Why I Got Rid of My Camera Collection and Why You Should Too – Maybe

Why I Got Rid of My Camera Collection and Why You Should Too – Maybe

2000 1125 James Tocchio

It took me just over two years of shooting a different camera every week to realize I was ruining myself on cameras. Partly to blame was the simple fact that I run a camera shop and a website concerned with classic cameras, and these entities necessitate the handling of many different machines. But also to blame, and many of you who don’t run camera shops or blogs can speak to this just as well, was the collection urge that occurs when one is deeply invested in a hobby.

A camera would come into the shop, and rather than adding it to inventory or quickly writing a feature, I’d fall in love. It would be in particularly fine condition, or it would offer some minor feature that differentiated it from the other cameras I owned, and that would be that. Another camera added to my shelf of keepers. Eventually, though, that shelf became too crowded, and a new shelf was employed. And a third. And a sixth.

But eventually, enough is too much. When I looked at my shelf and saw, among many other things, eight different SLRs from the 1970s, all essentially the same beyond the minutia of a unique exposure compensation methodology, or the trivia that this one was designed by an Italian while this one was designed by Maitani, I knew things had gotten out of hand. More telling, I hadn’t used any of these SLRs in over a year.

The chief problem with being both a collector and an active shooter, as I see it, is that the one inevitably draws off the other. Our mental and physical energy is a finite resource, and when one activity is difficult and the other easy it’s almost guaranteed that the easier one takes precedence. In this case, collecting is the easy fun. The result is that we end up spending more or most of our energies on what could rightly be argued is the wrong concern.

Instead of poring over the work of those photographers who’ve come before us, or taking time to meet and connect with other shooters whose influence might stand to shape us and help us grow, we’re researching whether or not the lens mount of the original Olympus M1 would’ve been fastened with slotted or JIS Phillips drive screws, and how to tell modern screw heads apart from non-originals in order to better spot a fake.

I should mention that these screws should be slotted.

Worse than this obsession with pointless detail, for me, was the fact that when I did manage to get out and shoot, I was doing so without any thought for the art of photography. I was always using an unfamiliar camera. I was looking at dials and knobs, and figuring out whether or not the machine had exposure lock. I was squinting through a viewfinder and firing without stopping to wonder if the shot I was taking was worth making. Instead of honing my craft, I was experiencing a new machine every single time I went shooting. I was shooting the same subjects in the same locations I’d been shooting for years. And not even thinking about it.

That’s an interesting exposure dial. Click! Oh, I didn’t expect the frame lines to be so bright. Click! I really hate this aperture control. Man, that mirror slap is loud. This camera is too heavy. Click!

These and other similarly prosaic thoughts solely occupied my mind when out taking photographs. That’s crazy. And, yes, it’s true that this is part of my job, that I have to write about cameras and sell cameras for a living, which naturally means I’ll never have the kind of experience with photography that others, whose jobs don’t require shooting out of obligation, get to experience. But even accepting this fact of life, I realized one day that I wasn’t making things any easier on myself by owning fifty cameras.

It was at the moment when all the experimentation and joy and fun had been essentially drained from photography, that I decided to get rid of my collection. Furthermore, I decided to make it a point to shoot once a week solely for my own pleasure and for the refinement of my admittedly meager abilities.

But things are never so black and white. Sure, I wanted to eliminate my collection and focus on shooting, but I also take a nuanced approach in all things. To simply sell all but one of my cameras didn’t seem like the answer. That’s like a hungry man throwing away a bushel of apples and keeping just one seed for himself. There are situations in which I want to use a rangefinder over an SLR, and sometimes I want to shoot medium format, and I could never sell my SX-70 but my SX-70 could never be my one-and-only camera. I needed a plan, and pretty quickly I’d formed one. And quite happily, this plan left ample latitude to maintain a comparatively tiny batch of usable cameras that most people would still consider to be a collection.

