6. I think the Agfaflex cameras are some of the most beautiful ever made, as are the Retina Reflex family of cameras. I currently have the Agfaflex IV with the removable mirror to turn it into a waist-level finder camera. To me this camera looks like camera art, and has such a high-quality feel to it, not to mention the very satisfying ker-chunk of the shutter when it's fired. I find Retinas to be beautiful in an ungainly sort of way. They don't have the sexy curves and lines of some slr cameras, but their design shouts top-notch engineering and durability. The Retinas I have are the Reflex III and IV models, along with the Instamatic Reflex (or Retina Instamatic as it's sometimes referred to). I have yet to foray into the Zeiss Ikon and Contax territory, but someday...
    jason_withers likes this.
  7. I can't think of ANY beautiful SLRs (Pentax LX and Nikon F3, not HP) would come closest. But IMHO there's no doubt at all about the most beautiful 35mm.
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  8. i guess that's why it's in the eye of the beholder, and there have been some very interesting and very different responses. i can't argue with you on the Contax II, though....
  9. Alpa 11 series - http://www.alpareflex.com/Cameras/11.htm

    Exacta VX series - http://www.pacificrimcamera.com/pp/ihagee/vx.htm

    Contax RTS series - http://www.hugorodriguez.com/articulos/contaxrts3.htm

    Olympus Pen F series - http://www.cameraquest.com/olypenf.htm

    Topcon RE Super - http://www.vermontel.net/~wsalati/CasualCollector/topcon.htm

    Konica AutoReflex TC - http://www.pbase.com/equipment/image/51288448
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  10. Nikon F2AS with a Motor Drive because I always dreamed of owning one when I was learning photography as a teenager.
  11. IMHO to be truly beautiful you have to be wearing black Steve
  12. Although many might consider them ugly, I think the most beautiful cameras I own are the Topcon Unirex, the Exacta RTL1000 and the Nikon F with plain prism.
  13. I'll say Contax S, Minolta XD11, Miranda (F/G/Sensomat), Pentax Spotmatic, and Topcon R Automatic.
  14. Nice to see a mention for the RTL1000, one of my earliest SRLs, seen by many as something of an ugly duckling, though I liked it for its versatility. Since the original query was on the most beautiful SLR ever made, I'd argue that that necessarily must include later models than would be normal for this forum, so I'd have to mention the Contax RX as one of the finest I've ever handled, and lovely to look at, closely followed by the RTS. There's also something about the feel of the early Pentax Spotmatic and its sister cameras. I'm afraid I never thought the early Nikons were beautiful in any way, though their quality was never in doubt. I'd also add a mention for the Contaflex.
  15. Hasselblad 500C

    I'd swear I already said that...
  16. Thanks, all. I said SLR because there are truly some classic and beautiful RFs and others. I too like the Contax II, even in its Kiev rags.

    I confess,too, that there are some named above that I never thought to see on such a list. Still, looking at some of them I can almost see why someone would choose them ;)
  17. KW Pilot Super<br>
    Zeiss Ikon Contaflex
  18. An original silver Olympus OM-1 The detailing is beautiful. Classic: an Alpa.
  19. Topcon Super D
  20. Pentax Spotmatic F
    Nikkormat FT2
    Olympus OM1 or 2
  21. <img src="http://d6d2h4gfvy8t8.cloudfront.net/3519078-lg.jpg">
  22. well, that has to qualify as the most beautiful LENS anyway! I do like the Zenit, though I'm not sure I'd call it a work of art...
  23. That lens looks like the Rolls Royce jet engine that powered the old Lockheed TriStars!
  24. Topcon Super D with the beautiful 58 1.4 Topcor. Simple styling, obviously robust, no frills, just form, function, and class (IMO).
  25. My vote would have to go for a Retina Reflex III. Its beautifully finished.
    jason_withers likes this.
  26. I don't know about "beautiful" but some SLRs just look "right". I agree with many that the Nikon F, with the plain prism only, has the look. I'm also partial to the early-mid 60s Pentax's, H1, H3 etc. My OM-1s also look right, but....only without the hot shoe attached. Fujica ST701 (early w/metal ST lever) is a good looking camera. Ah heck, I really like the looks of most of the Marvelous Metal Mechanical cameras of the 60's & 70s, they were the peak of SLR looks and design. FTbs, Spotmatics, SRTs , T3s, OM-1s, and don't forget my first SLR, a Miranda G. In 1970 I couldn't afford a Nikon F so the G with interchangeable finders and screens was only $100 used with a 1.9 50mm lens, and yes, I needed the features. I don't like microprism or splitwedge screens so right off I put in a plain matte screen. My waistlevel finder came in handy for low angle and over the crowd shots. Heavy sigh....I still miss that camera.
  27. Canon EF
    charles_escott_new likes this.
  28. Svelte and beautiful Pentax SP & Rollei SL35.

