Episode 53: Unobtanium

We’ve covered a lot of gear on this podcast before.  Some cameras are ones that flew under the radar that deserved some recognition as something worth checking out, others were less common models in which a bit more effort (and cost) were required to add to a collection, but then there’s a level of camera in which no amount of money or effort will result in one coming your way.  These are the Unobtanium cameras, models which are so expensive, or so hard to find, that even the most experienced of collectors don’t have them.

Joining Anthony, Theo, Paul, and Mike on this episode dedicated to the hardest cameras to find are some people who have found some of the hardest cameras to find, Ira Cohen, Ray Nason, Robert Rotoloni, Patrick Rapps, Rudi Berden, and James Thorpe.  Each of these guys has at least one camera that for most people would quality as unobtanium.  How they came across each model varies, but nevertheless, represent some of the coolest and hardest to find cameras ever made.

As we did in the last episode, we start off this one with a question, asking our guests to define what exactly qualifies as unobtanium.  As you might expert, rarity and cost are definitely prerequisites, but what about functionality or provenance?  Does a camera that’s very difficult to find in working order or a camera formerly owned by the Beatles still qualify as unobtanium.  In addition to rare cameras, lenses and accessories can qualify too, so we get into some extras that are really hard to find as well.

If you were to break down types of unobtanium cameras, one that would be the hardest of the hardest to find would be prototypes, so in this episode we spend time talking about some of the coolest prototypes including two interchangeable lens rangefinders made by Minolta and Konica, but also Robert Rotoloni goes DEEP into the rabbit hole of prototype Nikon rangefinder cameras and lenses.  If you thought the Nikon SP was the most advanced 35mm rangefinder the company ever made, think again as there were two others.

The rest of the episode is all over the place, discussing rare cameras by Ilford, Argus, Wica, Premier Instrument Corp, and LeCoultre.  We are quite certain that we missed some other rare and otherwise difficult to find cameras, but as always, the topics we discuss on the Camerosity Podcast are influenced by you!  We would love to hear from more listeners, especially those who are new to shooting film or collecting cameras.  Please don’t feel like you have to be an expert on a specific type of camera, or have the level of knowledge on par with other people on the show.  We LOVE people who are new to shooting and are interested in having an episode dedicated to people new to the hobby, so please don’t consider your knowledge level to be a prerequisite for joining!

The guys and I rarely know where each episode is going to go until it happens, so if you’d like to join us on a future episode, be sure to look out for our show announcements on our Camerosity Podcast Facebook page, and right here on mikeeckman.com.  We usually record every other Monday and announcements, along with the Zoom link are typically shared 2-3 days in advance.

As we did last year, we’re taking the entire month of August off to relax, soak in some sun, and maybe even catch up on shooting all of the cool cameras we’ve all picked up in the past year so we will not be back with Episode 54 until September.  The guys and I will still be active on the Camerosity Facebook page, so keep in touch with us there, and once we have an idea of when we’ll record the next episode, and what possible topics we might discuss, we’ll be sure to let you know!

This Week’s Episode

  • How Do You Define “Unobtanium” / Rarity, Expensive, or Something Else? / Unobtanium Lenses
  • Cameras Not Known to Be Very Reliable: Kodak Ektra, Hasselblad XPan, Graflex 3A
  • Rudi Berden Reviews the Kodak Ektra / Leaving Notes in the Film Compartment
  • Cameras that Have Provenance or Were Owned by Someone Famous
  • Mike is Collecting Cameras Owned by Other Collectors
  • Before the Internet, Finding Rare Cameras Was Extremely Difficult / Paul Finds a Leica Luxus
  • Walter Dorwin Teague No. 1A Gift Camera
  • Cameras that Have Cross Appeal to Different Collectors, The Price Goes Up Dramatically / Mickey Mouse Cameras
  • Paul Handled 80 Boxes with 640 Cameras in Them in One Day / Graflex Combat Graphic
  • Kodak Bantam Special in Original Box / Versions with Supermatic and Compur Shutters / Using the Bantam Special
  • Nippon Kogaku Almost Made a TLR, Two Prototypes Were Known to Exist
  • Other Companies Made Cameras with Nikkor Lenses / Aires Flex TLR / Sawyer’s Mark IV / Mamiya Six