It was a pretty simple strategy – I’d separate my cameras into type and then keep my favorite model. One rangefinder, one TLR, one SLR, one professional medium format camera, one instant camera, one point-and-shoot, and that’s it. A camera type for literally every possible situation, and my collection would be reduced to a few frequently used cameras. Plus, I’d still have a gorgeous collection of amazing machines. Perfect.

The hard part, of course, was determining which camera was my “perfect” camera. And it took a long time. But I made it happen. And though I’m still not a very good photographer, I’m happier. When I go out to shoot, I’m out to shoot. I’m not worrying about gear, or afraid of damaging something, or unsure of how the machine will work in this or that lighting condition. I know the camera. I know how to use it and what it’s capable of, and I’m able to focus on getting to an interesting location, finding a decent subject, framing, composition, light. More than anything I’m enjoying being out taking pictures.

I’ve written in the past about why I shoot film, why I love cameras, and why I think photography is the best hobby. And plenty of other voices have chimed in about the phenomenon that is colloquially (and somewhat fondly) referred to as Gear Acquisition Syndrome (more cleverly, GAS). These voices nearly always sing a chorus of aversion, that GAS is something to be expelled so that we can more easily focus on the craft and enjoy real growth as photographers. There’s certainly some truth to this and I’ve learned it the hard way. But at the same time, I understand the passion that drives collectors, and there’s nothing wrong with being a collector as long as we’re not pillaging our kids’ college funds to score that rare Barnack Leica, or skipping the electric bill to buy more glass.

For me, the trick was finding balance. How many cameras is too many? How involved in photography (with a capital P) do I want to be? What’s my one-and-only camera? For every shooter these answers will be different. But I think it’s useful to think about these questions and try to find the answers so that we can avoid burnout, spend our time wisely, and enjoy photography (and life) just a little bit more.

Any thoughts on GAS? Have you pared down your collection or is your collection overwhelming? Let us hear about it in the comments.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • My humble ‘collection’ has pared itself down nearly of it’s own each time I needed some money. Not that those were were expensive cameras, but eacht ime I had a nice collection of Olympus’ or Canons, bam! Gone.

    I had to accept that I’m not a collector. Now I have to force myself th be a photographer and to …. ahem focus on taking pictures with the remaining ones.

    In fact they serve VERY well. Nothing great, just cameras and a handful of lenses (mostly fifties…)…. at least until the next GAS infection!

  • Part of my own GAS stems from my interest in history, and the desire to really get the full breadth of this hobby as it has existed throughout the roughly 90 years of the use of rollfilm in the main stream. The other part stems from an excess of idle time and access to cheap outlets to pick up new acquisitions that I convince myself are wise “investments” to sell off later as “tested working” examples of the craft.

    Pragmatically though, I could more or less cull my collection down to under a dozen and have more than what I really need, and some day I might. For now though, it’s nice to know that I can load up anything ranging from a 1930’s Univex “00” format folder to a 2001 Maxxum 5. and enjoy the experience, which is what counts the most.

  • Merlin Marquardt July 17, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Great revelation. Can you help me reduce my collection?

  • A very balanced article. I’ve gone through a similar process myself in the last six months or so. Ironically, the two cameras I’ve used most and got to know best in recent months have been “old” (c2006) Pentax DSLRs, combined with much older glass, mostly M42 Takumars. With film cameras I was rarely shooting the same camera twice, with all the associated frustrations and lack of focus and consistency that come with this unfamiliarity, as you’ve mentioned.

    I must say I know you have three (?) writers on this site, but most of the camera reviews I’ve read have been very passionate and enthusiastic and as if the camera/lens being reviewed is utterly essential and the only one worth buying. Until the next one comes along a week later. This makes good reading and encourages others to explore the cameras (discovering the wonderful Contax 139 Quartz was mostly due to your review of it here a while back), but must make it difficult to settle on one camera for yourself, and convince yourself it’s the only one you need!

