I’ve had an interest in photography for a large part of my life, but for the majority of that time, I never thought of cameras as something someone would collect. Why would you need more than one or two cameras, I thought?
That all changed on some late summer day in 2014 when I was browsing eBay and found an old camera that looked cool and for reasons that the universe has yet to explain to me, I bought it. That “old camera” turned out to be a No.1A Pocket Kodak. I wrote about that experience in August 2014, and then later in February 2017, gave it a full review. GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) bit hard, and soon I was like many people I know, a camera collector.
What I didn’t know then, was that collecting cameras was not something new. People have been doing it for likely as long as cameras have existed, so it was with great interest when I saw the article below from the December 1968 issue of Modern Photography that gave suggestions on “Unusual Usable” cameras for collectors to target.
For collectors today, if you want to know about a particular camera, simply open your web browser and search for whatever you want and there are countless sites like mine, camera-wiki pages, and a variety of other blogs that will teach you nearly everything you could want to know about any camera ever made. If a model is interesting enough for you to buy, head on over to eBay, Etsy, shopgoodwill, or Yahoo Japan and there is a good chance at least one (sometimes hundreds) will be for sale for your immediate gratification.
This wasn’t always so. Collectors had to rely on printed articles in their favorite magazines to introduce them to models from yesteryear that they may not have been familiar with. The article below serves as a “menu” of sorts for the GAS-afflicted collector and mentions several models that I have personally reviewed like the Kodak Bantam Special, Kodak Medalist, Voigtländer Superb, and GOMZ Leningrad.
There are also a few that have eluded me, such as the Kodak Ektra, Yashica/Nicca YF, and original Praktiflex. If anyone reading this has one of these three and are willing to loan it out for a review, please contact me!
It’s interesting to me that for the beginning collector today, this article is just as useful as it was for beginning collectors 50 years ago when it was first written. There is only a paragraph or two about each model, but it’s just enough for someone to load up mikeeckman.com and do some research and then later head on over to their favorite auction site to pick one up!
As an added bonus, I found a second article in the September 1967 issue of US Camera that doesn’t offer any recommendations, but rather explores why collectors collect. Like the article above, nearly everything here is still relevant today even down to the recommendations of checking your local Goodwill or thrift shops for good deals on old equipment.
In the article, someone named Rus Arnold teaches photography and he says he uses his older ground glass cameras to demonstrate to his students the processes which liberate them from modern conveniences like rangefinders and electric eyes. This concept is identical to how people like myself appreciate using an old mechanical camera which lacks modern conveniences of the latest and greatest digital mirrorless cameras today.
Another facet of collecting that the article hits the nail on the head of, is the social aspect of the hobby. Since picking up that first folding Kodak, I have met several really great people I call close friends now that I wouldn’t have otherwise met. While there are friendly people in any circle of interest, I would say overwhelmingly, camera collectors are some of the nicest people who have proven time and time again to be willing to offer their advice and experiences to new and old collectors alike.
This is a short read, but between the two articles here, might actually be the more fascinating article, even if it won’t actively contribute any new suggestions to your own collection.
All scans used with permission by Marc Bergman, 2019.
There were a variety of cameras in the family collection, from a Kodak Brownie Six-20 to a Nikon S2, and eventually, a Topcon RE Super. So, technically, I grew up with a camera collection, the roll film cameras ranged from the Brownie 620, a Yashica 44 (127), and a Rolleicord V (120). The 35mm cameras ranged from a 1938 Leica IIIa to a 1950’s Nikon S2 to a 1960’s Topcon RE Super SLR. The Gear Acquisition Syndrome was inevitable, leading to a Canon FP, Nikkormat Ftn, Nikon F2, Canon EF, Nikkormat EL, Nikon FM/FM2, then the Canon EOS 650 and 620. Digital cameras finally arrived near Y2K with a Fujifilm E310, then on to a Nikon D40 and D7000. Oddly enough, I also bought a couple of compact digital cameras, a Canon PowerShot G15 and a Fujifilm X30. I do recall the odd camera or two like the Asahi Pentax ME Super, a Univex, a Minolta 16II, and a Canon 110ED. Then there’s the Leica IIIf/ST and a Voigtlander Bessamatic and a Contaflex IV, but those are another tale…
You can reasonably trace the earliest part of my collection by looking at the oldest reviews I have on this site. The Yashica Electro 35, Argus C3 Matchmatic, Yashicamat, Mercury II, and FED 2 were my first cameras after that original Kodak.