Giorgetto Giugiaro Designed the Delorean, but Also Some Classic Cameras

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Photo credit: Austin Calhoon, http://austincalhoon.com - CC licensed

I have a weird little thing that I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else talk about. I love it when you can buy items designed by legendary designers for a reasonable price. If you search Ebay for “Dieter Rams” for instance, you’ll find quite a wide array of his work, and it’s possible to buy a clock, lamp, lighter for between $100 and $200.

I’m not a car guy, and until recently, I hadn’t heard of Giorgetto Giugiaro. After reading some little thing about him, I looked him up, and immediately recognized a bunch of his work, including the DeLorean DMC-12 and some older Volkswagens like the Golf, which I always loved. Go ahead and check his Wikipedia or this history, and you’ll that he designed over 100 cars, for tons of manufacturers. They all look great.

The most exciting thing for me though, is that he also designed a bunch of cameras for Nikon. I’m a camera guy, and these are fairly iconic cameras that I love, but I never gave any thought to who designed them.

Giugiaro designed 10 cameras for Nikon, many of which are fairly affordable right now, which is a real problem for me, because I already have two 35mm SLRs that I love – the last thing I need is a whole collection. They’re so nice though, I’m sure I’ll wind up getting one or two sometime soon. I’m going to run down some of the highlights of his Nikon work.

Nikon EM

Nikon EM. Creative Commons photo by Damiano Ceron
Nikon EM. Creative Commons photo by Damiano Ceron

This was the first camera Giugiaro designed for Nikon, in 1979, and it’s a very standard-looking 35mm SLR. Not my first choice, but you can find them quite cheap on Ebay. A body, with no lens, goes for in the ballpark of $20. You can find one with a lens or two for $40+ if you look, although there are also expensive options in great condition, etc.

Nikon F3

Nikon F3 by JamesPFisherIII , CC License
Nikon F3 by JamesPFisherIII , CC License

This is Guigiaro’s second Nikon, and has the red accent that he used from this point onwards. I love this camera, but they tend to sell for about $300 and up on Ebay, with a few exceptions here and there. The most common variant model is the F3HP – the HP stands for high point, which means the camera has a bigger viewfinder, and is easier to use for people who wear glasses.

Nikon L35AF Pikaichi

Photo credit: Alfred from Germany, CC licensed
Photo credit: Alfred from Germany, CC licensed

This is a style of camera I don’t actually love that much, but this one looks quite nice. The Pikaichi in the name means “top notch”, and this camera has, by all accounts, a great lens, and takes great pictures. It takes AA batteries, which is so nice for a camera of this age – finding batteries for some old cameras is such a headache.

Quite a few of these have sold lately on Ebay for $50 or less, although some have also sold for about $200. I’m sure they most of those were in amazing condition, but that seems like a huge range – patience pays on Ebay.

Nikon F4

Photo credit: Austin Calhoon, http://austincalhoon.com - CC licensed
Photo credit: Austin Calhoon, http://austincalhoon.com – CC licensed

This is the one I want the most. I’ve watched reviews and overviews of the F4 and F4S on Youtube, and it’s so nice. It looks amazing, but is also quite a full featured, modern camera, as far as 35mm SLR film cameras go. The photo above has an optional battery pack on it, and it looks pretty big, but the battery pack is important, and I wouldn’t get one without it. The F4S version (released simultaneously with the F4) has a bigger battery pack, that takes 6 AAs instead of 4.

This thing is really modern compared to what most people (or me anyway) think of when it comes to pre-digital cameras. The metering system was very advanced for its time, and there’s a motorized transport system in there to advance the film, and rewind it once you’re done a roll.

Tons of these seem to sell for around $150 and up. I didn’t go and check the condition of each of them, but from the thumbnails, they mostly looked to be in pretty decent shape.

To me it’s super exciting that for less than $200, you can get an absolutely beautiful camera, designed by a great designer. But that’s just part of it. When it was released, this was the most advanced camera ever, and incredibly high end. This thing cost over $2000 USD in 1988. Adjusted for inflation, that’s just over $4000 today.

An interest contrast is actually the DeLorean DMC-12. As mentioned, this car was also designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. When it was released in 1981, the suggested retail price was $25,000, which if you adjust for inflation is $66,000 in today’s terms. That’s how high-end this camera was: Essentially, fifteen of them were equivalent to a Delorean (kind of – you get my point).

So, this camera sells for about 5% of its original price, once inflation is factored in, it looks amazing, and you can still use it to take great pictures. I love everything about this. Ugh, I bet I end up buying one of these by the end of the weekend.

Nikon F5

800px-nikon_f5

This came out in 1996, and is quite similar to the F4 in many ways. This thing is huge, and takes 8 AA batteries, wow. It currently sells for a bit more than the F4 – I’d say an average of 50% more on Ebay.

It’s still a great deal really if you like how it looks, and/or are into film photography.

Nikon F6

800px-nikon-f6_mg_2034

The F6 was released in 2004, and is the most recent non-digital camera that Giugiaro has designed for Nikon. Somewhat improbably, this model is still in production today, and as of this writing sells for about $2449 (here it is on Amazon). I’m sure it’s really nice, but this price defeats the whole idea behind this article, so whatever.

Digital Cameras

Giorgetto Giugiaro designed four digital Nikons. The D2H from 2003 costs a few hundred bucks on Ebay, and I honestly can’t imagine who would pay that. Old digital cameras are usually insanely hard to use, because their storage media and batteries are obsolete and the photos stink. I can only assume that the people who buy this stuff are just old guys who are too lazy to research what modern digital cameras are like in 2016 (they are amazing and cheap).

The other digitals that Giugiaro designed for Nikon sell for ridiculous prices, and are also outdated and pitiful. The less said about these the better.

5 COMMENTS

    • Sorry just saw this comment! I want to get one of those too, they’re very nice. I’m not a watch person though, so I haven’t bothered yet.

  1. Andrew, I too love the fact that one can buy well designed objects by “legendary designers”. I share your admiration for Dieter Ram designs. Among the “designer products” I’ve acquired over the years are a Braun designed A/D/S stereo system bought new back in the 1980’s but available on Ebay at quite affordable prices today. I also have held on to a couple of Braun electric shavers (before the company was bought out by Gillette) which are no longer operational, but which I have kept due to their aesthetic qualities. Though I have admired Giugiaro designs for decades, my camera system of choice over the years was CONTAX, the Kyocera era of SLRs, design by Porsche Design (Butzi Porsche’s studio, as opposed to Porsche the car manufacturer). Though I have moved on to shooting with digital cameras, I have kept all of my CONTAX equipment which include every variant of the RTS from the first to the last and the two N bodies developed shortly before the brand went defunct. ‘Glad to hear of a fellow design and photography enthusiast.

    • Hi Ben! Sorry for the slow reply on this. The Braun speakers sound cool – I looked and the ones I could see on Ebay were big speaker cabinets, is that them?

      The Contax cameras definitely look cool, although I have to admit, that’s a camera company I’m not super familiar with for some reason. I know they have some compact cameras they made (T2 and G2 and maybe others?) that are real cult items now and go for decent sums of money. I just googled the RTS line and they do look nice! You should get them out and shoot them a bit, they look fun!

      • Hi Andrew, The Braun designed a/ d/ s Atelier System is/was a complete system. I suggest that you do a Google search for “a/d/s Atelier”. I think that you’ll enjoy what you find.

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