Go-to camera: still the Pentax Spotmatic SPII for a little bit longer
Camera I’m currently shooting: Canon AF35MII, Standard 4×5
My needs are pretty few, really. I find bargains on cameras and use the ones that I like the best. For 10 years now I’ve been trying a lot of different models but these are the ones that I’ve come back to again and again. So this page isn’t so much bragging about my massive (and still growing) collection, but a tribute to the dependable few, the ones I’m constantly in love with and come back to again and again.
Pentax Spotmatic SPII
This one will always have a special place in my heart because I found it for $5 at a garage sale back in 2010 and for a decade was my main camera. Takumar is a label of quality that I will forever defend even though the M42 screw mount and lack of professional features on the camera bodies rendered the system largely obsolete by the mid-’70s. I’ll put up an SMC Takumar lens against that of any other brand for sharpness, quality, and cost. Through my own cavalier attitude regarding winding and storage this camera’s shutter is in need of repair which will mean sending it to Eric Hendrickson for a CLA soon.
Why I Love the Pentax Spotmatic
Another camera I’ve found to be indispensable to me, thanks to its versatility and shutter-priority auto exposure. For a battery-dependent camera (the only one on the list, you’ll notice), I do feel comfortable trusting it in just about any situation, and it’s my go-to camera when shooting slide film. I was given this camera in 2013 and used it a bit during my Intro to Photography class, and off and on again since then. I used it extensively when making Overwhelming Majority in 2016, and bring it out a few times a year, mainly to shoot slides.
Canon 7 (rangefinder)
I sought out this camera as a platform to shoot Leica screw mount lenses. The first one I bought went bad, the second took a few too many knocks and the rangefinder is out of alignment. I’m a bit dubious about the value of Leica but the Canon 7 hits the sweet spot for shooting high-quality glass with a more modern-featured camera body (incorporating refinements Leica still hasn’t accepted) for an affordable price.
Olympus Trip 35
I paid barely anything for this camera, and it’s more than proved its value to me. As an AE camera that does much of the work for one, I still feel like I’m exercising my brain when I use it, probably due to its zone focusing mechanism. It runs off a selenium cell so doesn’t need batteries, and is quite compact, enough that I regularly carry it in a jacket pocket as a backup (if not the primary). The meter is still accurate after nearly 50 years which I’ve tested with several rolls of slide film. The ASA setting only goes to 200 and there are only two shutter speeds, but that can be overridden and I was still able to go indoors or take pictures in low light with it, using high-speed film. Unfortunately shooting in cold weather might not have been the best idea because the shutter seized on me so this camera also requires a CLA.
Another thrift store bargain, and the camera that lured me away from Pentax back in 2012. I used this camera extensively when taking Intro to Photo due to its highly-accurate shutter speeds, as well as already owning several different lenses by then. I grew up with my mom’s XG-A so Minolta holds a special place in my heart, and I don’t hesitate to recommend Minolta cameras to people looking to get into film photography, as they usually present an absolute steal for great quality equipment. If this camera has one weakness, it’s the voltage-dependent light meter originally designed for the PX625 mercury battery. This either needs to be modified to be completely accurate, or one can buy a new Wein Cell battery every few months.
I’ve noticed a worrying trend with my cameras: I buy them cheap and use them until they break. In fact that was the whole point of this blog, originally, except for the breaking part. Though I doubt my luck runs to finding one of these for $25 at a thrift store, I’ve listed below the cameras that I’ve always wanted to try, and you’ll notice that most of them have well-deserved reputations for durability. Donations welcome!
As a huge Pentax fan, I of course long for their top of the line professional body, with all the features one could possibly want in a manual focus camera. I’ve been steadily accumulating K-mount lenses over the past few years, including some of the original SMC-Pentax line that are supposedly optically-identical to the Takumars. If there is ever an SLR that could lure me to the K-mount, it would be the LX, or possibly the K2.
I’ll admit I’m curious about Nikon, their history and bullet-stopping reputation as a maker of the toughest cameras around, the ones the pros consistently chose to take with them to war zones and everywhere else around the globe for the last 50 years. I originally had my eye set on an FM2 but it seems I could get an F2 for almost the same price. Everyone says that it’ll last longer than I will, so could be a good investment.
35mm is all very well, and buying the Pakon F335 scanner meant I was making a long-term commitment to 35mm, but I do still find myself tempted by medium format every once in a while. As much as I occasionally lust after the Mamiya 7 (and since I’ve started seeing them come in to my used camera dealer it’s happening more and more), this is a much more affordable alternative.
The alternative to the alternative of a 6×9 rangefinder is to get my hands on some medium format Pentax goodness. While I’ve read enough about the Pentax 67 that it doesn’t interest me so much, a Pentax 6×4.5 SLR might do the trick for me.
And the alternative to the alternative of the alternative is the wonderful East German 6×6 SLR with a basic range of Zeiss Jena lenses. It has a good reputation and is relatively cheap.