Camera Review: The Pflassenbeck Kurbelmeister 175 MkII

Zak wants to reward our loyal subscribers (all six of you) with some behind-the-scenes stuff, so he’s asked me to write a review of the camera equipment I use for most of our field missions.

[Product Image Removed At Manufacturer’s Request]

If you’ve ever found yourself in the position of having to photograph elusive and possibly violent creatures in dark wooded areas, then a) it’s time to re-evaluate your life choices, and b) you know about the importance of image stabilization and quiet. If you can’t keep the camera sensor still, it’ll never have enough light for a clear image, and if you can’t keep it quiet, then you’re likely to get a smack from an angry Sasquatch!

For years, I’ve trusted cameras from Pflassenbeck, a family-run optics and money laundering business located somewhere in the Swiss Alps. Their image quality can’t be beat. But while the P in Pflassenbeck is silent, their gyro-stabilization modules definitely aren’t. That’s why I’ve been happy to try out their latest line of crank-operated still cameras.

Full disclosure: Pflassenbeck was a sponsor of the Sasquatchers early in our run, but they recently severed ties with the group after someone at the company actually saw a video of what we do. So I got this camera for free, but this isn’t a paid advertisement.

[Technical diagram removed due to patent and copyright infringement claims]

As you can see above, the secret is an ingenious quin-optic inverse reflexive arrangement of lenses and mirrors, all of which work together to allow the photographer to stand in one place, but use the handy side crank to rotate the view a full 360 degrees. It seems like it should violate all of the laws of physics, but as long as you don’t think too hard about it, it works like a dream.

And that’s the promise of Pflassenbeck equipment, really: you don’t have to think about it. You just stand in one place and let the crank do all your aiming. Of course, there are a couple of limitations: it only shoots in pure black or white, and there is some degradation in resolution. Although the camera has a 38 megapixel sensor, the resulting images are always no more than 400×240 pixels. Also, some users have said that it reduces the detail of subjects so much that they end up looking cartoonish and poorly-animated. I don’t see it myself, but to each their own!

So my tips for budding nature photographers: get good equipment and watch out for motion blur, and you’ll soon be getting a perfect shot maybe 1 out of every 100 or so tries!


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