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Underground Lenses
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 7:32 pm    Post subject: Underground Lenses Reply with quote

The thing about Underground MF lenses is that you don't see much about them. I'm able to find only one earlier reference to any Underground lens on this forum. Here it is:

http://forum.mflenses.com/underground-28-2-8-m42-t31310,highlight,%2Bunderground.html

They are available for purchase on (American) eBay, here:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/Lenses-/3323/i.html?_nkw=underground

One Underground lens listing there even indicates Japanese origin!

But the marque appears not yet to have reached cult status. I'm unable to locate any reference whatsoever to Underground lenses at the recognized website for such things:

http://web.archive.org/web/20021203000649/medfmt.8k.com/third/cult.html

Bottom line, I have to observe this interestingly-named but obscure lens brand will just remain as another in a long line of lens brands which "can't get no respect".

Incidentally, if anyone actually owns one of these rare birds, does it take good pictures? Question


PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't see much point in gathering info about them, just another rebrand of the usual crap lowest level Korean and Japanese stuff of the 70s/80s. These are the sort of lenses we should avoid because there are excellent lenses available that cost either the same or only a little bit more.


PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Its just another importers brand.

I don't know who the maker of any particular one is, but from what I have seen they came from several sources, like with most importers brands.


PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I picked-up a 28mm awhile back for around 60.00 with high hopes but it turned out to be just okay in terms of performance. A little flaring, soft on corners and about on par with a 28mm Chinon. But nowhere's near the Vivitar CF lenses.

Hope this helps


PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 1:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JohnBee wrote:
I picked-up a 28mm awhile back for around 60.00 with high hopes but it turned out to be just okay in terms of performance. A little flaring, soft on corners and about on par with a 28mm Chinon. But nowhere's near the Vivitar CF lenses.

Hope this helps


Thanks. Was your Underground lens made in Korea . . . . . or in Japan??


PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Underground Camera store chain was a staple here in New England (Massachusetts, USA) for many years. It was a chain of over 10 family run camera stores founded by Philip Katz in the early 60's. They went bankrupt sometime around 1987/88 just after an intial public offering of stock. In 1988/89 the last 11 stores were bought out by another US chain called Ritz Camera. The store branded "underground camera" products were as stated previously - re-branded low tier Japanese or Korean products. For some years they were great camera shops - like W.B. Hunt and Levine's in Boston, MA. Alas, the days of the small, fully stocked, family-run neighborhood camera store have long passed. Crying or Very sad -- Paul


PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

guardian wrote:
JohnBee wrote:
I picked-up a 28mm awhile back for around 60.00 with high hopes but it turned out to be just okay in terms of performance. A little flaring, soft on corners and about on par with a 28mm Chinon. But nowhere's near the Vivitar CF lenses.

Hope this helps


Thanks. Was your Underground lens made in Korea . . . . . or in Japan??

Never looked Sad
I sold it for next to nothing shortly after testing.


PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pdccameras wrote:
The Underground Camera store chain was a staple here in New England (Massachusetts, USA) for many years. It was a chain of over 10 family run camera stores founded by Philip Katz in the early 60's. They went bankrupt sometime around 1987/88 just after an intial public offering of stock. In 1988/89 the last 11 stores were bought out by another US chain called Ritz Camera. The store branded "underground camera" products were as stated previously - re-branded low tier Japanese or Korean products. For some years they were great camera shops - like W.B. Hunt and Levine's in Boston, MA. Alas, the days of the small, fully stocked, family-run neighborhood camera store have long passed. Crying or Very sad -- Paul


Thank you, Paul. Gosh, that's interesting. I was not aware of Underground as a store chain "back in the day". I do have a vague memory of Ritz Camera. Your explanation Underground was in business for over 25 years raises this question for me regarding the Underground lenses:

We know Underground lenses were made both in Korea and in Japan. I wonder if, possibly, the Japanese lenses were earlier and of better quality. It's hypothetical, but I'm seeing a scenario wherein, during the earlier more successful days of the business, quality was more the focus. Then, later, as the business began to go sour, the Underground owners turned to Korean lenses in order to get prices down and keep the business going.

This hypothetical scenario relies on my assumption that Korean lenses, in general, are inferior to Japanese lenses. But that's just an assumption. I don't really know that for certain.


PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

guardian wrote:

We know Underground lenses were made both in Korea and in Japan. I wonder if, possibly, the Japanese lenses were earlier and of better quality. It's hypothetical, but I'm seeing a scenario wherein, during the earlier more successful days of the business, quality was more the focus. Then, later, as the business began to go sour, the Underground owners turned to Korean lenses in order to get prices down and keep the business going.

This hypothetical scenario relies on my assumption that Korean lenses, in general, are inferior to Japanese lenses. But that's just an assumption. I don't really know that for certain.


That sounds like a viable theory, although it was only after the chain had grown a bit, maybe by the late 70s or early 80s that they began offering their own house branded equipment. If memory serves, I believe their first store might have been on Boylston Street. If there are any other vintage shutterbugs from the Boston area reading this, perhaps thier memory is better than mine!

In the US, many shops employed this strategy: Cambridge Camera from New York had their Cambron brand, Ritz camera lenses have been re-badged Sigma for many years, Porter Camera, and Spiratone also did the same. Sears had their Tower brand. Montgomery Wards and JCPenny also sold lenses, etc under their name, as did KMart (Kalimar, I think).

Paul


PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2012 10:44 am    Post subject: Underground Camera Reply with quote

Philip Katz is my grandfather. He unfortunatly died in December 2004, He was an awesome man and missed very much.

Jamie K


PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2012 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the forum, Jamie. I don't recall ever meeting your grandad, but I loved visiting his camera stores! I bought quite a bit of gear there way back when. I fear my thumbnail history of the Underground stores doesn't do them or your grandfather justice.

All the best,

Paul


PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:10 am    Post subject: thanks Reply with quote

Thank you. Its nice to see Underground still talked about. I found this site while researching unclaimed property and found out Ritz bought all the underground cameras after the bankruptcy. Crazy that i never knew that my grandfather was a pinoeer of one of the first photo labs in a store and dicount photofinishing....crazy what the internet can teach you.