Some of us are buying cameras like articles of daily use. There’s no bonding whatsoever between photographer and gear. Imagine using your current digital camera — or iPhone, for that matter — 30 years from now. That’s exactly the concept of the folks at Ilott, refurbisher of fine vintage cameras: take pictures with their lovingly restored, vintage, manual 35mm rangefinder cameras, striking and tested through time.
How about with the Minolta Hi-Matic 9? The 9 has a superb F1.7 lens, an extremely clear viewfinder and a brilliantly bright diamond shaped imaging area and parallax compensation. Plus: the Easy Flash system…
The Miami-based company is founded on the admittedly romanticized ideal of pre-digital, even pre-electronic photography. Remember that time you could set aperture, shutter speed and ISO? When it took a bit more practice and skill than with today’s over-programmed convergence devices to compose a good photo?
Says Ilott about their cameras:
Our rangefinders predate planned obsolescence. They are from a time when an object would be handed down through generations, not just be replaced after a year; when the weight of a product was a sign of quality not regarded a hindrance; when products were repaired instead of discarded.
The cameras can by anywhere between 70 and 45 years old. Each has been on a long and unique journey. Dirt may impede the mechanical operations of the body and optical performance of the lens. Lenses may be clouded by fungus or dust, and the viewfinders are often foggy. But even with almost half a century of use and abuse behind them, with expert attention the cameras are capable of creating images as exceptional as the day they were made.
With each recovered camera — say, a 1939 Argus C3 called the “brick,” but what a stunning brick — founder Andrew Bellamy and his team go to work replacing tension springs, repairing and cleaning dozens of cogs.
They calibrate the rangefinder optics, replace cracked leather shells with durable wood veneers tailored to each camera and then turn the object of desire over to a new owner — the owner for the next few decades, at least.
Currently, Ilott offers 10 beautifully restored vintage models, for instance this entirely manual Argus C3, the only American camera in Ilott’s collection:
The beauty of this camera is its simplicity which is reflected equally in the aesthetic design, usability and mechanics. It was the best-selling 35mm camera in the world for nearly three decades, and is said is to be responsible for popularizing the use of 35mm film.
Tony Vaccaro, soldier and photojournalist, took most of his images of World War II with his Argus C3.
Or the Minoltina AL-s. At the time of launch in 1964 this was marketed as the “world’s smallest 35mm rangefinder (…) Don’t be fooled by the ultra compact size of the Minoltina AL-s… You get all of the features found in the finest 35mm cameras.”
May Ilott never run out of vintage gear. Or care for a lovingly restored EOS-1D?
Prices are reasonable, they range from $1,875 to $2,225.