visual spectrum: the Cosina CX-2

12Jul13

When I got back into photography in the late 90s, the first two cameras that I purchased were a LOMO LC-A and a Voigtländer Bessa-L fitted with a 25mm Color-Skopar lens.  The Voigtländer range, sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s Leica,” is made in Japan by Cosina, despite the German-sounding name.  In fact, the original Voigtländer optical company was founded in Austria in 1756, but in the 1970s and 80s a series of mergers and buyouts led to the demise of the Voigtländer name until it was resuscitated by Cosina in 1999.

Imagine my delight, then, upon discovering that the LOMO LC-A was actually a knockoff of a camera made by Cosina in the 1980s — the Cosina CX-2.  Since the purchase of the LC-A was what got me back into photography and precipitated my purchase of the Bessa-L, I felt almost as if I had ended up in one of those weird time paradoxes in which everything ends up looping back in on itself and you find out that you actually are your own grandparent.  In any case, I decided to get my hands on a CX-2.  Twelve dollars and one eBay auction later and I was soon unboxing an almost pristine CX-2.  I shot two or three rolls with the CX-2 and I soon realized that, even though the mechanical design trumped the LC-A when it came to looks, there was a reason why it hadn’t become a cult camera like the LC-A: the lens of the CX-2 simply couldn’t produce the rich liquidity of color and tone that the LC-A was capable of.  The shots on this page are all quite colorful, but that’s because they were taken (for the most part) at night, using daylight film; the shots I took during the day with the CX-2 tended to be neutral, dull, and almost entirely devoid of film magic.

Where the CX-2 did excel in the magic department was in the production of the most epic halo-shaped lens flares that it’s possible to imagine.  Every time you’d point the CX-2 in the direction of a light source at night, a new angel would be born.  At first this was delightful, but it quickly became wearying — like an effects lens that couldn’t be turned off.  Still, the shot of the psychedelic jukebox on the bottom of the page remains just about the trippiest bit of unintentional camera genius that I’ve ever gotten back from the developer, as if the ghost of the back cover of an LP from 1973 had been ectoplasmically deposited on the negative.

One night, I suddenly hit on a plan that seemed so obvious to me that I didn’t understand why I hadn’t thought of it earlier.  Since the CX-2 had the beautiful body, and the LC-A had the brains to die for (the lens, that is), I would simply transplant the lens from the LC-A into the body of the CX-2 and then I would have the ultimate shoot-from-the-hip camera setup.  It wasn’t until I had taken the lens out of the Cosina (a two-piece lens, if I remember correctly) and then removed the lens from the LOMO (at least five pieces) that I realized that the architecture of the lenses was entirely different and one could never simply be swapped out for the other.  That was also the moment when I realized that though I had the technical ability to remove the lenses, I didn’t have the technical ability to put them back.  There’s no sadder moment than sitting on the floor looking at two cameras that are suddenly as useful as an eyeless Cyclops, and knowing that you’re the person who killed them.

A hundred dollars later, I had a new LC-A that I was shooting with, but I never did get my hands on another CX-2.



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