Category Archives: History

Holy Schmidt-Spiegel Batman … its the Minolta 500mm reflex !!!

The Minolta Maxxum AF 500mm f/8 Relex lens was brought out in 1989, and is a Schmidt-Cassegrain catadioptric lens.

In 1672, Laurent Cassegrain designed a telescope using two mirrors to reflect incoming light to the eyepiece. This design corrected spherical aberrations and also made the telescope shorter. Later on the Catadioptric system was created, and his utilized both refraction and reflection … corrective lenses and mirrors.  In 1930 Bernhard Schmidt redesigned the mirror shape and added an aspherical lens to correct for coma, and astigmatism aberrations. The Schmidt-Cassegrain design is currently one of the most popular telescope design used today … and it also caused many camera lens manufacturers to use that also. Almost everybody made one (well not really), but Minolta was the only one to incorporate it into their Auto Focus system.

The Maxxum 500mm reflex is a stubby barrel of a lens. Due to the way it is designed it can produce donut or crescent shaped bokeh … which probably explains why this lens is not more popular. As I mentioned before, this is an AF lens which can support centre point focus … and since this is a gear driven lens, the body has a direct influence on AF speed. You’ve got one aperture size of f8 so it can cause the AF to hunt … IQ is pretty good on this lens … you just have to know how to work the bokeh … overall I really like this small handful lens.


Kodak … I’m not going to be historical.

Kodak, or should I say The Eastman Kodak Company … was established by a guy named George Eastman, and that’s all I have to say about that (there is soooo much info on the history of Kodak, that I can’t be bothered to repeat it).

When he was 24 years old he thought the photographic equipment at the time sucked … too big, too many, and soooo slow. Luckily for us he was ambitious enough to seek a better way … and in 1884 he submitted patent #US306594, and the world wasn’t the same after that.

Though you may think that Mr. Eastman was the originator of roll film, that isn’t true … the “film” we know of today was invented by someone else. Rev. Hannibal Goodwin submitted a patent for celluloid film in 1887.

Anyway, back to the camera … the Brownie … specifically the Brownie Hawkeye. Intro in 1949 and production ran for 12 years. It’s your typical box bakelite camera of the times with a simple lens, simple shutter, and just simple.

… and just in case you wanted to know, the patent for bakelite was submitted by Leo Baekeland in 1906.

Riken !! Ricoh – some history

The current company that we know of as Ricoh started out as Rikagaku Kogyo, which then spit off to become Riken Kankoshi Co. Ltd. in 1936 under the leadership of Kiyoshi Ichimura. Initial products … paper, sensitized paper. In 1937 they started distribution of Olympic cameras made by Asahi Bussan. In 1938 the company name changed to Riken Kōgaku Kōgyō K.K. and started developing their own cameras and lenses. The company continued to evolve into other types of products, distribution of other cameras through subsidiaries. After WWII was the start of their real push into the camera market … then they all merged to became the Ricoh we know of today in 1963.

Riken No. 1 was sold in 1939 named as Gokoku (not Okoku) it was a 127 format camera, but with the looks of a Barnack camera … even with a collapsable lens, and a fake rewind knob. The Richol models continued this design, and then they start making cameras of all kinds like the Ricohflex TLR (1950), 35mm rangefinders, SLR’s and todays digital cameras (oh, and they are pretty big in the photocopier business) … not to mention their acquisition of Pentax.

My first encounter with Ricoh was when I got a job at Japan Camera. They had Ricoh SLR cameras everywhere, which was different than the other camera stores … I soon found out that Japan Camera was the exclusive Canadian distributor of Ricoh.

When I had a Diacord L for a bit (fixed a sticky shutter) and I found the IQ of the Rikenon lens was really good. I got rid of it as I was not too keen on the knob winding, but I think I would replace my Minolta Autocord for a Ricohmatic 225 if I could ever find one without an over-inflated price.

Canon Canonet QL17 … some history.

The first (original) QL17 was made in 1965 … one of a long line of Canonets.

The QL stands for quick loading. This is refering to film loading, as it has a system to clamp down on the film leader and automatically capture the end to attach it to the pickup spool (no fiddling with a narrow slot and slippage).

The 17 refers to the max aperture … and yes, it is f/1.7 (with a 45mm focal length).

This is the great great grandfather of the G-III, and it same as the S but with the quick load mechanism. Commonly when the web refers to the QL17 they are most likely referring to the G-III model … which everyone thinks is the best one … probably because of its smaller size … but all models have been praised about the image quality.

Now as you expect, I have a broken one … yeah, I’m not surprised either. This one came to me with a broken shutter, more specifically the shutter was not releasing. Since this is a mechanical shutter, it probably is either gummed up or the release locking mechanism is stuck.

Of course the first thing I did was play around with the controls … then of course, I took some things apart (well actually many things) … then I read the manual.

It appears that there are some things about this camera that may cause some distress if you did not RTFM … like a safety lock on lower shutter speeds, or properly setting the self timer.

Remember boys and girls … RTFM before thinking it’s broken. Also, from many discussions on the web, it is common that the lens wobbles.

In this camera’s case … it was actually broken (sorta).


The Yashica-44 was Yashica’s answer to the Baby Grey Rollei. It was one of the first Japanese copy cats (it is believed the Primo-Jr came out first) of the 4×4 Rolleiflex … and it was so much a copy that Rollei took them to court about the appearance of the camera … Yashica was forced to make some colour changes, and the first version did not last long before it was replaced by the 44A (the 44A’s got teeth). There are 7 (8) different colour versions … and they also made a version with a light meter (LM).

If you really want some great info on Yashica TLR’s, including the 44, you should check out Paul Sokk’s site … everything you wanted to know about Yashica TLR … so I won’t say much more than this.

… and 127 film is still available for purchase.

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