Friday 4 July 2008

Farewell to Old Cameras

How sentimental or affectionate should one be for old possessions? How much is invested in these physical links with events and adventures, times and places? How significant are the memories they hold? Over the years I’ve accumulated a collection of cameras, going right back to manual film SLRs and classic film compacts like the Olympus XA. There are cameras that travelled the length of the Canadian Rockies, through the Yukon Territory, along the Arizona Trail, to Everest Base Camp and on many more trips. In boxes of slide sleeves and now on hard discs I have the thousands of images taken with them, which are often referred to for articles, books and talks. The cameras themselves have been lying forgotten in old dusty camera bags in corners of my office, occasionally moved when in the way but mostly ignored. A decision to buy a new camera made me think about these old ones. Did I really need to keep them? Wouldn’t it better if they were with someone who would actually take pictures with them? I was considering selling those that still worked – not that there was much monetary value left in them – when my partner Denise mentioned that Hazel, my stepdaughter, had a friend at art college studying photography who might be interested in some cameras. As we were going down to Edinburgh to visit Hazel soon anyway I emailed her friend, who showed great excitement at the thought of the cameras so I took them all down with me, filling half a big rucksack with bodies, lenses, boxes, cases and accessories. We commandeered the back room of the excellent Scott’s Deli and after lunch I laid out my old gear on a long table. How does this one work? I fiddled with the buttons and levers. Like this, I think. Or maybe not. Can you get this lens on this body? Um, probably. I think it goes this way. Oh, it’s the other way. I may have used these cameras hundreds of times in the past but I could no longer remember exactly how they worked. Watching Claudine handle them with excitement, her eyes lighting up as she looked through viewfinders, zoomed lenses and played with the controls, I realised that these old cameras still had much to offer and that it really was a waste to keep them lying round as barely remembered souvenirs. So they stayed in Edinburgh where I hope they will take many more photographs. And I returned home to all the photographs I took with them and to my new camera, which I am still learning to use.

A table of camera gear in Scott’s Deli. Photo info: Ricoh GR-D, flash, program mode f2.4@1/30, ISO 100, raw file converted to JPEG in Adobe Camera Raw then cropped in Photoshop Elements 5.


  1. A splendid idea Chris!

    I have an ancient old Pentax SLR with a collection of Pentax lenses that still works absolutely fine - even though its 27 years old!

    I never use it now.

    I shall hunt out a worthy recipient

  2. You reap what you sow as the old saying goes. I hope you get something good come back to you for that kind act of giving–what is the new camera you have?

  3. Thanks for your comments. I'm glad Alan is passing on his old camera. My first ever SLR was an old manual Pentax, unfortunately stolen many, many years ago.

    Martin, my new camera is a Canon EOS 450D. I had the 300D and the 350D but didn't bother with the 400D. I upgraded to the 450D because I wanted bigger files that would have more detail if cropped, as happens more often now with pictures used in magazines and books. I also wanted the dust removal system, which seems to work pretty well. Having used the camera for a few weeks I've discovered other much improved features such as a larger, brighter screen, ISO information in the viewfinder, an ISO button, being able to organise the menu so the settings I use most all come up together as soon as I press the menu button, longer battery life, a highlight tone priority that increases dynamic range, live view which is useful for tripod shots, the screen shutting off when the camera is held to the eye. Overall I'm delighted with the 450D - it's a great improvement with the 350D, which I liked as well.

  4. I passed my old faithful Nikon F5 to my mum with a 80-400mm lens, she was very enthusiastic at an air show, not bad pix either I must say!!

    As for me - well digital is here to stay... What is Nikon going to bring out next to knock Canon out with ;-) :-)

    Best Tony

  5. PS - bet you annoyed that Canon now has the 1000D (I think?). But that is always the case - we will never keep up!! I guess the money you "saved" over the 1000D, can be put to other stuff!

    Interested in how the dust removal system goes!!

