Snappy happy— Zürich


The Alpa has become a cult camera for professionals, thanks to its razor-sharp detail and attractive finish. But it wasn’t always such a success story after the brand disappeared altogether in the 1990s. Monocle talks to the Zürich-based couple who took the bold decision to resurrect it.

Apla, camera, cult

Enjoying a glass of wine on the patio of Alpa’s headquarters, an afternoon ritual, Thomas Weber beams with pride when he starts recounting how he secured his first order for a high-end Swiss made camera produced by the brand that he and his wife resurrected. “We were at a trade fair in Paris in 1998 and a man came up with this big entourage behind him. He pointed to our models and said: ‘I’ve been waiting years for a camera like this’.” Weber’s delight was doubled when he discovered their first customer wasRaymond Depardon, a Magnum Photos member…

Three more brands

Tachihara: Japan Large-format field cameras made from cherrywood and brass.

Littman: US Hand-built 4x5 camera from a modified Polaroid 110.

Silvestri: Italy Tuscan-based manufacturer of models for architectural photography.

DHW Fototechnik: Germany Inherited production of the legendary Rolleiflex.

Life through a lense

When Alpa’s owners needed to pair lenses to their new camera body, they looked across the border to two leading German brands with long track records in manufacturing high-end optics.

Based in Bad Kreuznach since 1913, Schneider (below) has made lenses for digital and analogue photography, from 35mm to large format. To date, the company has produced over 15 million lenses, including a model fitted to a Nasa space shuttle. Schneider has also picked up several technical awards for cinema projection lenses.

Its Bavarian rival, Rodenstock (bottom), takes its name from the family that launched the business in 1877 in Würzburg. Four generations of Rodenstocks oversaw the company’s success in optics before it was acquired by Linos in 2000. In addition to cameras, the brand has made film slide projector lenses, including those for the Braun D series designed by Dieter Rams.


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