    Beautiful and boofy Nikon F & Topcon RE super.
  29. I would probably have to go for the Adams Tropical Minex of about 1910. Yes, I know 35mm was expected but I couldn't help myself.
  30. On the other side of the fence opposite the Nikon F and other "hardcore" SLRs... the Kodak Instamatic Reflex is a real beauty queen... I know I know, its 127 and not 35mm and its all automated, but STILL, thats one sexy SLR!:
    <img src="http://www.collection-appareils.com/kodak/images/instareflex.jpg">
  31. I'm looking through my camera collection, and all I can come up with is that there are so many more beautiful cameras designs than 35mm SLRs. 35mm SLRs are like hammers; useful but boring aesthetically.
  32. There's always an additional beauty-related buzz when you find something really old that's in almost mint condition, so my vote is for my 1937 Kine Exakta, pic below:
  33. Ihagee Exakta VX IIa
  34. I have to second the Topcon Super D as a beauty. Solid, versatile, clean, and fun to use. That said, I like my early Olympus OMs and still have use for the Exaktas.
  35. Leica R9 and Nikon F6.
  36. I almost forgot the underrated, solid, and oft-criticized Leica SL2 and R3-R6 series,
    especially the R3 Safari. These are some very hefty, well made cameras that are totally
    underpriced along with their great lenses.
  37. Hi,

    I too go for the Contax S. It has a fixed prism and if "prism" is a criteria for SLR...??? then this one wins hands down because it became the innovater. It's just ergonomically tight and right!
    Also mentioned are the Exactas ..especially the Exa. They have this slightly curved shape....cool. The OM1 is also up there. I've never owned one but I always admired their compact size. It just felt right. The first Kyocera/Contax RTS now seems dated but it announced the coming of age of the modern SLR. And indeed Colin; I'm glad you offered the hooded version. I love showing people my Auto Graflex Jr. Many people view the 70s SLR boom as if the SLR was just newly invented.. (by Nikon ..cough cough). Thanks Colin!! and all for your treasures!!
  38. Exakta Varex IIa, version 2 with prism, version 3.
  39. My first real camera was an OM-1, and I have to agree that it was a thing of beauty, even if it isn't "classic" by our definition. Having said that, isn't this beautiful as well? Beautiful like a three-legged chicken?
  40. The Japanese Nikon F and Canon old F-1 are the head of the morden SLRs. The world keep chaging while their position won't change.
    I would like to vote for both Bessamatic (later version) and Retina Retflex IV. THey are perfectly designed.
    BTW, don't forget the Gradlex series b (and D) R.B.
    cary_chin|1 likes this.
  41. I'm really glad I asked, please show me more--I love the pictures especially! As for the Exakta supporters, Im looking for one with ragged leatherette so I can recover it with red lizard or some such. I saw one somewhere, I think on this website, and it was even more Deco-ish than the original and really gorgeous! I also like, but perhaps not as a most "beautiful", that last gasp of European efforts at competing with the Japanese-- the Pentacon Super
  42. no, not beautiful, especially compared to the original Pentacon series.... but perhaps "wonderful", especially when you look at its specifications....

  43. pentax LX...
  44. Nikon D40x.

    Fantastic performer, tiny and costs a fraction of a Nikon F6 or a Leica R9.

    Of the pre 1970s cameras, it has to be a Konica Reflex Auto. Full frame and half frame at the flick of a switch. Beautiful feature. ugly camera with even uglier slappy/noisy mirror.
  45. as SLR? The Rolleiflex SL66. A piece of art, done by german gods.

    as 35mm? The exaktas VX are beauties, I like both the older and the newer styling. The contaflexes are unique. The Leica R4-R7 are very nice in styling, timeless.

    If you count function and aesthetics together, I may add the Canon FT, the Miranda Sensorex.

