Economics vs. ethics in buying and maintaining used cameras

I’ve gone on a bit of a spree recently, in the process of getting a Mamiya RB67 from a coworker, and also taking long looks at Pentax K-mount camera bodies.  The RB67, it turns out, has quite a lot of problems with it, starting with the lens: the shutter doesn’t activate before the mirror flips up, letting in much more light than it should (check out this video).  Besides that, it looks like the light seals are going.  I decided to take the lens in for a CLA first, and see if I can get by without doing the camera body and film back, if so it’ll save me $100.  RB67 lens CLA cost me $150, still negotiating how much I will buy the camera for with my coworker.  While the price of a CLA doesn’t excite me, what’s really frustrating is that I was all ready to start shooting medium format, spent $90 on some 120 film from the camera store (hint: if you want to save money on film, buy online), and now it’ll have to wait a few weeks.  So possibly $250 just to get the thing running plus whatever I end up paying for the actual equipment, when I could have got one online for $300-400.

My Olympus Trip 35 just jammed on me a few weeks back, the shutter’s stuck halfway and won’t move; I shot a roll of Ferrania P30alpha and a roll of Kodak Gold 200, and was just starting a roll of Fuji Velvia 100.  Having just sent my favorite Spotmatic for a CLA last year, I’m glad that I have something that’s 100% reliable, but I’m aware that it might seem strange spending $120 on a CLA for a camera that cost me $5. The Trip 35 cost me about $8.50, and you know what, I love that camera so I’ll be willing to drop $120 on a CLA for this one as well…at some point.  I could get one off the ‘bay for under $40 probably, but at least I know mine has working AE and accurate speeds.

Moving into the future though: while I love my Spotmatics, eventually I want to get a more full-featured 35mm camera and sadly that means getting away from M42 mount and into Pentax K (or Nikon F, if I had any luck finding lenses for it).  Now, what I really want is the Pentax LX but I don’t know if I can quite afford one yet, so I’ve been looking at a K2 or KX.  I already have a few good K-mount lenses that I can use for that, so it’ll happen sooner or later.  And knowing that I’d probably have to get a CLA at some point anyway, I came across a K2 that’s had a recent CLA, and the asking price is not much more than it would cost me to have it done anyway.  While that seems like a no-brainer, I remembered that a few years back I picked up a KX for $10 (with a lens) that had a broken meter; why not send that out for a repair/CLA instead?

When I started this blog, I was all about finding the best deal out there.  Buying a camera from a garage sale or thrift store for $5-8 is the cheapest way to get into film photography, and in times past the most I ever spent for a camera was $25; that gave me much more money to spend on film.  And if a camera breaks, who cares?  It’s not much money to replace.  From 2009 to 2013 I upgraded constantly and still had put less than $150 into all my camera equipment.  But I think I’m past that now.  Since re-falling in love with the Spotmatic and using that constantly for the last 4.5 years, I want to have dependable equipment for shooting paying projects, and I found out recently that I don’t have two camera bodies of the same make/mount that I would describe as reliable enough for that end.

When thinking back to when the new Reflex SLR camera was announced, I was excited about it, but I do see the problem where it’s much cheaper for people to spend $50 on a used camera than to buy a new one for $700 or however much it’ll cost when it comes out.  I’ve also seen prices rise for film cameras over the last 9 years, which has me thinking that sooner or later our supply of cheap used cameras will dwindle noticeably.  I’m not the only one to notice that trend.  These cameras that are 40-50 years old need a little help to keep going, so instead of just buying cameras on the cheap I’ll spend the extra money to get them repaired.  Keeping as many old cameras going as possible is the right thing to do.


The price is reasonable!

I think when I first was looking into shooting bulk rolls for the intermediate photo class Tri-X in 100ft rolls were going for around $125 which made it cheaper to shoot regular 36exp rolls.  I don’t know exactly when that changed but I’m happy to see it!  Every online retailer I’ve looked at so far is asking $76.5 for a 100ft bulk roll of Tri-X!

It’s almost enough to make me get a darkroom set up!  I’m in the process of finishing my photography minor with a 3D studio class, but if I take another photo class before I graduate you can bet I’ll take advantage of this!

Post-CLA roll in the SPII

I used a roll of the AGFAPhoto-branded Fuji Provia, it seems to be what it’s for these days. The Spotmatic is metering well, for the most part!  I noticed that for some reason when I focused the lens one way, it metered one way and when I focused the other direction the meter read overexposed by a stop.  I had Cameraworks tighten a few things up and now it’s not doing this.  These are some of my favorite shots off that roll of film, that are well-exposed (and I feel better now that the lens works properly).


…At least the lens did work properly when I originally wrote this…it’s back to its old tricks now, so I guess the 1.8/55 could use a CLA too.

More Kodak super 8 camera news from CES2018

Yup, two years later and it still isn’t out.  And the price has kept going up.  Honestly it’s been extremely frustrating with all the delays and price increases.  I’ll be honest, I was much more into this camera when it was going to be $400-750.  Right now they say it’ll retail somewhere around $2000-2500, with a release date of Summer 2018.  But it does officially exist:


Although I still want one bad, anymore I’ll have to wait and see just what the final price will be because it seems that even Kodak employees don’t have a final answer.  But if this thing’s gonna cost $2500 I don’t see how I or other students would be able to afford it.  The universities should be able to, though…I hope I can borrow one from mine!

One good thing in there, it seems that if you’re a fan of developing your own movie film (and I’ve met a few who are), you’re not automatically required to buy processing/scanning with the super 8 cartridge so I see that as a plus.  Kodak’s online store has gone back and forth between offering and not offering 16mm and 35mm film, and the price of super 8 film randomly fluctuates, I haven’t seen it advertised at what it should be since summer of 2017.

Good news: Kodak brings back another film

This popped up in my facebook feed this morning.  If you needed further proof that Kodak is confident of the future of film, here it is!

Honestly I’ve never shot this film so I’m glad I’ll get another chance.  Supposedly it’ll be available in March, which means it’ll beat Ektachrome to market. And there’s part of the problem.

Will Kodak actually release it next month?  And where is Ektachrome?  I’m sure it’s a much harder process reformulating E6 films, but I’m getting exasperated having Kodak announce things and still not see anything actually released.  Yet.  Still waiting for the super 8 camera, still waiting for Ektachrome.  Kodak needs to start following through.  I’ll give them a chance but my patience is limited…

edit: They must be really sure of their release date, because all the retailers are accepting preorders!