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Erich Kaestner

Camera design pioneer

Oscar-winning camera design pioneer Erich Kaestner died January 31 of natural causes in Penzberg, Germany. He was 93.

Born in the East German city of Jena, famous for its optical industry with companies like Zeiss and Leica, Kaestner moved to Munich to join Arnold & Richter (Arri) at the age of 21.

With company founder Arnold Richter, he co-designed the first operational hand-held serial reflex film camera, the Arriflex 35. Between 1949 and 1952, he concentrated on the development of a 16mm camera for professional purposes. The Arriflex 16 became a standard item for documentary filmmakers.

Kaestner kept designing well beyond retirement age, coming up with the 35BL in 1972, a studio camera with professional sound quality that allowed the mobility to shoot from the shoulder.

Kaestner remained Arri’s chief design engineer for a remarkable 50 years, working on designs for models including the Arri Electronic Cam, the Arriflex 16BL, and the Arriflex 16SR.

He was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with scientific and technical awards in 1973 and 1982, and in 1992 he received the Gordon E. Sawyer award for his lifetime achievements in the film industry.

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