Making Sense of a Classic Camera Collection

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by christian_fox, Sep 5, 2015.

  1. Some of us in this Classic Camera Forum like to use and collect wonderful old cameras. A few display their collection in full glory and have become well known on this forum. Reading the Classic Camera Forum has been a pastime in itself. Establishing a theme is personal taste, but it is interesting to see what theme collectors have chosen. We know who has a serious Pentax LX collection - I had not realized the LX had so many viewfinder accessories.
    I have been collecting classic cameras and electronic film cameras for the past couple of years now, and revolving them back on the market as I retain a small set of favorites. The evolution of my revolving collection has been interesting, and I refer to a highly regarded Leica repair specialist as an online mentor for inquiries about internal quality and reliability. I favor the short telephoto range (85-135mm).
    Here are the characteristics that have settled, and every classic camera I own is mentioned below:
    1. Fully operational 35mm cameras ready to take a picture.
    2. Exceptional viewfinder performance.
    3. Handling ergonomics: Highly subjective with each camera.
    4. Buttery smooth lens focus action: C/Y lenses.
    5. Fully mechanical chrome metal cameras without meter or battery: Nikon F, Canon P, Leica M3.
    6. Intellectual study of history and variations of a basic model: Nikon F.
    7. LTM and tiny lenses: Canon P.
    8. Modern electronic film cameras: Nikon F4, Leica SL2 (meter only), Leica R8, Contax RTSII.
    I enjoy sampling, so Leica is not as much fun as other cameras. They are most elegant, but just too much a handful to fully explore. A key frustration with old cameras is a difficulty finding diopters, as I prefer close contact with the viewfinder in darkness than using glasses at a distance. I don't even think the Canon P was meant to use a diopter. Most of the electronic cameras in my collection have a built-in diopter. The Contax AX was not mentioned, as its thickness is odd to handle, but its amazing to fiddle with a classic era camera that converts a simple manual focus C/Y lens to an autofocus lens without external movement AND converts the same lens to a macro lens. Contax has engineering elegance - the RTSII has a battery cap cover just like the Nikon F back cover locking screw - no ugly coin slot. I cannot explain my love of the Nikon F4 in its full vertical configuration and fully loaded - it just feels right despite its weight. I wish the Nikon Df was modeled after the F4 instead of the F3.
    I also maintain an electronic journal of interesting information relating to the cameras and lenses of interest.
    Have you thought about your own classic camera collecting evolution? I posted my thoughts here in the hope that some of you can relate to some of my preferences and can suggest further development. I feel overwhelmed and drawn-out over a wide spectrum, so I really wish to focus on a selected few cameras, lenses, or themes. Any ideas on that would be welcomed as well.
  2. Having reduced my collection and anticipating a move to senior housing I have concluded that remaining cameras should be mechanical, which use 35mm or 120 film only. If batteries are needed for metering only, that allows them to remain in the permanent collection. My favorites are Leica M-3, Nikon F-2, Canon F-1n. My favorite 120 cameras are Simmon Omega 6x7, Rolleiflex Automat, and Hasselblad 500. High build quality is paramount.
  3. SCL


