Tuesday, June 05, 2012

más panda

This Panda user graced the pages of the Ansco Panda manual.  The hair and dress look early-to-mid-'40s to me.

Ansco acquired this factory building in 1938 in Binghamton, NY for camera production.  The postcard picture was snapped about 1949 judging from that new Pontiac coupe in the forground.  So, there were likely Pandas in the building.

Sixty-five years later I took a late afternoon walk with my Panda through Albuquerque's Old Town district.

I have added a page to my vintage cameras web site about the Ansco Panda with some notes on its use, along with what little I have been able to find on the camera's history.  There is very little verifiable information on line regarding the Panda's timeline.

Current day users of the Panda and similar film cameras delight in referring to them as "crappy cameras", and there is a popular tacit assumption that the manufacture of such cameras resulted from a succession of simple decisions to use the cheapest available materials and production techniques to come up with disposable mass market products.  That, however, is quite far from an actual picture of the industrial design process in the mid-Twentieth Century.

If you closely compare the Panda to other simple cameras of its time, it is pretty clear that some fundamental rethinking of camera design took place in coming up with the Ansco Panda concept.  Such thinking requires the attention of talented and experienced designers, and these were in fact the kind of people that the big camera companies like Kodak and Ansco sought out to direct the development of popularly accessible photographic products.  It has been well documented, for instance, that both Henry Dreyfuss and Raymond Loewy were responsible for a number of Ansco camera designs.  I have not found any specific reference to their association with the Panda, but it seems quite possible that one of those illustrious designers was responsible for the camera's development.


Jim said...

I always enjoy the images you get from your Panda, and they always make me wish for one of my own. But I also suspect that eye and skill play a pretty big role in the goodness your Panda delivers. Alas, I am yet a grasshopper in that arena!

Ger said...

"But I also suspect that eye and skill play a pretty big role in the goodness your Panda delivers." Couldn't agree more! Great pics mike, and some thoughts to ponder. I wonder has anybody taken the time to write an article or book on the lesser known and less appreciated cameras that have a question over wheter illustrious designers played a part in their creation?

Mike said...

Thanks for the kind words. I have to give a lot of credit to the Panda, though. It really imparts some special qualities to images of just about anything I point it at.

I've spent some time today going through a site put together by William L. Camp about photo history in the vicinity of Binghamton, NY which includes an excellent time line about the whole history of Ansco. Unfortunately, there is little about the Panda, but everything else is covered very thoroughly. I did not know, for instance, that Ansco early on won a 2-million dollar suit for patent infringement by Kodak. I wish there were an email address somewhere on the site so I could communicate with the author. Any way, see:

Mike said...

I did a post on books about Argus cameras a couple years ago. See:

robert said...

I enjoy these photos very much, they all tell a story. That last one is amazing with the couple each looking a different direction and the eye of the diablo on them.

Julio F said...

I love that Corvair shot.