View Full Version : Camera Collecting: Generalities
Some among us want to discuss specific cameras and equipment, some are more interested in the general, or perhaps universal, aspects of photographic collecting. I am going to try to use this particular thread to bring up or to answer subject matter that doesn't lend itself easily to some specific designation like NIKON or HASSELBLAD or CANON or whatever. We'll talk here, I hope, about the generalities, but we can also include discussions about some rare or almost universally disregarded makes that are not usually collected and thus shouldn't have a whole thread dedicated exclusively to one particularly arcane subject. But we're all at the mercy of the day-to-day users, so make of this thread what you will. Happy hunting -- and I hope you'll also have happy findings.
Recently on eBay 2 cameras appeared; the seller made no secret of the fact that neither was authentic. One was a pseudo Seiki-Kogaku Canon with pseudo Canon Camera Co. Serenar, the other a pseudo Leica-type black Kriegsmarine (nowhere marked "Leica") with a pseudo Leitz Elmar. I have had an opportunity to examine both cameras. The "Canon" has an authentic-looking pseudo Canon lenscap finished in what seems to be gold paint; the "Leica" has a Kriegsmarine-style engraving on its cap, but different in content from the one on the camera. Both have brown leather cases whose snouts have been replaced with ones that incorporate authentic-looking embossed Canon and Leica pseudo-lettering.
Somewhere on RFF the other day I noticed an "expert" opinion that the "Canon" had been made out of Fed parts. Usual "expert" expertise. Both are made from parts originally meant to become very early Zorki I cameras. The "Leica" is assembled from extremely early parts; the "Canon" from parts a little later. Say 1949-50 for the first, 1951 for the second.
What amuses me most about the two is that neither makes any attempt to replicate any existing model of Canon or Leica: they aren't "fakes". I envision a retired master mechanic from whatever combine took over Krasnogorsk/Zorki simply having fun doing these things, probably with parts he'd found in an old bin. Perhaps he was also a master engraver; maybe he had one for a good friend.
These aren't "counterfeits". I doubt that they were intended to be sold (though possibly he gave a few away to good friends). Quite possibly the maker has died and his heirs have simply been disposing of his left-overs. If you factor in the cost of hand-assembly, making the really realistic engravings, painting the "Leica" black very successfully, and so on, and then consider what the cameras were being sold for, it's easy to see that not even the maker's costs were covered, much less a profit gained.
Maybe I can find out more. If I do, I'll let you know. PD
I envision a retired master mechanic from whatever combine took over Krasnogorsk/Zorki simply having fun doing these things, probably with parts he'd found in an old bin. Perhaps he was also a master engraver; maybe he had one for a good friend.
These aren't "counterfeits". I doubt that they were intended to be sold (though possibly he gave a few away to good friends).
An interesting viewpoint. But... while I respect the idea of a master technician assembling these cameras for his own satisfaction or enjoyment ("jeux d'esprit" in the Canon book) I wonder how you evaluate the unknown maker's underlying motivation.
Having created them, why would he have rendered his intentions questionable by engraving a false name on them? Why not his own name, or a symbolic name of his own choosing?
I could understand doing it for satirical purposes (along the lines of a college friend who painted "Ferrari" on the tailgate of his rusty Studebaker pickup truck.) But these items seemed too carefully made to be intended as tongue-in-cheek... and yet they're not exact enough replicas to have been intended to deceive.
From what I see on eBay, there seems to be a large enough category of these not-quite-replica cameras to constitute a worthwhile subclass of collectibles, which suggests that there must have been a number of individual artisans at work. Perhaps some of them are still alive, in which case it would be a shame if someone did not find the opportunity to ask them, "How did you come to make this? What were the circumstances? What was your motivation?"
REPLY: I think I'd stick with the "jeux d'esprit" motivation. Sometime it's just fun to fool around, isn't it? Perhaps in the case of the "S-K Canon" the maker was actually trying to pull the wool over some neophyte's eyes, but since all Canon RFs have hexagonal ends his product with semi-circular ends really wouldn't have fooled anyone who cared. I just can't believe that these two cameras (actually, there a second "Canon" somewhere, I'm told) were assembled out of spite, and at their prices they certainly weren't made for profit.
there is a widespread cottage industry in the Former Soviet Union converting Feds and Zorkies to anything they can imagine with the Leica name on it so they can sell it on Ebay and in the EU fleamarkets. Some of the conversions are amazingly well done. Others show poor workmanship and imagination. Search Ebay for "Leica Copy". 99% on a given day are the Ruskie variety.
Luckily we don't have to worry about this for long. The production estimate for Feds and Zorkis is something like 3 million cameras, and only about 2,999,000 of the converted cameras are already in the US.
REPLY: This may be true. But the "Leica" I described has no Leica name anywhere on the body, and it's made of really first-generation old Zorki parts. Obviously no one built it that way originally; camera-collecting, even Leica-collecting, had never been generally heard of in the 1949-52 period. It's a much later production using old parts, and a non-fake in that it doesn't really echo anything that Leitz ever made. And see my answer to the previous posting from JLW, too. Thanks,
there is a widespread cottage industry in the Former Soviet Union converting Feds and Zorkies to anything they can imagin
At least from experience here in Uzbekistan I'd say "used to be" rather than "is". I can't speak for Russia obviously, but all summer I haven't seen a single Leica copy for sale here. It looks like the motivation is largely gone as buyers are getting wise to that they're buying copies.
Thanks for introducing me to this great site. I have read many of the posted messages and I am impressed with the professionalism and knowledge of each posting. I am looking forward to reading more messages and possibly contributing some of my own insights.
P.S. This message was originally sent to Philipp by mistake. It is going to take me a while to get use to the format of this site.
Some of you may be interested in reading the monographs that I wrote for John Baird's Historical Camera Publications. They were issued in small printings, and his business was terminated by unrelated events in his life before he could get around to reprinting them. The titles were:
Canon Single Lens Reflex Cameras 1959-1991
Olympus Pen Single Lens Reflex Cameras
The Contax Connection
The Contax S Camera Family
In addition, on the "SONGOFSNOW.COM" website you will find reprints of some of the articles I wrote for SHUTTERBUG and other outlets, under the general title I used during my many years of being a monthly contributor:
The Dekkam Files
The address for all these reissues is:
More, including brand-new musings, will be added as we go along: I'm working right now on a new monograph about the very early development of the Canon Hansa cameras.
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