    • Hey Dan. We’ve got five writers now, but your point remains accurate. We love cameras. There’s no getting around it. And we tend to focus on special, unique, or historically significant machines. So that may be why many of our reviews sound glowing, even though we do make sure to mention all the negative aspects of the camera in question. We often fall back on the “there’s no such thing as a perfect camera” line.

      There have also been some stinkers, like the time I really hated the Rollei B35 and the time when the “legendary” Fuji GW690 completely failed to light the spark.

      I think the problem I’m pinpointing here is that there are just so many amazing classic cameras, and when they’re passing through the shop as often as they are it can be really difficult to remember that you don’t need to own every single camera, and in fact this can be counterproductive.

      • James, it’s so difficult to choose even with some experience!

        I’ve tried SLRs from maybe six or seven brands, and any one of them with an accompanying decent 50/55mm lens I could go out and take great pictures with.

        I think for me the final image has become a secondary measure, because so many are so capable.

        I’ve been able to hone down by finding the cameras and lenses that FEEL most right for me, that handle the best and I feel most at home with. In my head, and in my hands. Which is a Pentax body with a Takumar lens 90% of the time.

        But if I’d stuck with my first 35mm from about five years ago, a Praktica BMS Electronic with Pentacon 50/1.8 lens, and never tried anything else, I know I’d have got plenty of pleasing pictures.

        I think like you say in your post, that point comes where you make a decision between being a collector or a photographer. We can of course be both, but I think one has to be the dominant hobby, if we’re to get the most from it.

        I’ve decided I’d rather try to become a better photograph with the kit I have than keep expanding my collection, sounds like you have too.

  • Great insight. Like other commenters I’ve pared down my “collection” naturally. The arc of my collection story went from buying interesting, unique pieces to buying up everything I could afford, toselling most of it and only buying pieces that complement my style and fit my kit. One SLR (Nikon F2), one TLR (C330), one rangefinder (QL17 GIII), and an old 4×5 view camera. I’m so happy with this set. Good to hear that others are having similar situations. Enjoy.

  • You’ve written yet another article that I wish I had thought of first. Except in this case I haven’t pulled the trigger on this level of ruthlessness in culling my herd.

    I can see me having one TLR, one rangefinder, one P&S. Well, maybe two rangefinders: my Canonet QL17 and one of my Retinas. But I will not be able to get below seven or eight SLRs. Gosh, I love SLRs. I can’t imagine selling off my Nikons F2 and F3; my Nikon N90s; my Canon A2e; or my Pentaxes KM, ME, and Spotmatic F. I am likely to keep a Canon FD-mount body and a Minolta MC/MD-mount body because you never know when you’ll stumble upon an interesting lens for them cheap.

    But even then, this will cause me to part with some cameras that I simply adore. My Konica Autoreflex T3. My Miranda Sensorex II. Oh, I could list a dozen more, but you get the point.

    Given that camera reviews remain very popular on my blog, and given that I really enjoy the experience of trying a new-to-me old camera, I can’t see myself not buying more. If I don’t become 100% the photographer I could be because I didn’t pare down to one SLR, one TLR, etc., then so be it. The journey will have been worth it.

    But I have at least implemented one rule: for every camera I buy, one camera has to go. Period.

  • Very well written and you bring up some interesting points. For myself, I have what I’ll describe as a “dynamic collection”… a nice mix of historical (to me) cameras and a mix of pristine purely collector cameras. These may be cameras that I’ve always wanted but could never afford or cameras that didn’t catch my interest until I saw them in their later stages of life. I have cameras that I buy and recondition, use for a bit, write about them and then off to my online stores. The money earned allows me to acquire the next upgrade to the collection and the next “gotta have” camera. So far it’s worked out well – I do have more cameras than I should and some will fall out of favor and off to the store they’ll go. Since I mostly collect and use vintage Yashicas, the price points I deal with are within my budget. While I can appreciate the history of Leica and marvel at the money they bring, I’m a happy shooter with my Niccas, which in my humble opinion, are just as good if not better.

