Sunday, December 02, 2012

Compact History

When I went to the Nuclear Museum to put a test roll through my Patent Etui plate camera I also carried along my Olympus Infinity Stylus loaded with Fuji 200 color.  Besides affording the opportunity to explore the subject with the perspective of a 35mm lens, the little Olympus also provided the chance to experience a large part of the history of compact film cameras from the Twentieth Century.

The first model of the Patent Etui emerged from the KW Stuttgart factory about 1920.  The Infinity Stylus made its debut in 1990.  Both cameras were responses to interest in compactness and ease of use, and both were at the leading edge in their respective eras of technology and design.  
  The Olympus has auto-exposure and auto-focusing and requires nothing of the user beyond composition in the viewfinder and a press of the shutter button.  While the KW camera requires manual setting of focus and exposure settings, the Compur shutter is rugged, accurate and reliable.  The four-element Tessar lens in the folder will still hold its own against modern lenses in terms of resolution, lacking only the anti-reflective coating which came along in the post-war years.   Snapshot-sized prints from the two cameras would be hard to distinguish, though the 6x9 negative from the folder will support vastly greater enlargement than that from any 35mm camera.


Jim said...

I like the first and last shots in this series best - very strong.

Interesting and thoughtful comparison of your two cameras' attributes.

Mike said...

There is some interesting history associated with the design and production of the two cameras. I hope I'll find the time to write a bit more about it. The inventor of the Infinity Stylus, Maitani, was justly famous and revered by his countrymen in his own time. The two fellows who produced the plate camera had great success with their inventions even right after WW-I, but they were eventually driven out of Germany by the Nazis because they were Jews. The German-American who bought the KW company from them ended up in the Gulag when the Russians took over.