    My D300 still gets the odd speck - oh of course I forgot, Nikon is perfect!!


  6. Tony, the 1000D is a less specified camera than the 450D so I would still buy the 450D/ The 1000D would make a good back-up but I still have the 300D for that. Why Canon has called it the 100D after half century steps from the 300D to the 450D I don't know. Logically it would be the 425D!

    So far the dust removal system is working fine. Not that I had many dust problems with the 300D or 350D. I do change lenses more often now as I have four of them rather than two.

    I have no loyalty to camera brands. I started with Pentax, went to Nikon because the Pentax cameras proved a little delicate and Nikon were meant to be tougher, then changed to Canon because I wanted an ultralight SLR for a long walk and the 300D was lighter than anything Nikon offered. When digital came along I stayed with Canon simply because the 300D was the first DSLR that was reasonably light weight and reasonably priced.

  7. You know Chris I don’t understand cameras that well. I have a Nixon D40X. It does me proud – wish it had dust removal. What I do know is your photos are good and strike me as honest. What I mean by that is what you see is what you took. No Paint shop altering- correct me if I’m wrong. That is how I take my photos nothing added. I looked up that Canon 450D and it looks good – be tempted to get one myself.

  8. Thanks Martin. I do want my photos to replicate the original scene as far as possible. I take raw files then convert them into JPEGs. Any alterations made during this process are designed to make the photos look more like the scene. I never add anything or remove anything or change the colours. All the years I shot film I took transparencies, which means you have to get the best image in camera. I take digital photos the same way. I don't work on the assumption I can "improve" a poor image by manipulating it on the computer. I don't use coloured filters either, which with film or digital can give a false impression and sometimes look completely unreal. There was a fad for tobacco filters some years ago, which were supposed to give a sunset look. I remember one picture of Glen Coe taken with such a filter that looked as though a nuclear explosion had taken place!

  9. Martin, I think the Nikon D60 has dust removal.

    I certainly agree with Chris, what I take is what I use, or delete. My brain won't work beyond that anyway!! I shoot RAW - of course. Watch out for auto ISO - I used it the other day, forgot it was on and my flash pix were higher ISO than needed and I ended up over exposing a few as well. (Inside shots with outside visible!) Darn. Make sure my brain learns! That was a D300 - great camera, but quite heavy! I carried 20kg of gear the other day in a Pro Trekker. More exercises needed!


    Tony - I put anonymous - as that is easy for my brain ;-) This time I will try my Google account...early days... no didn't work!!

  10. Tony, a good point with the 450D is that you can see the ISO in the viewfinder so it's hard to make that mistake.

  11. Chris, you are not counting on this idiot - the D300 shows the ISO in the viewfinder - I just don't think look at it! My eye simply doesn't look down there, if it does - it doesn't send the requisit info to my brain! I need to remember to check that!! That's what I like about the D3, it has the info on the back, like my old F5 did, more likely to see it there. Dream on boyo;-) Mind you once viewfinder up to eye level - and you recompose the images - as I would - it could be in neon lights on the back of camera and I would still miss it! So I am b...ered. Brain transplant is needed! I took loads of pix - so a few are ok from that particular shoot. The weather spoilt the rest of it... I did manage to shoot the back of Lewis Hamilton's head. I guess I was the only photographer to get the back of his head, everyone else got his face!! Farnborough!

  12. Chris, the photo of your old camera collection brought back happy memories for me. I still have - and occasionally use - my 1st SLR camera. It's an old, rather battered and bruised Pentax Spotmatic, bought second-hand 30 years ago.

    It took me ages to work out how to use the rather lax 'needle' metering system, especially for back-lit subjects and during twylight conditions. Unfortunately, that seems to be one of the first skills I've lost too. How quickly I've become accustomed to using digital...

    I'd love to take up the Challenge but getting time off in May from school is impossible - just have to move Easter forward a bit maybe?