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Selecting and Using Classic Cameras

Selecting and Using Classic Cameras

Michael Levy

2002, Amherst Media , Inc., Buffalo, NY

ISBN # 1-58428-054-9

Softcover, 6" x 9", 190pp
B&W photo-illustrated

Review By:
D. Scott Young

Michael Levy has been taking photographs since 1946, according to his biographical notes, when he was given a simple plastic box camera that took 127 size roll film. His love of photography has never left him, as is evident in his fond yet honest descriptions of a wide variety of classic cameras profiled in "Selecting and Using Classic Cameras".

This book is not intended to be a definitive collector's catalogue or guide to prices. Instead, this book introduces the excitement and fun of collecting, and more importantly, using classic cameras to those who might never have thought of it otherwise. In that regard, his book is a great success because he clearly and eloquently presents the field of collecting in layman's terms, in an engaging, humorous and direct manner that makes the book very entertaining.

Classic cameras, broadly defined, are cameras made in the period from about 1920 to 1965; they are mechanical in operation, although built in electric light meters are found in many of them. Within this broad definition can be found view cameras, press, box, folding bellows, rangefinder, Single and Twin Lens Reflex types, Polaroid instant cameras and even the tiny Minox, Minolta, Mamiya, Stecky and Tessina subminiature cameras. All of these types are lovingly described in this book.

Michael begins with chapters covering the basics: Why to collect and use them, an excellent chapter on Where to look, thoroughly covering stores, swap markets and the Internet, among other sources; learning resources on classic cameras and ending with basics of what to look for when examining a potential purchase. From there, he launches into chapters devoted to each of the main types of classic camera.

This is where the fun starts. Each chapter introduces a particular type of camera, briefly placing it in historical perspective, and peppering the writing with pointed, personal experiences that will be extremely helpful to the new enthusiast. Most enjoyable are the numerous high quality black and white photographs throughout the book showing the surprisingly good to excellent quality of some of these old classics and their lenses. Written and photographic contributions by Jonathan Blumb and Nolan Woodbury greatly enhance the book, with Jonathan adding expertise on the Leica cameras and Nolan adding commentary and wonderful photographs of vintage motorcycles taken with his twin lens reflex cameras.

Chapter 12 is a short but very interesting coverage of subminiature classics, with heavy emphasis on Minox. By the definition of a classic, the Minox line would end with the Model B as far as the book goes, so Model C and later are only given passing mention. Again, it is clear the Michael has a passion for these cameras as well, as he freely comments on his Minox cameras as
being "the most noticed camera I use". These personal observations and others like them do much to make the book as appealing as it is.

This is a very easy to read, and very entertaining as well as informative work, and should enjoy great success. I learned a lot from this book; I recommend it as mandatory reading for anyone considering or just starting out in the exciting field of collecting and using classic cameras.

From Minox Memo Vol 1, No 2


April 20, 2001

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Last updated March 20, 2003. minox club society organization historical history museum group company association