Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Film Camera Farewell Tour Continues

I'll get to the cameras in a minute, but since this is a blog, and by definition, a self indulgent exercise, I'm gonna just ramble.

Middle age or - more likely - just past middle age, is a strange time.  When I was a kid, if I had ever given any thought at all to being 43, I would have thought I would have the big stuff figured out by now.  You know, the 'what am I gonna be when I grow up' type stuff.  The only thing I really know now is how much I don't know.

Take a look at my 'About Me' page.  Every one of the things I've done, I did because I thought at the time that it was the end of the journey.  Each time, I thought 'This what I'm supposed to do with my life.'

And I've been wrong - every time.  The truth, which should have been obvious, is that it's all about the trip, not the destination.  As long as I can keep the lights turned on, I guess I'll just enjoy the journey and not worry so much where I'm going.

During one of my detours, I spent a couple of months earlier this year getting certified as an antiques appraiser.  My wife and I hit yard sales and auctions as soon as the weather was warm enough, looking for the big score, the hidden treasure that we could flip for a fortune.

We didn't lose our asses, at least.  We pretty much broke even.  But we learned tons.  One of the biggest lessons was that being in the right place at the right time is great, but being there with the right knowledge makes all the difference.

On to the cameras!

A few months ago, the stars aligned and we made our first killer flip.  We were at a local auction where a pro photographer was going out of business and selling off all his gear.  Right up my alley!

I'm not the kind to kiss and tell, so I won't go into the exact numbers, but we easily quadrupled our investment.  As a bonus, I got to photograph and play with a couple of gorgeous cameras before I passed them on.

There was some other gear, and I'll go into that stuff later, but this post is all about the cameras.  We picked up two Bronica SQ-A cameras and an SQ-Ai.

Here's the SQ-Ai moments after I won the auction.


Back when I was shooting wedding videos, before digital was affordable, these were the rigs the pro still photographers were using.  The Bronicas were built like tanks, but way less expensive then the Hasselblads.

These are medium format cameras, which means that the film is bigger than 35mm, which allows for bigger, higher quality prints.  The film comes in rolls, not in cartridges like 35mm, in 12 and 24 exposure lengths.  Another benefit over 35mm was that the film was loaded in removable backs that could be switched mid-roll.  The photographer could switch from color to B/W, or to a different film speed, at any time. 

Also, the bigger lenses gathered more light, giving better results in underlit churches.

Once I got them home, they needed only a little cleaning to make them presentable.

This style of camera is modular, and there are tons of attachments and accessories available for them.

That's Velcro on top of the viewfinder.
The previous owner had radio triggered flash units, and he attached the transmitter there.

There are no electronics in this other then the electrically fired shutter.  Exposures had to be calculated with a separate meter.  Alternately, an eye level viewfinder with a built in meter was available as an upgrade.

It's funny when you see one of these rigs with the lens removed.  They aren't much more than metal boxes with a crank on the side.  This is one of the SQ-A's.  This model came out in the early 1980s, but they're still usable and still in demand.

This one came with the waist level viewfinder, as opposed to the eye level one.  You had to look down into the camera to compose.  And everything is reversed in the viewfinder image, so it took some practice to compose quickly.

Though not in the numbers they once were, this type of camera is still in use by professionals today.  Medium format film and processing are still available, but who knows for how much longer?

I don't have any test images to post from these rigs.  I sold them about two weeks after I got them, and I was too cheap to spring for the film since there isn't anywhere locally to get it processed.

In addition to the cameras, we got some flash battery packs, assorted cables, and a couple of light meters.  I sold one of them, a Minolta spot meter.

This may be the prize of the whole day.
Purchase price - $10
Sold on eBay for just shy of $200!

The other meter, also a Minolta but not a spot meter, I'm keeping to use with the couple of non-metered film cameras that I'll be sharing with you in coming posts.

The cameras and other gear are perfect examples of the value of being in the right place with the right knowledge.  From the low bids, I'm sure no one else at the auction had any idea what this stuff is worth.

I would loved to have added the Bronicas to my collection, but what's the point of keeping beautiful, usable cameras that I'll likely never use?  And there are always more cameras to find!

The weather looks to be a little warmer this weekend, so I'm hoping to get my 60+ year old Argus C4 out and have some test shots to share.

Thanks for reading - check back soon!

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