    Soon the entire collection will have to go – father time waits for no man. I will keep two TLRs, my Fujica GW-690 and my original Canon F-1 and Yashica TL-Electro-X. My everyday shooters will be the best of my 35mm P&S plastic fantastics from the 1990s, and of course I’ll keep my mom’s Kodak 636 and my dad’s Polaroid Pathfinder 110. I’m in negotiations with father time right now but he’s given me no clue when the culling should begin. So in the meantime the GAS pipeline is open and flowing!

  • I’ve gotten serious this year about selling off some of my cameras that I don’t shoot enough. I was hovering around 25 at one point. I think I am down to 15 or so now. I’ve also taken to getting a CLA for the ones I love shooting. It’s the least I can do for them. The problem with selling is that, as the PayPal balance increases, so does the temptation to do a little late night browsing (f/stop cameras, eBay, KEH).

    • Investing in lenses is a way of satisfying the urge while still maintaining focus, right? That’s what I tell myself anyway.

  • Cork Van Den Handel July 17, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    I haven’t the money to really “collect” at this time and I’m more interested in becoming a better photographer, so I’m paring down to one 35mm MF lens system with bodies and one AF lens system that is shared by a film body and a dSLR. I love Jim Grey’s “rule” of eliminating one camera for each that I acquire, but all bets are off when it comes to lenses. (sigh)

    • Lenses are a different matter entirely. I say lenses are priceless and worth collecting!

      • Cork Van Den Handel July 17, 2017 at 4:26 pm

        We really spend far too much time fixating on/talking about/searching for the “camera”, when it’s the lens system that’s the heart and soul of photography!

      • The thing is – all too often the best finds involve lenses being sold as part of a set that includes a body. There’s no escaping the GAS when that happens.

        • Cork Van Den Handel July 20, 2017 at 9:41 am

          That’s true, but then you can bundle the unwanted stuff that came with the one lens you wanted and sell that off… or give it away.

  • Raymond van Mil July 17, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    Keeping one favorite camera from every type has always been my strategy! I even use the same lenses for my digital and analog camera (6d versus eos3, both ef), a few polaroids for every type and a Mamiya Universal. I have the urge to buy camera’s but simply don’t, better invest in an extra lens or darkroom stuff..

  • Matthew Borowka July 17, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    I definitely had GAS. I was spending money trying out the various luxury point and shoots, the CLE, the m6, twin lens reflexes, slr’s (both 6×6 and 35mm), olympus xa, and so on.

    Nothing seemed to fit the bill, and I was shooting so much and trying out so many cameras that I ended up going in debt with film development and GAS.

    Then I actually found my (near) perfect camera in the fujifilm xt20. I never thought I’d end up taking on a digital camera as my primary weapon of choice. But, here we are.

    Moving forward, I think I’m going to stick to the fuji lineup (x100 series is beautiful – i just want them to update the lens; xt3 will be a new investment in a couple years), as well as my lovely f90x.

    • That’s a great choice, really. The Fuji XE1 was my personal digital camera of choice for a long time. It was everything I wanted, and Fuji’s lenses were unbeatable in both image quality and price. When I needed to switch to a full frame sensor for the purposes of lens reviews for this site I swapped for the Sony a7. It’s also a nice camera, but if I had my choice I’d shoot Fuji.

      • I agree James… the Fujifilm X Series (and their lenses) are under appreciated but getting their just due now. I love the fact that being a film manufacturer gives Fuji an edge on its film simulation modes – I especially like the ACROS, Velvia and PROVIA modes.

  • Randle P. McMurphy July 18, 2017 at 4:12 am

    Yes GAS is definitly a PROBLEM for ME

    I dont own a lot of luxury gear but I am a sucker for old Nikon cameras and lenses
    which are easy and cheap to find on Ebay nower days
    So I own some pieces more than one time (even in different versions) but still
    cant hold myself back when there is a new bargain offer

    I just love USING that stuff and was never going to be a collector

    Couldn´t it be worse ? Gambling maybe ? Drugs ? Alcohol ?
    Other expensive lifestyle ?

