To Those Remaining (Part 1) – My Film Camera Collection

Some 30 months ago, my film camera collection was well out of hand.

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Obsessed with trying to find the perfect camera (or cameras – one DSLR, one compact), I managed to amass over 50.

Many were near identical, either because they were siblings (for example seven of the 11 DSLRs were Asahi/Pentax) or because the features were so similar as to be near indistinguishable both in use, and in the final image (for example virtually every 35mm f/2.8 or f/3.5 80’s film compact I’ve used).

At some point I realised that the major reasons I photographed weren’t dependent on film.

Like being out in nature and/or exploring ancient churches and churchyards, and hunting for things I find beautiful to capture and share with others.

In fact, once I found a one or two digital cameras I really loved, it was the beginning of the end for my film exploits.

More generally, hoarding so many items goes against my natural predilection for living light, simply and frugally, so even if I had remained a die hard film shooter, I still would have culled the majority of my kit.

So today, my film arsenal looks like this. 

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So what remains, and why? 

At the top, a Holga 120N, the first film camera I ever owned, bought for me as a present in June 2012.

I shot dozens of rolls with it, and it opened my eyes to the wonder of film. I still can’t quite believe how such a primitive device can make such distinctive and characterful photographs, or indeed how it makes any photographs at all!

I don’t plan to sell this, though I haven’t shot any film with it for five years. It has little worth, and maybe one day I’ll buy some Neopan or HP5 for old times’s sake.

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On the middle row on the left, an Asahi Spotmatic F, another present, this time from my wife.

Aside from any sentimental connection, it remains the definitive and most luxurious mechanical film camera I’ve ever used, especially combined with the wonderful Super-Takumar 55/1.8. Which is, well, the definitive and most luxurious lens I’ve ever used.

It’s been perhaps two years since I shot any film with it, but it will always remain, even if I sold everything else.

Next to the Spotmatic, a Contax 139 Quartz.

Despite my adoration of Pentax and their ME series, the 139Q is the same compact size, better built, smoother to use and maybe even just has a brighter viewfinder too. Paired with a simple M42 to Contax/Yashica (C/Y) adapter, I can use my favourite M42 lenses with it on Aperture Priority (Av) mode, when the Spotmatic seems to heavy and too manual.

Again, it’s unlikely I’ll sell this camera, it’s the end game for me, in terms of a compact Av SLR body and I’d recommend one to anybody.

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On the bottom row far left, yet another gift (from my father in law, like the Holga), a Minox 35GL, which has its original box and instructions.

My first 35mm camera and I still love its compact size and clever, precise German engineering. I’ve never quite got the images I’d hoped for from it, and being a gift that’s actually worth very little, I plan to keep this too.

Bottom middle, the fabulous Olympus Mju-1, which I gushed about in a post aptly named Mju Little Beauty

However, despite it being my favourite 35mm film compact I’ve used (and remember I’ve had a few (hundred!)) I’m planning on selling it soon, simple because I have no desire to shoot film with a compact.

My digital compacts are so fabulous, there’s nothing the Mju can do that they can’t (except use film, obviously) and they do most things even better. I can’t see me ever using it again, so expect it to go soon.

Finally a Ricoh R1, a slightly simpler and less well equipped sibling to the much revered GR series.

I’ve got some excellent pictures with this (along with the more rare R10 which has the same lens and much the same body, but no 24mm mode), it’s pleasingly wide (but not too wide) at 30mm, plus an intriguing 24mm option, and the handling is even better than the Mju, and simply the best handling of any film compact I’ve ever tried.

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Of course it’s a direct predecessor to my digital Ricoh GX100 and GRD III, and all three are near identical in size, shape and feel, ie magnificent.

Again though, as endearing as the R1 is, I have no desire to shoot film with a compact (this one has a film in it I loaded at some point in early 2017, which coming from someone who at my peak shot 15 rolls of film a month, says everything about my move away from the medium) so it’s likely to be sold.

Or more likely given away, as the top display doesn’t work (a common fault) so you’re resigned to pure point and shoot auto action, the default mode when you turn the camera on.

After years (and countless hours) of buying and selling on eBay a part of me never wants to darken its door again. I may try posting any cameras I want to find a new home for here on 35hunter and see how that goes first.

So there we have it, my evolution from 50+ film cameras to just six, with two of those looking for a new owner. 

What a difference three years makes.

I plan to do a follow up post for my digital cameras, of which I have a few (but not lots) more of.

Tell us about your camera collection. Is it expanding or contracting? Which cameras do you use most, and why? 

Share your thoughts and experiences with us below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography life looks like right now.

