Use of the term ‘ugly’ for a camera may not be appropriate for a product that is not bought for its looks, but for functionality. Nevertheless, sometimes you look at a camera and wonder who designed it and for how longer did he / she last in the company. A well documented case is General Electric’s consumer product division in the 70’s, where engineers designed the products for sake of functionality. Think that this killed this division, as products looked as they were made in Frankenstein’s lab out of recycling bin finds.
The camera world has more than a few odd looking, strange designs. Some even had a sequel, which makes it even stranger.
The Fotron, also known as the ‘con camera’, was sold door to door in the west coast in the 60’s. It can be best described as a match between a tee kettle, steam iron and a Stairmaster. All that with a lens and electric cord. It was huge even at the old days’ terms, with a 3 lbs heft. It was sold for as much the buyers would pay, from $100 to $500. A real fortune at the time. Adding to that the processing had to be done by manufacturers only, so it rightfully earned it’s ‘con’ or ‘scam’ definition.
This atrocity had a sequel, Fotron III. Not sure what happened to the II version, maybe the designer ran for asylum in El Salvador.
The Fotron is not to be confused with Bell & Howell’s Foton, a true post war classic.
The Konica Aiborg makes you wonder what did the designer smoke. It looks as an annoyed and constipated boy puffing his cheeks. It defeated its purpose as a family camera, as if you train this camera at a toddler we would get a panic attack. Some find it to resemble Darth Vader, no offense meant to Mr. Vader.
A stand alone design, with no offspring’s, it had ground braking technology. It didn’t add much to save Konica from its slow death – from merger with Minolta to divesting the photography trade to Sony.
A silly camera that comes to mind is Charley the Tuna. It can be summed up in one word: why?
A honorary mention is to the Polaroid line. The camera was probably expensive at the time, so they might have made it ugly on purpose, so no potential thief will touch it lest he will be seen with it in public and ruin his dating carrier. When Kodak introduced its instant camera line, they assumed that design had to match and followed suit. This could be the one cardinal sin that that caused Kodak demise.
As a swan song, just before they’d gone, Polaroid offered neat and cleanly designed cameras