    Generally I think that shoes/hotshoes ruined the pentaprism look on most cameras. I also do like the look of the old topcon prisms.
  46. vdp


    For me the most beautiful SLR is the Contax RX. In fact, all the Contax cameras were beauties beginning with the RTS, but the RX is the best of all. I also think the Kine Exacta is very good looking also.
  47. Hi,

    Vincent just took the words out of my mouth...surprised it took so long for someone to mention the modern Contax SLR's..especially the RTS....but if you want beauty, Vincent, the ST looks better than the RX.....IMO. And the dark charcoal grey titanium Contax S2b looks great...

    cheers Steve.
  48. As for beautiful 35mm SLR's I would give equal status to the Nikon F ( Non metering pentaprism as mentioned earlier ) and original Pentax Spotmatic. Both had clean functional lines and a design where your hands naturally fell on the controls. Form following function and looking good at the same time.

    However, for 3rd place I would cast a vote for the Olymmus Pen F, the half frame SLR - a beautiful little camera if there ever was one.
  49. JDM, that Pentacon Super is beautiful. That's a camera I know nothing of, so it'll be fun learning about it. I also have to agree with Ellis that the F6 is a beautiful camera, but being a Canon shooter when it comes to AF slr use, I'm very partial to the 1v. I think it's the greatest camera ever, film or digital, but it clearly traces its lineage back to the T90. In fact, many of the buttons are in the same places, and it was the first camera since the T90 to re-introduce multi-spot metering. Even the profile looks quite similar to me. So, while not a classic it's already a legend in my mind. But back to classic cameras...the Canon FT is also a beautiful camera, not flashy or sexy looking, but functionally beautiful. I generally use only this 50mm f/1.8 FL on this camera; again, nothing flashy or sexy, but it gets the job done admirably. I shot these two side by side because I'm always amazed at the differences in shapes and features between modern cameras and the older bodies, yet it's often hard to tell which pictures came from which body. Perhaps I'm cheating by posting again, but I'm really enjoying these pictures as well. And excuse the inclusion of a current slr, but it makes an interesting contrast alongside the FT, and it's a beautiful slr that's destined to be a classic!
  50. The Pentacon Super was super expensive and only about 6000 of them were made and sold. It did make it into space however.
  51. The Omega 120 is probably the ugliest camera I have ever seen. Looks like a bad prop from a 1950s Sci Fi movie. Not SF, Sci Fi! It is that ugly.

    I gotta have one!
  52. That Agfaflex may be a looker, but don't let that fool you, she is bad news. Of the four copies I could find for sale tonight, 3 had front trim missing, and all four has stuck shutters.
  53. I mentioned the Nikon F3 earlier, but its beauty lies not only in its form and function, but also in the loveliest black finish of any camera before or since. I don't what the process was, but I have seen nothing that comes close.
  54. Hi,

    "I mentioned the Nikon F3 earlier, but its beauty lies not only in its form and function, but also in the loveliest black finish of any camera before or since. I don't what the process was, but I have seen nothing that comes close"

    ...I can only assume you are getting confused with the black finish of the F3/T. The standard Nikon F3 in black has the same black finish as just about any other SLR from any company you choose to name and is no different at all. The black F3/T however has a black 'crackle' finish, which IS different...

    cheers Steve.
  55. Spotmatic, Nikon F, Contax RTS (body designed by Porsche)
  56. Hi Steven,
    I have a black nikon fe2, ftn, and ft3, and black Canon FTb and F-1, of course. My F3HP's finish is of better quality than the former cameras. I don't know how to describe it. It just looks better than just skin deep.
  57. This one scores on just about every aspect imaginable - the Zunow SLR of c.1958. It not only looks so nice, clean and compact, but it's worth an absolute fortune, and had some amazingly advanced features for its time. It was also the only camera made by the Zunow Optical Co., and reputedly sent them broke!
  58. A rare one indeed. Sometimes claimed to be the first Japanese camera (c. 1958) with instant-return mirror and automatic diaphragm. There is discussion of this gem at