40 thoughts on “To Those Remaining (Part 1) – My Film Camera Collection”

  1. Dan, can you explain again why you don’t like creating color photos. I do so like the two I have seen of late. would love to see more even if one every so often xoxo susanJOY

    1. Hi Susan, just that colour adds a whole other dimension of variables and decisions. With b/w I can focus on light and shadow, tones, textures, shapes… With colour there’s so much more to think about. Mostly now I only shoot colour if it’s to capture a specific object’s colour, like a red rose, that obviously wouldn’t be captured with a b/w shot.

      1. Can I set you the challenge of once a month finding one shot that focuses on an objects color!!! Just stretching you a little and besides I love your color shots xoxo susanJOY

        1. Susan, watch out for an upcoming post about colour, which features plenty of colour shots! I do still shoot a bit of colour, and will share more in the future.

          1. Dan, thanks that will be great. I enjoy seeing your style of photography with the use of color even if I only see one occasionally. One every so often will be appreciated xoxo susanJOY

  2. Totally different situation for me. Although I have had (too) many different cameras, it has never become a collection. When I want to buy a “new” – usually used – camera, I first sell the one I own at that moment. That is not so much a rule, but more for practical reasons (tight budget). Selling a camera must fund the purchase of another.

    So in the last decade I have rarely had more than three cameras at the same time: one film camera (mostly Holga), one digital camera, and one smartphone. Finding the right digital one proves the most difficult, but – after almost getting the first generation D-Lux – I guess I do know what it should be: reasonably compact, with an actual viewfinder, 35mm eqv. focal length, unobtrusive and simple but still a “photographer’s camera”. That search might continue for a while, but I do have one in mind.

    1. This is a sensible approach Robert, mine in the past was more like “if I buy these three, test them out head to head from a few weeks, then I can keep the best one and sell the others”. Except I wasn’t getting around to testing quick enough, or selling enough of the others.

      Intrigued by your next digital compact. Is it a D-Lux 2? : )

      Actually, have you looked at any of the older Panasonic Lumix cameras, I believe there’s a few that are the same as their Leica counterparts bar the branding, and some that are very good in their own right?

      1. Oh, I actually had a Panasonic LX3 for a while, in the years that I had a strong preference for serious compacts. Excellent camera, but for me it had a very strong “just-an-electric-device” feel – not stylish and sexy enough to enjoy using it. Never warmed up to it.

        I am currently thinking of an original Fuji X100. Small enough, looks great, it fits my “documentary style”, has the perfect lens, and is praised as a camera that keeps things quite simple. Not exactly “lo-fi”, but X100s and X100f owners do speak with nostalgia about the special characteristics of the original version. I never liked the whole Fuji X “cult” idea and the camera was too pricey for me anyway, but used they have become fairly affordable. So yes, keeping an eye on eBay right now 🙂

        1. Very interested to hear your thoughts on the Lumix LX3. You’ll see why in a couple of weeks!

          I know very little about the Fujis, other than picking up online that as they’ve evolved they’ve become more accomplished cameras, but somehow less loved.

          1. Are you going to test an LX3? I’m sure it will please you. As said, it is a great camera. And I guess you care less about the looks of a camera than I do (and rightly so).

            Re Fuji: I used an X-E1 for a while (stupidly sold it on an impulsive I-go-for-100%-film moment), and I liked it. High quality JPEGs, and little post-processing required. And above all: once you get your personal settings right, you don’t need look at them anymore (no continuous fiddling with menus and settings – the Olympus OM-D I recently used, was driving me crazy).
            The X100 is interesting for me because of the fantastic lens, in terms of quality, DOF and focal length. As someone said it in a review: with the X100 you actually buy the perfect lens with a camera attached to it.

          2. Yes, it is the short answer. Watch this space! The LX3 has been on my wish list since before I got into the Ricoh compacts, I want to see what kind of fight it can put up.

            And now the original X100 is on my list too, along with the Sony RX100… Oh dear!

  3. Good selection of film cameras Dan, I loved the Contax cameras too. The retailer I worked for allowed staff to borrow any of the used stock cameras (and lenses) so I have lost count of how many I had – and memory doesn’t stretch to discerning the difference between ‘did I own one of those or just borrow it for slightly longer than was strictly allowed…’

    I think my favourite 35mm SLR was the Pentax LX, the pro-spec ‘outhouse build in a compact SLR’. Lovely handling, relatively light but felt hewn out of stone. I did have a Contax RTS 11 for a bit as well but of course having any lenses for it come in at my sort of price levels (used) was rare, so I changed back to one of the more mainstream fittings.

