Cameras I Didn’t Buy Last Week

With the digital photography market moving at full commercial throttle, film enthusiasts are  having a good time acquiring equipment that would have prohibitively expensive even 15 years ago. Though I’ve been shooting digital since 2001 and continue to shoot digital now, I get more enjoyment out of the film process. When I think about going somewhere to shoot, like Joshua Tree, the Salton Sea, or the Sierra Nevadas, I always think about which film camera to take. Taking a digital camera is nearly always a secondary thought.

The digital market has depressed the prices of film equipment, often to an amazing degree. It is a very good time to invest in a used film camera and it has been for many years. It is probably a good thing that there is a limit to the financial investment I can make in camera equipment. If I gave myself full rein, I’d probably need another house to store everything in.

The following is a list of the cameras that I had an interest in during the last week, though it may have been mere curiosity. Some I actually made bids on, but for one reason or another I didn’t buy any of them. The photos and graphics shown here are screen captures of the seller’s ads.

Agfa Isolette II

The Isolette II was the second model of Agfa’s Isolette series of medium format folder cameras. The II, like the original model did not include a rangefinder. The focus is set by depth-of-field. This particular example appeared to be in excellent shape and was fully functioning, as are all of the cameras offered by the seller in Northern Ireland.

I set a maximum bid on the camera, but the bidding got hot and heavy during the last two minutes of the eBay auction and quickly surpassed my maximum.

Nikon FG

There were actually two Nikon FGs that I was interested in within a couple days.

One included a Nikon E Series lens. The other included a 28mm Vivitar.

The FG looks like a good backup for my N90s (F90X). I wasn’t quite ready to pull the trigger on one of these, but watched the auctions to see the final selling prices for future reference.

Yashica TL Electro X

I like the Yashinon lenses on my Mat 124 and Electro 35, so the idea of the TL Electro X having interchangeable M42 mount lenses was attractive, because there are so many lenses available for it.

The eBay ad for the particular camera I was looking at was quite sketchy, however. I emailed the seller with a few questions about it, but didn’t get any satisfactory answers.

The seller was unwilling to run a roll of film through the camera to test it. I left it alone. 

Argus C3

The Argus was a 35mm rangefinder camera produced from 1939 to 1966. Called the “brick” because of it’s boxlike shape, there were several models produced. Most of the variations of the camera had a coupled rangefinder. Late models often included a Selenium light meter as part of the kit.

I found a Argus C3 at a local antique store and did a cursory check of the camera. I was surprised at how bright the rangefinder was, brighter than the rangefinder of my Yashica Electro 35 GSN. It would be easy to focus. The camera needed a good exterior cleaning, which made me suspicious that the interior needed one, also. I’m not interested in anything that will require a CLA or repairs and the price tag was about what a good, working C3 should be. The only way I could be sure about the camera would be to do a film test on it.

Yashica Mat 124G

I recently bought a Yashica Mat 124, and am very happy with it, particularly after finding that the light meter in my head, coupled with the “Sunny 16” system works quite well, allowing me to produce the exposures I desire. I love the medium format negatives I’m getting from it. My daughter Megan recently shot a roll with the camera and seemed to have the same reactions to using it.

Though there were a few minor upgrades made to the 124 to produce the 124G, the cameras are 99.5% the same. The 124 has metallic trim. The 124G has black enamel trim. I’m searching for another Yashica Mat for Megan’s upcoming birthday. I lost the eBay auction while I was riding across the Mojave Desert because the last minute bidding frenzy again surpassed my maximum bid (what I thought was the correct price for the camera).

Because I’m only interested in cameras that I will actually shoot, I’m a bit picky about their condition. Perhaps a bit too picky, some might say. But I’m not interested in buying something that has two basic functions; looking good and holding dust up off a shelf…