I missed my old Pentax MX. Of all of the cameras I’ve ever owned, it was probably the one with the most charm – and I don’t mean that in the same way that former Eastern bloc cameras were “charmingly” unreliable.
The MX doesn’t do much, but does all you need. It is tiny, but it’s a very solid chunk of metal. The shutter/mirror makes a very civilized little klipp! when fired. All the controls are where you’d expect them. The pancake 40mm lens gives my MX a snub-nosed appearance. I used to have the bigger and heavier 50mm f/1.4, which some lens nerds consider to be one of the finest lenses ever made.
Sure, it has its faults. The advance lever will poke you in the eye if you change shutter speed on the fly. And, well, y’know, film.
In approximate chronological order:
- Kodak A-1 — got for Christmas or birthday when I was about 8, probably after being insufferable that my sister had a spiffy little Voigtländer Vitoret. Took 110 film and those awful flash strips. Was disappointed when wildlife photos taken with it (fixed focus, fixed aperture, fixed shutter speed) didn’t work too well. Those tiny brown things were supposed to be sparrows, dammit!
- Panasonic AF thing — I don’t actually remember having a camera through my teens, and I think I got this just before going to Japan. I took hundreds of pictures with it, but barely remember anything about it.
- Pentax MX — my first serious camera, and one I really regret getting rid of when I discovered the realities of Negative Cash Flow when I moved to Glasgow G1 in the mid-1990s. I had three lenses; 28mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, and 135mm f/3.5. A very small SLR, it worked a charm; except, that is after coming back from Fair Isle when the salt jammed the innards. It was fine after a CLA.
- Lubitel 166 — Jessop’s were selling these for £19. It acquainted me with the dreadful packaging and unique smell of Eastern Bloc photographic equipment. It also introduced me to squinty focussing and rampant vignetting that this camera is well known for. Sold on eBay before we left Scotland for about fifty quid; miracles will seldom (if ever) cease.
- Minox 35GT — lovely, tiny, but too delicate for my ham-hands and careless ways. Bought on the recommendation of my sister’s then-fiancé. Managed to crack the top plate and focus ring; oops.
- FED 5B — Think I got this early ’93; a spectacularly shoddy Leica-clone rangefinder. I’d heard about eastern camera copies whilst on Fair Isle, and tracked down someone in Russia on rec.photo who’d sell me one for £50. I sent off my cash in late 1992, and heard nothing for months. I really thought I’d been scammed, and gave up the money for lost. Months later, a small box arrived; it was the FED box with my address written on the back, still sealed. No wrapping. Manual in Русский (or perhaps Українська; my script-fu has never been strong). It worked fine for one film, then the focal plane synch went south. Managed to get it repaired in a magical old-time repair shop just off George Square (Peterson’s?) run by an ancient camera-wizard with a heavy European accent. In true magical ways, the store was gone the next time I looked for it. Sold on ebay for a derisory £20.
- Fujifilm DX-5 — my first digital camera! All of 640×480 resolution, too! Wasn’t quite state of the art by the time I bought it, but cheap things from Morgan’s seldom are.
- Yashica T5 — I probably most regret selling this of any camera. Tack-sharp and contrasty Zeiss Tessar T* lens; nifty waist-level finder. Only a so-so AF system, but very small and solid, like a budget Contax. Sold before moving to Canada. These have subsequently rocketed up in price, so my casual interest in them doesn’t warrant buying one.
- Fujifilm MX-1200 — 1.3 megapixel; w00t! I still actually have this, and it amazes me how nifty I thought this was when I see how clunky and slow it feels now. Bought from Morgan in Brum; I seem to remember actually walking from Cobuild’s office to the store to get it.
- Voigtländer Bessa-R— of all the cameras I’ve ever owned, I think I’ve had the most lenses for this one. Was a bit sad to see it go (trade-in for the D70), but I took many (good?) photos with it. The lenses I owned (not all at once) were:
- Super Wide Heliar 15mm f/3.5 — a lens so good I kept it after selling the body.
- Snapshot-Skopar 25mm f/4 — never got the hang of this one. Sold it very soon after getting it with the camera.
- “Pancake” Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5
- Ultron Aspherical 35mm f/1.7.
- Nokton 50mm f/1.5
- Color-Heliar 75mm f/2.5
- APO Lanthar 90mm f/3.5
- Yashica-Mat — an eBay purchase from a market trader in Hemel Hempstead. Was a bit beat up, and had the wrong size of case, and occasionally misfired, but a pleasantly solid unit. Took some early photos in Canada with it, but it mostly sat around. Discovered, on trading in in 2004, that the taking lens was a spider-web of fungus.
- Yashica Electro 35GT — nice lens, and can meter down to almost nothing. Auto-exposure only, and handles flair, um, creatively. Really quiet shutter, but (on mine at least) the meter circuitry made a weird groaning noise. I used a Yashica Guy battery; you might want to too.
- Voigtländer Vitoret 110EL — I actually had two of these. One was very beat-up, while the other was absolutely mint, complete with flash. It’s a shame that 110 film was almost dead by the time I got this, as it was an ultra-stealth camera and had great metering.
- Olympus mju/Stylus Infiniti — I was carrying my Bessa-R everywhere wrapped in (what I thought was) an adequately-padded hat when I discovered that the rigours of the TTC had induced a ding in the top plate. Immediately rushed out to buy a 35mm compact that I wouldn’t cry over if it broke. The mju was my carry-about camera for years (even after I went digital). I think I still have an unprocessed film from it. Traded in mid-2004 as a (tiny) part of the D70.
- Nikon CoolPix 2500 — first digital camera in Canada. Bought when I worked across the road from Black’s HQ in Markham, so got it at one of their tent sales. Not a bad wee camera, but a little slow so you sometimes missed a shot or photographed your feet.
- Zero Image 2000 — beautiful wooden pinhole camera which I bought from Karen Nakamura. She’s too kind about some of the imagery I’ve made with it. It’ll get a good workout on the 29th of this month.
- Pentacon six TL — a huge brick of a camera, but the lens was unspectacular, and the innards too fragile. Partly traded-in for the D70. I still have my info page on the Pentacon six TL.
- Voigtländer Bessa-L — I never actually used this. I bought it from Stephen Gandy to use with the 15mm Super Wide Heliar (along with a Kaidan pano head), and sold it on eBay.
- Zorki — an eBay purchase, but there was a spool missing. The guys at russianplaza refunded me without question.
- Nikon D70 — you don’t want to know how much I paid for this, but I have had it since summer 2004 and had great use from it.
- Sony Cybershot P100 — this was my first (and probably only) peacock-blue camera. Henry’s had this for $200 less than the silver model.
- ThreeEyeFish digital minicam — makes a Lomo look like a Leica.
- Panasonic Lumix LX2 — what a lovely looking camera! Shame about the operation …