    I would give you full owned or used history but as it is likely to be at least 4 or 5 different SLR’s per year (a few compacts but not many) since 1985, it would be a long list. Settled on my Sony Alpha 700 then A6000 since about 2009…

    1. Bear, thanks for your thoughts. Contax are pure class, I had about seven at one point, well if you include the Yashica near clone, the FX-D, which is probably my favourite compact SLR I’ve used that isn’t (strictly) a Contax. Fabulous little things, almost as good as the 139Q.

      Never had an LX but thought about it plenty having had just about every other Pentax body. It was also a bit too expensive to take a risk on.

      Do you have both Sonys or you mean you had the 700 then the A6000?

      I’m very tempted by an RX100.

      1. Sold the 700 to fund the 6000 and a lens adaptor (aperture linkage maintained but not AF). I had a stroke so needed to lose a bit of carrying weight, photographically and physically.
        RX100 looks fine (I looked it up, the need for encyclopedic photographic hardware knowledge is long gone now!) but I can’t be doing with no viewfinder…

        I ended up on Sony because it was Minolta I worked for. Lenses for Alpha were of course the same as my car boot full of Minolta sample lenses and the original Dynax 7D 6mp DSLR, which was a lovely featured and handling SLR but commercially too late.

        1. Minolta made some beautiful film cameras and even better lenses. If it wasn’t for the reliability issues I had with X-300 bodies, they would have been my main film body, with the beautiful Rokkor lenses.

          Never had a Minolta DSLR, but did have a couple of early Sony Alphas, the a100 and a350. They were, naturally, very similar to Minolta last DSLRs, and the few Minolta A mount lenses I had were stunning, like the Macro 50/2.8 and the 35-70/4 “Baby Beercan”. Bugger, this has got me thinking about a late Minolta DSLR now!

  4. I think that if I had to whittle my collection down to its barest essentials I’d keep the Pentax ME and the Nikon F3. If I got to indulge in two additional cameras I’d also keep the Spotmatic F and the F2. But with just those two first ones I could shoot happily for the rest of my life.

    I do like fiddling with gear, though. I’d like to hang on to my Yashica-D and my Olympus XA as well. So my happiest minimal gear set is those six.

  5. My collection is fluctuating at the moment. I am selling any that either; I am not using or don’t fit my aesthetic/Voigtländer desires. In terms of the cameras a will regularly use I have my seven ranging across 35mm, 120, SLR, rangefinders plus one digital. The Voigtländer collection will remain and probably grow slightly and I have 3 or 5 others that I just love for their own reasons whether I shoot them or not. Hoping to get the numbers into the low 30s by the end of the year 😉

      1. Right now I have 41 working cameras (thanks to Jim sending me two more this week) and another 5 that are broken in some way. I have 4 of the working one’s being actively sold

  6. I never sell anything, so I have a large enough collection that I’ve almost stopped buying cameras.

    My favourite colour camera is the RX1R mk2. Unbelievably sharp 35 mm F2 lens with 42mp matched perfectly to it. I’m still shocked that it is actually better than my medium format. It is too small for my hands. So I use a Leica Q grip and the Leica finger loop with it. It looks a little wrong but it guarantees it is impossible to drop.

    For it’s poor battery life, I Velcro a small square lipstick size USB battery to the bottom of the Leica Q grip. Power is never an issue now.
    Because of it’s high mp you can digitally zoom in to your photo so that you have the equivalent of 61 mm and still it is at 24mp. (I’ve even shot birds digitally zoomed into about 122 mm and only 12mp. which is enough.)
    The used price is still annoyingly high. But eventually it will come down. I suggest you check the price in 3 years. Also you can rent it for a week.

      1. I recommend the RX100 Mk. 3 or higher. Those are the ones with the popup EVF. Also they start at a wider 24mm. The Mk. 2 and lower start at 28mm.
        You can’t go wrong with any of them, a lot of camera in a very small size.

        1. To be honest I have 24mm with my Ricoh GX100 and rarely use it, it’s nearly always on 35mm. And even my Ricoh GRD III with it’s 28/1.9 prime I’m using a bit less now as it’s often too wide for me. So I think a mk1 or 2 RX100 might be better. And cheaper of course, ha ha!

  7. I have eleven film cameras and three digital cameras. Most of my film pictures are taken with a Leica IIIf. I use a Fuji X-T20 to digitize my film negatives but otherwise I don’t use the digital cameras at all.

    I decided about a year ago to put no additional money into photo hardware. I recently found a 50/1.4 LTM Canon lens I really wanted and sold a new-in-the-box black Nikon N75 to pay for it. I still have a perfectly usable silver N75 so it was an easy decision. I’m not sure what camera (or lens) I will sell the next time I find something I really want.

