Thursday, January 14, 2010

Vintage Camera #2 - Pontiac

A while back - I wrote in my blog that I had been give 3 vintage cameras. I had meant to post more information on each of them, but things got busy, and time got away with me until tonight when I thought I would catch up a bit on my blogging.

To recap - I wrote about Vintage Camera #1 Someone from a Camera Museum in the USA emailed me and told me that the camera was a pre-war 1932 Wirgin Pronto. So really interesting to get that information.

The second camera I was given was a 1945 Pontiac.

Upon investigation on the internet, I found this camera is a 1945 Pontiac Bloc Metal 45. 65 years old is amazing because this camera is still in good working order. The only problem is I can't source any film for it in New Zealand. Wouldn't it be good if digital cameras were made to last as long!

The “Bloc-Métal” name referred to the solid metal construction. Despite the name and the date of introduction, production for sale seems not to have started until 1946.

I loved the metal strap which is actually indented with red, although it doesn't seem very red on this particular image.

The Bloc-Métal 45 is often regarded as the most beautiful of all folding cameras, not least by the French themselves. It is constructed from cast aluminium alloy, it really does look lovely and very compact, although mine could use a little polishing with something to remove the oxidation of the last 50 years, seeing that the last 40 years it's just been sitting at the top of a wardrobe unused!

The camera can come with variety of 102mm f/4.5 and 105mm f/4.5 triplet lenses, and possibly with one or two Tessar-type four-glass lenses. The shutter is a Prontor II, 1 second to 1/200 sec + B and T, with delayed action, flash synchronized; quite advanced for its day.

Marked apertures on the grievously nonlinear scale are f/4.5 and f/6.3 (one stop apart), then f/8 (2⁄3 stop), f/11, f/16, f/23(!), and f/32. Below is the depth of field calculator which looks utterly confusing to me!

I loved the way it folds up inside, and viewed when you open the back of it. However mine looks like there is a little bit of wear at the top.

This camera is still in good working order and I would dearly love to try it out, along with the 1932 pre-war wirgin. I can buy the black and white film from places in Chicago or from B&H, for very reasonable prices, the postage to New Zealand is prohibitive (about $40USD to get it here). I guess I'll have to wait until I know someone is going to New York!

Fascinating these vintage cameras - Pontiac or Obwandiyag (c. 1720-1769) was an Ottawa chief who allied himself with the French against the English, but it seems more likely that M. Laroche just liked Pontiac cars and regarded them as the epitome of modern styling and affordable excellence.

The history of the company itself is also interesting. MFAP was one of the few French beneficiaries of the German occupation, which forbade the founding of new optical companies in occupied France. This allowed M. Laroche to bring out his new all-metal camera model in ’41, and essentially gave him a free run for the next few years. He even advertised himself as the leading French manufacturer of cameras: this was probably true during World War II.

Value? It’s impossible to say on any vintage camera. They are only really worth what someone is prepared to pay for them. However, the Pontiacs are not very common, even in France, and despite the export drive of the later ’40s, they are distinctly rare in the USA. Their looks and history makes it a camera that does stand out over other vintage cameras.


Christopher Lehfeldt said...

Fascinating information, you did some great research on your #2 camera!

Now what's the #3 camera? :)

Robyn said...

coning coming - and guess what? I've been given 2 more vintage cameras as well!!! - so I'll be going up to Vintage #5!

Grant said...

I no longer have my first camera (a plastic "thing" given to me when I was quite young by my father, who was a professional photographer).

I still have a later one I used for years, an Agfa Billy 1, with Vario lens. You'll see it on the shelf when you visit.

After that I used my father's Leica M3 which he sold without asking me, which I've never quite forgiven him for! (I'd have bought it off him.) Wonderful camera that.