Why do we collect gear?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by snegron, Apr 25, 2007.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

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    First, my apologies to those of you who take offense to collecting gear. I have heard the arguments about how collecting is a waste of time and money, that "real photographers" don't collect camera equipment, all you need is one camera and one lens, and that a camera is just a box that operates a shutter. This thread is meant for those of us who own more than one camera and aren't afraid to admit it.

    Why do some of us collect gear? I ask myself this question usually right after pressing the "buy now" or "submit order" buttons when purchasing some new-to-me camera or lens. After some thought I came up with a few reasons why I collect camera equipment.

    As a teenager (a little over 25 years ago :wink: ) I remember becoming obsessed with photography. From shooting pictures to developing my TriX in the high school lab, I was hooked. I remember reading about all those "fabulous" 35mm cameras in magazines. Maybe it was the workmanship of the equipment, the marketing, the prohibitive high cost of buying anything (especially Nikon, Zeiss, or Leica stuff) that drew my attention.

    I now believe that I associate photography and camera equipment as a positive, non-stressfull time in my youthful years. Collecting equipment equates to collecting positive memories. I remember photojournalists back then using the Nikon F2 and F3. As an apprentice back then I could only barely afford an FM2 and two lenses. I was thrilled when I purchased from a photojournalist a severly used and battered F3 which I still have today. It was a backup for my FM2 and saw even more action with me in the mid 80's.

    I believe that camera equipment brings back not only great memories of a personal era of hapiness for me, but it is also amazing to buy and use equipment that was used by the old pros of the 1940's and 50's. Just imagine what amazing images were taken with these cameras and lenses! I hope to get a useable old Leica screwmount rangefinder and lens in the near future!

    Cameras and lenses are artists tools. Isn't there a museum somewhere that still displays the brushes and tools used by the old masters like Rembrant, DaVinci and Picasso? People collect paintings and photographs. Why not collect and display the tools that were used to create these masterpieces? Why not use these tools (cameras and lenses) to create new masterpieces?

    Each camera has its own history, its own soul. Each one of my cameras inspires me in a different way to shoot different images. Each one puts me in a different mood much like looking through a different lens gives me a different perspective of a given subject.

    That's part of my twisted take on collecting, or why I'm not afraid to admit I'm a gearhead. Why do you collect gear? :smile:
     
  2. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Because I have a sickness. Grin.
     
  3. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    The tiny little word "use" in my opinion makes a huge difference in the agendas of people who accumulate more than one camera (let's avoid the term "collector" so far).

    Personally, I have 2 SLRs and 1 RF in 35mm, and in 120 I have a Brownie, a TLR, and a bakelite folder. Hardly a collection, but nonetheless more variety and memorabilia than the average point and shooter. However, all of these cameras work, and all of these help me realize different artistic intent (yeah, right, big A-word, but I digress...).

    For me, having all these different cameras is mostly a function of wanting to try all sorts of different types of camera. I wanted to know if I prefer a pentaprism to an RF, a WLF to a eyelevel one, etc. The answer is sadly that I love them all, for different reasons.

    If I were to collect cameras for another purpose than using them, then I think it should be for some kind of historical purpose, assuming that I would ever be someone relevant enough to have other people care about my so-called collection. Let's just assume that I have a fabulous trove of historical cameras, and that I'm bitchin' cool, so that it's worth having a museum to my name with my gear in it (cf. the Sherman Hines museum in Liverpool, Nova Scotia). I don't think it would necessarily matter that I had early as well as late serial numbers Leica M3; what would matter would be that I have a significant and variegated array of cameras in order to explain to the young ones how it was in the olden days. The cameras don't always have to work, they just have to be useful for illustration and explanations.

    The one thing I don't ever feel like doing is keeping anally a collection of mint Leicas under UV glass, organized by serial numbers, with "mint" accessories in their original boxes, the acme of such collection would be an unopened box, while I wait for their value to increase. That's just at the level of comics figurines collectors who keep everything in the original plastic wrapping. Pathetic, useless, and also meaningless.
     
  4. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    In all honesty, with the exception of maybe a MF or two, I've stopped collecting gear.

    I have a ton of both manual and AF SLRs in 35mm format. I also have RF's (both original Nikons and Cosina R2S's) etc.

    I suppose I could sell some of the stuff I have - but why bother? The prices I got them at "sucked" and the prices I could sell them for "suck even more"!

