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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Last Word on the Ikomat

(From Stephen Crowley of the New York Times)


Last word on the Ikomat. I own two; one made around 1930 that has limitations (no flash sync, separate viewer for composing and focusing), and the 1952 model I mentioned earlier. Great cameras that you can fit into your back pocket. I've been shooting video for a New York Times project, American Album, since last August. I've used the Ikomat for the print edition and later began incorporating some of the snaps into the video. One of the videos was shot entirely with the Ikomat. So, it's the best of all worlds. (I'm opposed to "frame grabbing.") We're lucky to have a boss, Michele McNally, who supports any method if it makes for more effective story telling. Angel Franco is using film for his weekly feature with Dan Barry. Fred Conrad, who I think is doing his best work these days, uses everything from early Speed Graphics to tintypes. I'm glad you pointed the way to his "Harley's Heros" story. David Burnett's Katrina essay in National Geographic, shot on 4x5, was simply amazing.

Magazine editors seem to be rediscovering some of the forgotten schools of photography.

Wonderful site you have Mike.

Cheers, Stephen

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, many thanks to Stephen. Photo: Ritz Camera


Blogger Richard Sintchak said...

Well, there goes the Ikomat prices on eBay for the next few months at least.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

That was a beautiful and sad piece of journalism, Stephen. Very well done.

9:45 AM  
Blogger jkniple said...

Is there a digital back for an Ikomat?

10:29 AM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

Stephen Crowley said: "Magazine editors seem to be rediscovering some of the forgotten schools of photography."

The old and forgotten eventually becomes the newly rediscovered. Using bygone tools and techniques certainly makes for a welcome interruption to the numbing sameness in today's editorial photography, and I'm sure that's exactly what some editors are striving to achieve.

A year or two ago I recall seeing some work by a photographer who was using a large format camera (perhaps a Speed Graphic) for some sports documentary work. Schlepping such a large, clunky camera around at sports venues seems unimaginable today. But it was some of the most visually arresting and emotive work I've ever seen. I am ashamed that I cannot recall the fellow's name.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Paul Leidl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Paul Leidl said...

Hi Mike:
I am resending this as I thought my first comment speculated on the obvious. My main observation on Stephen's fine piece is that his type of work contradicts Dirck Halstead's prediction that news photographers will be carrying video cameras in the future.

2:33 PM  
Blogger dyathink said...

I really enjoyed your website, Mr. Crowley. I loved how each photo lit up as i clicked on it. The Hutu portfolio was heartbreaking and Urban Archeology was fact I saw a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor in your work and I'm guessing it's that sense of humor that sustains you during assignments that might bring a lesser mortal to their knees. I also liked your Cuban portfolio. It's been a goal of mine to shoot Cuba before Castro dies. Guess i better get a move on, huh? Very nice. And Mr. Burnett's Katrina work? I have no words. I'm quite sure i never saw photos quite like these...thank you.

10:10 PM  
Blogger pitchertaker said...

Ah, Stephen, that is the camera that David McAlpin and Ansel Adams used while sailing the east coast's inland waterway (coastal canal). There is a show of this work (first time ever shown, BTW) at the Fitchburg Art Museum in Fitchburg, MA. Entitled "Ansel Adams in the East" it shows very clearly Ansel's eye functions no matter the mechanical recording device he used. I doubt these images will ever be shown in public again. Too bad, they are a treat.


8:54 AM  
Blogger Charlie Didrickson said...

Stunning work. Seen it from time to time on the NYT.

Question though.

How do you get from still to video. (I'm clueless about this stuff)

11:01 AM  
Blogger David said...

Loved the video compilation. I'll have to try that sometime.

My own go-anywhere camera is a Voigtlander Perkeo II, which is also a 6x6 folder. Like the Ikomat, these are very handy, smaller than many 35mm rangefinders, and the 6x6 negative offers a rich tonality that 35mm and digital can't touch.

--David A. Goldfarb

1:12 PM  
Blogger Paul Leidl said...

re:" how do you get from still to video".
Of course I can't speak for Stephen but what is commonly done is to shoot the stills and then re-shoot the pictures with a video camera. The tape is then edited (usually on an Avid) and because you have so few audio elements you can do your sound mix at the same time.
Take a look at Ken Burns remarkable documentary called "The Civil War".
it is a remarkable example. He uses still photographs,paintings, letters and newspaper articles to make a very compelling film.
He also did another one called "JAZZ" that I bet Mike is familiar with.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"He also did another one called 'JAZZ' that I bet Mike is familiar with."

