I may have lost my mind a little

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I bought very few old cameras last year as I focused on shooting my Nikon F2. But as 2014 ended, I kind of went a little nuts. Call it unslaked gear thirst. Last year’s Nikon adventures showed me that I really enjoy shooting SLRs, so that’s mostly what I’ve been buying.

I know I’ve said that I’m more a photographer than a camera collector now. But I still like trying out old gear and sharing my experience with you. So now, instead of keeping every camera I try, I’ll be selling all but the ones I like most and that I’ll shoot again.

Queued up:

  • Kodak 35. I’ve wanted one of these for a long time and I finally found one at a price I was willing to pay. It’s a 35mm viewfinder camera with a 51mm f/4.5 Kodak Anastigmat lens. I’ve got a roll of black-and-white film in it now. I’m more charmed by its pop-up viewfinder than I am annoyed by its odd and awkward shutter release.
  • Canon EOS 630. After shooting Nikon all last year, I’ve become Canon curious. Early EOS cameras are cheap and plentiful. I’ve got black-and-white film in it now. This one came with a 35-80mm zoom lens, but I’m shopping for a 50mm f/1.8 lens as I feel at home with 50mm primes. They’re a little pricey because they clip right onto all of Canon’s modern DSLRs.
  • Canon EOS 650. This is the first EOS camera. I really shouldn’t have bought it as it’s not that much different from the 630.
  • Canon AL-1. Canon edged toward autofocus with this 1982 camera. You twist the lens’s focusing ring, and a focusing aid reads contrast and lights an LED in the viewfinder when it thinks the subject is in focus. This camera came with a 28mm f/3.5 lens. The AL-1 takes FD-mount lenses, so the 50mm f/1.8 I have on my AE-1 will clip right onto this camera. The battery door latch is broken, but apparently that’s this camera’s Achilles heel and it’s hard to find an unbroken one. I’ll tape the door closed when I shoot it.
  • Sears KS Super II. Sears white-labeled Ricoh SLRs in the 80s. It is an aperture-priority-only camera with a Sears-branded Ricoh 50mm f/2 lens. This is a K-mount camera, so all of my SMC Pentax-M glass will clip right on. When I shoot this, I might alternate between this lens and my 50mm f/2 Pentax-M lens. Lens smackdown!
  • Pentax ES II. This is essentially the last Spotmatic, and it offered open-aperture metering with SMC Takumar lenses. A 42mm screw-mount camera, this one came with an f/3.5 135mm SMC Takumar lens. Super Takumar lenses (like the 50mm prime I have on my Spotmatic) require stopping down to meter. I bought this camera mostly to get that 135mm lens, but now that I have the body I’m shopping for a 50mm SMC Takumar too so I can shoot 50mm without stopping down.

Two cameras didn’t make this photo:

  • Canon T70. I’ve been curious about the plastic fantastic T series for a while and got a good bargain on this one. It came with an FD 50mm f/1.8 lens. I’ve already put a test roll through this camera; review forthcoming.
  • Minolta Maxxum 7000. It’s the first autofocus 35mm SLR ever. (Believe it or not, the Polaroid SX-70 was the first autofocus SLR.) A Maxxum AF 50mm f/1.7 lens came with it.

These cameras ought to keep me busy for months. Meanwhile, I still want to keep film in my Nikons, both F2 and F3, and use them as my primary cameras. Now if the weather would just warm up enough for me to want to get out and shoot.


37 responses to “I may have lost my mind a little”

  1. Victor Bezrukov, photographer Avatar

    The meaning of use this amount of different cameras (i even dont talk about bigger anount of lens possibilities) is to not to know the real possibility of eaxh one of them. Knowing of the sweet spoot of them and different specific features os the key to the better photography. Of course in terms of photography.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Clearly you haven’t been reading this blog for long. Trying out old cameras is something I do. It’s fun. Sure, intimacy with your gear can lead to better work.

