Keppler’s Vault 54: Modern’s Top 47 Cameras of 1969

Students attending the last day of the U.S. Senate Youth Forum on February 8, 1969, in Washington, D.C., meet with President Nixon, and use their cameras to record the visit. Image courtesy AP.

One thing I’ve noticed that’s true about people who love old cameras, is that they also love lists.  Specially lists of the “best” of stuff.  Articles such as 8 Great Vintage Street Photography Cameras, Five Best Medium Format Cameras for Beginners, and 24 Great Vintage Cameras You Can Still Buy are commonly found online and shared among various photo enthusiast groups.

As it turns out, our insatiable desire for lists is nothing new and predates social media or the Internet.  Over half a century ago, magazines like Modern Photography made year end lists of the best cameras for photographers to consider with their buying dollar.

This week’s Keppler’s Vault takes a look at one such list from the December 1969 issue of Modern Photography.  I found a number of these kinds of lists, but I chose this one as it came from a period of time well after the Japanese photo industry had already established itself as a worthy competitor to that of Germany’s dominance.

There was a huge selection of makes and models from companies like Miranda, Topcon, and Yashica who hadn’t yet succumbed to their demise.  I wasn’t alive in 1969, but I can only imagine what it was like to pick up this latest issue of Modern Photography at the newsstand and flip through page after page of new models.

It’s not often I still find cameras I’ve never heard of before, the this Warner 6×6 eluded me until I saw this article.

This list has some terrific models like the Alpa 10d, Leicaflex SL, and Hasselblad 500 C.  Stalwarts like the Exakta VX 1000 and Nikon F were still being produced.  Specialty cameras like the underwater Nikonos II and ultra-miniature TLR Tessina 35 are included.  There’s even a model in here I’ve never come across, a medium format SLR called the Warner 6×6.  The article suggests this camera was sold as a Rittreck in Japan and Norita elsewhere.

I find it interesting that a total of 47 cameras were included on this list, and while the typical reader back in 1969 would have never dreamed of a day when they could own more than a couple of these, how easy it is to find most of these cameras.  Instead of a “buyer’s guide” like this article was likely intended, today, we can use it as sort of a “vintage camera menu”, to check off the models we own in our collections, or at the least have come across at one point in the past.

Lists like these are not only glimpses into the past, but are also useful for collectors who might want to try something different from their favorite era.  How many of these 47 cameras do you have in your collection today?

Keppler1969Cameras

All scans used with permission by Marc Bergman, 2020.

5 Comments

  1. I’ve only owned four of these; Mamiya Sekor 1000 DTL, Minolta SRT 101, Miranda Sensorex and Olympus Pen FT (I also have a Canon 7 but not the 7s).
    Of the four only the Miranda and Olympus are still in my possession.

    Makes me wonder if I am really a collector not having had so many of these 🙂 Also makes me wonder if there is a camera make you must have had to be a real camera-phile – like for petrol-heads it is said you have to have had an Alpha Romeo to truly qualify 😀

    1. I’ve only owned or even handled a small number of these cameras too. I’d like to think I’m not a collector, but the entire china cabinet, repurposed TV stand, multiple shelves, and large number of boxes filled with cameras in my basement say otherwise! 🙂

        1. Maybe they had wanted to include 50, but for whatever reason couldn’t finish the last three? Who knows?! I’ll say this though, having read many old issues of Modern Photography, I can say many of the editors had quirky personalities, so maybe they just chose 47 to be different!

Leave a Reply to mike Cancel reply