    Click the image above to see the needles move.
  • Minolta Sky Prototype / Konica FR Rangefinder Prototype
  • Andrew Lloyd MPP Press Camera / Robot Royal 18 Half Frame Camera
  • It is Very Difficult to Assign Value to Extremely Rare Cameras
  • Konica IIIM with Half-Frame Mask / Unobtanium Accessories / Getting a Pax 35 To Work is Not Easy
  • Patrick’s Strange Okaya Lord 5D / Rudi Reviews the Super Kodak Six-20
  • Digital Unobtanium / Epson R-D1 Digital Rangefinder
  • Ira Cohen’s Most Wanted Camera / Mike Helps Ira Buy a One of a Kind Camera / Lausar 127
  • James Thorpe’s Unobtanium is a Zecaflex Folding TLR / Welta Superfekta / Zeiss-Ikon Contaflex TLR
  • The LeCoultre Compass is a Very Unobtanium Camera…Except for Ira
  • Bob’s Nikon Rarities – Follow Along The Rotoloni Report 4: Nikon Rangefinder Prototypes
    • 50mm f/1.8 Nikkor RF Lenses / 35mm f/1.4 RF Lens / Nikkor-O 50mm f/1.0
    • Nikon Screw Mount RFs / Nikon SPX / Nikon SP2 / The Original Nikon Rangefinder
  • Paul and Mike Are Cornering the Market on Lens Hoods and Lens Adapters
  • Ilford Witness / The Melcon II Looks like a Nikon Rangefinder / Wica Rangefinder
  • Mike’s Recent Unobtanium GAS / Military Kardon / Argus K
  • Unobtanium Accessories / Some Unobtanium is More Difficult to Find in Other Countries
  • Cameras That Are Opposite of Unobtamium
  • Anthony Shoots a Pentax Takumar 18mm f/11 Pancake Lens / Theo Won’t Buy a Contax T2
  • Paul and the Americana Folk Music Gathering in Scottsdale, Arizona


If you would like to offer feedback or contact us with questions or ideas for future episodes, please contact us in the Comments Section below, our Camerosity Facebook Group or Instagram page, or email us at [email protected].

The Official Camerosity Facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/camerositypodcast

Camerosity Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/camerosity_podcast/

Americana Folk Music Gathering – https://americanafolkgathering.com/

Theo Panagopoulos – https://www.photothinking.com/

Paul Rybolt – https://www.ebay.com/usr/paulkris and https://www.etsy.com/shop/Camerasandpictures

Anthony Rue – https://www.instagram.com/kino_pravda/ and https://www.facebook.com/VoltaGNV/

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  1. Unobtanium? Well – I do have a 1903ish Gundlach Manhattan Korona Royal with matching dark slides which seems to qualify. Beautiful thing, near mint, all mahogany and nickel plate fittings. It was the premium version of their long focus (no.VI Special I think) and may be rare as working professionals opted for the equally capable cheaper version. I found their catalogue online, that shows it and where they claim that it’s the best camera that they could possibly make, a flagship model but – other information is not there online. Not even in Collectiblend, etc. I’d love to sell it as it’s not the sort of thing I collect but how do I value that?
    In my regular collection – less common might be things like the working Rectaflex 1300, a Kowa Kallo 100 (rangefinder with a fixed 100mm Prominar!) but they are merely bloody rare. 🙂

  2. Petri’s always break? I have 28CC’s that work fine and a Racer and a Color Half and… I like them, especially the Racer. My most unobtainable at present – 1936 Zeiss Olympia 180mm f2.8 in original Contax direct mount. One of 200 made (this is no. 123) and who nose how many survived the war and survived people who sensibly wanted to upgrade to the Flektascop housing. A bit grubby inside but with a Sony ‘e’ mount to Contax adapter, it shoots awesome portraits – the real Zeiss glow.
    Presently negotiating to get the Leica MP owned by Tim Page – the English Vietnam photog who was reputedly the model for the mad photog in Apocalypse Now. It’s cosmetically worn and…but, Tim Page! That’s rare, not just owned by a mere celebrity.

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