The First 35mm SLR Camera Invented

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The First 35mm SLR Camera Invented
The "Sport" camera made in 1935 is the first 35mm camera, and was much bulkier than modern cameras. (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Single lens reflex (SLR) techniques predate the development of photography, and were used in art studios to project an image onto a transparent surface for tracing. While there were a number of obvious advantages to using a prism and mirror to make a single lens reflex camera---most notably being able to use a viewfinder that used the actual camera optics---the first 35mm SLR camera didn't get made until the 1930s, by GOMZ of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).

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Model Introduction

GOMZ produced the "Sport" camera in 1935, and it was sold internationally through roughly 1941, with exports stopping around the time of the German invasion of Russia in World War II. It is widely thought by camera collectors and historians that the first 100 copies of this camera were sold in 1934. There were a number of cosmetic variations, such as different rounding on the corners and different screws used for assembly. It is estimated that the total production run of this camera was around 20,000 units.

Physical Features

The Sport used a vertical metal gate for the single lens reflex aperture, and mounted preset shutter speeds of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200 and 1/500 of a second, plus a 3.5/50 focal length lens called an "Industar-10." Its dimensions were 133mm high by 102mm wide by 69mm deep, with a weight of around 822gr. The camera had rounded edges and a fairly distinctive box assembly for the viewfinder.

Film Handling

The film cartridge for the Sport was a two-meter length of film, with 50 shots. It advanced the film from left to right, and loading required opening the camera's back end. The film cartridges did not have a leader of pre-exposed material, making loading the Sport somewhat tricky for modern enthusiasts. The exposable area of the negative is a frame of 24mm by 36mm.

Controls

For the Sport camera, the lens was mounted on a bayonet mount, and the controls for advancing the film were on the left side of the main body of the camera. The dial for the shutter speed setting was on the upper right of the boxlike superstructure. There was a viewfinder in the upper part of the camera as well, working from the mirror and prism of the actual mechanism. There was a manual focusing ring on the lens assembly as well.

Historical Impact

While there were competitors to the GOMZ camera, the 35mm SLR format camera was something of an historical oddity through the 1950s. Competing rangefinder cameras dominated the market because of their faster shutter speeds; the SLR cameras were smaller and more portable. It wasn't until the 1970s and the advent of autofocus SLRs that they achieved their current dominance in photography.

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