Camera West recently received an unusual camera through a customer trade-in. In this 3-minute video, the camera shop takes a hands-on look at the Calypso, the first 35mm underwater film camera that didn’t require a bulky housing.
The camera was originally conceived by the legendary French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau, who partnered up with Belgian engineer Jean de Wouters to design the camera before it was launched in 1961.
Prior to this dedicated underwater camera, underwater photography had always involved putting an existing camera inside an unwieldy waterproof housing. Cousteau wanted a camera that could be used and carried on land but taken underwater at a moment’s notice.
“The left knob is for focusing, and the right knob is for the aperture; the values are shown on the front of the lens,” Camera West says. “The shutter is unique, as it simultaneously winds the film when cocking or firing the shutter. When pressed in, the camera is always ready to fire, so there’s this shutter release lock at the top.”
A year after the Calypso was launched, Nikon took over production of the camera and relaunched it as the rebranded Nikonos in 1963.
The Nikonos would go on to make a huge impact in underwater photography among both amateurs and professionals alike, and the camera system was on the market for nearly 4 decades before being discontinued in 2001. The camera continues to be a hot item in the used market.
“We do recommend getting cameras like these serviced every year if you plan on actually going into the water,” Camera West says. “While the seals may look fine, the true test when the camera becomes under pressure.”