  8. I realised a while back that I should stop buying cameras, so I closed my ebay account. I have now begun to sell off cameras via a friend. For once I am actually making money as they are selling for far more than I paid 😀.

    1. Very wise closing your eBay. I’m thinking of a way to sell odd a bunch of stuff easily. I might try a camera dealer, but know I’ll get very little. eBay would fetch better prices but I can’t be bothered with the huge amount of time to photograph, list, package, send etc… Might try a For Sale page here on 35hunter and see if there’s any interest.

  9. Hi Dan, Currently the range is as follows:
    Minolta Dimage x60
    Nikon d300 with nikon grip, plus various lenses
    SONY A5000 plus standard lenses and various mounts for legacy lenses.
    Pentax Q10 with 2 lenses.02 and 06
    Ricoh GX100.

    Currently I’m getting to grips with the GX100…. who’s been nicknamed “The Mistress”…. it’s like I’ve fallen in love again…. what a camera….

    The others, well, I will keep the Minolta due to it been so pocket friendly, the Penny q10 will be staying , the Nikon and Sony, ….. will be up for sale …. but I’m so loving the “Mistress ” that I ain’t got time to be advertising them on evilbay….

    Best

    Lynd

    1. That little Minolta looks interesting. Reminds me of a film camera I had, the AF-C. Minolta were very innovative and not often given credit for it…

      Seriously, the GX100 remains the definitive digital for me. Handling, interface, design, and of course the lens (with its super close focus) and the final image. Yeh it’s a bit slow (but fine with JPEGs) and the screen isn’t huge, but Ricoh did so much right with these little gems… My “holy trinity” of digital compacts for a while has been the GX100, GRD III and Pentax Q, but the GX100 is the one that is closest to perfect for me.

  10. I guess there’s no hope for me then as I have around about 400 cameras and no plans to sell or thin the heard and still collecting and enjoying it. I also find time to take photos. I think my ideal job would be a curator at a camera museum.

    1. Sounds like you already HAVE a camera museum Chris! I know some people love collecting, but for me it was getting in the way of taking photographs.

  11. My arsenal has shrunk markedly recently.

    Over the last 18 months, I’d say around 15 film cameras have passed through my hands, though most were just sold straight away to raise funds for film and developing. However, some stayed and I ended up with five or six all of which had a part-shot roll of film in them. It all got rather silly and I was shooting loads and developing very little. So I thinned the collection right down to the point that I had a point and shoot (Olympus Mju V) and an SLR. Those, plus my two Nikon Coolpix digitals have been all that I’ve used since about November last year, though increasingly less and less film, purely on the grounds of convenience. The Olympus was sold a couple of months ago.

    I’m on the verge of another reshuffle soon though and may well sell my SLR and lenses then reinvest in something else. I like the experience of using an SLR, but some of the nicest pictures I’ve shot this year have been on HP5 with a decent compact. Typically though, I sold the Mju V before seeing the film developed (don’t ask!) so I may buy a nice 35mm compact if I can find one for the right price.

    Other then that, it’s just my two Nikons.

    I may trade in the S9900 at some point, although I’m enjoying using it at the moment. The A300 will stay permanently as it is the first proper camera that I owned in years and is solely responsible for my renewed interest in photography.

    1. Richard, thanks for your thoughts. I made a rule quite early on with film that I would only have one camera loaded with film at any one time. I kept a notebook of which camera/lens/film combo I was using, and usually some notes about where most of the photos were taken, so when I got the scans and negs back from the lab I could sort them out.

      This worked well enough but still was a bit of a chore, so an extra layer of complication by having multiple cameras loaded simultaneously and trying to remember what was in what was too much.

      Yes we spoke before about the Mju V and you seemed to rather like it, why did you sell before getting the photos back? I can’t be worth very much can it?

      Based on my experience of a grand total of one Nikon Coolpix compact, they are classy, compact, well made and very capable. They/it just hasn’t got much personality, compared with say a Ricoh GRD or Pentax Q or even the old 4MP Olympus C4040 I’ve been using lately.

      1. The Olympus was technically a fine camera. However, I liked it but never loved it. It is a kind of photography that I have grown to like (compact camera) but I haven’t really found my ideal camera yet. I had a minota Riva which was nice but sold that too. Indecisive? Me?

        1. Not necessarily indecisive, just you haven’t found a camera you’ve loved yet. At least the more we try, the more we know about what we like in a camera and what are deal breakers.

          1. That’s very true. Somewhere in my loft (I think) I have my old Fuji DL95 Super. I’d love to see how that feels after all of the other cameras I’ve tried out. Back in the mid-90’s it was simply known as “my camera”.

          2. Ah those glory days of simplicity and cameranogamy. I had another name back then for “my camera”… “My phone”… : )

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