Why I’m down to just THREE cameras!

…and four lenses!

No, it’s not because I’ve been mostly sitting at home for over three months now nursing my foot. Even before I pared down my camera stable to these three cameras.

They each represent a camera class in it’s own and I’ll first try to explain why I kept these specific cameras.

At first, there’s my trusty Olympus XA2.IMG_0635

Why the XA2? Well, if I take a look at my favourite photos of the last 5 years, the absolute majority was made with this camera. Not this specific one. It’s true, several times I sold an XA2, only to start longing for another one and buying one back.

Not that the XA2 is the perfect camera. Certainly not! It has it’s quirks.

There’s the so called dust cover, the sliding lid that turns the camera on. Sometimes it’s not completely open and the shutter is blocked…. annoying in the decisive moment. Then there’s the minimum focus distance of 1.2m (4 ft)… Often a terrible restriction.

But then again it is small, very small, and it fits in any pocket! And despite being mostly made of plastic, it feels sturdy and it is sturdy. Of course I’d not try to let it fall onto some concrete…

Next in line there’s the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SP.IMG_0598

Although I have a 28mm Takumar lens too, the radioactive 55mm f:1.8 is pretty muchh welded to this gorgeous camera.

The Spotty is as basic as an SLR can get. All manual with just a shutter speed dial and integrated ISO setting and of course the aperture ring on the lens. The meter is powered by a hard to find battery, and it measures light with a closed aperture only….

Tough stuff, no? No! Not really. I’m happy to live with those limitations as this camera feels so extremely well in hand. It’s solid, as in carved out of a block of steel. All the controls firmly click into place and are easy to reach. And the lens…. ooooohhhhh yeah, the lens is a marvel. There’s magic in that word: Takumar!

My third camera is Oskar, the Leica IIIa.IMG_0071

With the only lens I kept for it, the Summitar 50mm f:2. Oskar will be 80 this year! Still going strong though.

Long time readers of my blog might know the story behind this camera. So you might think that I kept this one only out of some nostalgic feeling. No, far from that. And it’s also not out of a lust for Leica… there’s more practical Leicas out there, albeit more expensive.

No, the Leica IIIa is simply a masterpiece. A work of art. A finely crafted tool that makes me love to make photos. And of course I spent a lot of dough to get it serviced…. duh!

Of course the Leica IIIa like the rest of my cameras is far from perfect. It has separate viewfinders for focusing and composing, those Viewfinders are fearsomely squinty, at least with glasses.

Loading such a thread-mount Leica with film is a terrifying experience. Luckily, I tend to shoot less than one film a day so I don’t have to swap film often when I’m out with the camera.160425-fomapan-100-olympus-xa2-14

But now we come to the part where I have to explain why I kept only three cameras out of dozens I owned over the years, and why I limit myself to such a point when there are all those film cameras out there for a ridiculous price… mostly.

As I said many times before, and as I have discussed with Dan James of 35Hunter fame, the most important rule in photography, at least for me, is LIMITATION! Strange, you might think. Why limit yourself when you can have anything you want (or nearly) in film photography at rock bottom prices?170106-leica-iiia-ilford-hp5-015

And here we come to the same point that makes me dislike digital photography, or rather digital cameras. The paralysis of choice! Too many choices, too many menu options, too many film emulations…. that is what kills the fun for me.

And it’s exactly the same when it comes to film gear. I had many cameras at some points of the last years. Most notably there was a period when I owned a Canon AE-1, an A-1, a T90, T70 and T50 together with a brace of FD glass. Then of course the Leica IIIa and the XA2 but also a (short lived) Ricoh GR1 and a Contax Tvs (wonderful camera!!). All were always loaded with film. All did not fit in my bag of course. So each time I went out I had these choices to make. and when I was out and about with one or two of the the SLRs I had those lenses to swap around.045

Weight to carry, decisions to make… definitely not my beer!

Deep inside I knew that I want to have just one camera with me, one film loaded, preferably HP5, and if only possible, no camera bag. Well, the bag always serves to carry a book when I go to work.

It was hard to to,  but once I started, I saw that with less and less cameras, I got more and more keepers. Less film wasted testing new (old) cameras, less film wasted trying new lenses.

