From Camera Obscura to the Age of X — What Is It With Camera Names!

We’re currently living at the threshold of a new camera age. Well that’s what camera names suggest. It’s the age of cameras with a “1” in their name, symbolizing the start of a new era, doesn’t it. Take the Sony RX1, the Fujifilm X-E1 after the X-Pro1, the Nikon 1 series or Samsung NX1000. Add the dernier cri in camera names, the X.

Recently, camera makers like to add an X to their creations, as does Sony with the NEX lineup, the RX100 and RX1, and as do Fujifilm X series, Samsung with the NX models, Panasonic’s GX lineup and Leica’s X… The X seems to be the new D. Well that D has run out of steam due to overuse by CaNikon.

While it has been Nikon’s privilege to add the D before the product number, Canon had the courtesy to add it behind, making a D600 all but a 6D… Again, those D-days however are synonymic for the past.

Gone as well are the days when cameras had real names. Hail the camera obscura! — that’s Latin for “dark room.” Then came the Daguerreotypes, then the Calotype and Leitz cameras became Leicas.

Jacques Cousteau called his camera Calypso. What an onomatopoetic name! It was the first camera purpose-built for underwater use. Nikon was so impressed with the instrument, they purchased the design and production rights, renaming it Nikonos.

Or take the Wisner Expedition, a cherrywood field camera with brass couplings manufactured by Ron Wisner, a mountain climber tho tests his company’s new models in the field.

And guess what, George Eastman’s first Kodak in 1888 — a simple box camera — was simply the Kodak.

Other names — such as the Canon EOS Rebel, marketed as the not less catchy “Kiss” in Japan — suggest character traits to which photographers might aspire. Or what might the Polaroid Swinger imply? No wonder they went bankrupt.

Fortunately or not, naming conventions have for the most part reverted to more technical practices since then — even though the Rebel and Kiss lineup still goes strong; camera names that I prefer by far to the likes of PowerShot, FinePix, DiMAGE (Minolta R.I.P.), Coolpix, CyberShot or Digilux.

Pixel power and clarity count heavily in today’s marketing of digital cameras.

But words as “cyber” and “pixel” sound like vintage these days. It’s time for a new dimension in camera names. Here comes the era of the X cameras.

The X, so multilingual, is the new D. Or you’d prefer Generation D, D-Men, The D-Files, D-Factor, D-ray, and so forth?

X for x-pensive? X-perimental?

In math, X is commonly used to represent an unknown. In adventures, X marks the spot. And in general, as far as symbology goes, a cross is a very powerful symbol in about every culture.

And the sexy XXX?

X is mystery, conflict, precision, resolution, multiplication, dynamics.

But well, in the light of the new minimalism’s zeitgeist others drop numbers and names altogether. Leica’s latest digital flagship is the M. Nothing more, nothing less.

Add Canon’s EOS mirrorless, the M.

How they’ll call the next Ms after the first M?

“No clue,” a Leica rep told me. “We gonna think of something.”

And we haven’t yet said a word about lens names, just to mention Super-Angulon, Tele-Arton, Super-Achromat, Apo-Helvetar and the more known Distagon, Planar, Sonnar (and the Vario-Sonnar), Noctilux, Summilux, Summicron, Summarit, Elmarit, Elmar, Hektor, Super-Elmar, Hektor and… Asterix — oops!



  • Pablo Ricasso

    Dude…too much free time on your hands?

    • Thom H.

      It appears so ;)

    • I wish!…

  • Pan

    That’s what I love about this site. Informative and …… contrarian.