Agony of Downsizing my Film Camera Collection

Not my collection, but you get the idea

Not my collection, but you get the idea

Having over many years purchased a lot of top-notch film cameras (at insane prices compared to what they cost when new), I’m now faced with “thinning the herd”.  I could never have afforded most of these gems at their original prices.  However, thanks to the ruthless efficiency of our “throw-it-away, gotta-have-the-newest-and-best” societal mindset driving prices down, these beautiful photographic tools became very, very affordable.

I’m now at the point of deciding that perhaps more than 50 cameras could be a few too many.  The issue is not that I can’t store them somewhere (I have a lateral file cabinet for that).  It’s more the realization that I likely not live long enough to give each of them full justice, and that these lovely tools deserve to be used, or even used up, rather than being kept for their own sake.

Each of my “treasures” is a functional work of art, through which art can be created (on occasion).  Every single camera I have collected has been carefully chosen for its unique traits.  I never believed in collecting unique but non-working photographic “knick-knacks” to sit on a shelf – pretty but not workable.

So, I’m faced with a difficult (nay agonizing) decision process: Which few to keep? For which I should find loving new homes (and new photograpy buffs to enjoy them)?

Ultimately, it would be better to see the majority of them “wear out” in the hands of fellow enthusiasts who can enjoy them, rather than “drying out” in storage, emerging only only every few years to have a roll or two passed through them.

I have also finally heeded the call of Digital Photography, to some extent. However, unlike almost everyone I know who has started to shoot in the Digital medium, I also continue to shoot film regularly.  I don’t perceive the “Film versus Digital debate” as an “either/or” discussion at all.  Each medium has its merits, each has some drawbacks.  I am not seduced that Digital substantially outstrips or obsoletes Film completely.  Thanks to an up-tick in interest I’m detecting among younger photographers in shooting Film (probably alongside digital), I too believe that the film medium will continue.  Somehow, Film is becoming fashionable again, and I sincerely hope it will endure as a viable medium of expression (in somewhat the same way that oil painting and watercolours continue to be a fully viable medium for making expressive portraits long after photography proved that a photo could be more “real” looking than all but the most talented of photo-realistic painters could producea).

Nikon vs Canon debate:

I have a number both Nikon and Canon film cameras, some of them very, very good examples that are at or close to the best each manufacturer made.  I have more Nikons than Canons, and have shot Nikon cameras longer than Canon.  They’re both very good.  I won’t get into any kind of argument about which is better, which feels better in the hand, ergonomics, or any of that nonsense.  At these levels of equipment, it’s like arguing which is a better citrus fruit – a clementine or a tangerine?  It’s a matter of taste.  I happen to enjoy and use both.

I have both a Nikon and a Canon DSLR camera as well, so my Nikon lenses and Canon lenses can continue to provide service in both media.

My initial feeling is that I will probably just stick with some of my favourite Nikon film bodies (F4s, F90x w/MB-10 grip, F801, F80 w/MB-16 grip, F70 and an EM or F501 for casual shooting), and keep only two Canon bodies – my EOS-A2 w/VG-10 grip and one EOS Elan body.  That’s probably still too many…. aarrghhh!

Other SLR Cameras

Minolta made wonderful manual-focus cameras and lenses, and I particularly love my Minolta X-700 cameras as these were the best bodies that Minolta made (except for the professional and extremely rare XK, a.k.a. XM in other markets).

The classic Minolta X-700

The classic Minolta X-700

My son David has started to get interested in the Minolta X-370 I gave him some years ago, so I’m likely to give him the better X-700 and other Minolta bodies, so he can shoot a few types of film concurrently.  I have so far limited my non-Nikon and non-Canon SLRs to just Minolta equipment, and frankly I feel that Minolta equipment is often not given its proper dues, as they’re tough, great quality and the Minolta lenses are excellent… to my eye very, very close if not equal to Nikon and Canon lenses.

Classic Rangefinder cameras

I have collected a number of classic Rangefinder cameras, such as the remarkably adept (and amazingly sharp) Yashica Electro 35 GSN/GTNseries, and the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s.

Classic Yashica Electro 35-series Rangefinders - Amazing Lenses, spot-on metering!

Classic Yashica Electro 35-series Rangefinders – Amazing Lenses, spot-on metering!

If anyone ever tells you that you need a high-tech camera and the best of current lens technology to get a really sharp, contrasty and well-exposed image, get him to try using one of these beautiful relics from the 60’s and early 70’s (and prove himself dead wrong!)

I will very likely try to keep one of each of these… they’re charming, and shooting B&W film in one of these beauties feels somehow transcendent and totally appropriate to its roots.

Another amazing (because it is so very tiny) rangefinder is the Olympus XA camera, which isn’t much larger than a deck of cards and can readily slip into a breast pocket.  Truly a marvel of engineering, and the photos taken with one of these have to be seen to be believed. Sharp, sharp, sharp!  I have two XA’s and an XA2 (its zone-focus brother). I may keep one XA, just because they’re so cute.

Olympus XA – Tiny, breaks the rules of physics by having a lens-to-film-plane distance shorter than the focal length of the lens.

The XA in the hand - tiny and perfect
The Olympus XA in the hand… a tiny, perfect jewel

High-Functionality Point-and-Shoot cameras

Among the numerous Point and Shoot (P&S) cameras I have, one has a place of pride in my heart – the relatively rare Nikon TW Zoom 150 (also called Zoom Touch 800?).  This is definitely not a pocket camera, as it’s about the size (and nearly the weight) of a brick.  However, in terms of functionality, lens quality (ED glass in the objective), flash power and overall capabilities, this is about as close as a P&S camera comes to being a SLR.  The only drawback… the shutter has a maximum speed of 1/300th of a second.  I love this thing!  The lens is a jewel, the exposure is spot on, the flash is strong enough for almost anything reasonable.  The nice lady out west who sold it to me most graciously agreed to let me pay additional for a roll of film that she would shoot of her ranch full of Icelandic ponies.  I have a soft spot for all things Icelandic, and I think these ponies are amazing.  When I got the camera with the roll of film still inside (rewound), I sent the roll out for processing and the photos were great – perfectly exposed, perfectly sharp… really amazing.

Nikon TW Zoom 150 - most competent P&S camera (possibly ever)

Nikon TW Zoom 150 – most competent P&S camera (possibly ever)


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