And then, the limitations the cameras impose on me and my photography really help me. They help me to see the world with the cameras angle in mind, with it’s capacities in mind. If I use only 50mm lenses, that field of view is ingrained in my brain. I see in 50mm. When I carry the Olympus XA2 and I see a scene I automatically find myself in the right position to capture it with it’s 35mm lens.IMG_0338

Try that when you use lots of lenses! And don’t tell me about the benefits of zooms…. they are for lazy people. Just kidding! But I prefer fixed focal lengths any day.

So these are my reasons for staying, for the moment, with only those three cameras. And I deliberately say ‘for the moment’ as this might still change. There’s two cameras I’m not 100% sure about… the Spotmatic and the Leica. I’m still thinking about reducing my gear at bit more but the verdict is still out.

Anyways, when I way young I had a Canon AE-1…. only! And I used it extensively. A limited camera for sure, and only one. Never did need more.

What is your take about reducing gear? I’d love to hear your opinions.

Thanks for hearing me out.

23 thoughts on “Why I’m down to just THREE cameras!

Add yours

  1. Quite coincidentally I’ve been preparing a little take on this myself (coming this week).

    I would say keep them all but if you have to part with something then what camera you keep really depends on what you do with it.

    All analog cameras have potential pitfalls that await the unsuspecting buyer, some are design limitations, some are design faults, some are faults are due to their age and some of which you can put up with and some you find you can’t. You only really find out when you’ve bought it and run a film through it. A lot of cameras then find their way back onto the used market.

    Fixed lens cameras are a pig to fix especially if the blades go sticky and you don’t get a choice of lens if you want to change your style, subject matter etc.

    The door of the XA2 sometimes slips triggering the microswitch into the off position at inopportune moments, the door has to be closed and opened to keep the circuits “live” designed to save the battery, the shutter speed will not be suitable for most city street photographers, the meter cells may be “under”, there’s no manual control and you can’t readily get them serviced. Nice lens though.

    The Leica is as you say, titchy viewfinder (if you use one) and cumbersome for anyone who wears glasses, fiddly to load and the top shutter speed might be limiting to someone making a move from digital. I’ve held back on buying one so far…

    The Spotty – well anything heavy for me gets taken out less as my wrist gets tired and my fingers get numb and my arm starts to ache. Doesn’t the Spotty have a diode bridge regulator so you can put the normal cells in? If not I had a similar issue with my OM-1s and a bought a battery adapter that allows you to use the lower voltage Wein cells. Now metering spot on every time (sic!), but both fully serviced of course at great expense. Otherwise you can compensate with exposure, it’s not that far out anyway. But I just like things working right.

    Naturally as I now shoot almost exclusively on film myself I think everybody should think twice about switching to film and should be reading the latest gear reviews and buying themselves a brand a new digital camera instead, thereby not inflating my cost of buying analog equipment 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good advice, as good film gear does get expensive (and more rare…). The Spotty has the bridge diode but the battery is an unusually small one that has a plastic collar around it. I found one at a watch shop (battery for Bulgari watches) but I still had to turn it around in the collar as the polarity is ‘upside down’. Now I’ll be able to re-use the collar wit further batteries.

      Sure any film camera, and especially compacts have severe limitations though the XA2 never let me down, even with ‘only’ 1/750 max shutter speed and no way to control it it gave me great results even in difficult situations.

      As for the Leica, it’s a fabulous machine, apart from loading film and the viewfinder… 1/1000 of a sec is very much OK.

      The weight of the Spotmatic does not bother me, it’s reassuring. A bit like the Nikon F I had in younger days (still could kick myself for selling it to buy my first digital camera….).

      And I like my gear in top condition too. I just hate when something does not work. Even if a self timer, something I honestly never use, does not work it spoils my fun with a camera.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m clearing out cameras I won’t use at least once every couple years. I expect to get down to around 20 when all is done. But I see that I’m actually triangulating on the 3-5 cameras that I will simply keep using, that will be primary. My Pentax ME will certainly make the cut, as will probably my Olympus XA. Actually, between those two I could be set for as long as they keep working. But I’d like also to have a couple medium-format options — probably my Yashica-D and, believe it or not, my No.2 Brownie.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve stopped looking at second hand cameras after I sold most of my digital gear (which I just wasn’t using) and for now am just concentrating on using my Nikon FE, with the HoToP trio and just taking pictures. I do still have some golden oldies, a point and shoot Nikon F60, and one DSLR with zoom but they are resigned to the display cabinet, unless when the digital was dragged out for Christmas shooting of family. It’s done me the world of good slim line my outfit.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am going to the opposite direction – gear explosion. I have been away from the photography for 10 years and I want to try different things, large format, medium format, low light photography, portraits, landscapes. On the film. Till it lasts. Which might be not for long. At least for the color film.

