10 Retro-Style Cameras and Accessories
JUNE 05, 2013
By Theano Nikitas
Camera styles, like those of clothing, are cyclical. Right now, we’re in an age of retro and vintage gear that call to mind the days when rangefinders ruled and film was very much alive and well. But just because a camera is built around the latest technological advances doesn’t mean that it can’t have a retro look and feel. The same goes for accessories—from camera straps to individual camera cases to larger bags that can accommodate the latest DSLRs and lenses.
Here’s a look at a handful products that may appear to be retro but are, for the most part, built to get today’s job done.
Digital Bolex D16
One of the most exciting crowd-funding projects we’ve seen in the past year is the Digital Bolex D16—a cinema camera that shoots 2K, RAW (Adobe Cinema DNG) footage. Built around a Kodak CCD 16mm-size sensor, the D16, in some ways, reinvents the 8mm and 16mm motion picture cameras developed by Jacques Bogopolsky more than 90 years ago. If you were (or are) a film student, it’s a safe bet that you’re familiar with the Bolex name. You’re in good company, too: Many notable filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch and Andy Warhol used Bolex cameras to shoot their first films.
Bolex still manufactures its film cameras and although it doesn’t physically produce the D16, the decades-old company oversees quality control for the new digital camera. In addition to its 16mm-size sensor and 2K, RAW capabilities, the D16 offers a myriad of resolutions including 2336 x 1752, 2048 x 1152, 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720 and 720 x 480. This five-pound, magnesium alloy and hard-plastic camera measures about 5 x 4 x 8 inches (without the detachable pistol grip). The D16 also features dual CF card slots; multiple ports including headphone, USB 3.0, Audio XLR and mini-HDMI; and a trio of ISO settings at 100, 200 and 400. The D16 comes standard with a C-mount but will eventually offer PL, EF, B4, M and Micro four-thirds mounts as options. The D16’s bundle includes the camera body, pistol grip, USB 3.0 cable, internal battery, 4 pin XLR battery cable, video cable and transcoder/RAW conversion software.
Fujifilm caused a big stir among photographers with its X-Pro1 mirrorless camera and has now equally impressed pros and enthusiasts alike with the advanced compact X100S. This 16-megapixel camera is equipped with a new X-Trans CMOS II APS-C-size sensor, fixed 35mm (35mm-equivalent) f/2 to f/16 lens, and has all the visual markings of a rangefinder with its black-and-silver design. Despite its retro look, the X100S actually sports a hybrid viewfinder. With a flick of a switch, it changes from an optical viewfinder to an electronic viewfinder and back again. Automatic switching between the camera’s 2.8-inch, 460K-dot LCD and viewfinder is possible via an eye sensor. Alternatively, users can disable the sensor and set the camera to either viewfinder or LCD.
Solidly built, the X100S weighs almost a pound fully loaded, and measures a manageable 5.0 x 2.9 x 2.1 inches. Above and beyond the basic manual and semi-manual features one expects from an advanced compact camera, you’ll find Fuji’s unique film simulation modes, motion panorama, multiple exposures, virtual level, histogram, split-image focusing and focus peaking as well as RAW shooting. And that’s just a quick look at some of the features this handsome and capable camera has to offer. To keep the retro look going, check out the camera’s optional brown leather case.
HoldFast Camera Leash
Shoulder and neck straps—including those for dressing yourself with multiple cameras—are great. But if you’re shooting with one of the many advanced compact cameras on the market, you may be interested in a smaller carrying solution like HoldFast’s Camera Leash. Instead of using synthetic material, which is so common nowadays, HoldFast fashions its leashes from real leather. Although strong enough to support a DSLR, we think it’s the perfect (and handsome) accessory for smaller models. An optional Camera HoldFast Accessory Clip lets you attach the leash to the tripod mount of your camera. Available in bridle, water buffalo or American bison leather (with and without a decorative silver star), this leash is sturdy, stylish and comfortable.
Prices: Starting at $45
Holga 120GTLR (Twin-Lens Reflex)
Since the early 1980s, Holga cameras have appealed to a wide range of photographers. Sure, Holgas are plastic and their fans often participate in the Krappy Kamera competition, but that doesn’t mean that these cameras aren’t capable of taking some nice—and often unique—pictures.
Available in a variety of colors and formats, we like the 120GTLR for both its 120 film usage and its twin-lens reflex viewing, which reminds us of our first college class in still photography. The camera has a built-in, four-color flash, and is available with a plastic or a glass lens.
The camera comes with a shoulder strap, instruction manual, lens cap, and a frame mask for 6.0 x 4.5-centimeter and 6 x 6-centimeter framing. Its 60mm lens focuses from 0.9m to infinity and features f/8 and f/11 aperture settings, with 1/100 of a second and bulb shutter speeds. A number of accessories are available including a fisheye lens and a 35mm film adapter kit. They’re fun, they’re cool and buying one won’t break the bank.
