A June film photography update: Reaching capacity, again

MG. Laurelhurst, 5 June 2022. Camera: Ricohflex Dia Film: Ilford XP2 Super (C-41 B&W)

Hello, friends. It’s now almost two-and-a-half years since I got back into film photography. It’s been a journey of more ups than downs, a good diversion to have during these trying times. In this time I’ve shot several hundred rolls of film and have tried out a bunch of different cameras. As of right now, this is my current camera stable:

  • Minolta SR-T 101
  • Minolta XD5
  • Minolta Hi-Matic 7s
  • Olympus 35 RD
  • Olympus Pen EES-2
  • Olympus XA2
  • Pentax IQZoom 928 (Espio 928)
  • Reto Ultra Wide and Slim
  • Agfamatic 2008 (110 film)
  • Ricohflex Dia (120 film)

Two SLRs. Two fixed-lens rangefinders. One half-frame camera. Two compact 35mm cameras. Two toy/lo-fi cameras. One medium format/120. Ten cameras total. A good selection of different cameras to suit any circumstance: small to big, totally manual to totally auto, fixed lens to interchangeable, lo-fi to hi-quality, 110 film to 35mm to 120.

I think I’m reaching capacity.

Sure, I’ve said this before. Sure, I say that I don’t intend to buy anymore cameras, then do. But I think I’m really reaching the point this time.

I mean, where else can I go? Do I need more SLRs? I’m sure I could convince myself that I need an auto-focus SLR, but I can’t muster up the energy to do so. Playing around with compacts from the 90s can be fun, and I’m always looking for cameras to pass onto other folks via the Bikes and Film Cameras Club. But I’ve realized that my ideal in the compact department is the XA2. Sure, I’d love me an XA4, but those are so damn expensive. Another lo-fi 120? I can see the appeal at some point, but I’m having too much fun with the Ricohflex Dia right now, and the photos I’ve been getting from it are great. A better 120 camera? Do I have that kind of money right now? A Leica? Ha ha.

The only camera I’d really like to get is that new Reto half-frame camera that’s coming out. That’s mostly because my Pen EES-2 is broken and needs to go back to the shop. The Reto is cheaper than the repair cost, so the Reto could get me by until I get the Pen fixed or replaced. And I’ve considered an instant camera, either Polaroid or Fuji Instax. But that’s about it for now.

For me there are four good reasons to cap my camera collection at its current size:

  1. Much like it is with me and bicycles, I can only mentally deal with a finite number of cameras. I don’t like the idea of “shelf-queens”, cameras that I barely use. I want just enough cameras that can suit my needs, cameras that I not only like to use but use regularly. I also like maintaining the cameras I have via CLAs (clean, lube, adjust). Since these run about $125 to $150 at my local shops, the cost adds up. As it is, that Pen EES-2 needs repairs, my Minolta SR-T 101 probably also needs some love, and I definitely should get the Minolta XD5 overhauled as well. (Thankfully the Diacord was sold as a freshly overhauled unit.)
  2. I’d rather be shooting cameras and learning new things like making my own prints than testing out new cameras. Every “new to me” camera requires two or three rolls to figure it out, rolls that tend to be the same things I’ve shot many times over. I realize that there are many great cameras out there, and I realize that I’m never going to shoot them all, no matter how hard I try.
  3. I’d also rather be happy with what I have than pine for some “better” camera. While there’s things that annoy me about each camera I own, even supposedly better cameras will have their own quirks and foibles. I’ve realized that I can make great images with what I already have–I love the lenses on my Minoltas, Olympuses, and Ricohflex. There are supposedly better lenses out there, but are they really that better?
  4. Possibly the most important reason to stop chasing after more cameras is price. Film cameras used to be dirt cheap, but as more people get into the prices continually go up. This is simple economics: there are less of these cameras out there, demand outstrips supply, prices rise accordingly. I did pretty good for two years sticking my rule of spending no more than $50 on a camera, not counting shipping or repairs. But that price has been harder to stick to, unless I want to keep on buying untested units that don’t work. The last two cameras I bought, the XD5 and the Diacord, cost $80 and $130 respectively. But both were sold as tested units. Both were cameras I really wanted, so I considered the price worth it. But I don’t really want to go higher anytime so, nor do I want to keep on taking chances on cameras that could be crap.

And let me be clear: I’m not imposing my values on others, I’m not making judgements. If you do like testing out many different cameras, cool. I do appreciate those that have, because they’ll post their experiences with those cameras, which helps me make informed decisions on cameras to buy. (It also leads me to buy too many cameras, as all these cameras sound interesting.) As for blogging, writing about a particular camera gets more attention than writing about something more esoteric: For example, my post on 35mmc about my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s is, well, hot damn! It’s the current top post on google search. I’m sure my post about Photography as Therapy won’t get that much attention. But I think I can live with that.

Anyways, stay tuned in another month or so to see how this all sorts out. And thank you for reading!

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3 thoughts on “A June film photography update: Reaching capacity, again

Add yours

  1. All four of your reasons for the cap resonate with me, but reason #3 most particularly. Rather than expound on how I can relate to most all of this post, I think I’ll work on a blog post of my own on this topic. I will say that I did acquire another HiMatic 7S 🙂

    -Wilson

  2. It’s difficult not to acquire too many cameras. For the first decade or so of my marriage, 1996-2006, I simply used my wife’s Nikon FA – a fine camera that works well in either manual or program mode. About ten years ago, my daughter bought me an Olympus OM-1, which I enjoy immensely. I inherited a batch of Spotmatics with lenses from a friend who passed away who was a professional photographer. I also had my father-in-law’s Konica Auto S-2, which I had repaired and was subsequently damaged by some freak accident. It’s, hands-down, one of the best cameras I had for sheer quality of photographs, so I bought another on Ebay. Then, last month, I found a Yashica Electro 35 at a thrift store for $15. It was one of those thrift store finds you read about, but around here, thrift stores tend to price film cameras at a little over $100. Where are these bins of $5 cameras you read about? That seems like it should be enough, but I still find myself looking at various medium format cameras on Ebay, or the Olympus XA, the Konica Auto S3, browsing the Leicas, though I would never be able to afford one… It goes on and on. Recently I decided to stop looking. I had the OM-1 refurbished by John Hermanson, and I think I’ll try to stick with it for a while, with maybe the Konica once it gets back from Greg Weber – the light meter was doing something funky. This weekend’s project – developing some color film with a Film Photography Projects Kit.

    I do keep thinking of doing the Bikes and Film thing, but I just don’t photograph my bike all that often. At some point, I’ll give it a shot. I think it’s a great idea, and I’m glad you’re doing it!

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