Alan's Blog




Old Camera - New Camera?

There have been times when other people have, mistakenly, thought I had a great interest in photographic equipment and, in particular, was trying to outdo them in terms of the cameras and other equipment I've bought. Looking back, I'm sure, now and again, this may have caused them some stress or even envy, although I sincerely hope not. My constant upgrading of my photographic equipment took place in the early years of my developing passion for photography when I had friends who shared the same passion and we worked together on our picture taking.

By way of explanation, the one and only reason for me keep upgrading my cameras and lenses was entirely because I wanted to obtain better quality images by doing so.

After first having simple 'plastic box' type cameras, I started with my first adjustable camera in the late 1960s – a second-hand Halina 35x Super which cost me £9 and I bought it on a monthly repayment basis.

I changed that for a brand new Pentacon Pentaflex SL which, on borrowed money once again, cost me a penny under £30, although I wish I'd bought it with the Tessar lens which would have cost rather more.

At some stage, I also bought a Yashica MAT, twin lens reflex camera for £30 - second-hand yet again, so had two cameras on the go – the best being the Yashica as it was fitted with the Yashinon 80 mm lens.

I sometimes used to borrow a second-hand Pentacon Praktica-mat camera from my local photographic shop where I was well looked after by their salesman, a Mr. Day, who was just as enthusiastic as me over my photography. He was a lovely elderly man and I was very saddened when he retired due to ill health.

My next step-up was an Ashai Pentax S1a, second-hand again, complete with 50 mm lens. I guess that this was also around £30, but have no definite memory of the exact cost.

At some time, I also bought a Minolta camera that took 126 size film cartridges. The reason for this is that it had a wind-up mechanism for automatically advancing the film after each exposure which made it ideal for remote control use which I was experimenting with at the time.

Towards the end of 1972 or early 1973, I bought an Ashai Pentax Spotmatic with a 50 mm f1.4 lens – using money from my college grant to pay the required £95 – another second-hand camera and lens combination. I still have this camera - and it's still in working order.

In those few years, I'd bought several cameras solely in order to improve the quality of the images I was taking. Although the Pentaflex SL was okay as a camera, the lens I'd bought with it was rather mediocre as I soon found out when I had some fairly large prints made. The lens on the Halina was rubbish too, hence the upgrade. Apart from the Yashica, the big difference was obtained once I'd bought into the Pentax range – and traded in the Yashica to help pay my way.

After these cameras, it was sometime before I bought another which was the Canon A-1, soon after it was introduced – which I still have. I guess this would have been about 1976 or 1977. This was a marvellous camera but when I started selling a few of my photographs I went the way of many professional photographers at the time and started with another attempt at medium format film (the Yashica had taken 6 cm x 6 cm images – medium format).

At some stage I even owned an Exacta VX500 camera which I later gave to a friend – I believe I also gave him a 300 mm lens to go with it.

This time, I bought a new Mamiya 645J outfit with a bag full of lenses and accessories – I'm not sure exactly when this would have been but was probably in 1979 or 1980. I spent £1250 on this set-up which was a lot of money in those days but shortly afterwards the importer changed and the prices went through the roof under the new 'ownership'. I've still got this outfit too and have added a couple more lenses over the years.

Sometime around 1990 to 1992, I bought a Canon EOS10 which was stolen from me in the Philippines in 1998. I didn't buy another camera to replace it until 2001, by which time I'd met and married Grace and we were living in Kuwait. We visited a camera / photographic show and I bought one of the last remaining Canon EOS5 cameras as they were going out of production. I still have this camera too.

By this time, digital cameras were really becoming popular but I held off buying one as I knew what I wanted but there was nothing around at anything like a sensible price. It wasn't until July 2006 that I bought my first digital camera, a Canon EOS 5D which cost about £2300+ for just the body – lenses extra!

I kept this camera as my main camera for more than 11 years (and it's still going strong!) when I replaced it in December 2017 with a Canon EOS 5D Mk II which I bought second-hand for £600 – rather different to the new price of about £2400! In super condition having taken only about 37 000 photographs and with a 6-month guarantee – a bargain!

It is quite possible that this will be the only camera I'll ever need for the future.

As you can see, a great deal of my equipment over the years has been bought second-hand and I don't see that situation changing. I've written more about this topic on my blog at URL:

You may well have observed from the above that almost all my cameras have been of the single lens reflex design – using either film or digital media. The only exceptions were the Halina 35x Super, the Minolta and the Yashica MAT (which was a twin-lens reflex design).

The other observation you will have made is that as time goes on, I change my photographic equipment much less frequently than in the early days – I don't need to keep changing equipment as the image quality of what I'm using is now good enough to last me for many years. In fact, I don't like changing my cameras and only do so reluctantly - and when I can see a significant improvement that's worth spending my money on in order to realise it.

This brings me onto the topic I was thinking about when I first started to write this little blog page – modern cameras.

The single lens reflex design of camera is (almost) no more. How sad. The main stream cameras now have a digital display viewfinder instead of an optical viewfinder using lenses, prisms and mirrors.

From a personal point of view, I have no interest at all in these cameras and would be very reluctant to buy one. Maybe I'm old-fashioned or just out of touch, but, to me, there is no substitute for an optical viewfinder.

I've now lost almost all interest in new cameras and their hugely expensive lenses and I can't see that changing during the remaining days I have left on this earth.

Perhaps my long history of buying second-hand equipment has been, and is, a good idea after all – and I can save a fortune by continuing to do so – but may never need to again.


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