Keppler’s Vault 60: Modern’s Top 47 Cameras of 1974

Events like the resignation of President Nixon dominated headlines in 1974.  I wonder how many of the cameras on this list captured images like these?

I started out Keppler’s Vault 54 of Modern’s Top 47 cameras of 1969 by saying photographers love lists, and boy, was I right!  That summary of some of the best cameras of the year turned out to be one of my best performing posts of the year, and while I’m not a sucker for website hits, I do like giving people what they want and knowing that Modern did these yearly roundups every year, I thought I would look through my archives and see what they were recommending in other years.

Looking at each year’s list, there are a lot of duplicates in subsequent years as Modern’s criteria was not that a camera must have been new that year, they were just highlighting the best cameras available in that year, so I decided not to do this for every single year, instead jumping 5 years to increase the chance of getting some newer cameras on the list.

The very first camera in this list might actually be my favorite, the Canon EF is a heck of a camera.

This week’s Keppler’s Vault comes from the December 1974 issue of Modern Photography and looks at the top 47 cameras of 1974.  I think it’s strange that they included such an odd number like 47 again.  I’m starting to think that it wasn’t a coincidence, but rather the magazine just liked doing things differently.

Looking through the 1974 list, nearly every camera is new, save for a few stalwarts like the Nikkormat FTN and Hasselblad 500C.  Cameras like the Leicaflex SL and Yashicamat 124 were updated to the SL2 and 124G, but generally there’s a lot of new GAS-worthy gear to drool over.

And the last camera on the list is the Widelux F-7 and is the one I wish the most I had!

This year’s list was devoid of any 110 cameras, and I find it interesting that in 1974 the photographic press was still clamoring for a 110 SLR.  I wonder if their prayers were answered when Minolta and Pentax each released their respective models in 1976 and 1978 respectively (I guess I could just look at those year’s top 47 lists).

In terms of models that I’ve been able to personally shoot, I’m up to about half of this list, which is impressive considering even the least expensive models here would have been well out of my price range had I been in the market for (and alive) when this list was published.  I do find it funny to see not one but two Miranda cameras still considered to be the best of anything as we know today that Miranda’s days were numbered by 1974 and their quality control was already well into the toilet.

As always, best of lists are always controversial as I’m sure some of you today could pick a couple models deserving to be mentioned as did people reading this issue when it hit newsstands during the 1974 holiday shopping season.  Enjoy!

Keppler1974Cameras

All scans used with permission by Marc Bergman, 2020.

2 Comments

  1. I bought a Canon EF in spite of being a longtime Nikon user in the middle 1970’s and found it to be as solidly built and useful as a Canon F1, just as a Nikkormat FTN was to Nikon F, then Nikon F2. That led to the Nikkormat EL, which was an interesting, but battery dependent 35mm automatic SLR. (This on of the reasons why I wasn’t interested in the Nikon F3, when it arrived.)

  2. What an intoxicating assortment to have been able to choose from. I remember the times well. Alas, so many are now just history. Thank you for putting this up for us all to see. We have it easy these days with all the automation, but when thinking about it, it was the challenges demanded by these earlier cameras that gave one the satisfaction and excitement of achievement.

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