Collecting Cameras

Operation Thin the Herd: Enjoying the gear I kept

From 2018 to 2020 I slowly got rid of dozens of cameras I seldom used, frequently after putting one more roll through them just to be sure. I called it Operation Thin the Herd. I thought you might like to see a full list of the cameras I’ve kept — all 28 of them. My goal is to use them all regularly, meaning at least once a year.

Agfa Clack: This box camera for 120 film delivers surprisingly crisp images. I don’t actually need this camera, but it’s so fun to use that sometimes I spool some FP4+ or Ektar into it and blow through the roll just for the joy of it. Review here.

Certo Super Sport Dolly: I kept this folding camera for 120 film in part because it belonged to the father of a dear friend, and in part because it’s a pleasure to use. Review here.

Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6: I have only bought a tiny handful of brand new film cameras in my life, and this is one of them. I’m still deciding whether I like it. I haven’t reviewed this camera yet.

Kodak Brownie Starmatic
Kodak Brownie Starmatic

Kodak Brownie Starmatic: I have a soft spot in my heart for 127 film as my first camera took that format. This little 127 camera has a built-in selenium light meter. Review here.

Kodak Monitor Six-20 Anastigmat Special: This is the other folding camera I kept. It takes 620 film, but it’s not hard to respool 120 film onto 620 spools. This camera needs a repair to the shutter linkage, and I’ll have it done someday, because the Anastigmat lens is wonderful. Review here.

Kodak Pony 135 Model C: Every time I use this camera, I’m deeply impressed with the quality of images it returns. It punches way above its weight class. But I vastly prefer any of my SLRs for the kind of work I do with the Pony. I use it so seldom that it might not keep its place in my stable. Review here.

Konica Auto S2: I enjoyed this rangefinder camera for 35mm film more than any other classic rangefinder I tried, and I tried a lot of them. I’m far more an SLR guy than a rangefinder guy, but this one merits an annual outing. Review here.

Minolta Maxxum 7000i: I only need one Maxxum body, but I own two because they are both brilliant. I may shed one of them someday, but darned if I can decide which. Review here.

Minolta Maxxum HTsi: I only need one Maxxum body, but I own two because they are both brilliant. I may shed one of them someday, but darned if I can decide which. Review here.

Nikon F2
Nikon F2A

Nikon F2A: I love my Nikon F2s for their incredible build quality. I sent this F2A to Sover Wong in 2020 for an overhaul and now this camera is like new again. Review here.

Nikon F2AS: When this F2AS came to me in 2014, it had recently been overhauled by Sover Wong. The meter head has quit working, so it needs to go back to him. Review here.

Nikon F3: This is the one camera I’d keep if I could keep only one. It’s solid as a tank and offers aperture-priority mode, my favorite way to shoot. Its meter isn’t reading right now, so I need to send it for repair. Review here.

Nikon FA: This, the most technologically advanced manual-focus 35mm SLR Nikon ever made, keeps a tenuous spot in my stable. I just don’t use it very much. While I like it, as I have other SLRs I enjoy more. Review here.

Nikon N90s: I got rid of almost all of my other auto-everything 35mm SLRs becuase this one is so great. Review here.

Olympus OM-1
Olympus OM-1

Olympus OM-1: This belonged to the father of a dear friend. I like my OM-2n better, but this OM-1 is delightful in its own right. Review here.

Olympus OM-2n: This camera is my second choice, after my Nikon F3, for the one camera I’d keep if I could keep only one. It’s brilliant, and small, and lightweight. The Zuiko lenses are sublime. Review here.

Olympus Stylus: This little point-and-shoot is fun to use and delivers the goods. I like to slip it into the saddlebag on my bike so I can photograph interesting things when I ride. Review here.

Olympus XA: My life would not be complete without one of these in the stable. There are wonderful, highly capable little 35mm rangefinder cameras. Review here.

Pentax IQZoom 170SL: This small 35mm point-and-shoot has a sharp deep zoom lens. I don’t use it as often as I thought I would, however. Review here.

Pentax KM: This belonged to one of my closest friends. I had Eric Hendrickson overhaul it this year, and put in a new meter. It’s good go to for another generation. Review here.

Pentax ME
Pentax ME

Pentax ME: I adore this light, small 35mm SLR. I’ve found the bodies not to be hardy, however. The meter in mine recently died even after a 2017 overhaul by Eric Hendrickson. I bought a brown-leather ME SE to replace it. Review here.

Pentax ME-F: This historic 35mm SLR is the first to offer autoexposure. It’s fussy and finicky. I keep it because it’s pristine and a real collector’s item. Review here.

Pentax Spotmatic F: This is the Spotmatic to have because of its open-aperture metering. It’s also a jewel of a 35mm SLR. Review here.

Polaroid SX-70: I have always been attracted to instant photography. This is the one Polaroid camera I’ve kept. I put about one pack through it a year. Review here.

