Cameras on Camera: Cameo Appearances by Film Cameras on Television and Film

Sightings of analogue photography instruments in music videos, television programmes and in films

*** Warning: This Entry May Contains Spoilers! ***

I blame Boy George. Honestly. Well, not wholly, there are two sources of inspiration behind this bit of anorakdom. One is the music video to Culture Club’s Church of the Poison Mind. The other is an episode of End of Part One from its second series. At the end of one episode, comedy actor extraordinaire Sue Holderness is doing a spoof weather continuity spot. Instead of the usual reference to the views, the kind of film and cameras used were mentioned. Kudos to Andrew Marshall and David Renwick for inserting ‘Ektachrome’ into a comedy script!

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The 1980 Eurovision Song Contest (The Hague, Netherlands):

Bottom placed Belgium act Telex ‘stole the show’ with their Kraftwerk style Eurovision entry. One which wouldn’t be forgotten in a hurry owing to its title and being far removed from the usual fare. Their 1980, entitled ‘Eurovision’ sees the trio end on a high pitched note and its hirsute singer producing an Olympus XA 35mm camera.

The Olympus XA was barely a year old when it was seen in front of several European viewers on the 19 April 1980. For many at the time of its launch in 1979, it was a more affordable rangefinder camera to the Leica M series. Subsequent models from XA1 to XA4 would eschew the rangefinder in favour of zonal focusing.

Culture Club – Church of the Poison Mind (promo video, 1983):

Within three and a half minutes, there seems to be more film cameras than my favourite camera shop in the centre of Manchester. Even I have had difficulty trying to place them all, so if anybody else could help I would be most grateful! So far:

  • 55s, 1m 07s, 1m 43s: Olympus OM-1;
  • 55s, 2m 58s: Kodak Instamatic 36 (126 film);
  • 56s: Pentax K1000;
  • 1m 43s, 3m 02s, 3m 08s, 3m 12s, 3m 17s: Kodak Instamatic 77X (126 film).

Going off the number of appearances Kodak’s instamatic cameras made, it could have been a good advert. But, in 1983, Kodak was trying to sell its Disc cameras to a reluctant public whereas shoppers were looking for high performance compact cameras by the likes of Canon, Nikon or Olympus. 126 and 110 film attracted more cost conscious snappers.

What would be looked upon as quaint to younger readers of this post, or younger people who are well versed with the video, is the Sylvania Flashcube seen on the instamatic cameras. Each cube has four shots and usually came in a pack of three (or 12 exposures worth if you prefer). Some Kodak instamatics, dependent on original price either had a built in slot for the flashcube. Or, an interface would be required (as was the case with the cheaper Instamatic 36 from 1974).

The Krays (1990):

There seems to be a strange link with 1980s groups and photographic equipment in film. This time by means of Gary and Martin Kemp’s appearance in the above film. Towards the end of the film, a Yashica Mat 124G twin lens camera is seen mounted on a tripod.

The Yashica Mat 124G was launched in 1957. It is a crank advance TLR camera which takes 120 medium format film to the 6×6 subformat. The 6×6 square format was popularly used on cheap 120 format cameras such as the Kodak Brownie Cresta and Lomography’s Diana F+. At the other end of the price scale, one adopted by Mamiya on the C220 and C330 twin lens cameras and most famously, Rollei’s Rolleiflex and Rolleicord TLRs.

Bucks Fizz – My Camera Never Lies (promo video, 1982):

Though not quite as famous as Shaddup Yer Face keeping Ultravox off the top spot, this number denied Chas ‘n’ Dave’s Aint No Pleasing You from getting to Number One in April 1982. For the most part of the video, an Olympus OM system Zuiko lens features very prominently (no prizes for guessing which camera then – either an OM-1 or OM-2 perhaps).

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes (promo video, 1984):

Like the Culture Club video, the promotional video directed by Godley and Creme is cameratastic and – yours truly, the author of this piece – has only identified some of them. Still, the ones identified include:

  • 1m 09s: Olympus OM-1 (with zoom lens);
  • 1m 50s: Mamiya RB67 (with eye level viewfinder).

It goes without saying that Olympus’ OM series of cameras continued to sell well in to the late 1980s. Even now, the OM system of lenses is supported by photographers who still use OM-1s. Its compact size was popular with most photographers owing to its portability. Today, the Olympus OM-D digital version is inspired by their 1972 masterpiece. With an adaptor, you could use one of the OM mount Zuiko lenses instead of the usual Micro Four Thirds one.

The person with the Mamiya RB67 must have had fantastic arm muscles! Whereas the 645/M645 models were more portable (well, as portable as high end medium format cameras can be by the way), the RB67 was a heavier counterpart.

Bananarama – Rough Justice (promo video, 1984):

25 seconds into the video, the soon to be best selling all-girl group in the UK are seen with an Olympus XA2. The chances of them getting a decent indoor shot may have been better than Telex’s with their XA, owing to the addition of the optional A11 flash unit.

The Olympus XA2 was the second in the XA series to offer zonal focusing. Whereas the XA1’s design flaw lay in its shutter button, the shutter button design used in the original XA was revived, and continued up to the XA4.

Gremlins (1984):

Anyone with an elementary knowledge of the Gremlins duo of films would be aware of the three don’ts: no food after midnight; no bright light; and no exposure to water. However, breaching the second rule formed part of an escape plan from Dorry’s Tavern. One hour, sixteen minutes and forty seconds into the film, Kate Beringer (played by Phoebe Cates) escapes the Gremlin-infested bar by blinding the little blighters with a Polaroid camera.

The Polaroid 1000 Land Camera was the model seen in Joe Dante’s classic film. It was launched in 1977 as a low end Polaroid and lacked the built in flash – hence of course the external flash atop the viewfinder. The 1000 takes SX-70 Polaroid film, a format which is now supported by The Impossible Project. If you call in to their Manchester store on Stevenson Square, you can not only buy SX-70 Polaroid film, but also choose from a number of reconditioned Polaroid cameras.

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Before I go…

Obviously, this is only a small number of moving image productions where analogue cameras have appeared. As always, add to the list and feel free to make any corrections or additions to the existing observations.

S.V., 03 February 2014.

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