Too much Time Magazine Camera on my hands

Flash back to the 80s.

Back in the darkest pasts of history, there was a thing called magazines. They were physical things, made of paper, with glossy pages filled with information and pictures. Unlike the internet, they only arrived once a month, or bi-weekly at most. If you wanted the news more frequently, you had to pick up a news paper, which had lower quality photography reproduction, or you could watch the TV. The news would come on once an evening. Newspaper guys used to scoff at the shallowness of TV coverage. Real, intelligent people read newspapers. People that wanted top-notch photos and in-depth reporting got magazine subscriptions.

None of that exists anymore.

Time Magazine used to pride itself on its photography staff. And in celebration of this excellence, if you subscribed, they would give you a camera. The idea wasn’t unique to them, Sports Illustrated and a few others did it as well.

Cap Hill Balcony. Presentable if not terribly sharp.
Cap Hill Balcony. Presentable if not terribly sharp.

The free camera was about what you could expect for the price. Plastic, with a host of pseudo-features. “Focus free” lens (fixed focus). A genuine simulated power winder. An ersatz pentaprism hump on top of the body. To give it some heft to imply quality, they put a nice hunk of lead in the base. To be honest, though, the camera had some things going for it. A tripod socket. Working flash shoe (you could order a flash that matched the camera for a sort of reasonable fee.) The lens was glass, at least. The focal length was 50mm-ish. It has an aperture system of a sort. You can select four f stops with corresponding weather hieroglyphs. The shutter is around 1/50th or 1/60th depending on who you believe.

Unlike a lot of other crappy cameras from the era, it doesn’t have a unique enough look to have caught on with the hipsters or to be overcharged for by Lomography. It was worth the $8, I suppose, though. I got the complete box set, case and all. It was still 1985 in that box, right down to the new plastic smell. Pure, weaponized nostalgia.. It made me want to invade a small country for no reason at all.

I’m thinking I may be done with crappy cameras after this. It’s such a caricature of what it was billed as and what people wanted at the time, I may have hit peak cheesy.

One Comment

  1. Howard Patterson
    December 16, 2019

    There were at least four different versions of the TIME camera some with glass lenses some with “optical lens” or “optical color lens”. If it ain’t glass, it is probably plastic.

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