    ……..and you always can change gear back to MONEY right ?

  • So, what was your final selection?

    • Good question. Someone else asked this too. We might do a “what’s in our bags” post with all the writers. Stay tuned.

  • Great article, as always. And a huge problem for me as I cannot pick my favourite camera in any of the line-ups – RFs, SLRs, TLRs…
    But for me, I come up with a concept, then pick the best camera for the job.

  • She who must be obeyed collects handbags & shoes, so why can’t I collect old cameras… that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

  • So, I guess it’s time to check out your store for new stock? 😉

  • Flat out cruelty to do that whole article and not tell us all what you chose!

  • I have decided to do exactly the same thing. My approach is to keep my Agfa Record 6×9 and Isolette 6×6 because thats the only medium format I have, and keeping one body for each lens mount I have. That means a Canon FD, Canon EF, Pentax K, Pentax Kaf, Nikon F, Minolta SR, Olympus OM, Konica AR, and M42.

    Now I just have to figure out which bodies to keep! And where to sell them without being raped with fees….

    • Keeping one for each system isn’t a bad idea. I like that. Fstopcameras.com buys unwanted cameras, FYI. But good luck wherever you sell!

  • I hear it said that cameras are tools, but your method is almost like deciding to get rid of all your tools and keeping 1 hammer, 1 saw, 1 screwdriver and 1 wrench. I suggest paring down to one type (SLR, RF, etc), or brand (Minolta, Lieca, Hassy – whatever). And yet,I understand what you are saying. I find myself coming back to the same cameras over and over – why not sell the ones I don’t use and buy more film, lenses, etc.

  • You can have my camera collection… “When you you pry it from my cold dead hands!” – Charlton Heston. Ol’ Chuck was talking about cameras wasn’t he? I have found myself in a similar situation, with a different solution. Fifty-two cameras is the magic number. One for each week of the year. And that’s it. And maybe one extra for leap years…

  • If sb would give me the money that the cameras are worth, I’d be willing to sell them – or at least 10 or so … Would keep three: My OM-1, my Leica M3 and either my Pentax ME, Asahi Pentax Spotmatic or Contax SLR with the Zeiss lens. Only when I go to dealers, show them my A- pieces and hear them offer me 30 to 50 EUR, I am offended and leave the shop again. Maybe I should I should try one of those Fotoboersen, as they are called in this country, some kind of flee market for cameras. But your insight sure made me think again … Thanks for that and keep on shooting!

  • I think there is an inverse ratio from cameras owned, to photographs actually taken. Nice article, and I have been down that path and made the same decision. I now have Brooks-Plaubel Veriwide 100 as my medium format, Carl Zeiss Jena Contax D as my SLR (because of the amazing lenses) as well as Chinon CE-II Memotron as a beater day camera, 24k gold SX-70 Sonnar (gifted from Polaroid employee) and Fujifilm Instax 500AF. I am thinking of getting Fujifilm Tiara II as a pocket travel camera for my Daughter.

  • I think also fuels the idea to have professional equipment that was so expensive for pennies… is inevitable besides to try to reach one machine perfect to us, like trying to find the one made for us. Time ago happened to me with books and I have tried to not get that with cameras. So far the (bad) economy has helped me. xD

  • Photography is a passion with many collector paths. The all encompassing genre is ‘the history of”. I quickly learnt that my modest finances would not permit me to have a collection of desirable cameras of the Leica type, I would only be building a collection of the also rans. I changed my focus to collecting images and limited edition signed photo books, preferably with a print enclosed. Prints were easily obtained cheaply back in the 1980s-90s. I acquired books and images from a knowledge of photographic history and they have been very good investments. I rationalised that cameras take photos the photos are probably more important but I also love the beauty of the mechanical beast that produced them. Photography ever evolving I have a collection of disc cameras, what a waste of R&D, disposable cameras, an ephemeral item, and a small collection of digital cameras. It is all about the history!