    I like the collection of film gear I have because, so long as it's "working right", whenever I throw a roll of film in it - I will get the best pic possible given the gear/film relationship.
     
  5. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    What I have now is what I use now. A Canonet 28, Argus C3 (2), Agfa Billy, and Nikon FE. In addition to these, I have a Meopta Flexaret that seems to be beyond repair (at least for me) and an old box Brownie that I'm turning into a pinhole camera (perpetually). I'm looking to get one more user camera (a screwmount rangefinder of some kind) and then I'm done for quite some time. That is until I go selling all this stuff to fund a Leica M.
     
  6. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    Collecting

    I don't collect equipment-it collects me. You don't even want to know what I just bought....yup- way over the top...
    Best, Peter
     
  7. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Well, I do have an odd reason: occasional columns in Shutterbug magazine on vintage gear. If it's not too expensive I can make a profit on it by writing about it...

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  8. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Speaking of writing, my copy of Amateur Photographer was somewhat lacking on the back page this week. Is this a permanent change?

    Steve.
     
  9. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    hi Sneg
    i've never been able to collect as i've never had the money

    i've only bought what i actually needed and use and i've come to believe that good technique far outweighs any spurious advantage of new equipment
     
  10. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Im not collecting gear, honest. Its breeding in the corners of my cupboard, it must be, realy :smile:
    Kind regards
    Søren
     
  11. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Steve,

    With the new editor (Damien) and the relaunch, my column has gone from weekly to once every four weeks.

    As I said to Damien when he told me about this, I can see why he's done it (new look, new editor, changes...) but as it's MY column I obviously have other feelings as well.

    I wondered if they had moved the IPC headquarters so that the inevitable uprising in protest -- waving scythes and billhooks, like the last act of a vampire movie -- would be outside the wrong building...

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  12. Alex Bishop-Thorpe

    Alex Bishop-Thorpe Member

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    I can hardly afford to collect, but yes, I do own more than one camera. I like options, I guess. I have 2 SLRs, a PEN half frame, and a 4x5. I'd like a 6x6 camera to fill the gap, plus a good 35mm rangefinder and I'll be happy. They all lend themselves to different applications, but the FM2n is my dearly beloved workhorse.
     
  13. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I think a good reason for some of us collecting gear is that we don't work out what our ideal equipment is and save up for it then buy it.

    Instead, we work our way up, buying various items on the way. For instance, I, like many, have progressed from 35mm up to medium format. I now have a Mamiya RB67 which I think is ideal for me and I don't see any need to change it. However, to get to that stage, I bought various other medium format cameras fairly cheaply such as 6x9 folders and a Rolleicord and then a Bronica ETRS system.

    The logical thing to do would be to not buy all of the imtermediate cameras and save the money for the Mamiya - but I'm not particularly logical!

    Steve.
     
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  15. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    As I have already got a half dozen cameras and about a dozen lenses in 35mm format, one set of a camera and a lens in 6x9cm, one 6x9cm enlarger with more than a few enlarging lenses covering these formats, and a good-sized wet darkroom with a useful sink, etc, I have no more desire to "collect" anything. I do keep using almost of all of them on a regular basis, though.
     
  16. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Collect? Wouldn't accumulate be a better word for what most of us do?

    I ask because one of my neighbors, the notorious Charlie Barringer (Google him), is quite a serious collector who has "completeness" and similar collectorly reasons for most of his acquisitions. He sometimes gives me a hard time over my lack of an obvious -- to him -- rationale for many of my acquisitions.

    My reasons for acquiring lenses: curiosity about what the thing is anyway; insurance (I need a spare X against the evil day when the X I use expires, the second one came at a very good price); ignorance (which of these high-touted macro lenses actually shoots well, anyway?); to have lenses that shoot well and that didn't cost very much; just because; and, oh yes, resale.

    At the moment there are no significant gaps between focal lengths and all of lenses that might be better than the ones I use are priced too high. So I'm buying fewer lenses than I did a couple of years ago.
     
  17. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    Ever noticed how the people who look down their noses at you when they discover you've several cameras (or several dozen, in my case...) and make the 'all a real photographer needs is a single camera' type comments usualy have a Lieca or Hasselblad slung round their necks that costs more than your entire camera collection, darkroom outfit, car and house combined?

