Camera Advertsements: Oddball Cameras (1930s)

The back pages of old magazines are filled with cameras that never made the big-time. Sometimes you see tiny ads for Minoltas and Konicas and you know things are going to change, but most of the time you get these instead.

The golden age for these seems to be pre-cold war, when a lot of cameras were imported from all around the globe, as well was from cottage factories in the USA. A time before technology became so complicated that it pushed the little guys out, and before the War and the Wall drastically cut the flow of goods from a huge chunk of the world.

Watson: this is one of the very, very few camera ads I've ever seen where the camera itself is not shown. Vario shutters are low-end German. Stuff I read on the net hints that it's from Wirgin, but hard to say.

Precisa: is a line of cameras from Kamera-Fabrik Woldemar Beier (Beier for short), based in Dresden. Mimosa was based in Dresden, but it appears that they mainly a film and paper company, and my guess is that they exported the Beier camera.

Eho: cames from Dresden-based Eho-Altissa, according to Camerapedia.

Foth: Seriously, can you imagine anyone naming a camera Foth? But consider that it's $80, which in 1937 makes it a very expensive camera indeed. Camerapedia has a few comments on it, and the price tag might be justified: it has a focal plane shutter, which is rare in TLRs, and unusual to find in any camera (outside of Graflex) prior to the 1960s when Japanese SLRs took over.

Companion: if the lenses are Hugo Meyer, my guess is that it's something German.

Dollys: a German outfit called Certo, located in Dresden, made Dollys and Dollinas. After the war they ended up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, and eventually were rolled up into VEB Pentacon.

Juwella and Altiflex: the former appears to be a Balda product, and the latter is another Eho-Altissa product. Both are Dresden manufacturers, which isn't surprising since most of Germany's pre-WW2 camera manufacturing was centered there.

And finally, the no-name candid camera. I believe this is another Olympic, as the specs are the same and the picture (such that it is) is about right, making it a Japanese bakelite beauty.