      1. Victor Bezrukov, photographer Avatar

        I see ! Thank you for response

  2. Richard Armstrong Avatar
    Richard Armstrong

    If you are really Canon curious you should get a T90 it makes the T70 seem like a toy after using it(I’m not knocking the T70 but the T90 was such a quantum leap forward) , the T90’s DNA is still there in the current range of Canon EOS digitals.

    I know what you mean about shooting SLR’s, even though I have several rangefinders to choose from including interchangable lens models the 35mm SLR is my true love.

    I’m sure you will like the Pentax ESII when you try it, I feel very lucky that I was able or own or use many different SLR’s in the 70’s & 80’s when they were new or close to it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The T90 is the pro body, right? Maybe I’ll find one in good nick at a good price one day.

      I have a few really enjoyable rangefinders — my Canonet QL17 GIII, my Minolta Hi-Matic 7, and my Yashica Electro 35 GSN come to mind. When I started all of this a bunch of years ago I intended to focus on rangefinders. But then I got my first SLR and learned that I was born to shoot them.

      I liked the Spotmatic except for the stopping down, which the ES II eliminates (when using SMC Takumar lenses), so I’m looking forward to enjoying it.

      1. Richard Armstrong Avatar
        Richard Armstrong

        The T90 was really for advanced amateurs but many pros used them as well. Canon’s pro camera’s pre EOS were the F1 in 1971 and the the new F1(marked F1 same as the original) in around 1976. The original F1 and it’s upgrades are all mechanical and of course take all the fabulous FD lenses( well most of them, there are a couple of dogs in there).

        If you get a chance to to try either version of the F1 give them a go they will give your Nikon F4 a run for its money.

        I’m a fan of the Canonet QL17GIII also, the Olympus 35RC is another favorite also.

        My pick of Rangefinder camera’s are the Canon P and Canon 7s but being interchangeable lens rangefinders they don’t come cheap, and the lens prices are mindblowing.

        I understand your views on the ESII and yes I did appreciate open aperture metering when I got my first ES, but it wasn’t a deal breaker as I had had Spotmatics since 1968 and stopped down metering was the norm. The big deal for me was automatic exposure. Looking forward to your reports on the ESII and the T70

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I’m a little younger than you, I’m pretty sure, as I was still in diapers in 1968. I came of age at a time of auto-everything cameras. But I didn’t really start shooting seriously until call it 10 years ago and what really brought me pleasure was cameras like the Pentax K1000 — mechanical but with easy metering.

          I haven’t tried the interchangeable-lens rangefinders precisely because of breathtaking lens prices.

          Report on the T70 is next week.

  3. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    Perhaps just a little! Glad you picked up a Pentax ESII, it’s a great camera. The stopping-down of non-SMC lenses can get a bit annoying at times, but I’ve found that if you can remember, it does pretty well. I’ve had several pretty good recent pics on my site that were taken with my 135mm Super-Takumar. At least with the ESII you can set the stop-down switch and forget about it, makes it alright if you’re shooting indoors at near-open apertures. I’d say even if you don’t have any SMC lenses yet, there’s no reason why you can’t still try it out! :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I do have that SMC Takumar 135 on the ES II, and I just last night won an auction for a 50mm f/1.8 Super Multi Coated Takumar, so I think I’m going to be set. That ES II looks really soliid. Haven’t put batteries in it yet to check the meter but the seller claimed a working meter. I’ve got film iin a couple other cameras at the moment so the ES II can wait for the 50mm to arrive!

  4. Bob Avatar

    I had the same problem except I have been buying Argus cameras and a few other made in the USA cameras. After using them I found there is a reason (actually a lot of reasons) why people moved on to other cameras. I started with SLRs and have moved to rangefinders except when I need an SLR. Have fun trying them out.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s interesting to use Argus and other older cameras to understand where photography was when those cameras were new. It’s also fun to get good images from such cameras. One old camera that I just love to shoot is my Kodak No. 2 Brownie, a 100-year-old box. WIth Ektar 100 loaded, it takes wonderful photographs. But it’s no modern SLR.

