On camera stewardship and when to move on

A couple weeks ago, while I was picking up my Minolta XD5, I dropped off my Olympus XA2 at Advance Camera for a clean, lube, adjust, commonly abbreviated in the camera world as a CLA. I’ve had the XA2 for three years, but only got around to getting a CLA until now. I figured now was the time, especially since the XA is here and proving itself–I would still have a very compact 35mm film camera in the fleet.

With the XA2 in the shop, pretty much all my cameras have had an overhaul at least once. The only cameras that have not are my Ricoh Diacord, which was sold to me as a serviced camera, and my Sawyers Nomad 620, a simple box camera that really can’t be serviced. Getting a CLA on any of my cameras cost more than the camera itself. And getting seven different cameras serviced, when a CLA goes for about $150 (now, it used to be $125), means I’ve spent at least a thousand dollars in camera repair fees over the past couple years. That’s a chunk of change, for sure.

Going back about twenty years ago, the idea of getting a film camera CLA’d seemed preposterous. People were getting rid of film cameras. If your film camera broke, you could easily replace it for next to nothing. Heck, you could buy up a dozen replacement cameras for a song. But now? There’s a finite supply of film cameras, as there really haven’t been any good film cameras (save for Leica and the now-discontinued high-end Canons and Nikons) made in almost twenty years. And what’s left of that camera stock is aging.

So I don’t feel bad about spending all that cash on camera repairs. I want my cameras to last as long as possible. Getting a CLA is no guarantee that they won’t fail at some point, but I like to think that preventative maintenance will extend their life. And if I get rid of a camera, I’d rather pass on a working camera to someone than a “for parts or repair”.

Of course, like anything you repair, you don’t get back that money you spent on repairs if you decide to sell it. So I don’t CLA a camera until I know I want to keep it. And even then, at some point I may still want to part with a camera. That’s a quandary that I’ve been facing with my Olympus Pen EES-2.

When I got my first Pen EES-2 back at the end of 2020, I fell in love with it. It was cute and small, produced good images, and since it was a half-frame camera I got twice the exposures out of every roll! But the first one was a dud, so at that time I decided to buy another one. When it proved itself I got a CLA. It gave me a good year of service, but around the beginning of 2022 I noticed it wasn’t exposing properly. I brought it back to the shop I got the CLA and they “fixed” it, but in reality they did jack–it still wasn’t working properly. I sat on the camera for a few months. I didn’t want to bring it back to the same shop and get the same incompetent service (note: the incompetent shop was not Advance) again, but I really didn’t feel like shelling out money for another CLA/repair from a different shop. But I decided that I liked the camera enough that I should get it fixed. So I brought it to Advance and waited a few months.

When I got it back, the first roll was all completely out of focus, so I had do sent it right back to get the focus fixed. It was better, but I feel like something changed, as I didn’t like the photos as much. Plus, I had not been using the Pen at all for so long, that the appeal of a half-frame camera, and especially this one, had faded. The camera is small, but not as small and compact as my Olympus XA or XA2. It’s a shade smaller than my Olympus 35RD rangefinder, but not by much. And the 35RD is a much more versatile camera, with a faster f/1.7 lens, exposure control, better focusing ability, and the ability to meter up to 800 ISO.

So now the question is: Should I get rid of my Olympus Pen EES-2? There’s part of me that wants to keep it because it’s half-frame, and getting double the exposures on a camera is useful in the age of increased film costs. Plus, getting the most out of a roll of film could come in useful on a bike tour. Then there’s the sunken cost: I have spent far more on repair costs on the Olympus Pen EES-2 than any camera I own. I know I would not get back most of it if I sold it, so should I hold on to it longer?

But I don’t really feel any joy in the camera anymore. And I have plenty of cameras, nine at last count. Not only do I not “need” anymore cameras right now, but one less camera in the fleet would be nice.

I’m going to table the idea of getting rid of the Olympus Pen EES-2, for now. Maybe I’ll be re-inspired at some point, like what happened with my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s. But maybe not. The Hi-Matic has heft, a nice feel when using, a satisfying shutter sound. The Pen does not have any of those things. We shall see…

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3 thoughts on “On camera stewardship and when to move on

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    1. True. I just want to make doubly-sure that the reason I don’t reach much for the Pen EES-2 is because I’ve moved on vs. because it was out of the rotation for so long. I’m leaning towards the former.

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