Sears KSX-P: Chinon built this 35mm SLR for Sears, and it’s a peach. I like it a lot, but it’s no better than other cameras I own that I like more, so it is on the bubble in my collection. Review here.

Yashica Lynx 14e
Yashica Lynx 14e

Yashica Lynx 14e: This camera is big, heavy, and slow to use. But oh my gosh, is its lens ever sublime! I keep passing over this camera in favor of the Konica Auto S2, so it might not survive the next thinning of the herd. Review here.

Yashica-D: I love my two Yashica TLRs. I prefer the other one, but this one belonged to the father of a dear friend and is pristine. Review here.

Yashica-12: This is a truly wonderful TLR for 120 film. I reach for it first when I want to shoot medium format. Review here.

I still own a handful of cameras that aren’t on this list, cameras I’ll sell off or give away soon.

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22 thoughts on “Operation Thin the Herd: Enjoying the gear I kept

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    Great List of “Keepers” here. Can’t say enough about the Nikon F2’s here, not that it’s “better” than the F3 (altho with the F3, Nikon finally decided to put the meter in the camera), but because the F2 was the last fully mechanical “pro” built camera of theirs. Some who used it extensively once told me that he had no doubt that in a pinch, a decent watch repair person could fix it no problem.

    Also ditto for the Pentax “Spotties” all being “jewels”. I have a few “K Mount” series Pentaxes, and an old Spotmatic, and still feel there’s something about the fit and feel of the old screw mount bodies that embody everything a manual camera should be.

  2. Michael says:

    Technically, you could say the KM also “belonged to the father of a dear friend.” I think the original purchase receipt from 1975 was in the bag. I just kind of took it over in high school when he stopped taking pictures.

  3. Jim, this is such a varied list! Glad to see two Minoltas made the cut.

    I’ve always been intrigued by Olympus SLRs, but have never tried one. My only non-Minolta cameras are the Yashica Mat 124, Canon Elan EOS 7 and a Nikon N80, all of which are good cameras.

    It’s interesting how one develops an affinity for specific cameras. That I have favorites is somewhat amusing to me. However, it does help when thinning the herd. Last week I bought two 1950s Minolta rangefinders, which after much consideration, I am blaming on the pandemic.

    For anyone interested, here is my take on my Minoltas from the SR-2 to Minolta Freedom 160.

    https://earthsunfilm.com/minolta-love-enjoying-my-toys/

    • I will eventually whittle the Minoltas down to one. The 7000i is the better camera, but it’s bigger and bulkier, and only in fair condition. The HTsi is light and easy and like new.

      Also: it was the post that you linked above that gave me the idea for this one.

  4. Richard says:

    28 cameras? That’s impressive.

    So far I’m organizing the herd for roundup. Easily over 100.

    Jim, thanks for the motivation.

  5. Jim, I love posts like this, and I love following blogs that have the depth and longevity that the author can write a post like this and link to a couple of dozen other posts already written.

    I know you predominantly like and write about film cameras, but what does your digital herd look like?

  6. -N- says:

    I totally understand your need to thin out your collection and make sure you keep the ones you like. I have few I will gladly part with, but have a number I love, old and new. Keep you Fuji Square – I like mine a lot but, I also love the square format. In the Nikon crowd, my favorites are the FM2n and the FM3a, and the N90s. The rest can disappear . . . I like my Olympus OM cameras, too, but not the 2n – no idea why. Of course, the Yashica TLR is a beauty, as well as the folding cameras.

    So many cameras! So little time!

    Happy holidays to you and yours. ;-)

    • I have film in the Instax Square right now — working on writing a review of that camera. I like it, but don’t love it.

      I’m about to put a roll through my Nikon FA – perhaps someday I’ll own one of the FM series.

      It’s funny, I had an OM-4T and didn’t like it at all, but the OM-2n and I just clicked. Everyone says I shouldn’t have let the OM-4T go, but I don’t miss it.

      Happy holidays to you & yours as well!

      • -N- says:

        Thanks, Jim. I like the Instax Square – even better, I like the printer, which takes square format and works nicely with my X100V.

        I really like the FM series – it seems to go with my take on things. The FM2n I have is old, brassed, and has to be teased into closing, but it always delivers. The FM3a was a gamble, but when I found it was aperture priority, it did a great job. I like the pictures I got from it.

        The OM 4-Ti is another fine camera – I like the compactness of the OM cameras. And they deliver. We all have our preferences, of course!

        Thanks for the holiday thoughts – enjoy every minute of it!

  7. Wow, that’s quite a collection in the household. I’m impressed that you put up with so many different lens mounts. But no Leicas in the collection? Send me a line if you ever decide to let the Bismarck camera, meaning the Yashica Lynx 14e, move on to a new home. Cheers!

    • I do occasionally consider letting go of my rangefinders. I like them, but I’m so much more an SLR guy. If I decide to let the Lynx go, I’ll reach out to you first.

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