Keppler’s Vault 29: The German Camera Industry Part 3

This week, I bring to you the third in a series of articles that were published in the mid to late 1950s about the state of the German Camera Industry.  The first two parts were part of a large 42 page special section in the May 1956 issue of Popular Photography, but this third part comes from a whopping 32 page special section in the October 1958 issue of Modern Photography.

Although originally published more than 2 years after the first one, and appearing in a completely different magazine, this article, called “Made in West Germany” is laid out much like the previous sections.

Unlike the previous two parts that have various short articles about specific German companies, this one spends time on more general topics like the quality control standards of various companies.  How are shutters and lenses calibrated and checked for accuracy.  There’s a quote from a piece on Photokina that describes it as:

Imagine being lost in a camera store 100 times larger than the biggest in the world, completely surrounded by the cameras of the future and new models of old favorites…

I can picture this guy saying “pew, pew, pew” while sitting there!

One of my favorite pictures of the article is one of an unnamed man in a lab coat testing an unnamed 300mm lens in what appears to be a GIANT bellows camera, pointing it at some kind of resolution target.  It looks like something right out of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”!

In a section about Apprentices, it says that the typical camera repair apprentice starts their career between 15 and 17 years old and goes through a program lasting about 3.5 years.  If someone was 15 years old when this article was written in 1958, it means they are 76 years old today and likely one of the last few remaining technicians out there.

The articles are pretty good, but of course my favorite parts are the advertisements.  For one, I like seeing how things we call “vintage” today were marketed when they were new, but also, they just don’t make advertisements like they used to anymore.  Take for instance the ad to the right for Prontor shutters.  Only in the 50s would we have a casual dude relaxing on top of a shutter proudly smoking a cigarette wearing a ‘smart’ suit and a fedora!  Classic 50s!  There are many others for Voigtländer, Zeiss-Ikon, Leitz, Rodenstock. AGFA, and several others.

Here is the gallery below.  Last week, I had someone contact me saying the article text was very small and very hard to read.  Each of these images are scanned in at a resolution of at least 3000 pixels.  Once you have the gallery open, there should be a link on each page to open it up full size and easily read the text.  Please let me know if that’s not working.

All scans used with permission by Marc Bergman, 2019.

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