Cameras from a time when photos were taken with care and craftsmanship

 

Topcon Unirex• Click the icons at the top right of the page for film cameras grouped by type.

• There's a full list of individual cameras in my collection in the right hand column.

Click to see the list if your screen size is less than 700px wide.

Each camera portrait comprises: a description and opinion of the model, technical specifications, illustrative photographs, original advertisements* and UK price details*, links to the camera's user manual*, and any other good Internet sites (* where possible).

 


 

What's the point of this website?

Beauty BeaumatMy area of interest is mainly 35mm film cameras from the mid 50s through to the early 80s (pre-auto-focus and copious plastic). Unfortunately good quality information is sometimes more scarce than surviving cameras, so the aim of this website is to preserve and share knowledge. I prefer to gather information through hands-on examination, along with study of instruction manuals and other credible material. I strive not to simply reproduce what other collectors have written. If some of the content of my site appears to be copied from Camera-Wiki ... well it isn't ... I probably wrote the wiki article (well some of it; sometimes all of it).

I update this site quite regularly, usually when I've obtained a new bit of equipment, or found a fresh snippet of information.

 


 

Why I collect film cameras

DigiluxI got interested in photography in my early teens. My equipment was basic, because my only income was a £1-a-week newspaper delivery round. I lusted after the shiny things covered in dials and buttons. Many years later, some of those cameras have become very affordable, and I have a little spare cash these days. I started collecting in May 2013. I enjoy the whole start to finish process: predating eBay, researching the details of different models, cleaning and repairing them (to the best of my ability), maintaining this website, and (albeit infrequently) shooting film.

MY CAMERA COLLECTION IS A HOBBY: I NEVER SPEND BIG MONEY ON IT. There's a full list of what I've paid for my cameras at the foot of the What's that camera worth? page. I have no desire to collect every camera ... just those that interest me.

For day-to-day photography I use digital cameras: a Leica Digilux bought new in about 2002, and a tiny, always-in-my-pocket, Fujifilm Finepix J40. Despite having 4 times the megapixels, the performance of the Fuji doesn't come close to the Leica.

 


 

Buying cameras

Voigtlander Vito IIaAlmost all of my cameras and lenses have been purchased via eBay. I have detailed their costs, net of postage, as the current UK cost of a small package weighing less than 2kg is £2.85. If postage costs are unreasonable, I assume the seller to be a rascal, and don't bid on their item.

The truth is, purchases are mostly a complete gamble: many sellers have no idea how to use a film camera, and so cannot identify features that don't work as intended. If you want to buy a camera in full working order, my top tip is to look for the item description used, which means the item may have some signs of cosmetic wear, but is fully operational and functions as intended. If the camera has an un-disclosed fault, you have the option to get ALL your money back, regardless of any returns policy specified by the seller.

My primary tactic is to bid the maximum amount I wish to pay a few seconds before the auction ends. This removes the opportunity to exceed my budget in the heat of the moment, and denies my competitors the option to make me pay more than necessary by repeatedly increasing their bids in an attempt to exceed my maximum. It doesn't always work, because other bidders play the same game, so my secondary tactic is patience. There will always be another one along in a few hours, days, weeks, months (sometimes years).

 


 

General repairs, and sources for parts (here in the UK where possible)

Contax 137MDAny newly acquired camera will generally require cleaning, new light seals (if it's Japanese), and possibly other minor DIY repairs or replacement of missing exterior parts.

I'm using ROR (Residual Oil Remover) Pro Lens Cleaning Fluid to clean lenses and glass; obtained from Jack the Hat Photographic.

Replacing light seals isn't difficult, but it is fiddly. Guidance can be found at Jon Goodman's Seal Replacement Instructions. Not every make and model is covered, but they are all pretty much the same. It pays to use the correct materials: open-cell (vibration deadening) for mirror dampers, closed-cell (more dense and light blocking) for door chanels, and felt for door hinges. The pre-cut kits available from various sources consist of wholly open-cell sponge foam parts, and best avoided. UK eBay seller pilgrim18 stocks good uncut materials. They are inexpensive and each sheet is sufficient for many cameras.

Aki-Asahi Custom Camera Coverings (Japan) is great for pre-cut replacement leathers, or sheet material if your model isn't listed. Customer service is very good, with fast and inexpensive delivery ($4 = £3.24 for registered priority airmail [Nov 2016]). A more limited range of materials and pre-cut covers can be obtained from UK eBay seller millyscameras.

A few OEM camera bits can be obtained from UScamera (US as in the United States). They have a tiny range of stock, but it's the only place I've found that sells new old parts. BE WARNED - shipping costs start at $14.25 (£11.53 as of Nov 2016), which is eye-wateringly expensive.

Although folding larger film format cameras aren't my thing, Sandeha Lynch sells new bellows for old cameras ... and they look very nice.

For camera batteries, the Small Battery Company is a really useful resource. They many not always be the cheapest supplier (especially if you're not fussy about using some unknown brand), but their website is excellent for identifying what (modern) battery you need, and alternative product options.

If you get stuck with a repair that's not within you capabilities (or beyond your nerve), try Cees-Jan de Hoog (CJ) in Edinburgh. I like CJ's realistic approach: not all cameras can be completely restored, especially when parts are broken and replacements unavailable.