    :smile:

    Steve
     
  18. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Steve,

    Not just that. We also waste our money on 'bargains' of dubious usefulness -- and then can't afford the kit that would be best for us.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  19. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Unlike my little single-chip mini-DV (movie) camera, which is more than 5 years old, the old (still) film cameras I have are still in pretty good conditions, and they can sit there for a long time even if I don't use them. But the video camera has to go soon because it's and literally falling apart and getting behind the time (as I want to use the HD system and I live the aspect ratio close to 35mm).
     
  20. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    ...AS IF they could live with only one camera and lens! But they can't, and they go crazy all the time. :D
     
  21. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Roger,

    I agree with your comment about "bargains", resist them and more expensive items become surprisingly affordable.

    Tom.
     
  22. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Steve,

    Must be a bloody expensive Leica!

    I bought my M4-P over 25 years ago and am still using it. Expensive when it was new, yes, but in terms of cost per year, something of a bargain.

    And second-hand Leicas are not expensive at all. All right, half a grand for an M2 is quite a lot but it's still cheaper than a half-tolerable digi SLR.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  23. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    An interesting thread! If we define collecting (as opposed to gear accumulation) as acquiring cameras for the pleasure they can give in themselves, why not? As long as we are clear it is a separate and distinct activity from photography, which requires fundamentally one camera and lens, collecting can be fun and need in no way be expensive. If you take an area like Kodak snapshot cameas of the 1960s, you could acquire a superb collection at £5 an item, say £50 for as much as your shelf can hold.

    I personally have resisted the collecting bug as much as possible but have in my time amassed a number of Kodak Retinettes and also Kodak Retina Reflex gear, simply because these were the cameras I dreamed of as a small child. I have since tired a little of these and have cut down to one Retinette 1b, one Reflex III and 3 lenses, with no danger of bankruptcy at any time.

    Similarly I have a strong recollection of standing in front of a photo dealer in my home town whose display window was full of Speed Graphics, since everyone was changing to Rolleiflexes (this was the mid-50s). I promised I would one day own a "real" camera" like this and now do - I worked my way through several examples until I have a mint 3x4 Speed Graphic and 4x5" Crown Graphic, both of which are also users and which I will probably never sell.

    The motivation is of course emotional, as with art collecting, the rule must be buy what you like if you can afford it. These days, I would be surprised if the traditional blue chip investor cameras, Leicas, were holding their value as well as they used to - the generation which revered Leica above all other brands has moved on. All harmless fun, as long as you don't expect your photography to improve in line with the number of cameras you own!

    Regards,

    David
     
  24. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    I just like the mechanical feel of a well made camera. Even the crunch and grind of the film advance of my fed 5 is entertaining to me. I tell people that the machining in the fed was done by the leningrad locomotive works. Then there's the robust simplicity of my Century Graphic, the quirkiness of my Pentacon sixTL, the butter smoothness of my rolleiflex, the engineering of my retina folders, the clunky functionality of my pre-anny speed graphic with the bag mags... you get the picture.. (pun intended)
     
  25. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Well, I've got about 10 years on you, but I'm in much the same boat. I've always had an adequate camera and was able to take the pictures. I was even a "pro" and did weddings in college.

    But now, I'm older and have more disposable income and I buy what I want to. I don't think I go overboard, though. No vintage "whatevers" strictly for the snob appeal. But I did have to buy a 6 ft high cabinet to keep them all in. I know how many cameras I have, but I would have to go count the lenses. I mean, who knows?

    Oh, well ... :rolleyes:
     
  26. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    I think I've passed GAS (heh heh) - the other day my wife brought home a camera that someone where she works wanted to sell. At first I thought "Neat, but she won't go for it", then after about a minute I thought "I don't really want another camera...". The realization that I had passed that stage in my photographic development was quite surprising at first, but then became a warm understanding that I really am happy with what I have. I keep some special cameras, and those that I inherited from family, but I've sold off a lot of stuff that I just had around, and I'm happier for it.

    I did just pick up a new camera, but it was because I wanted to upgrade what I was using, and once I am certain that I am happy with it, I'll be selling the cameras (note the use of plural here) that it (singular) will be replacing. What cameras I have kept are either for display, or are users. It's funny really, because for the longest time I collected a bunch of stuff - now it's down to books and View-Master reels and viewers, both of which are life-long interests, just like photography, but the use of cameras is what I really enjoy. Now that I have cameras that I really enjoy using, I no longer feel the need to collect more. I do, however, still enjoy *looking* at cameras, but I no longer feel the need to buy them. I love history, and I love handling things from the past, but I am much more selective in what I collect...

    - Randy