  5. Dick Davis Avatar

    You’ve helped me lose my mind too. I’ve purchased several old Nikons and have my eye on a Honeywell Spotmatic at Roberts. Where are you usually looking for used goods? I’m not too inclined to buy many more, but if the right camera and/or lens would pop up, I’d go for it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I buy almost entirely on eBay. I haven’t made it down to Roberts to check their selection.

  6. charles Avatar

    I had a canon AE1 around 1981. it cost me with accessories about $375. that was a lot of money for me and i had to charge it. I loved that camera and I took pictures of everything. when they came out with the 1 hour photo it would cost me about $15 for 36 pictures. Its so much cheaper today and you can take 1000’s of pictures and decide which one to print. I bought a black and white darkroom kit and used to develop them in my bathroom. It was so much more exciting for me back then. now i have 1000’s of pictures on my computer that i never look at.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The AE-1 is very good. I have one and enjoy using it. You know, i think that if film and processing had been essentially free 30 years ago we might all have thousands of pics in shoe boxes that we never look at.

  7. Christopher Smith Avatar
    Christopher Smith

    Nice set of cameras Jim enjoy them. I just picked up an nice Spotmatic F with a smc 1.8 takumar lens at my local charity shop.I have the T50, T70, and T90 but like you I still like to use my Nikon F4s as my main camera.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The Nikon F4 is all the camera you’ll ever need, I’m sure! My review of my T70 is coming up next week.

  8. pesoto74 Avatar

    Nice assortment of cameras. I think you will be pleased when you find a Canon EOS 50mm f/1.8 lens. I think it is probably the best auto focus lens that you can get for the money.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Those 50mm f/1.8 lenses are not available at bargain prices, I’m finding. I’m thinking I may spend $70 or $80 to get one. It’s making me waver. The thing I’m telling myself is that I’m unlikely to want to invest further in EOS equipment, and may just sell it all again and recoup my outlay.

      1. pesoto74 Avatar

        I think I paid around $90 when I bought one a few years ago. I remember thinking it was cheap because I was used to paying at least a few hundred for auto focus lenses for digital. My mindset has changed considerably since I started buying old film camera lenses. I know it is possible to find the fd version of this lens for less than $20.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Yeah, the FD lenses go for cheap because the EF lenses superseded them and can still be used on the modern EOS DSLRs. It’s a boon for those of us who like the older equipment.

  9. Mike Avatar

    Just picked up a Kodak 35 on ebay with the 4.5 Special. I’m looking forward to comparing notes.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Another one? Isn’t this your third? :-)

  10. bwc1976 Avatar

    I know what you mean about the older SLR’s. When I took my first photography class in college in 1997 and finally had an excuse to buy an SLR, I made the mistake of wanting it to cover all the same bases as my Olympus Stylus Zoom point-and-shoot (not realizing that any time I felt like bringing an SLR with me, I’d still have room to bring my Stylus as well for the situations that needed autofocus or flash) and insisted on a brand new Canon EOS Rebel G with 28-80 and 80-200 zooms, autofocus, and built in flash. But after a while (and especially during a dark Minnesota winter) I got bored with the limitations of those lenses and the appliance-like feel of the Rebel, and traded the whole kit for a used Minolta X-700 and 50mm f1.7 lens, and I had a lot more fun because its capabilities complemented the point-and-shoot camera I had instead of trying to reproduce them, plus its vintage look and feel (and smell!). I recommend everyone own and learn to use a “nifty 50” before they knock it. Later on I added a 28mm f2.8 lens, and that made my Minolta kit just about perfect for any situation except street candids from a distance (where the autofocus and 80-200 lens on my Rebel excelled, as long as the light outside was good enough).

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes. Any reasonable manufacturer’s SLR and a 50mm at least f/2 is the perfect place to start in 35mm SLR photography. The X-700 was a great choice. I have one, now non-operative unfortunately, and while it lasted it was a wonderful machine.

