Broken cameras

20 comments on Broken cameras
3 minutes

You can’t buy as many old cameras as I do and not get a few duds.


Sometimes I buy a camera because it looks to be a bargain. Such was the case with this Agfa Super Silette from 1955. I picked it up for five bucks plus shipping several years ago, and when it arrived nothing on it worked – not the rangefinder, not the focusing mechanism, not the shutter, not anything. You can’t even turn the aperture ring. I’m not sure why I haven’t just thrown this camera away!


This Canon AF35M came in a box of old cameras I got for five dollars a couple years ago. (My related Canon AF35ML was in that box, too.) Produced from 1979 to 1983, it is an early autofocus and autoexposure point-and-shoot camera. I was looking forward to experiencing its f/2.8 lens. But its motorized film winder is busted, rendering the camera useless. I’m not sure why I keep this one, either.


I know why I keep this one, a Kodak Automatic 35F from 1962-1966. I had one in my first camera collection, and I enjoyed it immensely when I took it on a solo trip to explore the hills of Tennessee. I liked it so much that when I started collecting again in 2006, I bought this camera first. When I got around to shooting with it, I discovered that the film pressure plate had come off. Kodak had attached it with a piece of sticky foam, which had disintegrated. One of these days I’ll scrape off all the residue and reattach the pressure plate with new foam.


The remaining broken cameras are all 2012 purchases. I got this 1972 Yashica TL-Electro for ten bucks. The seller advertised it as working perfectly, but when I fired the shutter the mirror stuck in the up position and I can’t get it to come back down. The seller cheerfully refunded my money and told me not to bother returning the camera. I researched the problem online and found someone else who experienced this problem. His repair involved taking off the bottom plate and carefully squirting a few drops of solvent into just the right places. Bleagh. And then a couple days later I stumbled across another TL-Electro body on eBay for just five dollars. You can probably guess the rest: I now have two TL-Electros with the same problem. Knowing me, I’ll never get around to fixing either camera. At least I got a nice 50 mm f/2 Yashinon screw-mount lens for my trouble.


I have wanted a 1968 Yashica Lynx 14E for years because of its lens. With seven elements in five groups, its maximum aperture is a whopping f/1.4! Very, very few rangefinder cameras boast a lens that lets in so much light. Yet this one arrived with a stuck shutter. I’m sure a couple drops of lighter fluid, carefully applied, will loosen this shutter right up. Thing is, I have so many working cameras I haven’t shot yet, and the allure of just dropping some film into them keeps pushing this camera’s repair to the back of my to-do list.


Sometimes I stumble upon an interesting eBay listing in its final seconds and make an impulse bid without closely reading the listing. Such was the case with this 1966-1969 Kodak Retina S1, which represents the end of Kodak’s made-in-Germany Retina line. It was filthy upon arrival; I cleaned it up before photographing it. Its winder works very roughly, and I’m unsure whether it will function  at all with film inside. After the camera arrived in this condition, I went back and read the listing – which described the camera’s condition accurately. So I got what I paid for!

I figure I have about 75 cameras now. That only six of them don’t work means my success rate is 92%!

Do you want to see my old cameras that actually work? Then click here!

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20 responses to “Broken cameras”

  1. Tori Nelson Avatar

    6 out of 75 ain’t bad!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Well, depends on the context. If you’re buying, I don’t know, airplanes ….

  2. Richard Avatar

    Broken Cameras, Broken Dreams,

    It’s probably worth even more blog posts.

    I have 30 35mm cameras in the basement in my “man cave” awaiting a Craigslist sale. It’s an attempt to thin my growing supply of cameras. But among those cameras are a few 100 year old cameras that at least open up. Those I’ll keep.

    Purchased a Yashica Lynx 14e in southern Wisconsin at a re-sale shop for $15. I almost jerked my neck when I saw the “goggle eyed” lens in a display cabinet. Luckily the owner didn’t see my re-action. As it turned out, the camera had 3 problems that I could fix. He asked $30, I showed him the problems and negotiated to $15. A repaired beauty.


    1. Jim Avatar

      I love those $15-and-quick-fix buys. Hopefully my 14e ends up being a quick fix too.

      1. Richard Avatar

        It was missing a film winder, had a slight imperfection on the lens (fungus?) and the bottom of the case was mangled. I cannibalized a broken Yashica Electro GSN for the film winder and a better case. I’ll live the tiny fungus.
        I later learned the meter doesn’t work with a batter (bummer) but the shutter speeds work perfectly.
        I think I’ll blog about my Yashica Lynx 14e on my new blog :)

  3. Jennifer S Avatar

    Maybe it’s just me… but I think they’re so interesting to look at. I wouldn’t mind the ones that don’t work. I’d sit them on a shelf and make a display.

    1. Jim Avatar

      That would be true for me if I had only a dozen cameras or so, but with 75 of them in a small house, something’s got to give!!

  4. ryoko861 Avatar

    They’re still really cool looking and “pretty” even if they don’t function correctly.

    1. Jim Avatar

      True. Oh, if I only had a room just for my cameras!

      1. Richard Avatar

        Actually, I do have my “man cave” for my cameras. We also have two extra bedrooms now that the kids moved out :)

      2. ryoko861 Avatar

        Where this is a will, there’s a way Jim.

  5. Derek Avatar

    If you decide to throw any “away”, throw it my way.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Sheeeeeoooot, find my e-mail address in one of the comments I left on your blog, e-mail me your address, and I’ll mail you the Super Silette and the AF35M.

      1. Derek Avatar

        I’m on it!

  6. pesoto74 Avatar

    I have a few of those broken cameras too. I tell myself that one day I will get around to working on them, however when I have camera time I have enough cameras that already work that I turn to.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Oh man, exactly the same here. Too many working cameras to have fun with.

  7. Christopher Cocca Avatar

    Love these!

    1. Jim Avatar

      They all need some love to be useful again.

  8. Bernie Kasper Avatar

    This post reminds me of my wife’s shoe collection she just can’t get enough lol !!

    1. Jim Avatar

      It’s a sickness, I tell you!

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