    "How do I love thee...let me count the ways". I've tried too many rationalizations over the years as cameras enter and leave the house. I refuse to say collection, because that presupposes I've established fixed or rational criteria - which I've attempted and discarded. These days I'm just contending, rather unsuccesfully, with the concept of "if I like it and (at keast periodically) use it" perhaps it stays for a while". When I run out of film, I guess most of the bodies will go, the lenses may stay for use on mirrorless bodies.
  4. I have chosen to collect something that came with a small and finite number of things to collect (Hasselblad 1000-series). Small 'catalogue', so when everything that is in there is also on the shelf, there's nothing left. That's it. (And apart from a few things that probably just aren't 'out there' anymore, it has come to that point some years ago.)<br>I never really was a collector (still am not), but more interested in things to use. And that, i find, poses more challenges. It goes on and on, from one small thing that may be usefull in certain circumtances to the next. Do i, for instance, really need a lightning detector/trigger? Maybe, no probably not.<br>But what will never end is the collection of information. Always interesting to learn about things, about CMCs and their (place in) history.
  5. The only criterion I've ever come up with is Stuff I LIke. And I'm not even real strict about that :)=
  6. Wow richard o., love that parade of cameras. We should all spend the time to catalog & display our acquisitions like that !
    My stuff is housed in tall showcases so I can view & access them at will (hate leaving stuff in boxes & closets).
    "Outtasite, outta mind" means you don't exercise, inspect and therefore ultimately enjoy them.
    Besides, it's not as if we're buying expensive dresses that you can't resale (hello wives), this stuff has value &
    is someday resaleable.- At least that's what I tell her...
    "When I run out of film, I guess most of the bodies will go" Stephen L.
    Not me Stephen, I'm hoping for the RE35 <<< click project to become a reality, then
    my rational to keep all my inventory will be rewarded with "I told you so's" to you know who, renewed interest and higher resale value...
  7. i stopped trying to make sense of it or justify it a long time ago...
    i have one complete 'system', the Olympus OM with 1/2/4 and various lenses.
    I pared down my other slr systems to whatever i like best. I have a nikon fe2, canon f1n, pentax super program, pentax spotmatic f. -I only have a few lenses for each of these. But all the 35mm stuff is nice because i can also use it on digital.
    Then I also have a 4x5 and 2x3 with various lenses, but all that I need.
    But lately I have gotten into vintage cameras, and thats where the real addiction lies. Some are better picture takers than other, but they are a ton of fun and great conversation pieces.
    i have picked up some rather expensive vintage cameras, and I to hope they hold their value.
  8. There were alternate viewfinder eyepiece lenses for the Canon P, with +1.5, -1, and -2.5 diopter. They replaced the standard one. Almost certainly impossible to buy now, although check with Sherry Krauter and DAG.
    I'd expect a good optician could measure the one in your Canon P, and order a plastic one ground to the correct difference in diopter. Then it just has to be cut & filed to fit in the camera.
    Of course, the "right" diopter is very different for SLR and rangefinder. For the SLR, you want your "reading" prescription, for rangefinder, your "distance" prescription.
  9. Three 35mm systems. Topcon Super-D system, with all the R. Topcor and RE. Auto-Topcor lenses and almost all the accessories. But not really using it, as it has no digital SLR future. (Plus the Super-D has a mirror flipping problem, and the Super-Dm has a focus calibration problem.) But I may get some of the M-42 replacement lens mounts for the lenses, especially the astounding 85/1.8.
    Screwmount Leica, focused around Leica IIIa body and Canon 7s body. Classic Leica lenses with focusing scales in meters, and Canon lenses with focusing scales in feet. Too many 50mm lenses (Elmar, Summar, Summitar, Summarit, Summicron, Canon 1.8, Canon 1.4, & Canon 1.2)!
    Pentax system to have a digital SLR future. LX, MX, MZ-3, *ist, & K-5 bodies. Pentax-A lenses from 15mm to 200mm, and Pentax-FA lenses from 20mm to 135mm. (No A* lenses, out of my price bracket.) The LX's amazing viewfinder makes the Topcon system look very dated. Much better selection of fast lenses than Topcon ever had (20/2.8, 28/2.0, 35/2.0, & 50/1.2). Will order the full-frame Pentax digital as soon as it's orderable.
    Then a variety of good Kodak 120 and 620 cameras, and Kodak 3A (122) cameras. Also Kodak No.1 and No. 3A Panorams. Have a substantial hoard of good Verichrome Pan 122 film.
  10. The parameters of my collecting (of 44 at the last count) is:
    1. Affordability (hey this is just a hobby ... a whim ... so I have nothing very deluxe), and
    2. 35mm format between the 1950s and early 1980s, when a brain was still required to operate a camera (and zoom lenses had not yet replaced the use of legs to frame a shot appropriately).
    My tastes are:
    a. cameras that were the first to do something new, or in a new way,
    b. quirky stuff that didn't quite catch-on, but seemed like a good idea, and
    c. shinny things that look pretty.
    My 35mm film camera collection
  11. My collection was up to about 250 cameras a few years ago. I've since reduced that number to about 50, thinking that I'd keep only cameras that I will use. But the reality is that now that I've recovered all of the space those cameras used to take up, I feel like I have plenty of room to begin collecting all over again! There's no sense to it whatsoever! If I like it I'm going to get it.
  12. SCL


