those involved in the process of capturing digital images have had their eyes opened this past week by the announcement of a new consumer camera called the lytro. looking disturbingly like a torch/flashlight, its claim to fame is the lack of any overwhelming necessity to consider the point of focus when pressing the shutter. i realise from many photographs i come across, that having a defined subject of focus seems something of an alien concept to many. despite the emergence of so-called auto-focus digital cameras, in which you would think it all but impossible to snap a blurred image, many of the latter abound in serious quantities. it seems that the more idiot-proof cameras become, the better class of idiot emerges.
adobe have been previewing sneak-peeks this past week or so, of future photoshop technology that will render the days of out of focus photographs a thing of the past, but that's probably quite some distance in the future. the lytro camera, however, allows the subject of focus to be chosen after the fact, when the photo is sitting comfortably on a computer screen. remarkably clever technology when you think about it, but something that will undoubtedly lead to procrastination over the final choice, and perhaps a novelty that will wear off more quickly than the makers would like.
but aside from the end results, photographers being anoraks just as much as cyclists, are keen to find out more about the technology behind the vari-focus imagery, something that is conspicuous by its absence on the lytro website. if you're at all interested in how things work, there's nothing worse than an apparent attempt to keep all behind firewalls or even brick walls. the latter is something of past days, when so-called bricks and mortar were all that any retailer had to hide behind. someone like condor cycles, now that you come to mention it.
condor cycles first opened its doors at 90 grays inn road, london in 1948, a few years after the end of the second world war, as london continued to rebuild after the destruction rained on many of its landmarks during the conflict. the first condor frames emerged in the early 1950s, built by founder monty young, a trained cabinet maker who thought it a simple shift of abilities to working in steel tubing. around 1972, when grant young started working in the business, they bought the premises next door as the first stage in condor's expansion, later moving across the road to their current position at 49-53 grays inn road.
undoubtedly due to their longevity, not only in the capital city but as an integrated part of british cycling culture and the ascendant racing scene, this became as popular a choice of frame as one of the lusted after italian names, yet in the process, condor impressed a level of mystique amongst the cycling cognoscenti. as one who hails from considerably further north, i must admit to being less than au fait with the brand until they joined forces with rapha to enhance the british racing scene, something they continue to do as one third of rapha condor sharp. in 2005, peter whitfield published the condor years. a panorama of british cycling a book which admirably dealt with condor's involvement in british cycle racing, but without dealing at length with the growth of the shop itself. nor did it spend too many pages on the work that went on behind the window in grays inn road. the mystique continued.
grant young is still in charge of the day to day running of the condor business and surrounded by a crew of younger aides, he is spreading the word a great deal wider than the pavements and trees of grays inn road. condor frames are now available to a less metropolitan audience, the most recent being ronde in edinburgh who will host their official launch as a condor stockist next friday (28th october). this new open policy has resulted in the traditional condor frames receiving a graphical makeover from ben spurrier, while the brand offensive is headed up by claire boom beaumont, who is responsible for the publication of past, present, future.
the bookazine as i rather unfairly named it, is produced by philip and andrew diprose, the men behind the ride journal, packaged in a similar format to the latter. the smell of ink on paper is worth the price of admission alone. the contents lay bare much of the history and philosophy behind the condor brand, while providing detailing of one or two of the more prestigious frames within the current range. the history of harry rensch's paris is one that i have been eager to read, having espied one of the famous galibier frames on the grays inn wall during a visit to the metropolis a few years ago.
a breathtaking alternative to today's ubiquitous carbon.
fronted by one of the head tube badges of yesteryear, the contents of its 143 pages are peppered with stories from several of condor's more high profile customers, including sometime contributor to the post, bianchista gem atkinson. grant and monty young lay bare the shop's history, ben spurrier relates the design challenges that have changed the face of condor cycles, and the shop's wheelbuilding specialist, martin muller absorbs my attention by talking shop.
£14.99 could conceivably be seen as a substantial amount to pay for what is, at its most basic, a product catalogue for the brand, but that would be to misunderstand the concept. there is much to be learned and appreciated here no matter your level of interest in owning a condor frame. as is expected of output from the diprose brothers, the design and layout is impressive, never descending into humdrum, and to all intents and purposes, avoiding any real-life comparison with the catalogues more often arriving in the mail, or sitting at the end of the shop counter.
the writing is a bit patchy in places, and several articles appear to end rather abruptly, but the real interest is in both the photographs from the archive and an opening into the secret world of condor cycles. hopefully, in the tradition of the ride journal, there might be at least a volume two, for only a select few frames are detailed within, and i'd so like several others (the 'cross variants at least) to be given the same treatment. with rapha ,condor and sharp continuing their association with currently britain's most successful cycle team into 2012, there is more to come from the modern outlook inhabiting grays inn road.
past, present, future is available from condor cycles and stockists for the princely sum of £14.99.
posted friday 21 october 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................