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Friday, September 7

Thinning the herd



Konica FS-1 and 21mm f4 Hexanon - should they stay or should they go?

Sometimes I think life would be easier if survival of the fittest applied to cameras - at least when you have too many. Whilst I slept, a battle would rage between 35mm SLRs and rangefinders until, come the morning, only a couple survived. The rest hadn't just disappeared, though, but had been converted into their Ebay cash equivalent by the photographic tooth fairy.

Since that scenario isn't on the cards, I'm going to have to do some thinking because I've built up an obscene amount of film camera gear over the past five years and most of it is going to have to go. In my defence, it hasn't cost a lot - in fact, some of it has been a steal - and I'll make a tidy profit when I sell it.. I started buying 35mm cameras and lenses around the time their value bottomed out. During my teens and early 20s, I never really had the money to splash out on my favourite SLRs, mainly from the Contax line but including a couple from Olympus, Nikon, Minolta and Pentax. And then, just about overnight it seemed, all of these cameras became affordable as people sold off their film equipment and moved to digital. Cameras that cost £200 to £300 when I lusted after them were suddenly available for £20. What could I do but buy a few of them?


For some reason I've never been interested in Canon even though the A1 was the first new 35mm SLR I bought. As a junior reporter, I saved up money from my first couple of pay cheques and bought the camera and standard lens for around £300 if I remember. That was a hell of a lot of money in 1980 but the A1 was a technological tour de force. I was working in a district office at the time and doubled as a Press photographer putting the A1 to good use in preference to the Mamiya SLR the company supplied to the districts. Sadly, I never took to the Canon at all and was never quite able to figure out why. I sold it after six months and bought a Mamiya C330F instead, a camera I loved. My first camera purchase, in case you're interested, was a black OM1 with 50mm f1.4 Zuiko which I bought at 18 with my wages after working for three weeks for the local parks department before heading off to university. I still reckon the OM1 is one of the greatest cameras ever made.

Anyway, back to the current dilemma. I've decided to simplify life and get rid of stuff that I just don't use enough to justify owning. That would be easy if there weren't so many candidates for auction. Here's a list from memory (it might be a bit longer but certainly isn't shorter):

Olympus OM1, OM2 (x2, black and silver), OM2SP, OM40, OM20
Pentax MX, ME Super, Super A, Program A, MZ5N, MZ5, Spotmatic
Minolta XE-7, XD7, XG2, Hi Matic 9, Hi Matic 7s
Nikon F90x, Nikkormat FT2
Konica FS-1, TC, T3 (x2 black and silver), Autoreflex A, Hexar AF
Contax 137MD, 137MD
Yashica FR1, 35CC.

Confession IS good for the soul. I feel a lot better now I've got that lot off my chest. Of course, that's only the start as I've got lots of lenses associated with those cameras. The whole collection fills about six camera bags and three drawers in my darkroom. And the list doesn't include the likes of my three Rollei TLRs, Voigtlander TLR and the SL66E. You can probably see the reason I'd like to slim things down a little.

Now here's the difficult bit: I love nearly all of those cameras! There are some that can go tomorrow, such as the OM20 and OM40, because I never really bought them but rather picked them up as part of an outfit. But, overall, it's like being asked which of your children you'd like to keep. I know some of you reading this will be thinking, "What's he on about: that's not a lot of cameras", but I can assure you we are in the minority. Most photographers I know have a couple, maybe three or four, and that's it.


My initial thoughts are that I'll hold onto the OM1 and black OM2, the XE-7, MX and my Contax SLRs which are now my main 35mm outfit. I'll never be without an OM1 and, had I bought an MX as my first camera, I might even place it above the Olympus. I have a lovely, black Konica T3 camera but it suffers from that model's Achilles heel - a shutter that prefires just as the wind on lever is returning to base.

It doesn't happen all the time but completely at random which, if anything, makes it worse. I might shoot a roll without it occurring and then it will happen 15 times in a row on the next film. There is a work-around which involves winding on with the lens cap in place and, should it prefire, reset the shutter using the multi exposure facility without advancing the film. I could have it repaired and overhauled at a cost of £150+ but that's a bit steep for a camera that cost me just £25 and I'd need to send it to Konica expert Greg Weber in the US. The OMs, MX and XE-7 wouldn't see a lot of use but I'd put a film or two through each one every year just to keep them ticking over. The OMs and MX have all recently been serviced so should be good for a long time.

The great sell-off is something I've been meaning to do for a while. It's been brought to a head by my desire to get the darkroom back into shape for printing. If you're a regular reader, you might remember that it's being used as a storeroom just now and is out of commission? Well, I've launched a new bid to reclaim it and it would help matters if I could free up as much space as possible by finding new homes for some brass and glass. It might take a couple of weeks to sort everything out but I'm determined to get printing again so Ebay beware.


5 comments :

Jan Moren said...

I would keep either the Pentax MX or ME Super and a couple of lenses, simply because they're classics. In the same manner, I'd pick one significant exponent (and most liked by yourself) of each camera line and keep it as a collectors item.

I don't have as many cameras as you (yet to push 20 bodies), but I figure that any camera I feel like taking out and use every few years more than justifies its place in my closet.

Dave said...

I have a penchant for Olympus. My first 'proper' camera was a OM10... always like the OM1 though. I'm thinking of scaling down too! My ideal would be a Leica and a Rolleiflex...oh, and maybe a Pentax 67 and... :-)

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

Jan,

I'm thinking along your lines. The bulk of my 35mm gear will be going but I'll keep a few favourites and one or two lenses for each.

Dave,

I had an M2 and M3 years ago and they were lovely to hold and use but they didn't produce results that were noticeably better than my Nikon SLR. I suppose I still have a hankering for another Leica M but they're way out of my price range now. I did think of getting an R6 for a while. I haven't handled one but it looks as if it would be hard to beat from a build quality point of view.

Neal said...

What is your ebay ID? I may be interested in keeping an eye on a couple of those auctions!

not that I don't have enough cameras already!! between my brother and I we have over 50.. but hey.. it's a passion.

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

Hi Neal,

I'm doublebutted, not a reference to my backside (although it could be!), but to lightweight steel bike frame tubing. Don't ask...