And You Thought Today’s Cameras Look Great

God bless the French. This is probably the most extensive, most beautiful and most bizarre collection of cameras you’ll ever lay eyes upon. It’s impossible to find your own favorites from the Collection Appareils, an online vault of the most amazing cameras assembled by a French guy named Sylvain Halgand. It’s an astonishing encyclopedic collection of more than 10,000 vintage cameras from makers Ace to Zion (check out the vintage logos), dating back to the days when photography was invented.

The Canon 7, made in 1961, with Leica M39 lens mount...
The Canon 7 (eBay), made in 1961, with Leica M39 lens mount…

Just look how they designed cameras in the past. For instance, enjoy a stunning compact sexy Canon 7 with Leica screw mount (!) and an amazingly bright 50mm F0.95… The variety of gear photographers enjoyed in the past is not less flabbergasting than today, but completely different. One could be tempted to say we’re living in a dire age of camera design. Today it’s all about sensor size, mirrorless or not, viewfinder or not, while in the end they all look kind of the same. Back in those days though when gear was manufactured by hand and not machines, creative design abounded.

The archive is carefully photographed and catalogued by Monsieur Halgand. It’s not clear how many of the camera he owns himself. We don’t learn anything about Sylvain Halgand, except that he has a fetish for truly beautiful, vintage camera gear. Take the site’s home screen, a meticulous interactive mosaic of a dizzying array of the most eclectic camera models ever produced. And you think the past was boring? Look how boring our cameras look today…

Collection Appareil's interactive home screen mosaic...
Collection Appareil’s interactive home screen mosaic…

Today we enjoy a multitude of camera functions and stuff, but the big boys even name their models similarly… Back then all functionality available was shutter speed, aperture and, sometimes, sensitivity. The “lack” of functions though inspired design to an extent that today’s camera designers rather look like copycat machinists. A camera back then was more fashion statement and luxury accessory, more individual, less mass product.

Some of the French gallery’s entries only include a name and a picture, while others are accompanied by interesting facts. For example, the Irwin Lark (the “sardine can”) was oozing oil when Halgand received it because of an overly lubricated shutter… Disclaimer though, proceed to Collection Appareils with caution, you’ll want to have hours to kill. To my surprise, thanks to Monsieur Halgand, I learned that Apple actually once made a camera, the Quicktake

(via Messy Nessy Chic)

Irwin Lark, made in the U.S. by the Irwin Corporation, 1940. Typically known as the “sardine can”, when looking at it, one understands why, but some of the originals made by the company were actually made of sardine cans.
Irwin Lark, made in the U.S. by the Irwin Corporation, 1940. Typically known as the “sardine can”, when looking at it, one understands why, but some of the originals made by the company were actually made of sardine cans.
Argus C3 Matchmatic, made in the U.S. It was a low-priced rangefinder camera mass-produced from 1939 to 1966 by Argus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. The camera sold about two million units, making it one of the most popular cameras in history. Due to its shape, size and weight, it is commonly referred to as “The Brick” by photographers (in Japan its nickname translates as “The Lunchbox”).
Argus C3 Matchmatic (eBay), made in the U.S. It was a low-priced rangefinder camera mass-produced from 1939 to 1966 by Argus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. The camera sold about two million units, making it one of the most popular cameras in history. Due to its shape, size and weight, it is commonly referred to as “The Brick” by photographers (in Japan its nickname translates as “The Lunchbox”).
Apparatebau und Kamerafabrik, P56L, made in Germany, 1956.
Apparatebau und Kamerafabrik, partially gold-plated P56L (also called “Luxus Exportmodell), made in Germany, 1956.
The Compass, designed by Christmas Pimberton Billing, was manufactured by the Swiss watchmaker Le Coultre between 1937 and 1940. Approximately 4,000 cameras were produced.
The Compass, designed by Christmas Pimberton Billing, was manufactured by the Swiss watchmaker Le Coultre between 1937 and 1940. Approximately 4,000 cameras were produced.
Last but not least: Compagnie Française de Photographie, Le Photosphère No. 1, made in France, 1899.
Last but not least: Compagnie Française de Photographie, Le Photosphère No. 1, made in France, 1899.




  • Marc J

    Yes, an amazing number of cameras to be seen. I have broused through his site several times in the last few years.