Collecting Users [2006]

I have, quite accidentally, amassed a small collection of cameras and photographic equipment. For the most part almost everything I own is a user and not a shelf queen, however, I'd be lying if I said that I used all the cameras I own regularly.

My problem is that I can't pass up a bargain and, with the digital revolution in full swing, modest film equipment is going for very small money. I anticipate that there will be a backlash at some point in the future when enthusiasts experience some seller's remorse about their old film equipment that they sold to buy their all-singing and all-dancing DSLR. It will also be interesting to see how many of today's DSLR's are still being used and are called classics 10 years from now. I bought into the now 'obsolete' Olympus OM system in the summer on 1986. At that time my OM-2 spot/program was the height of understated, elegant sophistication. Today it is still the camera I pick up when I want to use a 35mm SLR.

Prices for many of the consumer rangefinders that I love continue to fall. A year or two ago a nice XA cost $100. With interest in film falling it is not hard to now find a working XA for $50. I just picked up a near mint Canonet G-III QL for $40 from the local classifieds complete with it's original flash and yet it seems like only yesterday that I was hunting for one on eBay without success. Prices for high end, collectable and cult items will always remain strong (we won't be seeing $50 Leicas or fast Zuiko lenses going begging on eBay any day soon) but at the consumer / enthusiast end of the spectrum there are bargains to be had. One thing the camera industry doesn't publisize that much is the advances in film technology it has made in the last decade. It's a quiet revolution compared to the digital one but contrast, latitude, range , speeds, color accuracy and saturation have all improved. To experience these benefits you don't a new fangled camera; just load your old camera with new film.

Don't get me wrong; I am no Luddite. I love digital cameras too; I do the majority of my shooting straight to digital and all of my darkroom work is now done on my PC. I do like to experiment and explore though. Picking up a fixed lens rangefinder makes you shoot in a wholly different way than with a whiz-bang digicam with its super zoom. The character of each camera changes your working practices slightly and makes you think in a bit of a different way and those new challenges help to keep me from feeling stagnant. I do understand that my love of cameras and equipment contradictorily has the potential to come in the way of my development as a photographer but sometimes I can't help myself. The draw of leather, chrome, brass and glass is difficult to resist.


Martin, I must admit I can't resist either. Collector cameras in excellent condition will always be good investments in my opinion and there are amazing opportunites now. I work digital, collect cameras and once in a while make pictures with non-digital cameras like the Leica Z2X which makes outstanding pictures and can be picked up for peanuts now. As it turns out, I have excellent investment results from collecting vintage cameras.

Posted by: Peter Kroezen at July 31, 2006 11:03 AM
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