« Blog Notes: The Umbrella Lady | Main | Zeiss ZE 21mm for Canon »

Monday, 28 September 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

And lens designers (and their colleagues) are usually anonymous. Walther Mandler is the only name I know from the 20th century, not sure when Carl Zeiss and August(?) Petzval lived. 19th c, I think...

"...the CL, or "compact Leica," which spun off the mysterious probably-Japanese, maybe-a-little-bit-German CLE (compact Leica electronic)..."

Oh, bleah. What was so mysterious about the CLE? It was a sensible, pragmatic Minolta design through, never sold under the Leica name. It had a straightforward, rugged horizontal cloth focal-plane shutter nearly identical to that of its SLR contemporary, the XG-9, rather than the CL's gimmicky and sometimes inaccurate Leica-designed vertical cloth shutter. It ditched the CL's noisy, M5-derived pivoted-arm meter cell (with all its problems of wire fatigue at the pivot point) for a sophisticated off-the-film system (licensed from Olympus) that required no moving parts and could even adjust for changing light DURING the exposure. The CLE had a completely different rangefinder design, with a longer base length for greater accuracy and using the "moving telescope" principle for simpler adjustments compared to the CL's touchy-to-adjust, Leica-traditional "pivoted arm" rangefinder. The CLE even packed Minolta's sophisticated TTL autoflash system fully compatible with its X-series SLRs. The only "mystery" about the CLE was why it wasn't hugely more successful than its Wetzlar-cuckoo-clock predecessor...

May I give an honourable mention to Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke (now that they've definitively ridden off into the sunset?)

Heinz Waaske, the designer of Rollei 35 is absolutely someone to remember.

Eastman of Kodak fame? Or was he more business than actual design?

József (Joseph) Petzval lived from 1807 to 1891. He designed his legendary portrait lens in around 1840.

Perhaps the colani studios work with Canon should also be considered as the curves of the T90 design are, to my eye at least, a thing of great beauty. It's a genuine design classic and I don't think any other SLR has exploited modern materials as elegantly, indeed Canon seem to produce progressively more inelegant designs as the Eos range goes on.

The Leica CL was first, then came the minolta CLE a few years later. The CL was a complete joint-venture between the Japanese and the then German company; it was built from 1973 to 1976, though Leitz scrapped it on their side because it cannibalised the sales figures of their M-line. In Germany [and probably some other markets] it was sold as Leica CL, in Japan as Leitz-Minolta CL [with a small 'm' as that was the brand logo at the time].

After Leitz' decision to not go on with the "consumer line" camera Minolta developed the CLE and sold it all over the world. I am not quite sure - not least because I sold of my Minolta literature [for the interested: Josef Scheibel and Dieter Gabler are the writers to look for] a few years back - if Minolta held on to the original Leitz-developed shutter or if they went with Copal.

Another Minolta-Leitz joint venture was the R3, essentially a Minolta XE-1 with added spot metering and motor drive capablity.

Forget about the cameras, lets concentrate on the really important designers: John Tessar, Joe Biogon, Mary Summilux, and the all mighty Susan Noctilux.

Let's not forget Masahiko Fuketa. He was Chief Engineer at Nikon during the late 1950's and it was he who, along with input from noted graphic designer Yusaka Kamakura, designed the Nikon F. Its introduction kicked off what would become an SLR boom and marked the beginning of the end for the popularity of rangefinder cameras. There's a fascinating 2-part documentary on YouTube called "Designing the Nikon F" for anyone who might be interested.

What about Steve Jobs??!!!

Dieter Rams is one of the greatest product designers of the past 50 years. He designed the Braun Nizo cine camera and wrote the 10 commandments of design.

I'm going to have to go with Steve Sasson, the electrical engineer at Kodak who, with a couple of technicians and a new CCD, invented the digital camera in 1975.

The Magic of Edward Land.

I never really knew who designed the Argus C3, but have long thought it must have been SpongeBob SquarePants.


J'accuse Manfred Meinzer who ruined the R8 'design'.

