Chance Encounters In The Cheap Seats – My Favourite Photography Bargains

Like many on this island, I love a bargain.

Which, when it comes to old cameras, can cause quite a problem.

These days I’m down to a fairly select collection, but my One Month, One Camera (OMOC) project this year has opened my eyes a little to a photographic bargain once more. 

Last Saturday, waiting between dance classes with the kids, I popped into the nearby charity shop to drop off some no longer wanted toys. After a quick glance around the shop my eyes were drawn to a box in that distinct hue of FujiFilm green.

Which contained a rather scratched FujiFilm FinePix A330.

 

A cursory once over was encouraging.

It’s very light, the sliding lens cover has kept the lens clean over the years (around 15, the camera was first released in 2004), and it requires two AA batteries and an xD-Picture Card, like I already have in the FinePix F810 I’m using for February.

Handling was decent in a chunky way, and the screen looked big enough to be able to frame easily.

At £3 I took a chance, and at home after inserting batteries and the xD card it proved to be working fine. At a humble 3.2MP, it’s an obvious contender for a future month of the OMOC challenge.

My two cameras for January and February have both cost £15 plus a few pounds postage, within my £20 limit for the project.

But this A330 at a total of £3 made me wonder if I’m spending way too much, and making the challenge too easy.

It also got me thinking back to favourite bargains of the past.

Here are a few.

Canon Sprint

This came as part of a job lot on eBay, and meant each camera cost something like £2. Less well known and more unusual than the usual Sure Shots, the Sprint was smaller too.

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There was plenty to enjoy about this little charmer, and with some of my favourite expired film, it took a very decent picture too.

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Yashica Minitec AF 

Also part of a bundle of three cameras, so each cost about £3.50. The Minitec AF was the pick of the three, small and cute, with an unusually wide 32mm lens.

Some suggest this is the same lens as in the fabled Yashica T cameras, but I think it’s unlikely.

Still it was a fun camera, and delivered more than well enough for an AF compact, especially on days with sunny blue skies.

Canon EOS 500

This goes down as one of the cheapest cameras it’s possible to buy, at a mere 99p plus a couple of pounds postage on eBay.

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Canon made what feels like dozens of different EOS film bodies (and possibly even more digital ones!), and the EOS 500 is one of the older ones.

Nevertheless it still does all you really need a film camera to do, meters very accurately, handles very well with that big curved rubberised grip, is very light, and best of all for me, with a dead cheap adapter it can use the vast range of M42 lenses available.

A very affordable way to get started in film photography.

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Pentax Espio AF Zoom

Much like Canon and their EOS SLRs, Pentax made more Espio models (known as IQZoom in some territories) that most of us have had hot dinners.

This was one of the earliest, and for me, one of the best. I picked it up in a lot which meant it owed me about £3.

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Anyone looking for a very competent, fun, reliable film compact would do well to look past the over hyped and ridiculously over priced likes of the Olympus Mju-II and Nikon L35AF, pick up one of these and save yourself a few hundred pounds.

Seriously, I saw a Mju-II sell for £350 on eBay a couple of months ago.

What I liked about the AF Zoom was it’s small enough to slip in a pocket, but retains great handling (unlike that slippery Mju-II), and has all the features you need, including a fairly unusual multiple exposure mode.

It also remembers your settings (like the flash being turned off) even when it’s auto powered off for up to 30 minutes. In other words I turned the flash off at the start of a photowalk, then forgot about it.

Virtually any Espio will give decent results. If you want something even smaller try the Espio 115M. If you want something wide try the wonderful 24EW.

So those are some of the very cheapest cameras I’ve found in the last few years.

When you pay so little for a camera – less than a cup of coffee and piece of cake – it somehow makes the fact they can make pictures even more incredible and magical.

How about you, what have been your favourite photography bargains?

Please share them with us in the comments below (and don’t forget 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 I’m into right now.

23 thoughts on “Chance Encounters In The Cheap Seats – My Favourite Photography Bargains”

  1. My bargain was Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS 16.1 MP digital camera for £5 of eBay in perfect condition
    only it was pink but who cares about the color.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Chris!

      That looks like another little IXUS/ELPH beauty from the Canon stable. They made so many!

