Finding Your Forever Camera

There’s an expression amongst house hunters – “finding our forever home” – which means finding the property you plan to spend the rest of your life in.

But how does this apply to us photographers?

Is there such thing as a “Forever Camera”?

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Personally I can name a handful of digital cameras I could happily use exclusively for the rest of my life.

The Ricoh GX100, Ricoh GRD III, Pentax Q, Panasonic Lumix LX3, and most recently the little Canon Digital IXUS 870 IS.

These are all cameras that delight me enough – and deliver impressive enough results – that I don’t need to look any further.

But what about the lifespan of these cameras and the energy sources and media they rely upon?

In 40, 50, 60 years’ time, it’s highly unlikely any of them will still work, or the batteries, memory cards and file formats they depend on are still available and usable.

So they can’t be called Forever Cameras in this sense.

Given that I’m hopefully not even half way through my life, there’s only one camera I own that I can say with confidence could be my Forever Camera.

The Asahi Spotmatic F.

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It does take a battery for the meter, but I haven’t had one in it for years, and used to rely on either Sunny 16 or use a light meter app on my phone.

The essential functions are all mechanical, and it feels silky smooth to use. Same with my favourite M42 lenses I own.

It might need a service in a decade or two, but can quite feasibly still be fully working many decades beyond that.

But what about film, and processing services? Will these be available in five years, let alone 15 or 30? 

Due to all of these unknowns, we could quite feasibly say that no camera in existence today will still be used to its fullest 30 or 40 years from now.

Which makes this question for anyone planning to live that much longer almost redundant.

But these practicalities aside, which camera(s) do you own and use now that could easily be your Forever Camera?

Do you think about your current camera’s longevity, or do you plan to just upgrade every year or two or five for the rest of your life?

Please let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear your thoughts (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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40 thoughts on “Finding Your Forever Camera”

  1. Finding my forever camera, is my Leica M4-2 with a Summicron 50mm f/2 is everything I’ll ever need. The Summicron is a 6 bit lens so should the worst happen, I would have to find a way to buy a Leica M10D body.

      1. Since getting the Leica its the only camera I use now. The exception is one I carry to work a Minolta 500si + 50mm, only because it’s cheap, was given too me and won’t matter if it’s gets damaged, but most I have I don’t think I will ever use again.

      2. It’s alright and the lens is pretty good I use a Minolta 50mm f/1.7 and been night work I’m using Kodak T-Max P3200 film. Too many electronics for me much prefer using the a all manual camera really.

  2. I think with me it’s more that I have bought into one system – Canon – which seems to suit me. The interesting point about digital photography is that early images are no longer readable with modern software. So we will have to wait and see if the devices in the middle of this century will still accept everything we’re using now.

  3. You do know that your photo is of a Spotmatic SP?

    Although I adore my Pentax ME, my forever camera would be the Nikon F3 because it is indestructible and the Pentax isn’t. Oh, and I like it very much.

    1. Thanks Jim, yes well spotted (no pun intended!) I had an SP for some time too, and I preferred the image I had to any I had of the F.

      What about your KM, which as we know is essentially a Spotmatic with a K mount bayonet?

      1. You might recall that the last time I used the KM I dropped it and bent the lens mount. 😦 I need to send it for repair. But I enjoy using the F3 more, and it offers aperture-priority shooting which I adore.

      2. Oh yes, I do recall now you mention it. The KM is great, but, mechanical operation aside, it’s hard to look at ahead of a little M series like the ME Super too.

      3. Based on the amount of time I have been thinking about this, I ultimately can’t answer the question. Although I do love my Spotmatic, multiple Nikons are here to pull me back in that direction. Don’t get me started on my other Pentax and Minoltas (I have a problem).
        However if I truly had to choose one single camera I might go with my Rolleiflex 2.8C (I know, not 35mm) because it was my Dad’s and because every roll of film I get back from it is amazing.

  4. My forever camera is my Leica IIIf. I’ve owned it since 1965. I have no doubt that 35mm black and white film and chemicals will be available for longer than I will be around to use them. I have no need of processing services. I do my own developing, scanning with a digital camera, and inkjet printing.

    1. I love reading about photographers that are so self sufficient and almost unaffected by passing time. You could have written that comment any time since 1965 and will probably still be able to decades from now…

      1. Well, yes and no. There was a long dark period between my having to give up my darkroom because of a move and the time constraints of my day job and the advent of affordable decent quality scanning at home.

      2. Ah ok, but that aside, you could have done it.

        I couldn’t have said “I upload the pictures from my camera to my laptop then process in Snapseed” even a decade ago!

  5. Hmm. “Forever” is a nearer horizon, a bit more finite, here. But I expect that if film persists, the refit and refurbed Kiev and Zorki will still be up to the task.

    There is always a bit of technical overlap among generations – the mindful will port images over as capture/storage tech evolves. And as now, In fifteen years time, people will be buying today’s glammy Nikon Z7s at yard sales and thrift shops for peanuts, and using them with glee.

    1. William, yes that’s a fun game, guessing which of today’s new cameras will be future digital classics and which will fall by the wayside. Digital is old enough now that people are starting to become aware of classics of the past, whereas perhaps 20 years ago the reviewers and photographers handling 2 and 3MP digital cameras for the first time and finding them incredible technology, had no way of seeing a) which of those cameras are still worth experimenting with today, and b) the pace at which they would be upgraded and replaced.

