Vintage cameras and vintage aircraft: birds of a feather?

I no longer shoot images with film. I collect scads of old film cameras, but I no longer find shooting film to be pleasurable or even necessary. I gave up this winter, or I should say, I found my use of film dwindling down to nothing - zero frames. No, I don't see myself ever going back. No need. I have no nostalgia for silver halide image-making. Cameras were always the fun part of photography, film never was. It was about capturing the moment, not adoring the thin light-sensitive metallic goo spread on sprocketed cow hoof gelatin ribbons. What a waste of resources. Sorry.

Thus ends nearly forty years of film consumption. The transition to digital is complete and quite satisfying.

We have four digital cameras in our home. Three point-and-shoots and one DLSR (never mind the brand for now). Even the cheapest of the point-and-shoots takes far, far better images than my old Nikons ever did. The little digitals work under any level of light, any color of light and fit in my shirt pocket. If the images are a bit soft in sharpness, there's a filter in Photoshop to correct that. I can send images across the room or over continents within moments. No more expensive processing of images I may not want anyway. Just hit the delete key and fill up the media over again.

To me, shooting images with vintage film cameras and continuing to develop film are akin to maintaining and flying vintage aircraft. The technology of flight has moved on dramatically since, say, WWII. The old camouflaged warbirds have a strong retro appeal due to their complexity, form, function and inestimable value in world history.

But most of us would never dream of flying one to attend a business meeting nowadays. Nobody is going to use a Boeing B-17 bomber to go to a regional sales meeting in Utah. I mean, finding just ONE operating model of this airplane these days is rare, even more so finding an owner open to its use in personal cross-country travel. The amount of care it takes just to keep an old bomber like this aloft makes its every use very expensive to operate and thereby far to valuable to waste on anything other than special events. Also, a flight on a venerable old craft like a B-17 would take far longer to accomplish than compared to using a modern Boeing commercial airliner operated by a major airline.

Still, there are many people who derive deep satisfaction in keeping old warbirds flying. And good for them. Countless happy hours are spent on research, locating scarce parts and discussing the various details, memories and shared knowledge about these old mechanical machines across the internet. Sound familiar? Thought things might "click" for you.

That's cameras for me. I love the mechanical construction, admire the optical excellence and pour over history and specs. Just don't care to load 'em-up with film and take 'em outside.

Besides, no one in my neck of the woods develops film anymore. No one-hour processing available anywhere, except through the mail, which kinda kills of the one-hour part. Shoot, wait a week then send back in for enlargements. Or shoot, look at the screen, print out at home. Guess which way I've gone.

If you shoot film with vintage cameras, I admire you. If it makes you happy, go with it. In a year or so, maybe less, you won't find film available - at least easily. There will always be a place for hobby film use, just as there will always be a place for reverence of any outdated technologies. So keep on shooting while you can, or should I say, "keep 'em flying."


  1. Really enjoy reading your blog and pouring over your camera collection on your website. Great stuff. I like the analogy of old military planes with old cameras....same goes for classic cars.


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