How many can you actually use?
Maybe one for quality and perhaps one that’s small and easy to carry (but that’s what your phone is for, right?).
So why do film photographers in general end up with more cameras than they can shoot? I can go through my own reasons, or justifications. OK, confessions. Think of me as the witness for the defence.
It happened over a long period. I bought my first proper camera, a 35mm SLR, from new. Even though it wasn’t the latest model – it was something like a year old and not the one that was in all the adverts. But it was a better camera than the latest one and had been reduced in price. Over time I experimented with various Soviet offerings, messing-up and then fixing the shutter in a Zorki and fighting to focus a Lubitel. At some point I saw a well-used Yashica TLR in a camera shop (remember them?) and dumped the Russian pretender for a practical Oriental.
I tried, used and re-sold all sorts of things in those easy years when cameras were still being made and nobody wanted old ones. Some filled a particular niche and are still with me. My first ever SLR has new light seals and is still working well. The Yashica TLR still comes out to play when I’m feeling medium formatty. My little pocket camera I bought from new to replace a slightly lesser model that I killed by accident. This too is still with me.
Somewhere along the line I found a ‘proper’ Pentax SLR, second-hand in a shop near Hartlepool. Oddly, it’s been less reliable than the old Ricoh. Not that it doesn’t work, but it has suffered the common fault of the MX with the viewfinder readout of shutter speed slipping out of sync. Somewhere else along the line I picked up a big handful of focussing screens for it in a camera shop junk bin. So I can’t sell the MX because it would cost more to get the viewfinder readout fixed than it would probably sell for.
So that’s two SLRs, a TLR and a compact. Enough for anyone, right?
I wish it were so. There’s a Russian rangefinder, just because I like using rangefinders. There’s a K-mount SLR that came with a lens I wanted. It’s a lightweight bit of friable plastic, but it can hold the film in place behind a sexy lens so it’s sat on the reserve bench.
And then the madness was upon me. Not the madness that tries to recreate my youth by buying all the cameras I couldn’t afford when I was young. Not really. But sometimes I will read about a particular type of camera or I’m after something to do a particular job. If you don’t chase fashion you can usually find an example of what you are after for the cost of a beer or less. So that excuses my underwater cameras. And the little Canon digital that can be hacked about with the CHDK tools to do timelapse. And the weird Ricoh bridge camera that I got for 99p for the cheap shots challenge. And the old Pentax unmetered screw-mount SLR that I got to use with a few M42 lenses that were knocking about in the cupboard (but especially the 50mm f1.2 Tomioka that was on some broken old camera in a charity shop for £1).
Then there are the ones that people gave me (“It’s been in a damp box in my garage for ten years…”).
So basically, I’ve spent very little money but thrown nothing away. Most of it is worth about what I paid for it. So I’m no collector, hoarding every model of minty Minolta or tweak of Leica. I’ve basically got a bunch of stuff that accumulated over the years because I fancied having a go with it.
I have genuinely sold stuff off that I wasn’t using, although looking at the pile that’s left you wouldn’t think so. Three, maybe four folding roll-film cameras went to better homes. Some lenses I didn’t like. There’s a little Canon compact digital plus underwater housing that ought to go and an Agfa rangefinder with an IR filter fitted behind the lens. But on the whole, I have lots of cameras because I just fancied having a go with different things. There was no strategy to it, just curiosity. So, what’s in the pile?
- 35mm SLR. ✔️
- 35mm rangefinder. ✔️
- 35mm compact. ✔️
- Half-frame compact. ✔️
- Medium format TLR. ✔️
- Medium format SLR. ✔️
- Medium format folder. ✔️
- 35mm underwater. ✔️
- Digital SLR. ✔️
- Digital compact. ✔️
- Digital underwater. ✔️
- Weird stuff. ✔️✔️✔️
And if you think that just means one example of each…
Do I use them? Yes. Not all the time, but often enough to want to keep them around. The least used are the medium format ones. Having only 12 or 16 frames makes me feel I should use them for special occasions. I could sell some of the less-loved and less-used items but most of them are worth less than the postage would be. Mostly because I bought kit that was cheap but working and then used it rather than coddled it. So it has, er, patina. Or in some cases, rust. I don’t really care. I know there was a big discussion on the Sunny 16 podcast about the evils of hoarding working cameras in a time of decline, but I’ve spent in total less than the cost of a nice Leica and lens. Probably less than the cost of a ropy Leica and a fungoid lens. Definitely less than the cost of a fashionable 35mm compact. So I plan to use this stuff until it dies or I hate it. If it dies I probably won’t bother to replace it. If I grow to dislike something, it can go to Fleabay or a charity shop as I see fit. And one day I will learn which is the most reliable camera, Darwin will rule and the creationists will be wondering why new film cameras don’t just appear in the shops. (It could be something to do with us tasting the fruits of Apple)
In the meantime I’m going to keep playing with my toys, selling the ones I am bored with and occasionally buying a new one when I get the curious itch. Too many damn cameras? Probably; but I enjoy photography and that to me means all aspects of it. And I have the beautiful freedom of not relying on my photography to make a living. If I did my kit would be selected for reliability first and then functionality. But I am free to play.
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