      It’s a bit too new for me, and prefer lower MP and a CCD sensor. But I’m sure it still delivers lovely images in a tiny package – let us know!

  2. This is great. I’m putting all of the film cameras on my list to see if I can find. Esp. that great-looking little Pentax.

    My best camera bargain was a $2 Kodak VR35 K40, a chunky 35mm P&S. It was a decent performer. I also picked up a Canon EOS body, I forget which one, for $2 once. I’m not much of a fan of Canon’s lenses but their EOS bodies, even the entry level ones, all feel great to use.

    1. Thank Jim. I’m thinking of doing a separate post about Pentax Espios. It’s crazy seeing people pay up to £350 for cameras like the Mju II and even the Mju Zooms now which you couldn’t give away five years ago can now fetch up to £150-175. Just ridiculous.

      The Espios are fantastic and I’ve had at least five different ones I’ve loved. They’ve gone up in price too, but there are still loads available at £20-30 or less.

  3. Great post Dan.
    Does free count? About 15 years ago my Mother-in-law gave me a sweet little Canon Sureshot 35-85mm she found in the back of a drawer. It had had about 5 rolls of film through it since she’d bought it from new and decided she’d rather use a disposable. It took some cracking photos and loved XP2 – I still have it.
    Best SLR find was a EOS IX I picked up from ebay for about £8 in pretty much mint condition. I LOVE this camera and it lives in the glove box of my car. It’s the nicest handling SLR I’ve ever used. I just wish I could get none expired APS film to go in it.

    1. Stuart, yes of course, free is as cheap as it gets… Although saying that, there have been a few occasions where I’ve bought a job lot, and sold off some of it individually for more than I paid altogether, so in effect I’ve been paid to own the remaining cameras!

      You can’t go far wrong with the Sure Shot film cameras, I’ve had quite a few.

      That EOS sounds intriguing. I expect it’s tiny given it’s an APS camera?

      1. Hi Dan. Without the lens it’s about the size of a large 35mm Compact and looks a bit like one too. The mirror assembly is pretty much flat on the top deck. It’s made of metal tohugh so has a nice bit of weight to it. I’m planning on writing a review of it at some point. Cheers! Stuart

  4. Hi Dan, I love posts like this. Can I touch you for good luck?. Anytime I’ve bought cheap P+S cameras like this (mostly Olympus) they have been inoperative. I was given a Nikon something that worked for a couple rolls and quietly expired. My favorite bargain was a Minolta Srt from a thrift store that I think was $3.. The camera wasn’t too good, but I have taken a few of my favorite photos with the 55/1.9 lens that was on it. Iv’e given large prints as gifts and the quality is superb. On another note, what was up with all those companies making rafts of almost identical models? I remember going to camera shops in Boston in those days to buy supplies and wondering “What are they thinking?” the number of models was truly bewildering. I never bought any, I rode out the electronic camera era with my trusty OM-1 and Ikoflex, both of which I still have.

    1. Jon, thanks for your thoughts.

      Well, it might be a bit of a stretch across the water but maybe just touch your screen when reading this!

      Inspired by the responses to this post, and after a quick check of the silly prices for many cameras on eBay, I’m half way through a new post about a particular brand/range I’ve had excellent fortune with and would heartily recommend.

      The trouble with many of the late 70s and 80s P&S compacts was although many had those cracking little 35/2.8 prime lenses, the electronics are now very old, and they weren’t exactly expensive cameras with high quality materials in the first place, so it’s impressive that so many have survived and still work.

      Regarding the multiple models, this is just a sign of the times, manufacturers trying to fill every last niche and ensure there’s a model for every possible consumer out there.

      That, plus of course the ever present spectre of planned obsolescence.

      The makers don’t want to make the definitive camera to end all cameras, because then next year they’d have nothing to sell you! Hence constant “upgrades” and new models, even though, with digital compacts for example, arguably they reached their optimum for most photographer’s needs around 5 or 6MP and 10 or 15 years ago.

