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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Over the last few years I’ve sold many cameras from my collection. It’s been a surprising adventure. Here are some lessons I’ve learned.
I can list a camera so much faster on my blog’s For Sale page than I can on eBay. Really, listing on eBay is kind of a hassle.
I’ve had several bad buyers on eBay, but I’ve had zero problems with people who’ve bought gear through my blog. I’m sure that day will come, but so far everyone has been personable and cheerful about buying from me via my For Sale page.
Sometimes buyers send me very nice emails sharing about their own collections and why they are so excited to receive the camera they bought from me. I enjoy getting those emails and responding to them. It makes the whole experience much more personal, I think for both me and buyers, than is possible on eBay.
Shipping supplies cost money, but I’ve found ways to manage the cost. Amazon A3 boxes are just right for nearly every camera-shipping situation at 10″ x 7″ x 5.25″. More than half of the stuff we buy from Amazon comes in A3 boxes.
I do run out of A3 boxes from time to time. The CVS around the corner keeps 8″ x 8″ x 8″ boxes stocked at about a buck and half each and they’re almost as good as those A3s. I’ve even resorted to buying boxes on Amazon. You can buy any size you can imagine, in bulk. They usually put them into a box to ship them — a shipping box shipping shipping boxes.
Bubble wrap is expensive, but I’ve found no alternative for wrapping cameras. It’s cheapest at Walmart. To fill in the rest of the box I use packing peanuts or sealed-air packs. I get plenty of that stuff in the shipments my family gets all the time.
Always buy the 3M packaging tape. Everything else is junk — the dispensers don’t work well, the tape is thin and hard to work with, or both.
I always want to pay for shipping via PayPal, since that’s where I keep my funds from these sales (and from blog ad revenue and book sales). You can pay for shipping and print USPS labels directly from PayPal here. And now the USPS offers PayPal payment online, too, at Click-N-Ship here.
My wife owns a good kitchen scale that goes up to six pounds. It’s been a godsend. Before marrying her I used to weigh packages by stepping on my bathroom scale with and without the box in my hands, and subtracting. A couple times a buyer contacted me to say my bathroom-scale method resulted in postage due. D’oh! I cheerfully sent them the postage cost with my apology.
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Meet the camera that scolds you. Check distance! Too dark, use flash! Load film! It’s the Minolta Talker, aka the Minolta AF-Sv.
This camera came to me from the father of an old friend. He sent me his entire collection, and this was in it. I didn’t expect much from it, but on a sunny summer day Fujicolor 200 delivered slightly underexposed but soulful results.
As a result I’ve been looking forward to this camera’s turn in Operation Thin the Herd. When that turn came it was late November and early December, and the days were dismally gray. The voice in my heart said, “It’ll be fine! Great pics ahead!” while the voice in my head said, “This isn’t going to work out well.” I loaded Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, thinking I’d need the extra exposure margin. Even so, this camera underexposed consistently, to muddy and mottled result. I should listen to my head more.
Let’s get it out of the way right now: that the camera talks is a useless gimmick. “Too dark, use flash” is all I can get mine to say, and that message would be more effective as a beep or a light. I shut the voice off. Speaking of flash, I’m not sure the one on my Talker works.
The camera does work all right inside with enough ambient light, though. This was our Thanksgiving table. The china is Rosenthal from Germany and has been in my mother’s family for three generations. The purple water goblets are from Walmart, because this family knows better than to be too uppity.
The AF-Sv handled all right. It’s a chunky camera so it doesn’t fit satisfyingly into the hand. But it’s easy enough to frame in the big viewfinder and the shutter button is where my finger expected it to be. It slipped right into my winter coat’s big front pocket. I had appointments all over town and up in Lafayette, and it went along on all of them.
I did get about thirty minutes of sunshine in Lafayette, and it made all the difference to this camera. I had bright light when I shot the church door that leads this post, too. The shot below shows the sharpness this lens can deliver.
Every last photo needed a hit of Auto Tone in Photoshop to be true to color though — especially shots I made on a drizzly day in Downtown Indianapolis. Here’s where an auto-everything point-and-shoot shines: this ’70s truck came along and I was able to capture it lightning fast.
Lesson learned, though: shoot this camera on a sunny day, and overexpose by a full stop. The only way to do that on this camera is to dial in the appropriate ISO to get that net result, such as ISO 200 for ISO 400 film. The ISO dial is around the lens.
This camera also struggled to focus close in anything other than great light. I wanted the fellow in front of this strange sports sculpture to be the subject. He’s farther away than the camera’s close-focus limit.
I was disappointed in how this camera performed on this outing. Maybe I expected too much of it. It’s got to be hard to make an auto-everything point-and-shoot that gets everything right every time. But I can’t imagine shooting this camera ever again.
Nikon fans had to be disappointed in their favorite camera manufacturer in 1985 upon the introduction of the N2000. It was the first Nikon SLR ever to have a plastic body. Polycarbonate, to be precise. It was also first to lack a winding lever — automatic winding was built into the body. Perhaps that luxury feature softened the blow for dedicated Nikon shooters.
Does Nikon even make a metal-bodied camera anymore? The N2000 pointed toward the future. And when I came upon mine, I found it to be a robust and highly capable tool. Here’s a shot from my very first roll of film in it, Fujicolor 200, through a 50mm f/1.8 Nikon Series E lens. This is my most-viewed photo on Flickr, by the way, with 36,838 views as of the day I am writing this.
I liked this camera so much that I shot it all over Ireland a couple years ago. I was gifted a 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens that was just right to take in Ireland’s sweeping vistas. I shot Kodak T-Max 400 all over that country.
This gives me a great chance to plug my book, Textures of Ireland, which collects the best of my black-and-white Ireland photos. They’re all as beautiful and as deep as the one above, of Kylemore Abbey in County Galway! I’d be thrilled if you bought a copy today: $14.99 plus shipping for paperback and $4.99 for a PDF. Click here to order one!
The N2000 handled beautifully all over Ireland. It proved fully Nikon tough when I fell hard on some slippery rocks — the camera banged right into them, leaving a dent in the bottom plate. It kept working as if nothing had happened.
It was with this memory in mind that I loaded some Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 into it for a hike through Zionsville’s Starkey Park. It had rained the day before and the trails were wet.
I had mounted a 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens that I picked up somewhere along the way. I like this lens a lot, except that at its widest end it has wicked barrel distortion. It shows right up in any shot with straight lines. I corrected this photo’s distortion in Photoshop with a few clicks.
I did have some trouble getting good exposures this late afternoon. The sun was low in the sky, casting deep shadows. But by the end of the roll the winder was sounding sickly, meaning that the batteries were weak. Drat! That had to affect the meter’s accuracy.
This little zoom lens offers a macro mode, too. I love macro lenses!
There was plenty of autumn foliage to get close to.
I shot this whole roll in Program mode, letting the camera choose all the settings for me. With its automatic winder, all I had to do was focus and press the shutter button. At the end of the roll I did have to manually rewind the film — automatic rewind was one nicety that Nikon wasn’t ready to offer the world yet in 1985.
The N2000 was an eager and versatile companion on this hike. If only I had thought to put fresh batteries in before I left the house!
I just love this plastic Nikon SLR. I love most of my other Nikon SLRs, too, especially my two F2s and my F3. I sure as hell don’t need them all. But it’s good to have a reliable F-mount body that, if damaged or lost, would not reduce me to tears. I can buy another N2000 for under $30. Try that with an F2 or F3.