Five Years of Camera Reviews

This Argus Match-Matic was the first camera reviewed on this site, back in December 2014.

On December 12, 2014, I published my first film camera review on Mike Eckman dot Com for the Argus C3 Match-Matic.  At the time I wrote the review, I thought I would just share some information I had learned about a cool old camera I had picked up on eBay.

A screen capture of my website in December 2014, courtesy of the Wayback Machine.

My website first went online in early 2012 when I thought it would be fun to register my own name as a domain name and start a blog.  Back then, I owned only one camera, a Nikon D7000 DSLR and a couple Nikon lenses for it.  I had no interest in film, I didn’t know what a TLR was, or had ever developed my own film before.  I didn’t know what Sunny 16 meant, I had never taken apart a shutter or disassembled a focusing helix to clean out dried grease, or collimated a lens before.  I was like millions of other people who were vaguely aware that film cameras once existed, but shot 100% of my photography on a digital camera.

For the first two and a half years, I had no set goal for it.  It was just a personal blog filled with random music and movie reviews, a few thoughts I had about sports, technology, and on occasion, politics.  Most of those old reviews are still here, so if you’d like to read my thoughts on what I’d like to see in the next Terminator movie, why I think you should get a whole house surge protector, or tips on writing an effective resume, those articles still exist!

Mike Eckman dot Com had no set direction and certainly wasn’t a photography site, but I enjoyed writing that first Argus review, so I wrote another, and another, and another, and well…here we are.

I had never intended on making this site exclusively about old cameras.  In fact, for the next couple years, I would occasionally still write articles about other topics, such as my review for the Netflix show, Stranger Things in August 2016 or my yearly roundup of my favorite metal albums in December of that same year.

In 2017, I made the decision to dedicate the site to old cameras and even toyed with the idea of changing the site’s name.  I didn’t think the name “Mike Eckman” resonated much as a photography site in the way that sites like Casual Photophile, Quirky Guy With a Camera, or Photo Thinking did.  A combination of never being able to come up with a name I liked enough and was available to be registered, plus an increasing amount of traffic through search engines caused me to not pull the trigger.

I received a huge spike of false traffic starting March 2017 through November 2017, but otherwise this is how many visits my site has had since I started tracking it in mid 2015.

As my little site continued to grow, I hit a snag in March 2017 when I got hit by some kind of WordPress injection bug.  I was hacked!  All of my posts started getting cluttered with Russian text and I started noticing garbage files and images in my site’s root folder.  My traffic skyrocketed, but it was false traffic.  At the time, I had no idea what had happened or how to fix it.  Months went by and my site suffered.  Even worse, several major internet security programs like Avast and AVG started to identify my site as spam or malicious.

I received messages like these routinely as my site was incorrectly flagged as malware.

I remember posting links to new reviews on Facebook and rangefinderforum, only to have multiple people tell me they couldn’t get to my site because their anti-virus program flagged my site as malicious.

By the end of summer, I grew discouraged and considered abandoning the site, but with some encouragement from a few loyal readers I had back then. in November 2017 I found a way to go through my site’s SQL tables post by post, manually removing the code.  I installed a WordPress security suite, and took the site a bit more serious in an effort to never let this happen again.  My traffic returned to normal and the spam was gone.

In 2018, I expanded the types of content I offered beyond just reviews, and started the Keppler’s Vault series, which consists of old camera magazine articles scanned by my friend Marc Bergman.  I also started a series of interviews with Nikon historian, Robert Rotoloni called The Rotoloni Report.  In October 2018, I had a little fun at the expense of my Russian hacking misery from 2017, and temporarily rebranded my site for the whole month as “Red October” and solely posted Soviet camera reviews and Keppler’s Vault articles.

That year, my traffic exceeded a quarter of a million hits for the first time, and realizing that my little personal blog was growing up, in 2019 I made some pretty significant changes.

If you visited this site prior to Jan 2019, you were connected to this PC in my basement.

The first, was moving my site off of the custom built Windows 2008 server that sat on a wire rack IKEA shelf in my basement and connected to the Internet via a residential Internet connection, to a proper, professional WordPress host.

As anyone who has their own blog knows, using a professional host costs money, and that required new ways to fund the site, so like most bloggers do, I turned to ads.  First, I used Google Adsense, but then I moved over to a third party ad broker called ezoic who helped maximize revenue through Google’s platform.