    Gus -RE35 was an april fool's hoax, much like its predecessor some 12-13 years ago. I had lots of hope then, but subsequently lost it. There was a-Pnetter (Huw? a few years ago trying to retrofit a Leica M2 or M3 with a digital sensor and circuitry...but before he finished his project, he got a real job and disappeared from the site. Anyway, I've still got enough filmstock to last most of my lifetime.
  13. Christian, I did send you an email, but like the others, my collecting is very random. I started with a Voigtlander Prominent, because it looked cool, and it was downhill from there!
    Initially I just collected Voigtlanders, but it soon got out of control...a familiar story to us all! I do have all the Nikon F cameras, except for the F6, and my favourite is the F2, although I am often seduced by the F3. The F4 is very underrated, but quite a big heavy beast as you know. As a picture taker it is first class, as is the F5. I'm no great fan of auto focus though, so am quite happy with the diminutive F3.
    You did ask about dioptre corrector for your Topcon, I'm sure that they are out there, but good luck finding one! Should be much easier to find for a Nikon, and of course the F4 has one built in.
  14. Discussion of how to re-work Canon AE-1 diopter lenses for Canon P here:
  15. My camera collection makes no sense. Especially for my wife and kids...
  16. I was talking to my wife on this subject just today. I plan to sell of a couple of Nikons and some Nikkors to finance a lens for my dSLR. I was pondering which to sell and which to keep. What's on my shelf right now:
    early Nikon F with plain finder
    Nikon F "Apollo" with FTn finder
    F2 with DE-1(plain) finder (still the best looking SLR ever, IMO)
    F2 Photomic with DP-1 finder (re-covered in dark green leather - looks awesome)
    F3 HP
    Canon F-1 (early version)
    Minolta XK
    The question is sell both the Fs, or the F Apollo and the F2/DE-1. I thought about keeping the older F for "archival" purposes, having, therefore, an F, an F2 and an F3. My wife's view is "if you hold it and it brings you joy, then keep it. If you don't feel anything in particular, then you can get rid to it. If you're keeping the F so you can complete the collection, then you're saving a catalog - big whoop". The thing is, the F2 was what I drooled over when I pressed my penniless early teen face up against the camera shop window. I had the F-1 manual memorized years before I ever actually held the real thing. The XK is like an SRT on steroids, a magnificent attempt to breaking into the Nikon/Canon domination of the pro SLR field that fizzled. And the F3 is simply magnificent - not perfect, but still my favorite SLR ever. The F was before my time - while I acknowledge its impact on photography, I never had any real connection to it. So, based on my wife's criterion (which I find myself agreeing with), I should hang on to the F2s, and sell the Fs. Oh well, time to fire up eBay again.......
  17. For me, collecting is a curse.
    It gets in the way of making photographs.
  18. What a great thread! Richard Oleson - yours is simply stunning :)
    I only really got into photography less than three years ago, and soon became somewhat disillusioned by the uniformity and sterility of digital (equipment and results!).
    So I delved into older lenses to pair with my digital bodies, as I liked the rendering and build quality of older lenses. Soon, I was into film, and enjoyed using older film bodies. Then I discovered that I liked the cameras from the 40s-60s the best! But as some have said, I get them to use them, not just to collect - I feel that such wonderful machines need to be used :)
    So my collection of mentionables includes (in no particular order): Zeiss Ikon Contarex, Leica IIIF, Kodak Retina IIa, Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super B and BC, Yashica-Mat, Bronica RF645, Kiev 4a, Zorki 6, Contax IIa, Leicaflex SL, Olympus OM1, Nikon FE, Rollei 35, Mamiya Six (folder), Pentax MX, and a few others ...
    I really enjoy the differences in design and handling (and the challenges they pose) between these diverse systems, and marvel at the ingenuity and craftsmanship that went into them. It is up to me to rise to the challenge and produce half-decent images from these wonderful machines!
    Raj :)
  19. I tend to acquire what I can use (or hope to find time to use). Most of my gear is Minolta MC/MD mount (SRTs, XE series, and an XD) with lots lenses. Probably a three way tie with Olympus, Pentax K, Mamiya 645, and Pentax M42. Also have some Konica and Nikon gear.
  20. I like samples of different designs, so over many years I've gathered:
    Nikon FE, Nikkormat FT3, Nikon N2000 + 5 Nikkors
    Leica IIIf + 3 lenses, M4-P + 3 lenses (both inherited)
    Kiev 4a + 2 lenses. Always curious about the Contax design but couldn't afford a real one.
    Mamiya C330s + 3 lenses
    Rolleiflex Automat + 75mm Tessar
    Voigtlaender Baby Bessa 6x6
    Moskva 6x9
    Crown Graphic 2x3 + 101 Raptar, rollfilm holder
    Speed Graphic 4x5 + 127 Ektar
    RB Graflex 2x3 + 127 Ektar, rollfilm holder
    RB Graflex 3x4 + 163mm Kodak Anastigmat, rollfilm holder
    Ansco 8x10 + 2 lenses
    All in good working condition. Too many cameras -- no more, the collection is now closed. Meanwhile it's nice to have lots of choices for different occasions.
  21. David.. Keep the f2 and the f3.
    Sell the rest.

    The f2 will last you forever.

    The f3 is a much better
    electronic exposure camera than
    the f2 with photomic .

