It feels weird, but I’m becoming less interested in buying new old cameras. Instead, I want to put more film in my favorite old cameras. I’m starting to enjoy making images more than playing with equipment.
I still troll the auction sites looking for cameras on my to-buy list. But that list has gotten mighty short:
- Canon Canonet – The first Canonet, from 1961, a 35mm aperture-priority rangefinder camera with an f/1.9 lens.
- Rollei 35 – This is among the smallest 35mm cameras ever made, and should be incredibly solidly made.
- Yashica Lynx 14 – A typical large, heavy 1960s 35mm rangefinder, but with an enormous f/1.4 lens.
- Yashica Mat 124 – I loved shooting my similar Yashica-D so much that I think I’d like to have a Mat 124 for its built-in light meter.
- Olympus 35 RC or RD – A small but mighty 35mm rangefinder. The RD has a better lens than the RC.
- Olympus Stylus – The first of the Stylus line, from 1991, it’s a marvel of miniaturization.
- Nikon FE – I want a mostly-mechanical Nikon SLR and this looks like a good compromise.
Some of these cameras (notably the Rollei, the Yashica-Mat, and the Nikon) will cost more than my usual $50 limit. But they will complete my collection, and so I’m willing.
I’m not closed to buying other cameras that charm me. I’m just becoming ever harder to charm.
A number of cameras are in a queue awaiting a test roll and should keep me busy for many months. The best of them are a Pentax Spotmatic SP, a Polaroid SX70, a Kodak Retina Reflex IV, and a pristine Kodak Pony 135 Model C donated by a reader.
But I am finding it hard to wait until I finish shooting all of those before I go back to cameras I want to try again. I have film in my Kodak Monitor right now, for example. I keep eyeing my Olympus Trip 35, my Kodak Brownie Starmatic, my Minolta XG-1, my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK, and others, wanting to shoot with them again.
Maybe some of those cameras will join my vintage-camera inner circle, that set of cameras I really enjoy and will use over and over. Here’s that inner circle today:
- Yashica-D – I have a five-pack of (now discontinued) Kodak Ektachrome E100G chilling in the fridge just for this camera.
- Pentax ME – This is my go-to SLR, and I’m having a great time with the f/1.4 prime lens I recently bought for it.
- Olympus XA – I have film in this one right now. It’s got a great lens and it’s so easy to take along.
- Canon Canonet QL17 G-III – I finally have new light seals to put into this otherwise great performer.
- Polaroid Automatic 250 – I remain charmed by instant photography, and this is the finest Polaroid I’ve used.
Given that I’ve been buying old gear since I was nine years old (with a hiatus and a collection restart during the divorce years), this is a strange transition for me. But I’m looking forward to becoming a better photographer as I shoot the same cameras repeatedly and they become old friends that I know how to handle well.
I can see that nearly forty years of camera collecting has really been about finding a few cameras that I was always meant to use to make images that please me greatly. I’ve just about accomplished that.
Fortunately, shooting film has never been less expensive. Read why.