This income not only helped me pay for the hosting, it also pays for offsite backups, the annual registration of mikeeckman.com and mikeeckman.net (which I use for other things), registering the full version of the site’s theme, and upgrade to premium versions of plugins that I had been using.  Many of the plugins offer additional features when you upgrade, but for some, I just wanted to support the developers who made them.

The Wehrmacht Leica article I collaborated with James Lager on is one I am especially proud of.

In addition to a new host and some ads, I also added a new series of One Hour Photo articles where I transcribe one on one interviews with people in the industry whom I admire, and for a while started a Friday series of Recommended Reading posts, which I have temporarily suspended due to lack of time.  Early in 2019 I published a Wehrmacht Leica article covering the history of Wartime Leicas used by the German military.  In my research for this article, I worked with none other than Leica Historian, Jim Lager, whose Wehrmacht Leica book gave me invaluable information.  This article remains one of my most popular articles of the year.

In November, I posted all 73 issues of the Zeiss Historica newsletter that was published by the Zeiss Historica Society from 1979 through 2016, making my site the only place on the entire Internet where the entire collection of newsletters, containing over 1800 pages worth of quality Zeiss history, can be found.

Which brings me to today.  As I write this, I’ve published 234 camera reviews, including some for models like the Kodak Ektra and Bell & Howell Foton who are not only very rare, but have very little in depth hands on information anywhere on the Internet, 52 Keppler’s Vault articles, and 19 articles and guides covering topics as far ranging as Miranda ads to Buying Cameras on eBay.

In the midst of the repair to my Minolta Autocord which I picked up in a sorry state from Central Camera in June 2017.

Although some of the cameras reviewed on this site were loaned to me by other collectors, a large majority of them are from my own collection.  For those, I clean and repair them, I shoot them, since late 2016 I’ve developed and scanned in the film, I shoot and edit the “beauty” pics of the cameras being reviewed, I write, edit, and proofread (sometimes poorly) the articles, and pay for all associated costs of the website out of my own pocket.

While Mike Eckman dot Com will continue to be my own personal website, I’d be liar if I said that I’ve done everything on my own.  This site would not exist, or at least would be MUCH different if it weren’t for the help of many other people, so I tried to come up with a list of everyone that in some way has inspired me, helped me with research, loaned me something, or in some way helped me along my journey.

What follows is a list of all of these people, in no particular order.  Some people on this list I am happy to call close personal friends that I converse and trade with regularly, and others are people who’ve contributed in a smaller way.  I am sure I’ve forgotten at least someone, and if that person is you, I sincerely apologize.

Although I didn’t want to attempt to rank the people on this list, there is one that has helped me the most.  It was this person who encouraged me from the very beginning, someone who has traded and donated countless cameras and rolls of film, and the person that despite my most defiant efforts, encouraged me to develop my own film, a game changer that really opened my eyes to how rewarding at home development is.

Adam Paul

I warned Adam that if he didn’t give me a better pic, I would use this one! 🙂

Adam was one of the first people I connected with as a fellow vintage camera and film enthusiast.  Of all the people I have to be thankful to, Adam has done more for this site with donations of dozens of cameras, some of which he’s told me to keep, and others to return, and countless emails and feedback on his adventures, as well as mine.  Reviews like the Kodak Bantam Special, AGAT 18K, Minox 35ML and many, many others were done with Adam’s cameras.

In addition to his enthusiasm for old cameras, Adam also loves adapting old films by slitting medium format 120 and 70mm bulk films down to 828 or 127 sizes.  Any review you’ve ever seen here for an 828 camera, and many 127 cameras used film made by Adam.  He has also donated rare rolls of normal 35mm films like AGFA APX25, Ultra 100, and Kodak Pan-X.

Adam has two sites of his own, http://quirkyguywithacamera.blogspot.com and https://vintagefilmhacker.wordpress.com if you want to see more of what he’s up to.

Everyone Else

My wife, Beth – Although each new camera that comes into our house takes up a little more room, there’s been more than a few occasions where she’s found estate sales with camera stuff to peruse, along with the occasion donation of her own!

Mark Faulkner – Mark is a personal friend whom I’ve traded with, talked, and hung out with numerous times.

Mike Novak – Many Camera Loans and Countless Support and Encouragement

Here I am (in the back) with Vladislav Kern of ussrphoto.com and Mike Novak.