    Having less gear means having less options. If you do only street photography, fine, you probably only need one 35mm film camera with single lens. Good. If you want anything more specific, you need more stuff. Variety of needs and wants drives the desire to have more specific gear because there is no universal and universally good solution for every problem we think we have.

    Having less gear means that we convince ourselves that we have less problems. Perhaps this is right, perhaps we just set silly artificial limitations. But think that it is difficult to be objective without first trying it out. So more stuff it will be!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ok to try out, but once you find your gear you can concentrate on the essential.

      Reminds me of the fact that way back when I wanted to cover EVERY focal length possible. Zooms from 24 to 55, from 35 to 80 and 70 to 210….. no use!

      But whatever floats your boat as long as the results are great, the photos!


      1. I do not want to do every thing, just many things. I want to experience and experiment. I am not looking for the right outcome but for different outcomes.

        I am not saying that what you are doing is wrong. I think you have found what works for you and this is a great luxury to have. But you had to learn your tools and your needs first the hard way and it appears that the a good tool for you is limiting your gear. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I agree with whatever anybody wants to do, but sometimes to pick up on what you were saying there Frank the “essential” can sometimes be very fluid. I’ve also considered large format, I keep looking at them and I could go and buy one but instead I’ve been collecting some bits and pieces to eventually have a go at building my own. But there’s no sense in getting rid of other stuff just so as you can concentrate your efforts in one direction. To do that you just buy a 100ft can of film and take out one camera. Or go digital. I do understand very well the rationale for sticking with one camera, one focal length, one film brand, developer, subject matter and so on. It’s a very interesting topic, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Frank, really impressed you’re down to just these three… I’m coming to a similar place, albeit mostly with digital. I still have maybe 10 cameras in all, including a Spotmatic F which I doubt I’ll ever sell, even though I haven’t used it for maybe six months or more. And my main film compact remains the Olympus Mju-1, really not that different to the XA2, especially in size, but for me more versatile and accurate in focusing. And much closer! For my kind of photography I soon struggle with any camera that won’t focus closer than half a metre.

    I could in theory have just one camera, but do like to retain a little bit of variety. Will be interested to see where we both are in three, six, 12 months and beyond!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Close focus is a problem with the XA2 ! That might be a reason to change it for something different one day, a Mju II could be it.

      As to where we’ll be in 6 months… wold be great to know already…


      1. I’d struggle to recommend a Mju II for a number of reasons, but would certainly suggest a Mju I. At first I was resistant to it being AF not manual, but with the XA2 in practice you alter the focus zones so infrequently, you may as well be using AF and let the camera be a little more precise. And it focuses down to about 0.35m. This fact alone for me makes it more appealing than about 99% of other compact film cameras!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I have the answer – don’t count them !
    My problem is Nikon manual lenses, there are so many that I want to try out. My F4 & the Df are good platforms for all the early Nikon lenses (non Ai, Ai & Ais) .but at least it keeps me away from cameras.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t get me started, because I have a Fuji X-pro1 that takes ant lens I care to fit and Pentax lenses are just perfect.
        See what has happened, you got me thinking about what I could get on the used market.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Fuji cameras are just perfect for playing with lenses, but my Nikon F & F2 are the exact same for film.
    Then we get into who makes the best B&W film – I think that is another conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Turns out I’m the second Kevin Allan to comment here, but with a different spelling. Small world. I’m on the way down to three cameras but there’s still a long way to go. I found that moving into large format with an Intrepid 4×5 cured my GAS because once I realised that I liked using a plywood box more than any other camera, I just didn’t feel the need to buy anything else.

    I’m making more progress in reducing the variety of films I use. Once I use up some existing stock, I plan on using just three films, across 35mm, 120, and large format:

    Ilford FP4+
    Rollei IR 400 (when I want infrared)
    Kodak Portra 400

    I’m using HC110 to develop the first two films at the moment, and will probably stick with that. I don’t see a great deal of difference across the developers I have used.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tempted by large format too. As I am Right in a big bout of photographer’s block, a total change of medium from 35mm might help. Who knows….

      In fact I thought you were the ‘other’ Kevin AllEn… 😉


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