  • James, how can you leave us hanging like that!!?? lol.
    What cameras did you decide on?
    I was thinking of your categories and I think I would allow myself another category. I would define/divide slr into: auto focus slr and manual focus slr.
    I think they are really quite different beasts. As much as I love my Pentax p30t I would never grab it to do the job I want my Eos 5 or 50 to do.
    Just my 10c

    • Haha, Hey Brett. The guys and I were brainstorming a post where we talk about the gear we’ve all kept (after shooting way too many cameras over these years), but it hasn’t come about yet. Maybe I’ll float the idea again.

      You’re right on about dividing by manual and autofocus cameras. I’ve done this as well with the rangefinders, though I don’t have any AF SLRs anymore since I passed the Minolta a7 on to a friend.

      But if you really want to know, as of this moment my arsenal follows. 35mm rangefinder = Minolta CLE with 40/F2; 35mm SLR = Leicaflex SL2 with 50mm/F2 Summicron; Medium format = Rollei 6008 Professional; Autofocus 35mm camera = Contax G2 with 28mm Biogon; travel cameras = Olympus Pen W or Olympus XA or Contax T (the original).

  • I have GAS but not really suffering under it – maybe my wallet does but who cares ?

    Seriously my problem is not to want the newest of the newest always
    it´s more I run into “amazing stuff” I couldn´t afford as a boy starting photography !

    A Nikon F4E for under 200.- € incl. taxes & shipping looking like it was not even used ?
    Come on who can really resist ?

  • Thanks! I have a GAS as well and I have been struggling for years. Doctor said there is no cure for GAS but maybe with your method, I might be able to release my GAS.
    Thanks for the article!

  • Thanks James, just the article I needed. Deciding what to keep and what to sell is a dilemma. Even as I clean and inspect cameras I was sure I wanted to sell I find myself reconsidering my decision. There was something about each one that caused me to acquire it and I always assumed the larger the collection the better. I feel like I’m preserving part of photography’s past. I thought I’d pass them to my son. Then I think this lens would be perfect to adapt to a mirrorless. Your article made me realize that as far as being a photographer they are getting in the way. I’m searching for batteries, cleaning prisms and replacing light seals instead of making images. Maybe I don’t need 3 Spotmatics or 3 Nikkormats but the car does need a new starter so I will begin the culling process.

    • I see no problem with having a collection, and it sounds like you don’t either! But I think you may be right when you say you don’t need multiples of certain models. Luckily it seems like you have some room to sell while still maintaining a nice collection. Good luck choosing. It’s hard!

  • You’re needlessly shaming yourself by defining a hobby a certain way instead of the way you enjoy it. There’s not right way to enjoy taking pictures. If the camera itself is part of the inspiration who cares if it’s a new one every week? They’re all essentially the same anyway. It’s just a matter of having fun with different quirks. Honestly, you’re just being silly.

  • Thank you for this article!
    I have the same problem, and you gave me an idea on how to deal with it. 💡

  • I don’t know. I have a pretty extensive collection; but it consists almost entirely of old classics from Germany…..they all work perfectly. As I had pretty much accumulated everything that interested me by about three years ago, they are all priced at nearly twice what I paid for my examples. Although none of the purchases were for investment- other than insuring a happy way to spend retirement- I can’t look at them as a financial burden and have a difficult time thinking of which examples I could part with. I walk about five or six miles a day, and generally take a different camera each day. I do, from time-to-time, find I develop an attachment to a particular camera/lens, and use them extensively. As time has passed, I find it surprising which ones will fill the bill. For example, about five years ago I purchased a Leica Ib (sort of like the Ia, but with capacity to change lenses) because it was very reasonably priced; it sat, unused, for years. Well, about a month ago I put a 28mm LTM Hektor lens on it and took it out for a stroll, only to discover I could lock the lens at infinity, set the aperture at about 16 (no specific 16 setting on the lens) and had a great point and shoot…..maybe the best….when one considers quality of output combined with reality. I take a meter reading in the shadows and in the daylight, split the difference, set the shutter; if anything is with the 1 meter and infinity I just point at it and shoot. Then comes the fun of experimenting with development. Most recently I have been experimenting with combining Rodinal and HC110 with very pleasing results. So, I look at my collection and wonder what each individual camera/lens will render with this new, to me, process. The fun of experimenting with processing, combined with my camera collection, is a source of endless entertainment.

