|Old Camera, what to do with that old camera?|
An old film camera has dropped in your lap and you are not sure what to do with it. Is it valuable? Sadly probably not, cameras have been manufactured into a mass market since the early 20th century and there are millions of them floating around the globe. The fantastic majority are worth less than £30 and a great number of these less than £10. And those famous little "Box Brownies" disgorged by Kodak, mostly worth a £1 or so. Unless you stumble across a surviving first ever 2.25" circular paper negative version, then rejoice! The true worth of most of these cameras is the family memories and the history they have recorded, for this reason I suggest that the camera is kept and maybe displayed alongside a nice photograph known to have been taken with it. This will become a tangible connection with the past over time. That's not to say it is not valuable, but statistically - the odds aren't in your favour.
You could, of course, try using it...
Why not? Individuals spend years and buckets of cash restoring old cars and motorcycles. Museums and organizations spend millions keeping old aeroplanes flying and steam locomotives running. Just looking at something in a glass case tells you nothing about the object, the process or the people that used it. Cars, motorcycles and aeroplanes whilst wonderful mechanical objects are, lets face it, rather too exotic for most of our budgets. Using an old camera is easy, fairly cheap and a rewarding route to tactile history. You are removed from the cold unthinking auto decision making of the modern camera, you will choose what is in focus, decide how you want it exposed. In making these choices, you are making an investment - of your time, effort, knowledge and a small amount of money to create a latent image. One that you cannot see for now, you will have to wait until you have it processed or perhaps even do it yourself. When you have the image back in your hand, you will truly be able to say, "I made this photograph". This will be YOUR achievement, not the collective results of a hundred programmers. Not all photographs will come out, it is precisely this that makes them valuable, by exposing yourself to the risk that it might not work, you derive greater satisfaction when it does. Like many things in life the arrival is merely the evidence of the journey. The negatives or slides you create will last decades and be able to be reproduced long after we are gone. Your digital camera will be scrap in 4 years time, the memory card unreadable in 10, and assuming you are good enough to back up your digital pictures onto CD, will they be compatible with anything in 40 years time?
Many years ago a late Uncle took his shiny new AJS motorcycle out and took a photograph of it. Decades later the negatives came into my care. All yielded good prints 50 years after they were last printed. Thinking I recognized the location I rode out with my own bike with one of my own vintage cameras and replicated the scene. I felt quite a shiver knowing that I was in exactly the same position, that's living history. Images on the left were exposed in the late 1950s, those on the right in April 2006, the location is a small road close to Titchfield Abbey, Hampshire in the UK. The AJS is clearly fresh out of the shop, the tyres aren't even dirty! For safety I had to position my XJ600 a little further along so I didn't completely block the bridge as the road is much busier 50 years on.
© Living Image Vintage Cameras 2000-2018