As at today's count, I have fifty-nine cameras in my house. Most of these are old film cameras, some of which I have picked up on my travels and some of which have been gifts from friends and family members. I have to admit that I haven't used them all, although some of them use film that is obsolete or hard to get hold of. Some of them, however, have travelled with me and have captured many memories along the way.
One of the first old cameras I bought is my Zenit EM. It's a 35mm SLR Soviet era camera, produced between 1972-84 and is one of the heaviest cameras I own. I can't remember where I got this from, although I know I bought the lens at a flea market in Sofia, Bulgaria, whilst on holiday with friends. This camera is a total workhorse and, aside from the built in light meter, its all in working order. Despite its weight, I have used this camera mainly for street and travel photography and I am never disappointed with the results. Given its weight, it would also double up as a weapon if you found yourself in a situation where you needed to defend yourself!
The second camera I want to talk about is my Fed 2, another Soviet era camera (you'll see a pattern developing here), produced between 1955-70. Its a rangefinder camera, so smaller and lighter than the Zenit EM. Now, I've only used it once, but I got one of my favourite shots ever taken on this camera. What I didn't realise at the time is that there is a hole in one of the shutter curtains, so almost every frame on the roll of film had light leaks, ruining the images. However, one came out perfectly, and this was a portrait of a man who is locally known as 'the Bradford Jesus Man'. There are many urban legends about him, but all I know for sure is that he roams Bradford, mainly on foot, wearing sandals and a brown robe and waving at people. I've seen him since I was a child and I've never heard him speak. Interestingly, my mum says she saw him when she was a child and that he never gets any older! So the day I was wandering around Bradford with my Fed 2, I happened to see him approaching, outside the Media Museum. I quickly measured the light and set my camera accordingly, and wound on whilst asking him if I could take his photo. He smiled and initially carried on walking, but then seemed to have a change of heart and stopped to pose for me. Because I wound the shutter on at the last minute, the light didn't have time to leak through and ruin the exposure, and I'm really happy with the resulting portrait. Maybe one day, I'll get round to repairing the shutter curtain and use this camera again...
Another of my Soviet cameras is the Smena Symbol, a viewfinder or zone focus camera with manual controls. Smena (or Cmeha) roughly translates as 'young generation'. It was produced by a company called Lomo in the USSR, between the years of 1970-93 and the serial number on mine indicates it is a 1988 model. This is a great little camera when you want control over your shutter speed and aperture, but don't want to carry around lots of weight. I tend to use a hand held light meter to ensure an accurate exposure, but it also has handy guides on the lens so you can estimate exposure without a meter. Its a lovely camera to throw in your bag and carry on a regular basis and pretty good quality to boot.
Moving away from my Soviet cameras (of which I have many), and on to medium format... my Bronica ETRSi is the biggest camera I own, certainly with the winding crank and prism finder attached. The ETRSi is a Japanese camera, introduced in 1989 and uses 120 roll film to produce 6x4.5 format images. My lovely husband bought me this camera as a Christmas present a few years back and I love it. I'm sure I read somewhere that this camera was the camera used by the UK police force for their forensic images, although I can't find any information on this now. The negatives produced by this camera are huge and the quality is fantastic. Despite its size and weight, I've used it for 'urban exploration' and its great in low light, due to the 2.8 maximum aperture of the lens. Its also an affordable entry point in to medium format SLR photography, as the price is lower than the likes of a Hasselblad.
Another of my favourites is the Olympus Trip 35. Produced between 1967-84, the Trip 35 was marketed as a holiday camera, hence the name 'Trip', the '35' presumably referencing the 35mm film type. David Bailey was apparently involved in the advertising campaign. I bought this camera at West Yorkshire Cameras, a shop which now calls Leeds Corn Exchange home (check them out, they're awesome), but at the time was a fortnightly(?) stall in Huddersfield Market. The guys there refurbished it prior to sale, replacing the light seals and ensuring it was in good working order. As the name suggests, its a great little travel camera and is really easy to use. It is mainly automatic; the only setting you need to think about is focusing. The most clever thing about this camera is the little red flag which appears if there is not enough light available to take the image. Oh, and I love the fact it has a built in selenium light meter, so no need for batteries!
Although I have cameras made by various producers, I'm a Canon girl at heart and one of my favourite film cameras is my A-1, which was produced between the years of 1978-85. I bought mine from Bradford Camera Exchange and it was in amazing condition when I got it. Perhaps a little less so now, but hey, it was made to be used. My husband bought me a great Sigma zoom lens and the pair are perfect for travel, although I also use a couple of different prime lenses with it. I bought this to replace an AE-1 on which the wind on crank failed and which I couldn't manage to fix. It was the right move; I love this camera so much and am sure I will use it for years to come.
Finally, the oldest camera I own is my Brownie No. 2, produced by Kodak between 1901-35. I've done a bit of research and I reckon mine is an early 1920's model. This camera was a birthday gift from my friend Clare and when she gave me it, the mirrors were a little dull, so I replaced them myself using small pieces of a CD which I cut up and glued in place. Its now perfect! I love the fact that this camera is so old and I wonder where it has travelled and what images it may have captured over the years.
I could go on for days talking about all my cameras, but we'll leave it there for this blog. What are your favourite cameras and why?