Italy 1949 – Compact – 35 mm – Very Rare.
The Bilux, released in 1949 in Milan by the Industria Scientifico Ottica (ISO), is probably one of the most sought after cameras ever built.
Produced in about 200 copies before ISO released the “Standard” and mythical “Reporter”, the Bilux is both an incredibly well built camera and an amazing piece of engineering. This rangefinder represents a synthesis between a Contax and a Leica, while elegantly displaying an exceptional level of manufacture and finish.
While it is often referred to as an Italian “Leica copy”, the Bilux goes far beyond that definition and offers an incredible level of features, all accessible via extremely well designed and beautifully crafted knobs and dials. There are no less than 12 chrome wheels and toggles to be discovered when touring the camera for the first time, including a Leicavit type rapid winder and a curtain speed adapter to compensate for the various types of lamps used for flash at the time. It takes a while figuring out what everything does and how to actually take a shot. Setting exposure time for example is tricky and requires combining the values of a small wheel behind the trigger and the usual speed dial on top of the camera. Even the leather case is peculiar and elegant as it locks into the camera not by the usual screw that links to a tripod but by a quick release lever mechanism..
Before even considering taking a picture, exploring the Bilux is an arcane experience. Manipulating it has something in common with fiddling an advanced mechanical calculator (say a Curta) but built in a very polished Italian style.
The Bilux summarizes absolutely everything it takes to become the pride and joy of any lucky collector. I know my father gave it its own special carry case, which was an honor he did not give often.