    Which lens does it have?
  59. Hi, J.D. I should make clear that I don't have this super-rare and valuable Zunow. I was fortunate enough just to get the pics sent by a friend in the UK, who was permitted to take them by its owner. I think the lens is "just" the cooking f1.8 5 cm type, although Zunow also offered it with a super-fast (for 1958, remember) f1.2 Here's another pic, showing the lens removed:
  60. It definitely wins for the FUNNEST font used for a badge. Very "hip" for the late 50s hipster scene!
    Kent T likes this.
  61. Patrick, I suspect the malalignment of the "Zunow" script on the pentaprism was probably inadvertent, not intentional. Another mate of mine in the classic camera scene recalled seeing this camera on display at a Japanese photo trade exhibition in Tokyo, back in the late 50s when he was serving in the US military. He was impressed with its compact dimensions and features, but not so much its overall "quality" feel and look. Perhaps history tells us that the Giant Step from being a small, specialist lens maker to a full-on camera manufacturer was too much for the Zunow Optical Company, because very few of these Zunow SLRs were made before the company went into insolvency. Anyway, just to give you an idea of the compactness of this rare and valuable early Japanese SLR, here's my last pic of it along with a UK 50p coin , showing the pentaprism removed Miranda-style.
  62. Moving on from the esoteric Zunow, I reckon the KMZ Start should be given a chance to shine here too. Although its numbers were far greater than the Zunow's, it is still a comparative rarity by usual Russian/Ukrainian production standards. It also has several unique features for its vintage, such as a non-rotating shutter speed dial and very nice split-image focussing. It also has the deepest blue coating on the Helios lens, way different from the Helios lenses fitted to later Zenits. Oh, BTW - it also looks very nice too ......... I do have one of these amongst my small Russian/Ukrainian collection, but the following pic is not mine because I ain't got around to taking any yet!
  63. I feel the King Regula Reflex 2000CTL is one funky looking SLR. I like its style. Note: I don't own one, and this picture was not taken by me. Can't remember where I got it. Yefei
  64. Oops. Picture too large. Here's a retry. Yefei
  65. Besides the Start, another former Soviet Union camera, the SPORT, has a claim to being the first SLR altogether, though I think no one would claim it as beautiful.


    Hummel, however, seems to have established Exakta's claims in an article summed up at

  66. Of course, I meant the first _35mm_ SLR, as the critters go way back to the late 19th century in large formats, of course. (I thought I had added that in the final edit, but must have started to do so and got sidetracked [another senior moment?]).
  67. Hi, J.D. Like you, I've seen all sorts of well-documented cases for whether the Kine Exakta or the Sport were truly the first production 35mm SLR. If anything, these days I tend to believe that the Russians were first with their Sport.

    However, if imitation be the sincerest form of flattery, the Ihagee Kine Exakta won out in spades. Just about every 35mm SLR that followed, looks either a lot or a little like the Kine - but I've never seen one that looks remotely like the Sport! One unkind soul once described it as looking a bit like a "Box Brownie On Steroids", and I don't think anyone could improve on that.
  68. My most fav is either the Rollei SL35E, or Voigtlaender VSL3 The last of the standard format 35mm by rollei. I also like the Praktica B series, and also the EXA that is the last version in black
  69. AS the person who started this thread, I thank all those who chipped in and ask anyone who stumbles across this in archive, that they feel free to add things on, particularly if you have photos of your choice(s).
  70. No photos but there are a few that I think to be especially nice on the eye. The early "pre" spotmatic Asahi Pentaxes such as the Pentax S1 and S1a are especially nice to look at and in my view, have something of the look and feel of screw mount Leicas. Very nice indeed. The Nikon F with non metering prism is just " it and a bit" as we say especially in the more rare black version. Some Nikkormats are nicely made for looks too. The late Nikkormat FTN which apart from the built in hot shoe is identical to the FT2. And of course the late Nikkormats (eg the EL and ELW.)
  71. Only Vivek thought of the 1965 Konica Auto-Reflex (the only one of the series whose name is spelled with a hyphen). But contrary to Vivek, I think the camera is simply beautiful. It looks very different indeed, which gives it its own personality. It is extremely rugged, made with attention to detail and very well finished. The loudness of the shutter is a characteristic of almost all metallic shutter SLRs of that era. Furthermore, in the Konica A-R, undesirable loudness is often due to a flattened/worn foam strip above the mirror.

    Though it has its quirks, as do the majority of SLRs already mentioned, it is a true classic, not only for its ability to switch at will from full to half-frame operation in the middle of a roll, as Vivek already mentioned, but also because it was the first SLR to set exposure automatically, albeit without TTL. Its successor, the Autoreflex T, another indestructible tank of a camera, did both in 1968.

    In addition to the two above, I also vote for the Minolta SRT-101, the Canon FTb, the Topcon RE Super, and the Olympus OM-1, a true little marvel.

    Kent T likes this.

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