Old film cameras are no doorstops
Among the many things I resent about digital imaging is the slamming of the door on one of my favorite hobbies, camera collecting. Aside from getting a discontinued model cheap to use as backup, can you tell me why someone would be excited about buying an obsolete digital camera for any purpose other than to use as a doorstop?
|BORED BY THE SQUARE? It's simple. Just make a 2 1/4x3 1/4 twin-lens reflex folder that does the twist.|
I've spent a lifetime collecting film cameras for three reasons: to finally buy a camera I'd originally yearned for but couldn't afford (such as a Leica M3), to repurchase a model I'd owned previously but traded in for one I'd wanted more at the time (such as a Zeiss Ikoflex III), or because I found a fascinating camera I just had to own (an Ernemann Ermanox).
I never bought a camera because it might increase in value, though some, like the Ermanox, surprised me. It's the same type of camera Erich Salomon and Alfred Eisenstaedt used in the 1920s (gosh!). I purchased it about 30 years ago at a pawn shop for $40. It's now worth between $2,400 and $3,600, according to the collector's bible, McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras.
People who know you collect tend to give you old cameras. Though often uninteresting and rarely valuable, sometimes they're gems of discovery. I thank each giver equally effusively.
In alphabetical order -- and all working -- I have, among others, an Agiflex II, Canon IV, Contax II, Contax S, Contax D, Exa, Exakta VX, Horizont, Kalart 3 1/4x4 1/4 press, Kiev IIIa, Kodak Ektra, Kodak Pupille, Kodak Retina Reflex 126, Kodak 35mm stereo, Leica IIIa, Mamiya Auto XTL, Minox B, Narciss, Nikon F, Olympus OM-1, Olympus OM-2, Olympus OM-4, Olympus Stylus, Olympus XA-4, Pentacon Six, Pentax 110, Pentax 645, Praktisix II, Purma Special, Reflex Korelle, Retina IIa, Rex Reflex, Rollei 35, Sawyer's Mark IV, Tenax II, 3 1/4x4 1/4 Mirroflex, Weltini, Weltur 4x5.6, Zenit EM, Zenit 80, and Zorki 5.
If you're intrigued and want more information, get a hold of McKeown's guide or search the web. In the meantime, here are three of the most interesting cameras in my collection.
The first Rolleiflex 2 1/4x2 1/4 twin-lens reflex appeared in 1929. The basic 2 1/4x2 1/4 format was copied by a vast number of American, Chinese, European, and Japanese camera manufacturers. Photographers who wanted formats other than the square one had to crop verticals and horizontals, thus not taking advantage of the total available picture area -- until 1935.
That's when the Welta Superfekta was introduced. It's a collapsible (via bellows) 2 1/4x3 1/4 120 roll-film twin-lens reflex with a pivoting back that allows you to make either vertical or horizontal pictures. Underneath the ground glass, automatic movable masks switch the format view in the finder. The 105mm f/3.8 Zeiss Tessar with speeds from 1 to 1/250 sec, plus B and T, can focus to 3.5 feet. A hinged magnifier is built into the four-piece collapsible hood. Current value: $550.
|SHOOTING SIDEWAYS: A monocular, yes? No. But watch out on the right or left!|
Most people date the beginning of candid photography to the Leica of 1925. Not so. Hidden cameras designed for sneak shots appeared far earlier.
The 1913 Ergo has the shape of a monocular, but actually takes pictures at 90 degrees to where it seems to be aimed. When you press the shutter release, a window in the left side opens to reveal a 35mm f/4.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. The eyepiece viewfinder shows the left view. The phony front of the monocular is actually the aperture ring, while two small dials near the eyepiece provide Compur shutter speeds of 1/25 to 1/100 sec, plus T and B, and let you set subject distances of 2 meters to infinity.
The Ergo uses 4x5.6cm plates, film packs, and, with an adapter, 127 roll film. Want to take pictures 90 degrees to the right, instead of the left? Turn the camera upside down! Its current value, according to McKeown, is $1,200 to $1,800.
KODAK SUPER SIX-20
|GIFT THAT KEEPS GIVING: Want a $200 1938 autoexposure camera? Sure, if it's worth 10 times that much.|
The first fully automatic-exposure camera using a selenium cell was the folding, clamshell-shaped 1938 Kodak Super Six-20, which makes eight 2 1/4x3 1/4 pictures on 620 roll film. (Though this format is no longer produced, Film for Classics in Honeoye Falls, NY, puts Kodak 120 film on the smaller 620 spool and will process it. It also handles other discontinued films and sizes. Check out www.filmforclassics.com.)
The 100mm f/3.5 Kodak Anastigmat Special lens focuses to 4 feet, and the camera provides eight automatic exposure times from 1/25 sec to 1/200 sec, plus manual control. The original high price of $225 (about $3,000 in today's dollars) held sales of this groundbreaker to fewer than 800.
My Super Six-20 was given to me decades ago by Bob Schwalberg, this magazine's much-revered, long-time senior editor. I gasped and insisted that Bob take it back when I learned its value was more than $2,000. "I never take back presents," he said.
So this is my written thanks to Bob, now long gone. They don't make 'em like that no more -- neither camera nor editor.
Ask Herbert Keppler
Q: The manufacturers of my older cameras say they're no longer repairable. True?
A: Not always. Essex Camera Service in Carlstadt, NJ, has fixed my cameras -- ancient to modern, simple jobs to the incredible -- for over 25 years. But don't expect rush service. Call 201-933-7272 or visit www.essexcamera.com.