Ilott Vintage Rangefinder Cameras & Leather Straps
Vintage doesn’t get much more elegant (and envy-worthy) than Andrew Bellamy’s rangefinder cameras. Bellamy gives new life to cameras such as the World War II-era Argus C3, the Minolta Hi-Matic 9 and the Canon Demi EE17, by meticulously restoring them. Lenses are disassembled and cleaned, light seals replaced, shutter speeds measured—and that’s only part of the rigorous testing and servicing process. Leather is replaced with wood veneer that’s custom-cut for each model and sealed with Danish oil. These mechanical marvels are not only beautiful to look at but with Bellamy’s attention to detail and the full service reports for each camera, you know exactly what you’re getting.
While you’re perusing the cameras on the Ilott Vintage site, check out the leather straps as well, which are available with lug or slot mounts.
Prices: Cameras start at $1,875; Leather Straps start at $58
The Leica name alone is synonymous with street photography and great masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson. Even with Leica’s digital models, like the Leica M, that little red dot signifies the company’s long-time heritage in imaging.
Wrapped around a 24-megapixel, full-frame sensor, the Leica M offers the look and feel of a rangefinder but one that has been updated to meet the needs of today’s digital photographers. It was the first to offer Live View and Live View Focusing and can capture high-definition video as well. An optical viewfinder is built-in but can be supplemented with an optional electronic viewfinder. Other options include a multifunction handgrip, microphone adapter set and an adapter for mounting Leica R lenses. Sturdy construction complements the Leica M’s retro design, so even the most tech-savvy street photographer will appreciate the camera’s heritage and modern-day features.
If you’re looking for an affordable-yet-advanced compact camera with retro styling, check out Pentax’s 12-megapixel MX-1. Available in all black or a retro black-and-silver design, the MX-1 is solidly built with top and bottom brass covers, and a hefty 13.8-ounce weight. The camera is equipped with a fast f/1.8 to f/3.5, 4x zoom lens with an equivalent focal range of 28-112mm, and offers manual and semi-manual exposure controls. Unfortunately, it lacks a viewfinder but its high-resolution, tiltable LCD works well under almost all lighting conditions and is great for street shooting.
Full HD video is available along with an automatic three-shot HDR option, adjustable dynamic range settings, lens distortion correction, super-macro focusing as close as 0.4 inches, a built-in flash and a handful of special effects. For shooting outdoors, the built-in Neutral Density filter can come in handy. It’s a neat little camera that may not have all the bells and whistles of some of the other retro-looking cameras on the market but, then again, doesn’t have the price tag either.
Tap & Dye Legacy Neck/Shoulder Strap
Tap & Dye’s handcrafted Legacy leather camera straps are compatible with all cameras (DSLRs, mirrorless, rangefinders and even Canon’s Canonet models) that are equipped with round lug strap mounts. These full-grain cowhide leather straps are left unfinished and have a distinctly vintage look thanks to antique, nickel-plated, solid-brass rivets.
Available in various lengths—38, 40, 42, 44, 46 and 48 inches—the straps are 1/2 inch wide. The shorter length straps (up to 42 inches) are 9/64 inch thick and come in your choice of Antique Tan or Dark Amber Beeswax, while the longer straps are 1/8 inch thick and only available in Antique Tan. These sturdy straps are designed to last for years and will gain an even greater vintage/distressed look the longer you use them.
Prices: Starting at $58
Rolleiflex Twin-Lens Reflex Cameras
While the Holga 120GTLR camera may bring back memories for some of us (on a budget), the Rolleiflex TLRs are the real deal. These manual focus, twin-lens reflex, leaf shutter cameras take 120 film and are equipped with different lenses ranging from the 4.0 FW’s 50mm to the 2.8 FX/FX-N’s 80mm and the 4.0 FT’s 135mm. If you prefer, you can change the standard viewfinder with optional 45 degree and 90 degree prism finders.
Be prepared to slow down and think before you shoot with a Rolleiflex, though. There’s nothing fast about these cameras; even their maximum shutter speed of 1/500 of a second. But they’re gorgeous to look at, with their embossed brown calf leather finish on the front and chrome side edges on the rear panel. The Rolleiflex is a classic and beautiful piece of gear and its price reflects the camera’s—and the company’s—heritage.
ONA The Chelsea Bag
The Chelsea from ONA is based on a traditional bowler bag design that’s perfect for photographers who want a classic and fashionable look when carrying their gear. Available in cognac or black saffiano leather with gold accents, The Chelsea can accommodate a DSLR, up to three lenses, an iPad and personal items. The fully padded interior measures 16 x 10 x 6 inches and can be carried by its rolled shoulder straps or a detachable crossbody strap. A flat, structured bottom (with low-profile, button feet) allows the bag to sit upright when you need to place it on the ground to pull out your gear.
While the black leather looks good, we think the cognac provides a more retro style. Either way, it’s a really nice-looking bag that we wouldn’t mind carrying even when we’re not shooting.
Read all of our camera reviews at pdnonline.com/cameras.