Playing The Long Game: Outdoor Photography With Telezooms

The Cameras With The Wonderful Lenses


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The Cameras With The Wonderful Lenses

17 Mar 2021 10:21AM   Views : 935 Unique : 639

We step out into the misty world, in black and white no doubt, of 1963. Perhaps later we'll catch the first episode of that new science fiction serial on the BBC, but first let's open the new booklet we've just picked up from Johnsons of Hendon. It's called The Johnson Way to Better Photography and at 6d it's a cute way to try and charge us for a small catalogue.

This 1963 edition of this small booklet has a long history and they could make a nice little collectors item as a set. But we only have 1963 and inside we are offered a series of pages describing the full range of the cameras with the wonderful lenses, or Voigtlander if you prefer. It's fascinating what these cost and what that would be today, using the Inflation Calculator online.
The lowest cost is the simple Vitoret at 12 15s 9d. This would be 279 today, the equivalent of a week's work for many and more than a week in 1963.


Top of the compact camera tree is the Vitomatic IIa at 68 0s 2d, or at current prices 1456. The 2d might seem irrelevant, but in those days we had resale price maintenance (no discounting!) and PT (Purchase Tax), one of the weirdest concepts ever IMHO. We are taxed when we earn money, taxed when we spend it and if we ever get to negative interest rates maybe even one day taxed as we own it.....But back to Voigtlander and I think a staggering price for what we get.


Of course there are also SLR cameras, and the Voigtlander range are indeed superly made. They are also incredibly complex, using leaf shtters in the lenses rather than focal plane shutters. This makes everything expensive and was really their ultimate downfall. There is nothing more magnificent than the chrome finish on say a Bessamatic and nothing more amazing than the clarity of the view through the viewfinder. However, that view is an aerial non-focusing one, apart from a central ground glass disc. The lenses are also lovely, but a standard lens focusing to 3 feet does not compete to the Pentax ones at 1.5 feet of the same era. Likewise, the Super Dynarex 135mm f/4 focuses down to 13 feet, as against a Super Takumar 135mm f/3.5 focusing down to 4 feet. Then check out comparitive prices for those....
So, a Bessamatic with Color-Skopar 50mm f/2.8 lens was 105 15s 9d (equivalent now 2270) and the automatic Ultramatic with Septon 50mm f/2 was 125 11s 0d (equivalent now 2700).


Looking at those prices, we can today comfortably buy a Pentax K-1 II with 28-105mm lens, all weather resistant and full frame, for less than the simple version of the Voigtlander SLR. Very few people could afford that in 1963 and the standard camera club camera would probably have been a simple viewfinder model, maybe with a better lens than the standard and maybe with a rangefinder if we were lucky. Even by 1975 when I could afford my first Pentax Spotmatic with 55mm f/2 lens we were getting much better value, but most second and third lenses would have been third party ones.
I'll finish with a few useful accessories.

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