Dezeen Magazine

Design Museum Collection App: cameras

As part of the series of interviews filmed by Dezeen for the Design Museum Collection App, director of the Design Museum Deyan Sudjic introduces two cameras that raised the bar of analogue photography. Download the iPad app free from the app store here.

Featuring iconic products including the Polaroid SX-70 designed by Henry Dreyfuss and the Olympus XA11, the movie recognises turning points in the design of cameras before the age of digital photography.

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Here are some excerpts from the app:

Design Museum App Cameras

Polaroid SX-70 (above)

"A pocketful of miracles." This headline from the January 1973 issue of Popular Science magazine captures the excitement of seeing a Polaroid print for the first time. "In broad daylight, within seconds, like the invisible writing we remember from childhood, the first outlines of an image form. Then, magically, the turquoise field alters and colours appear, at first pale, then more and more intense, until, after a few more moments, my flabbergasted friend is holding in his hand a full-colour likeness of himself."

The invention of Polaroid instant colour film was indeed magical, but the design of the SX-70 camera was equally surprising. Notable for its elegant folding design, the SX-70 was compact enough to fit in a pocket when collapsed. Designed by Henry Dreyfuss in 1972, the SX-70 helped the Polaroid Corporation reach a wider audience by creating a camera that was more accessible to its users, easier to operate and less expensive, but that still managed to house the complicated machinery required to process Polaroid’s new integral print film without the need for intervention from the photographer. Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, said he liked Dreyfuss because he "didn't know what couldn't be done."

Design Museum App Cameras

Olympus XA (above)

When it was first released in 1979, the Olympus XA was a marvel of compact photography. Designed by Yoshihisa Maitani, the XA was not only the smallest 35mm camera available, but it was also specifically shaped to fit comfortably in the hand or pocket. Unlike its competitors, the XA’s diminutive size was achieved without the need for a collapsible or folding lens. Instead, it uses an inner focusing mechanism to provide sharp pictures without extending the lens beyond the body. There was no need for a case either, as the clam-shell body incorporated a sliding cover. This not only protected the lens from dust, but also turned the camera on when opened and locked the shutter when closed. To make the unique body, Maitani sculpted a model in clay, a painstakingly slow process which nonetheless enables detailed fine-tuning.