    My rules, all along, have been:
    1. Stay away from electronic technology, i.e. batteries.
    2. Do not be obsessed with “mint;” concern yourself only about function and lens condition.
    3. Establish which sellers- other than worlds largest garage sale- can be trusted; understand that the assurance of a reliable seller is worth money.
    4. Ignore trends ($1,500.00 for a Contax T2?????)
    5. Determine if there are folks out there who can repair the camera. I generally send an Email to a repair person asking if the particular model is prone to breakage, i.e. need for unobtanium parts, or if it is generally just a matter of cleaning and adjusting when something goes wrong. Rarely do they fail to respond.
    6. If you can’t pay with cash/debit/check, don’t buy. I cannot tell you the number of times I have thought about buying something, considered the fact that I was depleting the treasury, and determined it, the camera, was not worth it. There is something about handing over cash that really makes you think about the value of something; credit seems to do a pretty good job of masking this. Regret will tarnish your new/old camera purchase faster than anything.
    7. Enjoy it. The camera, and the process of hunting one down

    Oh, and 8. Do not underestimate the value presented by old Soviet glass. 🙂

    The rules of photography are the same for any manual camera. Treating yourself to the diversion of a new mechanism can be fun if you are that sort of person. Once you make the rounds of your collection, going back to a camera you have not used for a few months can be like going to a new camera.

    Consider this: Why I Keep My Camera Collection and Why You Should, Too- Maybe

  • I inherited most of my camera collection, after my dad passed away I found a few boxes full of cameras in the basement from point and shoot, TLR, Rangefinders and video cameras. I was fascinated by how each one felt a little different and their unique looks. Over the last 16 years since he passed away I’ve done research on each one, some have missing buttons, torn bellows, one is in pieces (I found it that way), the Yashica Mat 124G is in amazing condition except that he left a battery in it and it exploded. I won’t say I’ll use all of these cameras, chances are they won’t be worth a ton either but every time I look at them I wish he had shared them with me himself instead of me having to find them. I love taking pictures out on walks or going on drives and stopping at different places to shoot interesting things. I feel like we could’ve bonded over that and he probably could have taught me a lot. My 3 main cameras right now is my Minolta XD-11 (his favorite), Ricoh SLX 500 (inherited from my grandpa) and the Yashica Mat 124G is the one I want to start using. They make really interesting focal points and I love reading about the different cameras I have now. Though when I do get an urge to buy another myself I really try to think about how often I’ll use it compared to the price that I will pay and if I have room for it.

  • I’m agnostic on whether you have one or one hundred cameras, so long as you’re okay with it. Actually, I’m agnostic on whether you’re okay with it, too, cause that’s your business (haha), but appreciating a wonderful machine like a camera and celebrating the accomplishment of its creation and use is a worthy pursuit. Personally, as a working photographer since 1978 or so, I’ve never had the income or interest in collecting, though I have been guilty of chasing technology from one brand to another, sometimes fortuitously and sometimes to my detriment.

    These days, I own and run a magazine and very rarely shoot for work, and so I find my interest drifting toward cameras I’ve never used (Leica, I’m talking to you) or wish I’d never sold (Mamiya 7II, Mamiya 645AFD, Contax G2, Yashica T4) in pursuit of a different experience of shooting. I’ve realized that the aesthetic of the process matters a lot. This is why I’ve packed all my Sony gear in its boxes and am using a Canon 5D Mark III, a perfectly fine DSLR with a great OVF and much more soul. It’s why I’m using a Nikon FM2n and a Minolta CLE. Size, weight, and usability factor as much as the end result of what’s shot.

