Over the years I have used many cameras. Some were really good and some were absolute useless. Here are some models from my analog past.
My first camera ever: Kodak Instamatic 220. My mom used it for over 20 years before she handed it down to me when I was 12. The film advance was broken and I could fix it. Setting the aperture was done by means of a dial with a bright sun, sun with clouds, light clouds and dark clouds. Brilliant and simple design! It made some lovely square pictures before it finally broke :-(.
When I went on a school trip to Poland in 1991, I bought on the street in Warsaw a Soviet Zenit ET. My first SLR, yes! The lens was a 55 mm Helios with manual aperture. That means that with every picture you have to choose the aperture with one ring on the lens and with a second one you have to set the chosen value, before the diaphragm blades did what they were asked to do. The film advance was tricky too. This cam spoiled a lot of film. The lens produced great moody pictures. This style became later known as Lomography in the 2000’s.
After dropping my Hasselblad set on the road in 2010, I could not afford repairing it and found myself buying a Kiev 60 medium format SLR as a replacement. Shaped like a stable door, it also makes photographs and good ones too. I never had a camera with a distinct smell, but this one has. The vulcanite smells like a car from the seventies with faux leather seats. Fitted with an Arsat 80mm 2.8 lens it makes a great set with some quirks. Provided the people at the Arsenal factory in Kiev were in a good mood when they assembled your unit. I was lucky with this camera and I still have it.
East German workmanship
Praktica BX 20: my first GDR cam from 1989 and all el cheapo plastic. The 50m Pentacon lens was good enough. It could measure light as low as 30 whole seconds. The ‘genosse’ died because of sand in the shutter in Paris. I didn’t regret it.
Praktica MTL5: this was my last East German experiment. You need to be careful when you put the film in. Otherwise your film might not advance at all. In case you want one, check the shutter before buying, because this is the weak part. And never use it for important tasks like weddings.
Pentacon Six: this 1950’s East German design that was the grandfather of the USSR Kiev 60. Use this one only for decoration and not for important shots. The Carl Zeiss Jena lenses are nice. The body is hopeless. The viewfinder is dim, film advance is tricky.
Made in Japan
Yashica TL Electro X: this beast I bought in 1995 with a 50mm Yashinon lens. Great camera, I gave it some years later away to a happy student.
In 2000 I started with my Photography courses and I wanted to treat myself with new gear. It became a Nikon F2 Photomic with a 55 mm Micro Nikkor lens. Some people say that this is one of the best cameras Nikon ever made, I agree. The lens was allright but nothing special. Somehow I was stupid enough to sell this camera some years later when I switched to medium format.
In 2003 I discovered medium format and I borrowed a Yashica A TLR. The camera suffered from ghosting and lens flare. However, I treated myself with a Yashica 635. This was better, but also this one was suffering from ghosting and lens flare, frustrating because this ruined some potentially great shots. Away with the Yashicas!
Pentax 6×7: great but heavy. I took it on a trip to Finland in 2012. The shutter is electronic, and uses electricity when open and when the mirror is up. If in your camera bag something pushes the inconveniently placed mirror lock up button, your battery dies. And nobody can hear you scream in Lapland….
Pentax ME and ME super: nice compact SLR’s. Nothing wrong here, the 1.7 lenses that where supplied with them are also great. Unlike the big 6×7 they have a 1/125 shutter speed that is mechanic and can rescue you when the batteries die.
Rolleicord and Rolleiflex
Medium format was my new thing in 2003 and I found myself a heavily used Rolleicord 3. I was immediately in love with the Rollei. This Rolleicord 3 was great for street photography and I made pictures with this old lady from 1949 that I still like. The Rolleicord is still in the family. My sister in law has it. The Rolleicord 3 with replaced by a Rolleicord 5. The focusing screen was brighter and the camera produced great pictures. Sadly it died on the streets of Amsterdam in the rain when I was making a portrait of an addicted street musician at night.
After this, the Rolleiflex 2.8e came to town. The camera was sold to me before it had a decent CLA (clean, lubricated and adjustment), so it had al kinds troubles. After the CLA on the seller’s expense it worked like a dream. Always ask for a CLA when you buy a Rollei. During one night in a club in 2006 it was stolen. So anyone who is out there with a Rolleiflex 2.8e serial number 1646668, you know who is the rightful owner! Rolleiflex 2.8f and 3.5f are also great cameras.
Scandinavian design (not Ikea)
Hasselblad 500 c/m with 80mm Zeiss Planar lens. This worked really well and has a lot of street credibility. The only disadvantage is the foam in the A12 backs that starts to disintegrate thus causing light leaks. When you buy a used A12, always change the light seals! The end of my Hasselblad period came when I dropped my just serviced unit on the asphalt. I sold the damaged set as an expensive paperweight…