The lot of female photographers is not always rosy. Even the most famous are routinely forgotten by museums. Camera manufacturers overlook them when promoting their new designs. Even some fashion magazines have been accused of ignoring their talent.
But at least they’re unlikely to turn the pages of a photo magazine and see a lens advertised as a “girl watcher”.
In the 1960s and 70s – long before affordable telephoto zooms – telephoto lenses were usually one fixed focal length and, unless you were doling out the big bucks, handicapped with a relatively narrow maximum aperture.
One such example was the 400/6.3 made by Japanese lens manufacturer Kawakami Seiki Seisakusho Ltd but sold under a variety of third-party names, such as Prinz-Galaxy, Paragon, Hanimex, Quantaray and… Astranar, the variety which can be seen in the advert below.
Except, that’s not how they advertised it. They called it the “girl watcher”.
Sterling-Howard, a photographic distributor from Yonkers in New York, regularly advertised the lens this way, some of the adverts adding pin-up photos aswell to add a touch more locker-room atmosphere. The ad in this forum post on Digital Photography Review breathlessly assured it was “a $34.95 challenge that will bring you close to any girl”.
A very similar lens was sold in the US by Spiratone, one of the first companies to import Japanese camera gear into the US. A little longer in length than the Astranar, the two lenses were put through their paces by a forum member on DPReview a couple of years ago. Spiratone’s lens might have been almost identical to the Astranar, but the company never felt the need to advertise it as a tool for voyeurs…
(Thanks to Ted Tofield for the tip)