Category: Books

[The Unusual Library] The Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras

51r5y49vfxl-_ac_ul320_sr228320_The Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras
Jean Loup Princelle
1995, Hove Photo Books
ISBN 978-18-740-316-35

This is a book I had to sweat a lot to put my hands on.

The Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras is a difficult to find book (I had some luck with an eBay auction from France), but it is also the Bible of the Russian and Soviet camera collector. I’m not a collector per se, nor I have a keen interest in buying all FEDs and Zenits and KMZs that I come across, but Soviet cameras have a certain charme, they have contributed to shape the camera markets of those years, despite often being inspired or cloned from existing western models.

For many people across the Iron Curtain, these cameras were the only option. For many westeners, these were the most affordable option (and you got a decent camera, too). Like the book about the Chinese cameras, this guide is divided by factory (starting from GOMP/VOOMP/LOMO and KMZ to more obscure ZAVOD GEODEZYIA and ZAVOD ARSENAL) and lists (possibly) every model produced together with pictures and technical details, when available. There is also the history of the factories themselves and put in context with the socio-political situation of the USSR at the time.

Overall, it’s quite a nice and interesting book, if you manage to find it grab a copy. Not essential unless you really like to collect Soviet cameras, I might add. There are also some details that appear to be wrong (I’ll consider them bona fide mistakes).

[The Unusual Library] Book Review: Cameras of the People’s Republic of China

Cameras of The People’s Republic of  China
Douglas St. Denny
1989, Jessop Specialist Publishing
ISBN 978-0951-4392-03

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This is a rather unusual book. A very niche one, which you will probably not own unless you have a keen interest in PRC’s history of cloned cameras.

I’m not that interested in collecting this kinds of camera, neither do I own one, but I recently stumbled upon several reviews of the Seagull TLRs (from Shanghai) and they made me curious. In the photographic world, we are used to the big brands that are popular still today and synonym of quality equipment, but if somebody mentions Shanghai Camera Factory or the Beijing Camera Factory… we all tend to shrug.

Thinking that China never had a place in the market would be wrong, as this book demonstrates, albeit most of the cameras introduced in PRC between the 40’s and the 70’s were close copies or identical clones of more popular European/Japanese brands (and that includes also Russian LOMO and KMZ models).

It’s quite interesting to read the stories of the companies and the cameras that they produced, all with very evocative names like the Tian Tan (Temple of Heaven) TLR, the Yuejin (Great Leap) and the Zi Jin Shan (Purple Mountain), like looking inside a world that has been there for a very long time, but no one bothered to notice before.

The book itself is no longer published, so browse eBay to grab a copy!

Book review: Basic Techniques of Photography – Book 1

An Ansel Adams Guide – Basic Techniques of Photography – Book 1
JP Schaefer
1998, Little, Brown and Company
ISBN 978-08212-188-22
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Bonne chance finding this book. As far as I can tell it is not published anymore, although Little, Brown and Co. still has in catalog several other books by Ansel Adams and another one by Schaefer. This one comes as the first volume of a series of two, but if the first one needs digging online (or in used books stores), the second one requires a bigger wallet because it is harder to find and more expensive (we’re still under £50, though). And if it does not seem a lot for a book, it is still a lot for a used book.

This masterpiece is like a Bible for the photographer. It contains everything from the basics (like the process of capturing a picture on film, different kinds of cameras and their workings, concepts like parallax, aperture, exposure…) to more advanced one (including film development). It is really well written, with lots of beautiful photos by the great Ansel Adams and excerpts from his notes and books.

All the concepts are very well expressed and clear, with loads of schemes and pictures to clarify the examples (besides, in a book about photography, you can’t really express concepts without having photographies in it, can you?).

Scan eBay or World of Books for a copy of this gem, it is really worth it, especially if you are a beginner like me. Prices vary but you should be able to grab your copy for something in between a fiver and £20 (that is, if you live in the UK).