Vladislav Kern – Ussrphoto.com, Many Camera Loans, Countless Support and Inspiration

Robert Rotoloni – Nikon Historical Society, Rotoloni Report Articles, Camera Loans

Jon Gilchrist – Packard Shutter Company and Countless Support and Encouragement

Anthony Rue – Camera Loans and Countless Support and Encouragement

Rudi Berden – Camera Loans and Countless Support and Encouragement

Dan Arnold – Camera Loans and Countless Support and Encouragement

Paul Rybolt – Camera Loans and Countless Support and Encouragement

Rick Oleson – One Hour Photo and Camera Repair Help

Ira Cohen – Camera Loans and Countless Support and Encouragement

James Tocchio – Camera Blogger Alliance, Camera Loans

Johnny Sisson – Central Camera Basement, Inspiration, and Classes Lenses Podcast

Stephen Dowling – Camera Blogger Alliance

Theo Panagopoulous – Camera Blogger Alliance

Hamish Gil – Camera Blogger Alliance

Johnny Martyr – Camera Blogger Alliance

Alex Luyckx – Camera Blogger Alliance

Jim Grey – Camera Blogger Alliance

Alan Duncan – Camera Blogger Alliance

Emmett Brown (EMULSIVE) – Camera Blogger Alliance

Simon Forster – Classic Lenses Podcast

Karl Havens (RIP) – Classic Lenses Podcast

Peggy Marsh – Camera Blogger Alliance

Michael Wescott Loder – Nikon and Zeiss history, Camera Loans

Jim Lager – Wartime Leica Information and Inspiration

Larry Gubas – Zeiss Historica Society, Zeiss newsletters and inspiration

Jim Anderson – Camera Loans

Chris Sherlock – Retina Repair Info and History, One Hour Photo

Paul Sokk – Yashica History and One Hour Photo

This picture is of Johnny Sisson and I in front of Central Camera’s famous sign in June 2017.

Ray Morgenweck – Bell & Howell Foton and Leica I

Louis Poiret – Voigtländer Ultramatic CS and Zeiss-Ikon Contarex Loans

Paul Snaith – Zenit E and Praktica Gifts, Inspiration

Dan Hausman – Kodak Ektra, Camera Loans, Ohio Camera Show

Bob Houlihan – Tower 45 and other Camera Loans/Donations

Cheyenne Morrison – Walking Photography Encyclopedia

Jay Javier – Camera Repair Info and Inspiration

Martin Seelig – TLR Mirrors and Support (marty1107 on eBay)

Kurt Ingham – Hasselblad Xpan, Foca, and Other Camera Loans and Support

Garry Staup – Argus Camera Donations and Support

Kevin Murray – Camera Loans and Support

Randy Reames – Revere Eye-Matic Camera Donation and Support

Byron Cavendar – Camera Loans and Support

Bernard Wilson – Polaroid Scans

Marc Bergman – Keppler’s Vault and other Magazine Scans and Research

Bernard Danenberg – Vokar Info

Frank Marshman – Camera Repair Info

Jason Denlinger – Camera Loans and Support

Eric Kaas Sluis – Countless Support and Encouragement, ORWO Film

Robert Rotoloni (black shirt) and Barry Blane from Gary Camera have been extremely generous, both in sharing information and lending cameras to this site.

Barry Blane – Gary Camera in Merrillville, IN

PF McFarland – Early Influence, Universal Mercury Repair Info

Mike Connealy – Early Influence, Creator of Connealy’s Vintage Camera Blog

Roger Beal – Countless Support and Encouragement

Terry Byford – Countless Support and Encouragement

Charlie Kamerman – Kodak Ektra Information

In addition to the above people, I want to thank the many people who have kindly donated to the site through PayPal and other means.  Every one of your dollars, in some way went right back into the site.  Here’s to the next five years!

4 Comments

  1. CONGRATULATIONS, Mike, on a job very well done! Your site is on my short go-to list when I’m looking for accurate and thorough information on vintage cameras. Your Ektra / Foton reviews remain the gold standard for those two cameras. Here’s hoping you continue in the same vein for years to come.

    1. Thanks Roger! I appreciate the kind donations and thoughtful comments that you’ve added to many of my posts! I always enjoy reading feedback from people, whether it’s additional information about a model, or anecdotes from previous owners of these cameras!

  2. One of, if not the best, camera knowledge and info sites available for us friends of film photography. Thank you! I enjoy my old cameras and love reading the comments posted with many having a direct relationship to what I have at hand in my collection of vintage cameras. Respectfully, David C.

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