Walter Zapp (Minox)
Jacques Bolsey (Alpa and Bolsey)

Okay, so when I made my previous post at stupid-o'clock in the morning I missed the first featured comment that mentioned Masahiko Fuketa, which is why I made my own post about him. So, instead of that designer, how about Gustave Fassin, the engineer at International Radio Corporation who is generally credited with designing the Argus A (though it's his boss, Charles Veerschoor, whose name appears on the patent). The Argus A, along with Kodak's new daylight loadable film cartridge, played a huge part in making the 35mm format popular with those working-class Joes (and Janes) who couldn't afford a Leica.

Gustave Fassin also designed the even more popular and much better known Argus C-type.

Hubert Nerwin, Zeiss Ikon


Also, since I'm apparently determined to avoid actually working today: I agree that the M3 is achingly pretty, but "possibly the ... most significant, too"? Hmmm.

I don't think it's even the most significant Leica; the original Leica I, as the progenitor of small-format photography, has to rank higher, no?

I'd also rank one of the early practical SLRs, arguably a 1957-ish Pentax or the Nikon F, higher, as the progenitors of the SLR era.

Or perhaps the Juspin Konica. The what? The Juspin Konica. The first autofocus compact 35mm camera (1977), ushering in the era both of autofocus and of the modern point-and-shoot. Japanese camera industry folks still mark the Juspin Konica as a world-shaking development (it's often referenced in history stories on Canon, Nikon, Olympus et. al. web sites.)

But really, one of the early Kodak models (1888-ish) has to be the "most significant" title holder -- the first cameras ever made that were suitable for non-expert use, bringing photography to the masses, as the cliché goes.

The M3 is awesome, but it was the culmination of a dying breed, one that promptly passed firmly -- and very quickly -- into niche status very shortly after the M3 appeared.

Maybe this is a topic for another post, Mike! Or not :-)

I think we also need a shoutout to Giorgetto Giugiaro, the "car designer of the century," who in addition to designing cars for Maserati, Lamborghini, and more or less everyone else, has designed SLR bodies for Nikon since the F3--he originated Nikon's "red flash" (which has nothing to do with strobes).

Dear Doug,

I gotta disagree about Steve Sasson on several counts.

First, he didn't invent the digital camera. He built the first one (so far as we know), but he didn't build anything that many of us hadn't thought of and figured out the engineering on years earlier.

That's not to diminish his achievement, wich is historic and considerable. It's just not 'invention.'

Second, by no stretch of the imagination can his lab prototype be considered a camera design! And if it were, it would win no kudos from anyone.

Well, maybe fans of the Argus C3. I mean, if a brick can be considered attractive, think how much better a BOX is!


pax / Ctein

The image is great. What if the picture was taken by a Leica. We also need a picture of the designer of Nikon F vs Canon ... not possible I guess.

What about Kodak's Arthur Crapsey?


Thanks, Mike. I just bought a used, semi-working CL, and it's nice to know who desgned it. And an interesting topic, generally.

Thanks, Ken, for Gustav Fassin. An Argus AF found at a flea market was my first fully manual camera. Until today, I thought it was all Mr. Veerschoor.

So why is it that even though I don't own a field camera, I've heard of Peter Gowland, Fred Picker and Ron Wisner?

However, anonymity seems the norm for industrial designers, except for a few superstars. Anyone know who designed their cell phone? (Exception: I heard of the designer of my Ericsson T610 from a few years ago (Erik Ahlgren), but only because Ericsson chose to promote it as a designer's vision. And it just occurred to me that his phone was my first digital camera.)

I've heard a rumor that both Hasselblad and it's ukrainian analogues were based on requisitioned german patent, probably Zeiss? Maybe "real" Hasselblads with central shutters were swedish-designed, but their film magazines and their outer appearance still remained the same... So could there be anyone in the shade of Victor Hasselblad?

If we want to trace the portable format back further, George Eastman probably deserves a mention having kicked the whole thing off with the Kodak.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007