Friday, July 17, 2009

Camera Design

I picked up this plastic point-and-shoot camera recently at my local thrift store for two dollars. Judging from the graphic theme on the front, it was built in 2003, which marked the 75th birthday of Mickey Mouse. Conceptually, the Mickey Mouse camera with fixed aperture and a single shutter speed is essentially a box camera, similar in operation to the earliest photo image-making instruments. At the same time, the simple plastic camera features a number of refinements including the sleek, molded shape, an integral lens cover, and -- most importantly from the perspective of economy and efficiency -- a thumbwheel film advance. All of those features were pioneered by the Japanese company, Olympus, whose chief of design for four decades was Yoshihisa Maitani.

Coincidentally, I also acquired at the same time, place and price an Olympus Infinity Stylus, also known as the "mju". The Olympus is also a point-and-shoot; it first appeared in 1990, but it is a very sophisticated instrument, indeed, with auto-everything -- including the film advance, exposure and focusing. The compact, organic shape of the Stylus evolved from an earlier Olympus called the XA which dates from 1979; that camera also had a lens cover that was integral to the camera's front structure. While the Stylus, had a motorized film advance, the manual thumbwheel advance was a feature of Maitani's first great camera design, the Pen, which appeared in 1959. The Pen was also especially significant to camera design history and evolution in it's price point, which was about about a fifth of that of similar quality cameras then on the market.

All of the above Maitani/Olympus history comes from a nicely done web site developed by a Maitani fan in Hong Kong.


edthened said...

Och Mike, dae a get re prize coz a foond re deliberate XA wis never motorised an had a flywheel film advance !!!!!

Best wishes, an hope both yoo an Margaret ar both weell,


Mike said...

Hey, Ed, thanks for that correction. Maybe I'll find an XA on my next trip to the thrift store.