Collecting Cameras

Nearing the end of Operation Thin the Herd

I’m in the home stretch, with just a few more cameras to evaluate in Operation Thin the Herd.

I didn’t count cameras before I started, but I’m sure I owned more than 100. As of today, 43 remain in the collection. See my complete inventory here.

Eight of the 43 cameras are new to me and are in my to-shoot queue. They came to me more than a year ago from photographer David Ditta as he shrunk his own extensive collection. (See his collection on his Web site here.) David, if you’re out there, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get to your gear. 2019 to be sure.

Kodak Retina IIc

A few cameras have been “on the bubble,” and I could decide to sell them or give them away at any time. For example, until recently I owned two similar Kodak Retinas, a IIa and a IIc, both wonderful. One belongs in my collection, but I didn’t need both. The IIa has a faster lens, but the IIc offers interchangeable front elements and was owned by the father of an old friend. I was originally not in a hurry to decide, but finally chose to send the IIa to my EMULSIVE Secret Santa recipient as a gift in December.

Polaroid SX-70

Another is this minty Polaroid SX-70. I love this camera and the incredible innovation it represents. It works, but a good CLA would make it perfect. SX-70 CLAs aren’t cheap. I’ve considered splurging on one, but I keep holding back because the available films are stinking expensive and nowhere near as good as the old Polaroid films. I just can’t see myself dumping $150 into a CLA only to get soft, washed out images that themselves cost north of two bucks each. It breaks my heart, but this SX-70 will probably be better going to someone who will use it and love it. Yet I hesitate, because I love the idea of this camera so much.

Kodak Monitor Six-20

Several cameras in my inventory never got a turn in Operation Thin the Herd because there was never any doubt I was keeping them. One of them is my Kodak Monitor Six-20 “Special.” Even though it takes discontinued 620 film, even though the shutter linkage is fussy, I love this camera. It does wonderful work. I will commit to one roll of expensive custom-spooled 620 film in it a year. I just bought some expired Verichrome Pan in 620 for it!

Nikon F2

Another no-brainer keeper is my Nikon F2A, which was a generous gift to my collection. It’s a lovely camera and a capable workhorse, but its meter is fussy. I’m about to ship it to premier Nikon F2 repairman Sover Wong for a CLA and meter repair. It will get regular use forever thereafter.

43 cameras is obviously still more than I can regularly use. While I consider myself more a photographer than a collector now, I am still a collector. Yet only a couple cameras in the collection will remain as display items. I enjoy using all of the rest and will put a roll through them once in a while.

After I wrap up Operation Thin the Herd I’ll start shooting David Ditta’s cameras. I’ll even buy a camera here and there and review it, because I still love the experience of a new-to-me old camera. But mostly I’ll get on with making photographs with my thinned herd, getting to know each camera much better, and becoming a better photographer as a result.

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23 thoughts on “Nearing the end of Operation Thin the Herd

  1. Joshua Fast says:

    I think you and I are on parallel paths this year. I realized at the end of last year i had more cameras than i could realistically enjoy. I made a promise to myself that i would whittle the collection down to just the essentials and sell everything else. The proceeds of the sales i would put into getting the cameras i’m keeping serviced. Let 2019 be simpler for both of us. BTW I had three retinas and my IIC was the only one that made the cut. Good choice! BTW if you ever want to get it serviced look up Chris Sherlock, he is a wizard at making them new again.

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  2. Theron says:

    Following this blog has really made me want to try Pentax, maybe an ME or ME Super. But then you post about thinning the heard and I think that maybe I should just get a second Nikon FE, or maybe an FE2, and stick with a system.

    I’m conflicted! Maybe I should just shoot what I’ve got and leave the rest alone.

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      • Joshua Fast says:

        First class international isn’t that bad. I’ve sent him 2 retinas and a Vitessa. Shipping there takes about a week, costs about 20$ His average turnaround time is about a week and a full service costs around $150USD including shipping back to the US. My IIC was a basket case, wouldn’t advance film, slow speeds were sticking, viewfinder was hazy. It came back brand new.

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      • Victor Villaseñor says:

        I just liked this comment, in virtue that your blog made me take the plunge and nabbed a black ME with its 50mm 1.7 lens, its even smaller than my Minolta XD and the viewfinder is bigger! I shall call it “Jamie”. Currently going tru a 24 exposure roll of Fuji Superia. Oh look at that pancake lens!

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        • The ME is just a ton of fun in a small, light package. It’s not going to be as hardy as your XD I don’t think but it’s such a pleasure to shoot it doesn’t matter.

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  3. DougD says:

    Well, there you go. I thought the answer to everything number was 42, but I guess 43 will do.

    Will you stick to the “one in – one out” rule to hold the number? Being still in the X+1 phase, I am still ready to pull the trigger on an Epiphone Emperor Regent guitar if I can find one locally. However my “guitar embezzlement fund” got spent on snowtires for the minivan, so I am re-building my stash.

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    • I’m not going to have a hard limit on the number of cameras I own. The rule of thumb will be that I will have to believe I will put at least one roll of film through it every 1 to 2 years. Over time, it will prove to be true or not true for every camera I own. The ones where it turns out not to be true, I plan to get rid of.

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  4. It’s been intriguing to follow this series post to post, and very interesting to see your logic evolve as it goes. I think any of us trying to reduce our collection have a kind of base logic or set of rules we try to follow, but then some cameras come along and we manage to bend the rules because we can’t resist them.

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    • I’ve tried not to be too rigid as I’ve gone. But my guidelines have definitely evolved as I’ve moved through this project. I’m sure some cameras I shot early that made the cut would not now.

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      • But that’s why it’s ever evolving. Next time you shoot a camera you haven’t for a while, you might appreciate it in a whole new light, or you might think “why did I ever keep this?”

        I think it’s a sign that we’re still progressing as photographers. :)

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        • Here’s hoping I have no regrets over cameras I’ve jettisoned. Fortunately, most of them can be repurchased for very little money.

          I did buy a new-to-me old camera last week, one I’ve wanted for a long time: an Argoflex Forty. I’ll eventually shoot it — but unlike in the past, if I don’t like it, out it goes.

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        • Yeh there are cameras I’ve bought, tried, sold, regretted it, bought them again and sold them again! Quite a few Pentax K mounts come in this category!

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  5. This has been a fun series! I have my inventory of classic cameras down to a very manageable number now. I now need to concentrate on getting rid of some of my duplicates. For example, it’s hard for me to pass up a nice copy of any of the Spotmatic series. I’ve acquired quite a few nice SPs, SPIIs and SPFs. And I don’t really need that many. ;-)

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    • A little trick to getting good lenses is to look for cameras that take them — people often think the value is in the body, and list the body and throw the lens in. This is how I’ve bought several fine lenses. The “trouble” is that then you have all these spare bodies!

      I never took to stop-down metering. It’s what kept me from buying more SP bodies — until you sold me that delightful F. But to get more screw-mount lenses I can see myself buying more SP bodies. The great thing is that in many cases I’ll be able to just sell the bodies on (after trying them, of course).

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  6. SilverFox says:

    I’m down to 46 and want to get rid of 10 more this year. Some of those are just junk that I struggle to just throw in the bin (trash), in hope someone will find a use for them.
    Ahhh…. the Polaroid SX-70, I understand your thoughts there; the thing is just a work of art. I could never justify buying one as (just as you say) they are expensive to run and you need one in tip top condition if you want to use it – but to look at and ‘play’ with; just perfection.

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