Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What I Got for Christmas

 A Replacement Spotmatic, Soligor 135mm f3.5, and a Asahi Bellows Unit

The Kind of Thing That Can Be Done With It

I'm very easy to buy for - pretty much anything to do with old camera gear is just fine! So I needed a replacement for my dying Pentax SP II, which is having fast shutter problems, and this was offered to me by a Flickr Friend - a Spotmatic SP 1000 (older model), a Soligor 135mm lens, and a Bellows unit - all for $40. Now I can take pictures of things like the condensation on my windows!

There are incredible bargains out there on film equipment for those so inclined. When you're shopping for film gear, you'll notice that the absolute best prices are on Film SLR cameras that were once very highly regarded - now they're practically giving them away, which is OK by me. Sure, SLR's have their quirks, but at the end of the day, this type of camera still offers the most versatility, with their orientation toward "system cameras". These system capabilities can now be easily crossed over into the world of DSLR's - notice that I took the lower picture of my window pane by using the bellows and 135mm lens on my DSLR via a Pentax M42 to Canon EOS lens adapter. The Bellows unit offers extreme macro capabilities with any Pentax Screw Mount SLR body adapter using any lens 50mm and up. The longer the lens focal length, the farther away you can get from your subject for the same magnification. With all of the adapters that are available, you can pretty much use any lens, bellows, extension tubes, teleconverters or flash on any DSLR or Mirrorless Interchangeable Digital Camera. Try to avoid Ebay - everyone is now hip to this, and the high prices, especially on old lenses reflect this, but if you stick to your local classifieds, you'll find real bargains from people who "go digital" with a digital compact, and haven't looked into the real value of old film equipment. 

But what about film SLR bodies - are they really worth owning? Well, given that a lot of these were the "professional" cameras of their day, you can be confident that the image quality is excellent - arguably better than digital, especially when it comes to exposure range and the way in which negative film handles highlights. So you can often pick up old Pentax, Ricoh, Nikon or other fantastically great SLR's for as little as $10, and the lenses can be interchanged with your Digital SLR. Why wouldn't you? Even if you're primarily a digital shooter, having two or more film cameras make great backups, by keeping them loaded with film, and at the ready with different lenses attached. Instead of using Zoom Lenses all the time, you can keep Prime Lenses on all your cameras, with one for wide angle, one normal and one telephoto. All this can be accomplished for under $100, instead of paying thousands for today's premium lenses and extra camera bodies.

Russian Zorki - 4 Rangefinder Camera

Finally, there is a last vestige of bargain film equipment which I am a real fan of - the Russian made Leica Rangefinder copies. These are still available from Russian Ebay sellers for under $100 with a Leica - mount lens! These take absolutely incredible pictures, they usually work very well and are built to last forever, and I'm really not sure why they are priced so reasonably. The lenses are so good that some genuine German Leica users are using the Russian lenses, which are a fraction of the cost of the real deal.

Digital is the way to go with all of it's advantages, but if you want to have fun with some truly great old gear, film cameras will never disappoint.


  1. Holy smokes, your photo of the camera itself is fantastic! You've managed to make that old bargain look like a jewel :-)

    It was great to (briefly) meet you the other day, glad I've found your blog here too.


  2. Yeah - I polished her up a bit - almost got 1 roll of film shot through it too. The old SP's are great, aren't they? Here's a little series I shot with my old one that I'm rather proud of:


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