      As you say too, if we stay fairly abreast of technology, we can learn when a replacement to say JPEGs comes along, and convert our files as we see necessary rather than being stuck with a format like Betamax or MiniDisc with increasingly less (and eventually no) technology to read it.

  6. I’d prefer a forever me and a whatever-there-is at the time camera I think.
    There have been many cameras I liked a lot but, probably due to ‘camera gear overexposure’ after 25 years or so in the trade, it’s still the photographers I knew who were more impressive.

      1. Stuart, thanks for your comments. Do you mean you’ve forgotten all the cameras you’ve used, or there have been so many you’ve liked, it’d be hard to pick just one?

      2. I think it’s more like I tend to favour the one I’m into at present, rather than have along term favourite that I return too.

        The only two cameras i’ll keep with me for the rest of my life are my Canon F1 and EOS 620. Not because of the cameras themselves, but the stories behind them. The F-1 was the camera my wife used for her Photography O-level and the 620 was what we had when we were first together and took with us on our honeymoon.

      3. Those sound like two good reasons!

        I have a post in draft with a working title of “If You Can’t Be With The Camera You Love, Love The Camera You’re With”, with an obvious nod to the similarly titled song!

      1. Not really.
        I did hang on to my film Minolta Dynax 9 for a long time (boot full of lovely sample lenses to use too) and used the ‘prosumer’ (I always hated that naming and categorising thing the marketing department did) Konica-Minolta DiMage 7Hi sample (I had one of everything they made as a sample) as my digital while everyone else was moving on to the early DSLR’s. Minolta took what turned out to be a fatal amount of time to get their DSLR perfected to their liking before launching it when everyone else just put out what they could do right then, even if it had, ahem… limits.
        But no, still not really ever bothered by any sentiment about it much.

      2. I’d like to have tried a Dynax 9. A couple of Minolta AF lenses I’ve had were stunning, as good as anything I’ve used in the final image.

        Yes Minolta were as good as anyone in their day – many of the older Rokkor lenses are quite superb too. They just didn’t quite manage to keep up with some of the others.

        I think it says a lot that Sony, who bought them out, kept their A mount and many of the lens designs from the mid 80s!

  7. Hi Dan, This post seems to have stimulated a good amount of discussion, good job! Very timely for me, as I have my collection of many years spread out in our dining room at this very moment. I have decided to sell off almost all my film cameras and go digital. I am trying to simplify my life and film cameras really create a lot of ancillary “stuff” that really clutters up the house. I am going to pick one digital system and stick to that. I am keeping a few film cameras that I inherited, and a few SLR’s, and interestingly I seem to have settled on the Pentax kit. I do have a few Nikon bodies that I can’t part with and may get an occasional outing, but I really like the size of the Pentax’s and I like the lenses I have.

  8. Dan, As you know I managed to drop on a new old stock Ricoh GX100, so all things being ok… I’m fixed for the next 20 to 25 yrs so long as I’m able to get batteries … which will take me into the mid 70’s early 80’s age wise…. so at that point I will probably treat myself to a new camera that’s if I get there that is…fingers crossed… this will then be my “forever camera”…sounds like a plan eh…. br…. Lynd

    1. Lynd, yes Ricoh has some bad press regarding their reliability, and justifiably so I understand, as many of their film GR series failed ahead of other, cheaper cameras.

      Fingers crossed our GX100s last many years yet!

  9. I never had to look for my “forever camera” as I had it already. A couple of years ago I had all my Olympus cameras serviced. Afterwards, I took out the OM2n, set it in aperture priority mode, and quickly shot a film.This 70’s camera just worked and it still remains a jewel of a camera with lovely mechanics. I suspect that it (and my OM1) will easily outlast me.

    1. The OM2 is an often cited favourite SLR. I’ve never had one, the closest I got was an OM40, which was ok. Just prefer Pentax and Minolta lenses though. I’m sure most of us with 70s SLRs will be outlived by them!

  10. My choice would have been my Pentax KX, which I bought new in 1976! But it was stolen and while I recently got another one, it hasn’t had a roll of film through it yet. I’m using my K1000 with adapter for older lenses and see not reason to change. I have so much Pentax stuff I might buy another few K1000s for spares. I have 4 now.

    1. Ric, thanks for your input, another Pentax fan.

      I’ve tried all of the original range of K mount cameras and my favourite was probably the KM. I don’t think most people realise it’s near identical to the K1000 but with a depth of field preview (I don’t think anything else is different?), but the K1000 despite being the lower end camera seem to go for much more than the KM!

      With either though, don’t you find they just feel like a Spotmatic with a K mount, but somehow not as refined or graceful to use? I can’t put my finger on it, but comparing my Spotmatic F with a KM, essentially identical except the mount, the F always feels much smoother and more refined somehow.

      For K mount I think the camera I enjoyed most was either a black MV I had, probably the smallest and simplest K mount camera made (at least by Pentax) or the only slightly more advanced MG, which again of course sharing the same basic ME body is very small and light. Plus an M42 adapter for all that fantastic Takumar glass…

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