All My Children (i.e. Cameras)
My daughter, Anna, accuses me of treating my cameras like my children. I suspect there’s more than a kernel of truth in that. It's a good thing they're not though, as we'd be in the poorhouse given the number of them.
The gallery below includes all the film cameras that I regularly shoot. As camera collections go, mine is on the small side. True collectors often have dozens of cameras. I am at the point with my collection where if I add a camera I feel the need to move another one out. I’m not looking to increase the number of cameras.
Originally I started accumulating 35mm film SLRs to use for a film workshop I was leading with the youth of our church. Well, let’s just say that was the spark that lit the fire. I honestly don't consider myself a collector, in the sense that I shoot every one of these cameras on a regular basis. I don't keep them for show and don't have them in a fancy display case. I don't get all excited about what serial number the camera is or whether it came with the original box. I just want them to work. They sit on a shelf in my office, and when I'm set to load a new roll of film I take a look at the negative sleeves to see which camera hasn't seen much love lately.
I thought it would be fun to quickly run down how these cameras came to me and what I think of them. By the way, the cameras are shown below by the vintage of the camera within make, with the oldest being mid-1930s vintage and the newest being 2002. Most are from the 70s and 80s.
Kodak Duo Six-20 Art Deco: This was the camera I first learned photography on back in 1969. The one I used then was given to me by my Dad. I picked this copy up last year, looking to get back to my film roots. The Art Deco version came out in the mid-1930s. As the name would suggest, this camera has beautiful art deco styling. It was made at Kodak's plant in Stuttgart, Germany. It is manual everything. There is no meter or focusing aid. You guess the distance to your subject and then let depth of field handle the rest. I use a small, handheld external meter. The Six-20 in the name refers to an obsolete format of Kodak film that this camera used. Fortunately, there are options to shoot readily available 120 medium-format film in this camera. I still have the original camera I used in 1969, but, sadly, it's not in working condition.
Rolleiflex 2.8c: The Rolleiflex is an iconic film camera…perhaps the iconic film camera. Last year, I was looking to get a medium format camera that didn’t break the bank or my shoulder when carrying it. A twin lens reflex (TLR) like the Rolleiflex seemed to fit the bill. National Camera had one available in decent condition at a fair price, so I bought it. TLRs have a nice compact size and typically come with a fixed lens, so there is no need to invest in an entirely new set of lenses. The Rolleiflex 2.8c is all manual and has no meter. It does provide the ability to focus the lens though. The 2.8c model of the Rolleiflex TLR came out in the mid-1950s. I'm getting more accustomed to shooting with a TLR. The photos this camera produces have a distinct quality to them I quite like.
Nikon F Photomic FTn: This camera was gifted to me by my Dad. The Nikon F was a landmark 35mm single lens reflex (SLR) camera system that launched in 1959. Prior to that, rangefinders ruled the market for 35mm cameras. The Nikon F changed all that. The Nikon F is all manual, in that it works without a battery (except the meter). This is a fun camera to shoot...so simple and elegant. My copy of the Nikon F was made in 1972, toward the end of the Nikon F's long production run.
Nikkormat FT2: This Nikkormat was also gifted to me by my Dad. Now do you see where I get my Nikon fanboy genes from? Yet another fully manual camera, the Nikkormat FT2 was actually my first Nikon. I used this all throughout the 90s. It still works well. It's built like a tank. The FT2 was made in the mid-70s.
Nikon F3 HP: The sexiest camera ever made...that's my claim and you'll never convince me otherwise! My purchase of this camera in 2017 marked the beginning of my return to film. The Nikon F3 was the camera that cemented my return to film. The F3 is one of my absolute favorite cameras. It is incredibly well built and is a delight to shoot. This is definitely geeking out, but the film advance lever on the F3 is a mechanical marvel, and the shutter sound from this camera is pure camera porn. The F3 is an automatic camera, offering aperture preferred metering, which is one of the key reasons I purchased it. I wanted some level of automation when I first returned to film. My copy of the F3 was made in 1981.
Nikon FE2: I picked this camera up in 2019 once I was fully committed to film. The FE2 is another automatic camera, but has much lighter weight than the previously listed Nikons. I've got to say that the FE2 has the best viewfinder of any of my film cameras. All the information you need is right there in the viewfinder, and it is nice and big and bright. This camera ranks up there with the F3 as a favorite. My FE2 was made somewhere in the 1983 - 1987 time period.
Nikon FM2n: This is the latest addition to my camera collection, serving to replace a recently sold Nikon F2. The FM2n is another manual camera that will function perfectly well without a battery. It does have a meter though, with a readout in the viewfinder that is simply wonderful...so easy to use. I'm really enjoying shooting the FM2n. I had held out for a long time on buying this camera, since it is priced a bit higher on the used market, but once I sold my F2, another manual camera, I wanted to replace it with a manual Nikon camera that I'd enjoy shooting. In terms of how it feels in the hands, it's much like the FE2. Both are light and compact, and are easy to carry on long hikes. Surprisingly for its styling and features, my copy of the FM2n was made in around 2001.
Nikon N80: This was the first Nikon camera I actually bought new with my own money back in 2002. This was at the tail end of the film era and the beginning of digital overtaking film. This is the only film camera I own that has auto focus. One nice thing about it is that I can use all my Nikon DSLR lenses on it.
Olympus OM-1n: The Olympus OM-1 was another breakthrough 35mm SLR, representing a dramatic downsizing of the traditional bulky 35mm SLR. The OM-1n is an upgrade to the OM-1 that came out in 1979. Like the OM-1, it is a fully manual camera that is beautifully built. It is a delight to shoot, so simple and intuitive. All the OM cameras have amazing viewfinders...among the biggest and brightest out there. I picked up my first OM-1n with the objective of adding a fully manual Olympus OM camera to my collection. I purchased my second OM-1n because I just couldn't stand to see it sitting there listed at a bargain price of seventy bucks at National Camera. I tried to interest others in buying it in the online film community at Twitter, and when that didn't work, I just couldn't let this deal pass me by. I sold a Nikon F2 to make room for this camera in my collection.
Olympus OM-2n: When I was looking to buy my first 35mm SLR back in the 1970s, what I really wanted was the Olympus OM-2, but I couldn't afford one with the money I'd saved working at the lumberyard. The OM-2n was an upgrade to the OM-2 that came out in 1979. This particular camera is my first Olympus. I picked it up in 2020 at KEH. Built just like the OM-1n, it is an automatic camera that offers aperture-preferred metering. Like the OM-1n, this camera is wonderful to shoot. It ranks up there with my F3 and FE2 as one of my favorite cameras.
Olympus OM-4T: The OM-4T represents the pinnacle of Olympus' achievements in 35mm SLRs. That is what served as my impetus to get an OM-4T, to have the best that Olympus had to offer in the OM line. The problem was that the OM-4T carries a hefty premium on the used market. I was able to find an OM-4T in "shooter condition" at KEH at a reasonable price. I sold an Olympus OM-2S to make room for this camera. The OM-4T has a sophisticated spot metering capability that I'm just beginning to get my arms wrapped around. The OM-4 and OM-4T had a long production run, ranging from 1987 to 2002. I don't know when mine was made during that time period.
Interestingly enough, I'm poised to lead another film photography workshop with the high schoolers at our church during Arts Month in March. I'm hoping it all goes ahead. The youth will be using my 35mm SLRs for this workshop and we'll be shooting HP5+ black & white film from Ilford. It should be fun. I'll write about it here.