    But still, for me the end result is the end result: The pictures I make. I’ve found myself paralyzed by choice at times or, as a professional gear reviewer, focused more on the gear than the activity the gear enables. It’s a first world problem, but still a problem, and for me a stronger guiding principle than the GAS imperative. My long decades of shooting, and reading Marie Kondo, have helped my think about how I’m going to use the things I own and what my expectations are for them, and I think that’s something everyone should do. If you come to the conclusion that collecting brings you joy, go for it. But if there’s a nagging voice that you have too much, perhaps listen to it.

  • I have enjoyed all the comments here – but here’s my view.

    My film cameras are to be used, and their longevity and repairability is uncertain into the future. For this reason I have one 35mm system but have 3 camera bodies, one in use and two in reserve. This way I hope to keep my hobby going while 35mm film is still available.

    With this philosophy I value cameras with durable finishes, electronic shutter control, metal blade shutter design over silk and rubber curtains, have “generic” silver oxide battery requirements and bridge circuit design over those that need mercury cells or expensive substitutes or voltage changes and carry standard hot shoes.

    Given that film photography is now”slow photography”, much like the pleasures of slow food, it is best done with the brightest and largest pentaprism viewfinder, depth of field preview, low light “spot” exposure meters, the widest range of shutter speed and a cable release shutter.

    To get a good range of high quality prime lenses at prices I could afford meant avoiding Leica, Nikon and Canon.

    That dramatically cuts down the shortlist of what I want, makes knowing what to look for on eBay simple, and contributes to a wonderful and sustainable hobby.

    When I want to shoot lots and shoot fast – why then that’s what digital is for!!

    If all my film bodies fail, or film can no longer be bought, then (and here’s the reveal) Pentax make full frame DSLR bodies to take their place with full retro-compatibility with my smc k-mount lens collection!

    Conclusion- sometimes there is a great reason to have several cameras the same, or nearly the same, in your collection.

  • Interesting article. Over the last few years, I fell right into the collecting not shooting rabbit hole myself. Many of my shots were through a window, off a tripod ‘testing’ old lenses I never really used to make real pictures.

    Recently I have enrolled on a course which is forcing me to shoot and edit rather than trawl eBay and suddenly I’m selling, rather than buying, Nikon, Olympus and Minolta SLRs and lenses which I should never have bought in the first place. I’m even considering offloading some of my precious Contax C/Y gear – how do I justify 19 Zeiss lenses?

    And yet I would say that GAS and the collecting instinct has kept me, in some ways connected with a hobby I love in the interim.

    • I think that many of us go through this cycle. I know I sometimes simply don’t feel like taking pictures, but I still love searching for, finding, and owning really great cameras and lenses. It’s a different kind of fun.

      I admit, reading “19 Zeiss lenses” made me drool a little.

  • My perspective on and use of my collection is a bit different. It began with using old Praktica SLR’s and when I went to DSLR I wanted to use M42 glass with it with an adapter, so I started collecting that. Often you’d get the body for free a few years back. Once bought a Pancolar for a tenner and got a free MTL5 with it essentially. So the camera bodies were piling up!

    I still use some of my film camera’s and try to keep most of them in working order, but the main use of my collection is something else. I work for the cultural heritage sector, so musea and institutions that curate and arrange collections. I find that camera’s are very useful artefacts to tell stories with, be it through time, during events, considering style, evolution of technology or even how these objects are connected in space and time. For instance, you could tell a fabulous historical narrative about German and Soviet camera builders.

    Currently I have on display about 90 to 100 camera’s, all telling a story related to each other. I can change this any time and that is my main use. An method to train my ability to tell stories through objects.

    Also, I’m a horder and can not toss anything out 🙂

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio