I accidentally bought a box of cameras. Maybe not accidentally, but definitely unexpectedly. What happened was that I was mooching around on eBay, using odd searches – things like misspellings or imprecise descriptions like old camera. It sometimes turns up interesting results.
There was a set of old film cameras on sale, ending in less than one day. The description didn’t match the picture. One bid of 99p. So I popped in a bid of just over a fiver, expecting that I would be immediately over-bid. It’s a fairly low-risk way of learning how much interest there is. I was travelling at the time, so logged out and forgot about it, beyond a small curiosity of what they would eventually go for.
When I got home, there was an email telling me I’d won. Perhaps the message should be ‘be careful what you wish for’. So what did I get? Eight old film cameras, reportedly all working.
- Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE.
- Zeiss Ikon Contina.
- Fujicarex II.
- Pentax MV.
- Universal Mercury II.
- Leidose Leidox Westlar.
- Kodak Retina 1a.
- Kodak Retinette 1b.
Which of course made me ask myself why I needed yet more cameras. Part of it is the fun of trying something weird at low cost and risk. I’m sure we would all like to have a go with a Leica to see what all the fuss is about, but it’s unlikely to happen soon.
The mixed bag of marvellous oddities will give me a bit of fun though. The Pentax will work with my various lenses as a backup camera. The MV was an auto-only body that nobody liked but if it works, it has a place. It will nicely fill the role of sacrificial camera: one that can be put at risk because it doesn’t matter if it gets broken.
The Westlar uses 127 film which is scarce and expensive. Not sure what I’ll do with it. I may run 35mm film through it, which I did with an old Kodak I had.
Of the others, the Fuji and the Mercury are both unusual. The Fuji is a fixed-lens SLR with rangefinder focusing, designed to be used one-handed with all the controls operated by the right hand. It’s the mirror-image of an Exacta.
The Mercury is a half-frame camera with a rotary shutter. It was made in America from 1945 to around 1948, with some sales trickling on into the early 50s. The rotary shutter is supposed to reliably deliver its marked speeds, even at this age. The lens is coated and supposed to be quite good. We’ll see.
The other four are fairly typical 60s fixed-lens cameras, although the LKE has a rangefinder and the Retina is a mechanical marvel with a cuckoo-clock lens.
This is going to be fun! I’ll try them all out and write them up.