When to keep, and when to let go

Self-portrait in the boudoir, 6 Nov 2022. Minolta Hi-Matic 7s/Ilford HP5

In the almost three years of my film photography obsession, I’ve tried out a bunch of different cameras and built a small collection. My stable hovers at under ten–more than a minimalist collection, but paling in size to some other people’s assemblage. I don’t try to compare, I want a size that’s comfortable for me. My stable offers a good deal of variety, from SLR’s to rangefinders to compacts to a half-frame and a medium format TLR. There’s no camera I really want to get rid of, but from time to time I still play the mental game of “What camera can I cull from the fleet?” I don’t have a limit on the size of the collection (no “if one comes in, one must go out” type of thing like with Doug’s bike stable). But I just don’t want my collection to get to the point where it gets unwieldy nor do I want to face decision paralysis every time I decide to grab a camera and go out.

The most recent camera to face the metaphorical chopping block was my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s. About a month ago I noticed it was having a shutter firing issue–it would not fire until the second time I push the shutter release. I sent it to my local camera repair to get a diagnosis. They said it was firing just fine for them (of course) and they recommended an overhaul of the shutter to fully cure the problem. This would cost me $150.

I declined the overhaul. I just had this camera overhauled a year and a half ago, and didn’t think it was worth it to do it again so soon, especially since I have another camera at the shop and my Minolta XD5 should get a CLA soon.

I didn’t manage to pick it up for a bit, thanks to having COVID, so I thought about the Minolta’s fate. It was my first camera since I got back into film. I learned a lot with it, and loved using it. But I checked out my flickr photostream and realized I had only put a few rolls through it this year. The Olympus 35RD is a much more portable rangefinder for riding bikes, so I’ve tended to favor it instead of the Hi-Matic. And my Minolta XD5 is about the same size and weight and yet more versatile. It’s been the camera that I’ve used for much of my travels this year. I thought that the Hi-Matic might become “redundant” when I got the 35RD, but now it truly felt it. Maybe it’s time for me to move on?

But does the Hi-Matic have sentimental value? It was the camera that got me hooked on film, true. But it’s not like I got it from my late grandfather, I got it off of eBay. I can always get another if I want, they are plentiful and at the moment still reasonably priced. And while I made memories with the Hi-Matic, I’ve made memories with lots of other things I’ve gotten rid of. My Surly Long Haul Trucker traveled across the continent with me, yet I sold it two years later with little regret. My Raleigh Wayfarer is where I gained my love of three speeds and learned the most about bicycle restoration, yet I shed no tears when it went to the scrap pile.

I finally picked up the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s last week. Yep, the shutter was firing just fine. The Hi-Matic is a big, beastly rangefinder, but it still feels good and balanced in the hand. And there’s the feel of the loooong winding stroke and the sound of the shutter–just nice. Well, I’ve made up my mind. But I should at least have one final fling with the camera before I get rid of it.

Of course, it just took one walk around the neighborhood for me to forget any plan of getting rid of it. It was a joy to use, as always. Whatever quirks I was highlighting in my head when I was justifying abandoning it became a moot point.

I don’t know how long I’ll keep the Hi-Matic. I doubt it will be forever, but let me have some more fun with it. When the time comes to move on, I’ll know. And it’s okay if this camera doesn’t get used all the time, I’ve got the space.

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3 thoughts on “When to keep, and when to let go

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  1. It’s definitely easier to store a bunch of cameras than it is to store a bunch of bikes! –so, at least that’s one metaphorical stable that probably doesn’t need to be overhauled just for the sake of space;)

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