  5. Hi Dan, Well there has been a few over the years…. but the best of the bunch has to be that wonderous gem of a camera…. the Ricoh GX100, I brought it last year for a tad over £100, brand spanking new in the original box and everything that it “should” come with…. just like it would of done back in the day….It was a fluke buy to be honest, One evening I just popped over to the Ricoh forum site and was going through a few of the older postings…. and I spotted a guy telling others that a guy in Spain had managed to secure the entire goods of a camera shop that had closed down…. and was selling the entire stock off at decent prices via evilbay….. thinking that due to the post being an old one… I thought I was on a loser clicking on the link he had provided…. well after a bit of a faff, clicking on his profile and goods for sale tab and stuff, up popped the gx100 listing as well as a few lens listings…. I did wonder if there would be any issues with it due to it being in storage for such a long time ….even though in effect I was buying “New Old Stock” but thankfully all turned out to be fine… and boy is it a gem, I can honestly say that I have not used any other camera since…. and that even includes my smartphone…its one of the times when following someones link actually paid dividends…. and goes to show that it always pays to keep an eye on others postings… I know for sure that it will be a “keeper” as some say…. I’m just enjoying the ride its given me …. a superb camera that I’d recommend to anyone wanting a slip in the pocket camera that takes seriously good pictures…
    BR

    Lynd

    1. Hi Lynd, good to hear from you.

      You know my feelings about Ricohs, including the GX100. It does everything brilliantly, handles wonderfully, the user interface is second to none, and the images are fantastic.

      It’s no mystery why you love yours!

      Sometimes we think about a bargain as something that has to be dead cheap. But often it’s about the low price we pay for something we see as worth many times that to us.

  6. I feel like I have obnoxiously bragged about this one enough on various other forums, but mine has to be the Yashica T4 Super that I picked up for $1.80. At the time (last spring) I thought I might get $50 out of it, not realizing how the market had gone crazy. But I love that little thing, I carry it everywhere and I know I will not miss a photo if I have it with me. Honestly I find bargains a lot (ie as of yesterday I have an apparently functional Nikon N8008 that cost me $2)…I think I might be a camera whisperer. Enjoyed this post, and now have more to cameras on my watch list. Thanks!

    1. Betty, thanks for your thoughts.

      Yes the Yashica T series are one of the most hyped of all compact, and fetch crazy prices these days.

      Where do you normally find your bargains?

      1. Dan, sorry…never saw your reply! I find cameras at estate sales, resale shops and sometimes luck out online. My hub and i enjoy checking out the many junk and resale shops in our area. We live away from a big city and I think that in this area, no one has gotten the message that film cameras are collectible. I also can spot a camera from 100 paces. I’ve been around cameras my entire life so I can usually tell pretty fast if they are worth grabbing up. A lot of luck more than anything.

      2. Nope. I live in Ohio USA…and Betty was my mom actually. I woke up one day thinking of her being in Paris (no idea why but must have been dreaming of her) and so was born the name of my Etsy shop. LOL. It’s Laurie actually. Nice to meet you!

      3. Ha ha, well, the stories one starts to imagine, based on a person’s “name” online. laurieinohio is quite different to bettyinparis, but the latter is a great name for an etsy shop!

        Please to meet you too. My real name is, er, Dan James. I don’t really do all that online pseudonym stuff! (Though Dan James is not quite the name I was given at birth.)

  7. Thanks for such interesting blog topics on good 35mm cameras. I am a newbie to photography and have been eyeing the Olympus XA2 ($ 100+++) for its compact size. I bought a Pentax IQZoom 928 as a compact camera thanks to your blog. I got it for $ 7 (The shipping costs more than the camera at $ 8). I got my SLR camera today in the mail for $ 10…. Konica Autoreflex TC. Really nice piece of work from the 1980’s and good for a newbie like myself. The Pentax 928 is my walk through town or ride the tube in NYC.

    Thanks for your wisdom for a newbie like myself! The 928 makes a good BOND JAMES BOND camera. No one would even notice the picture being taken in the city.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Danny Boy.

      I assume you saw my other recent post on the Pentax Espio / IQZoom range. There are so many that are worth using and dead affordable. The 928 is fairly unusual in that it’s a reliable 28mm lensed option, where most zoom compacts of this era start at a far less wide 38mm.

      Enjoy!

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