His weakest work. Needless hagiography, not enough music, and he almost totally ignored the most interesting periods of jazz history. I mean really--Armstrong and Ellington as demigods? They were great musicians, don't get me wrong, but if I had 25 CDs to take to a desert island neither of those guys would make the cut.

The Civil War was much better. He's completed a similar project about WWII that's set to air later this year I believe.


8:20 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Not speaking for anyone, of course, but many photojournalists make their slide shows with audio using Soundslides.


8:59 PM  
Blogger David said...

It's not necessary to reshoot the stills with a video camera. Most of the popular video editing programs now that let you just cut scanned images into the video, put them on the screen as long as you like, zoom and pan for the "Ken Burns Effect" (this can get a little hokey if overdone), dissolve, add captions and audio, then output to various formats.

David A. Goldfarb

9:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Leidl said...

"his weakest work"

I suspected that comment would generate a response from you. But I wasn't recommending "JAZZ" as I have not seen it- though I did find "The Civil War" to be a very good doc. and-I trust-relevant to Charlie's question.

I am no expert around jazz, but I do like it and can't help but wonder what your top play list of jazz CDs would be that you would take to the desert island.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Dave Jenkins said...

That's an Ikomat? Looks like an Ikonta to me. Excuse my ignorance, but I thought all Ikomats were TLRs.

Dave Jenkins

9:25 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

You want me to sort out the historical Zeiss catalog for you?? To paraphrase what Frank McLaughlin said of dye transfer printing, one lifetime is not long enough to master both photography and Zeissiana!

Ritz Collectible Cameras had that listed as an Ikomat, and if anybody should know....

As I understand it from the Pacific Rim Photographica pages, the Ikomat was an Ikonta with a less expensive lens, and the bodies were identical.

The TLRs were called Ikoflexes.


10:34 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

First off, a million thanks for the kind words regarding my work. It means a great deal when it comes from your own community.

I’ve been a colleague of Dirck Halstead for the last 20 years. In March 2006 I took his weeklong Platypus video course, which I highly recommend if you’re interested in that kind of thing. Ten years ago a caller asked me on a CSPAN program if digital photography would replace film. Even though I had been using it on occasion, primarily on the road (Dole campaign; Hutu story) I confidently said ”no”. It wasn’t that I didn’t think there was a place for it or that the quality wouldn’t eventually rival film, it was that I never imagined that photographers would want to give up the option and discard the very techniques that make them unique.

I mainly use digital on assignment because we now need to keep our website updated but when I do my own work I use Tri-X. Shooting film (“objects”) is like walking a tightrope without a net underneath. You need to crawl inside the camera and use all your senses. You’re much more “in the moment” and it’s reflected in the work, flaws and all. Digital cameras (“equations) offer infinite possibilities and many photographers are out there are making incredible images with them. However, to paraphrase Ansel Adams, if the act of making a photograph is a performance then I find film shooters more exciting. (see and Super Ikonta B user Herman Kreiger’s work at )

In 1989 one of the major wire services sent out a release boasting that before President Bush had lowered his hand at the inauguration they had an image of him being sworn-in transmitting to their clients around the world. But, television still beat them because they were “live’. There are several newspapers that are converting to video and frame grabbing for their paper editions. Others are being pressured to do the same. It’s still not the way to “beat television”. Newspapers and magazines, and their web components, will thrive with good writing, innovative design and photography, produced by artists and photojournalists, using the most effective method to make the most compelling images. Ideas are still the coin of the realm.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Dave Jenkins said...

My bad, Mike. You're absolutely right. No excuse -- I should have known, because I have a nice Ikoflex from the early 50s that was my Dad's.


11:30 AM  
Blogger Max said...

The Ikomat, I think I read somewhere, is also the reason for the R in Nikkormat for markets outside Japan, because Zeiss complained about a name conflict.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Herman said...

I had a Super Ikonta B in the 1940s, that I used as a photographer for a weekly paper. I also used it while a photographer in the U.S. Army Air Corps. It was the equivalent to a Rolleiflex, but with direct viewing and a range finder.

I got the newer version of it in 1951. It then laid unused until I returned to photogaphy after retiring in 1990.

2:22 PM  

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