|September 28, 2013||Posted by Photo GearHead under Cool Gear, Cool Gear Auctions|
Eho-Altissa was a manufacturer of cameras based in Dresden, Germany which began operations way, way back in 1892 — the same year that Baron Manfred von Richthofen (The Red Baron) was born in Kleinburg (now part of Poland), and the great cholera outbreak of hamburg occurred. So, you know… a brand new camera company, the birth of one of history’s great fighter aces, and a cholera epidemic. What do these three things have in common? I don’t know. But, exactly seventy four years later, The Royal Guardsmen would release their hit single “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron.” The song would climb to the number 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in December of 1966 — it would contain absolutely no reference to either the cholera outbreak, nor the formation of the Eho-Altissa camera company. Make of that what you will.
Getting back strictly to cameras now, Eho-Altissa began in Desden in 1892 as “Photo Spezialhaus” out of Leipzig. Over the next several decades the company would go through a series of ownership changes, name changes, and movements of corporate headquarters, until finally winding up, in 1932 (The same year that Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg is elected as President of that country — hmmm) as the not-so familiar to current photography enthusiasts “Altissa” brand. By this time, Altissa is already churning out large quantities of box style cameras and selling them under re-branded labels to third-party distributors. Camera companies such as Adina, Fotka, Rilo, and many, many others — possibly ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more, in fact — were all selling Altissa cameras under their own label. Altissa, at this time, was truly rolling out the score.
In 1950, then owner of the company Berthold Altmann, up and moved himself to West Germany, and, as such, was declared a criminal by the East German government (It was illegal to leave East Germany in those days — they built a big wall at much bother and expense to dissuade people from doing so!) The Altissa camera company, still headquartered in East Germany, and up until this time a private firm, was immediately seized by the East German government, who continued the company’s manufacturing operations until 1961 when all operations of the Altissa camera company were finally ended. So, it goes without saying that any Altissa camera manufactured after 1950 is, of course, a full-on communist camera. Power to the people, comrade!
And, that’s just what we have for you here today — a full-on socialist, anti-bourgeois communist camera of an East German flavor. A 1951 Altissa box camera. Mmmmmm…. tastes like Marxism!
This Altissa box camera shoots 120 roll film and produces 6X6cm images. One knob on the camera body allows the photographer (oppressed capitalist worker) to choose between a total of two — count ’em — TWO (any more would merely be evidence of over-indulgent, wasteful capitalist decadence)– shutter speed settings: That of either a ‘B’ (or ‘bulb’) setting, or 1/25 of a second. (…1/25 of a second as the fastest shutter speed? What a low-light monster! [/sarcasm]) Another knob allows the choosing of between two possible apertures — that of f/8 or f/16.
There are, however, a couple of decent features regarding the old Altissa box cameras. They used a remarkably sophisticated dual-element lens system for cameras of their type, allowing the camera to capture much sharper images than most other box cameras of its time and in its class. Altissa box cameras also featured abnormally large and bright viewfinders compared to other box cameras the day.
So, one such Altissa box camera has now come up for auction on eBay. The seller informs that it is in working condition, and the price is currently pretty cheap — with the highest bid being at a mere $39.00 US at the time of this writing. The seller is located in the Czech Republic however, but will ship worldwide for $20USD. The auction is located here.