I’ve lost count of how many cameras I own, but it must be more than 100.
When I thought of myself as a camera collector, that wasn’t a problem. I envisioned displaying them in glass-fronted barrister bookcases all over my home. I was going to be that strange old man who lived alone with all those cameras.
I don’t even like using some of the cameras I own. Something about each one attracted me enough to buy it. But as I put film through many of them, the romance ended. I didn’t enjoy using them, or I didn’t like the images I got from them, or both.
And I’ve gained so much experience as a photographer that cameras I enjoyed when I shot them many years ago might not please me now.
What’s the point of continuing to own cameras I won’t use?
And so it begins: Operation Thin the Herd, in which I systematically work my way to owning just the cameras I enjoy and will use again and again.
For each camera I own, I will first hold it in my hands. Does holding it make me want to shoot it? If not, I will give it away or sell it.
Otherwise, I will immediately put a roll of film into it and start shooting it.
If shooting it, or seeing the resulting images, makes me feel joy, I will keep it. Otherwise, I will give it away or sell it. Then I’ll repeat the process on the next camera in my collection.
When I’ve done this with all of my cameras, I will review those that survived. If they number more than I can reasonably store, the difficult work begins: evaluating which of them I believe I will realistically use at least once every 12 to 18 months. Those that don’t clear that bar, I will reluctantly give away or sell.
There will be exceptions.
Several cameras have been given to me as special gifts or have sentimental value. They will remain.
I own more than one of a few cameras. If one of them brings joy in use, I’ll keep only one.
I am likely to keep an SLR body for every major lens mount, so that when I find an interesting lens I will be able to try it.
And a select few cameras might stay just because they’re iconic or marvels of engineering. (I’m looking at you, Polaroid SX-70!)
This does not mean this blog is taking a hiatus on camera reviews. I own several cameras I’ve yet to shoot and will find time to work them in. And I will continue to buy and try old cameras. I’ll just keep only the ones that bring me joy.
The one thing I haven’t decided yet is how to give away or sell the unwanted cameras. eBay is an obvious option. But I’ve sold cameras there before and don’t enjoy how much time and effort it takes, especially for what little money most of my cameras bring. If you have ideas, let me know.
I will blog about every camera I shoot during Operation Thin the Herd. I’ve already evaluated the first camera, a medium-format box camera; that post is written and that camera is a keeper. Film is in the second camera now, a well-regarded compact rangefinder. 12 frames in, it’s not bringing me joy. It’s days are likely numbered.
I’ll be at this for a good long while — two or three years, I’m sure. So keep coming back to see Operation Thin the Herd’s progress.
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