Why is the 35-mm. camera so popular? It is so compact and lightweight that you can climb a tree with it, ski with it, hunt with it. It has the fastest lenses of any still camera. Even models under $100 have optics rated at f/1.9, f /2 and f/2.8; and lenses rated at f/1.4 or f/1.5 are found on more expensive models. The reason for these fast lenses is that it is physically and economically practical to manufacture the small lens that the short focal length (the length from lens to film) permits. And the lens of a camera, a precision, hand-manufactured product, generally more than any other factor determines its price.
The fast lenses available in 35-mm. cameras have led to the popularity of available-light photography—enlarging the whole school of candid photography. The present highspeed black-and-white films when used with these fast lenses can catch a child by the light of a Christmas tree or the candles on a birthday cake at speeds fast enough for even a nonprofessional to dispense with a tripod, holding the camera in his hand. And many even faster films are being introduced. The speed of color films has been increased, bringing a whole new range of color photography within reach of the miniature camera user. Two, the new High Speed Ektachrome and Super Anscochrome, are fast enough to allow for shooting under conditions heretofore limited to fast black-and-white films.
The 35-mm. camera is an ideal camera for making color slides. Color is returned from the processor already mounted, and the whole still-projector industry has profited by it.
High on the list of the 35-mm. camera's advantages to the amateur photographer is the fact that he can change the lenses—to telephoto for bringing the picture up close to wide angle for taking in broader scenes than with standard 50-mm. lenses. Once a feature found only on the most expensive cameras, interchanging lenses is now possible with 35-mm. cameras that range in price from the Argus Standard C3 at $55.95 through a whole series of fine cameras on both sides of the $100 mark up to the Leica M3 at $399. And amateurs have discovered that with a telephoto lens they can isolate the runner from the pack on the field or, with a wide-angle lens, take in the entire field of action, goal to goal, from the top seats in the stands. In fine, a range of lenses gives the photographer many more ways to take a better picture from the same spot.
Thirty-five-millimeter cameras are divided into three types, according to the kind of viewers they have. There are those with no range finders, focused by setting the estimated distance on a scale. Next come cameras with range finders (see diagram), which are focused by adjusting the range finder until two images are superimposed or two halves of an image lined up. The third category is the single-lens reflex, which, like the twin-lens reflex cameras, permit composing and focusing the scene either on a ground glass or through a prism which shows what the camera sees.
The range-finder method of viewing has long been the most common found on the precision 35-mm. camera. It takes practice to use it to best advantage, but it gives a brilliant image and is the favorite of many professional photographers.
The 35-mm. reflex camera viewer, particularly the prismatic type, is the new sensation of the photographic world, for it makes eye-level composing and focusing as simple and as easy as twin-lens reflex viewing. There is one disadvantage to single-lens reflex cameras—the photographer actually views the picture through the picture-taking lens. The mirror that throws the image upward from lens to viewer has to get out of the way when the picture is taken. The viewer thus goes blank when the picture is taken; the photographer sees only what he was going to take. But in the latest refinement of the new 35-mm. single lenses the mirror returns instantly, and the image is only blacked out momentarily. With these new cameras comes another major development—the automatic diaphragm.
Cameras in this range are not the least expensive of 35-mm. They range from the Heiland Pentax at $179.50 to the brand-new Japanese-made Nikon F at $329.50. But they are among the most talked-about new products on the photo scene.
The single-lens reflex, 35-mm. camera, has prompted the most advanced accessory of the year—the zoom lens for still cameras. Like the lens on TV and on movie cameras whose dramatic zoom from home plate to the distant outfield gave it its name, the zoom lens permits quick changes from 36-mm. wide angle through normal to 82-mm. telephoto. The Voightlander-Zoomar is the first of these varifocal lenses. It costs $298 and works on all 35-mm. single-lens reflex cameras that have focal plane shutters. It takes the place of at least two extra lenses in a photographer's kit. You view through the lens itself at whatever distance it is set, just as in all single-lens reflex viewing. And Nikon has announced, for early 1960, a telephoto zoom lens that will take up where the Voightlander-Zoomar leaves off, going from 85 mm. to 250 mm. It will cost $595.
Single-lens reflex viewing is not confined to 35-mm. cameras. As a matter of fact, some of the best of the single-lens reflex cameras are in the 120-film group, and their popularity has done much to boost the rapid growth of this type of viewing system. The Swedish Hasselblad is perhaps the best known, and its advertising slogan, "Carry a Hasselblad instead of a studio," aptly sums up the versatility of the camera, which not only has interchangeable lenses but interchangeable film magazines that allow the photographer to change from color to black-and-white film in mid-roll and back again. The Hasselblad 500C and its new competitor, the Japanese Bronica, both cost $489.50 with f/2.8 lenses. The Hasselblad focusing mirror blocks out the view once the picture is taken, but the Bronica has a new, instant-return mirror that flops down and returns.