  11. nobbyknipst Avatar

    I lost my mind a little bit more inbetween… ;-) I just try, witch one is my greatest love. In the moment it’s the Konica Autoreflex T3 and Auto S3. The others are waiting patiently for the test.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Good thing cameras know how to wait!

  12. Richard Armstrong Avatar
    Richard Armstrong

    Just caught up with your review on the Canon T70, I’m pleased you found it a pleasure to use, as I said before I got one not long after they were released in the mid 80’s, at the time I was using the Canon F1 & A1(much nicer camera than the AE-1 IMHO), the T70 was no A1 or F1 but I found I used it a lot and it became my carry everywhere camera, feature I liked the most was the built in winder, I almost always used it in shutter priority mode, my favorite mode on any camera as I can adjust the speed to get the depth of field I want. It got little use after I got the T90 as it was such a giant leap forward in fact it was Canon preparing for the EOS series to come soon after.
    There was an autofocus T series Canon the T80, a horrible camera I feel, the autofocus mechanism was in the limited range of autofocus lenses for it.
    Enjoying your post’s.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’d like to experience both the F1 and the A1. They’re on my short list.

      I’ve never warmed up to shutter priority. I cut my autoexposure teeth on aperture priority and that’s just how I think. But at least shutter priority didn’t get in my way when I shot the T70.

      1. Richard Armstrong Avatar
        Richard Armstrong

        I hope you get to experience in the F1 & A1 near future I’m sure you won’t be disapointed, do put the T90 on your wish list it’s an absolute joy to use. If I was in the States I’d lend you mine to try but being on the otherside of the world that’s impractical.

        I guess my preference for shutter speed priority comes from doing lot’s of action photography mainly Motorsports where a high shutter speed is crucial to freeze action and minimize shake(unless doing pan shot’s where a slow shutter speed is required).

        Coming from a background of non auto or even meterless cameras using my trusty Weston Master, I guess using shutter speed priority is also a natural way of doing things, I just hate auto modes. Everybody to their own. Now to search ebay for some more Miranda’s to add to my collection, another SLR for your to try some time.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I just got a Miranda Sensorex II in fine condition. Looking forward to shooting it!

          1. Richard Armstrong Avatar
            Richard Armstrong

            Looking forward to reading your thoughts, is it your first Miranda?, they were innovators with their exchangeable finders,early adopters of built in meters and other features like their dual lens mount. I feel that their biggest downfall was that Miranda did not make their own lenses and most were sourced from Soligor who along with Miranda were owed by Allied Impec Corporation in later years. Soligor did not manufacture their own lenses either and sourced them from a variety of makers according to the research I have done, the waters are very muddy after all these years. While the lenses are very good most are not quite in the Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Takumar, Olympus, Topcon(who have I missed??) league.
            If you are looking for interchangable finders for your Sensorex II be careful as the ones for the Sensorex/Automex will not fit nor will those for the T,S,ST, A,B,C,D,DR,F,Fv,G etc, you need finders made specifically for the Sensorex II/Sensorex EE, Miranda lenses can be had for peanuts these days on ebay if you spend a bit of time looking, for the Sensorex II you need the same lenses as the earlier Sensorex’s with the arm to connect to the aperture control. Have fun with it.

        2. Jim Grey Avatar

          I’m going to shoot mine as is, with the 50mm f/1.8 lens that came with it and the finder that’s on it. The camera’s solidity and precision surprises me.

  13. pj931 Avatar

    Your blog has really motivated me to buy a rangefinder. I had a small encounter with one when a guy threw in a Canonet QL17 with an FTb I bought. It had more fungus than I’d ever seen but it took great photos. Sadly, the latch on the cameras back doesn’t engage when the rewind fork is pulled up. I was actually thinking about starting my own blog! I can really sympathize with you about the cold… I live in CT. Happy Ebay trolling!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hey, glad to know I’ve been a bad influence! :-) If you come upon a better-working QL17 you should buy it, as it is a delightful camera.

  14. Szilvia Avatar

    You could always just tell people that you like to have 8 different types of film on the go at the same time and therefore need so many film cameras :-)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I like the way you think! :-)

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