Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pentax Spotmatic, the race to offer it for free began yesterday

Quite often, I get an extra film camera or two thrown in on an auction or flea-market sale. The seller tries to sweeten the pot and it always works with me. Something for nothing. I think nothing of it at the time. I do now.

The Spotmatic offered ground-breaking technology in 1964
That's how I came to have a very nice Pentax Spotmatic with an equally nice Super Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lens. It came with a camera that I was really after. The seller reached down and offered the Spotmatic as a deal-maker. It worked. The Asahi offered was without a case, caps or battery. In fact, the battery door is dinged so badly that the electrical contacts for the meter are severed. No matter, this old guy will work without a battery. I had to have it only because it was "free" to me.

The Spotmatic is one of the legendary "first" type cameras for some very familiar technology. The lens is stellar and always proved to be sharper than the film that was available, then or now.

But I turns out I don't need to own two Spotmatics. I have another, purchased on its own, that is in slightly better shape and has the same exact lens. Clones so to speak, of each other. So I decided to sell one on a major online free bulletin board. Has a guy's first name listed in the domain name. No big deal, done this many times before.

As I didn't really pay a lot for it (OK, free), I thought asking for $20 would be a fine low price to generate a quick sale. In that way, I would pass forward a great vintage camera, cover my time marketing it, and get some cash for a nice lunch somewhere.


Even at a sawbuck, the only folks that were interested wanted to score on a pristine model and at an even lower price. Some wanted me to cut the price by half and drive the goods over to their house. A couple folks really only wanted the lens and thought it should go for less than the price of the complete set. I got emails asking about tiny aspects of condition and operation.  I was waiting for someone to have me place the lens in a petri dish to test and see if any mold grew.

Hey, it's only 20-bucks! It costs less than some stupid Blu-Ray vampire DVD at Wal-Mart. Is that a lot of money nowadays? I guess for excellent vintage camera equipment, it's becoming that way.

I shouldn't, I can't get mad, though. I've caught myself getting all giddy scoring on someone else's old camera for a few dollars. I've been the predator, too.

So, I've learned two things I'll apply to my collecting: first, don't accept any camera you don't want to live with forever, even if its free; second, when you and your fellow collectors are helping to actively drive down the price of scarce vintage pieces, it's time to carefully re-evaluate your base reasons to participate in collecting and the motives of your fellow collectors. The word "hoarding" is beginning to rear its ugly head with some of us. That scares me to the bone.

I won't sell this camera for less than what I've got it listed at. If no takers, it goes to Goodwill with my blessing. Farewell little Asahi. Go, be free, be free!

Monday, September 6, 2010

In fact, they DON'T build things like they used to, at least at Nikon

I just threw my third Nikon Coolpix digital camera in the kitchen garbage can. It was one of our family take-along cameras. Took the rechargeable battery out and tossed it in there right on top of last night's cassarole scraps. After using Nikons since the mid-1970's, I'm done with this brand.

This little red point and shoot camera suffered the same damage as the other two similar Nikons, broken rear screens. It ended its usefulness to me not by being dropped, not from a sudden impact, not from freezing, boiling, radiation, or bad thoughts. Its screen simply broke as I carried it in its protective, soft foam-insulated case to a family gathering.  Just like what happened to the other two (different models purchased over three years apart).

The cost of repair being too high in comparison to purchasing new, I'm once again electing to fill my local landfill with busted electronics and left to consider acquiring another eventual candidate for disposal under my kitchen sink. 

There are ten old film camera Nikons sitting on my collection shelves right now. Any one of which has withstood some harsh shooting environments over many years. I've done weddings with one, photo-journalism with another. At no time did I every worry that these cameras could be damaged by simply holding it. Nikon enjoyed a well-earned reputation for heavy-duty reliability. That ended when I shut the cabinet door under my sink.

Here's the part where I rant like an old guy. How did this happen? How did Nippon Kogaku go from the top of the mountain of photographic status and preference to the pits of crappy commodity hell? Money. 
Welcome to the global marketplace. Over six billion people on the planet and only one country and perhaps six manufacturing facilities in that country are producing goods just barely functional enough to operate but made by enough exploited labor to generate scads of profit for the eventual marketers of those products.

(Sigh) We're all to blame, including me. We want too many things too soon to pay for better things that last. I bought those disposable little Nikons 'cause I wanted a good camera cheap. And I wanted the name and the nostalgia of the brand. Well, I guess you can't have it all. Proved that.

I still need a small digital camera to take to personal events. I'll buy a used one for now. I'll save my money, do my research and buy a better camera that I intend to keep and use for a very long time. My wife's pocket-sized digital camera is a Canon. It has been dropped, frozen, jangled in her purse and soaked with rain. It's never failed to work. I'll start there. Hopefully, whatever I end up with won't wind up covered with potato peels and coffee grounds again.