    That's my advice if you want to
    pair down.
  22. Les.. You are an evil man.
    Temping me with that om3.
    I have pretty much decided I
    don't need one. I am very happy
    with the om1 for full manual
    operation and either the 2 or 4
    for auto exposure.
  23. I agree with Marco, collecting tends to distract me from photography. Therefore I have to constantly rotate my inventory so my collection don't grow too big. There were bouts of buying and selling, with the hope that I don't own more than 12 cameras at any given time as a self imposed discipline.
    That said, I do enjoy the mechanical and optical engineering excellence at the apex of classic mechanical camera industry. Those fine machines not only serve as photographic tools, but also inspirations for an engineer like me. In addition to the mandatory Leica M3, Nikon F, and Rolleiflex(es), I also tend to gather Voigtlander gear mostly for their lenses and despite their camera bodies.
  24. Les, Darin apparently does not collect Primes after the first model - that would explain everything.
    I keep thinking about Marco's comment that collecting gets in the way of taking pictures. He is right, yet I don't want to listen. I am at a time in my life when I need to be less possessive and intellectual about things, and just experience living the magic of life. Think of the the sum of all experiences absorbed when you see those amazing photos pass by on this site. Yes, Marco said it so right. But still, holding a LTM chrome Leitz lens in my hands reminds of the marvel of beautiful man-made things.
  25. I meant to say that Darin is adverse to Primes.
  26. i am not adverse to collecting olympus primes.. 21 f3.5, 24 f2, 28 f2, 35 f2, 50 f1.8, 50 f1.4, 50 f2, 85 f2, 90 f2.5, 100 f2.8, 135 f2.8, 180 f2.8, 200 f4, 300 f4.5.
    of course if a OM3 to be for the right price..
  27. What, Darin- you don't have the 40mm f2? I always felt it was overpriced.
  28. My response echoes so many of you (us). No rhyme or reason, I also hesitate calling it a collection, but in
    the eyes of others "old film cameras" is a general enough description to fit their petty observations...
    Sigh... We need help "Lord save us all"
    Ohh to the OP, I hope the multitude of responses did not wander too far from your theme?!?
  29. I am not a collector. The only cameras I have I have owned previously or have meant something to me over the years. This adds up to quite a few, though, but I am resisting the collecting bug, as it just feeds an obsession, and obsessions are bad for the soul.
  30. Les: I agree. Some of the Olympus
    lenses are way overpriced. I
    think it has more to do with
    dealers than collectors. "Hey
    this lens did not sell well
    because people did not like it..
    So I will buy it for pennies and
    sell it for $600 because I can
    call it'rare'"..

    I was looking for the 24mm f2 for
    years before I found one at a
    decent price. The 50mm f2 macro I
    snagged from an eBay auction
    listed as an om10 with lens. Even
    with a bad pic it did not get
    past me.

    I do not call myself a collector,
    but then I just bought 12 cameras
    at an estate sale last week. :)
  31. Sampling, not collecting - that is the term I use. I am just sampling the field to discover which cameras are interesting. Some stay for a while, some pass on to another owner, and some even come back as I have gained a different perspective or taste for things. Recently, two cameras have returned in a slightly different form - the Nikon FM3a in black w/ a diopter that works for my eyes, and a nice black Pentax MX with a hand grip motor drive. Viewfinder magnification is my theme of interest at the moment. Besides durability and cost, I wonder if a relatively high VF magnification was a significant reason why the Nikon FM2 became a legend. Like collecting vintage fountain pens years ago, I struggle with the balance between favorites bodies and desired lenses - the two preferences may not be the same brand. At least with fountain pens, I could swap the nib to the desired pen if the size was right. My dreamworld is to affix slippery smooth focusing C/Y lenses, without altercation, on Nikon and non-Minolta Leica R cameras.
  32. The FM2 is 86x and the FM3a is 83x. The MX and OM-1 hit the roof over 90x, but I don't see magnifications over 85x often. I used my own hunch when I labeled the Nikon FM2 as legendary. Take it away from a whole lot of users in the day, and you'll have a riot on your hands. Maybe the FM2 comes to mind as legendary from my memories of Galen Rowell or the Afghan Girl.
  33. Yes, these guys actually took pictures.
    I bumped into Galen in a Yosemite shop but did not get into a deep conversation with him. Too bad the opportunity is gone since I no longer visit the park from my home in the vicinity. He was associated with Patagonia clothing, and I have followed that outfit since their first rugby shirt. I like his monastery image. Never heard of McCurry until the Afghan photo.
    To be honest, I Googled the Internet three times for each and the number was the same - naturally, two sources may have erroneously derived from the first source. Every so often, you will see folks mix coverage vs magnification.

Share This Page