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Friday, 18 January 2008


I remember Baker Photo! I grew up in Washington DC, and went into Baker's often. Maybe we've seen each other in passing at some point. In fact, 27 years ago I was working a summer job in the photo department of Rodman's Discount Drug Store, just up Wisconsin Ave. from Baker's, where we sold SLRs and lenses and tripods and darkroom supplies.

BTW, the name of the neighborhood is Tenleytown, and I'll bet you're also remembering Friendship Heights, just to the north.

Thanks for bringing back some memories from your personal experience.


I've had my OM4 and 35-105mm lens now for 22 years which is half my life. I rarely use it now, but it is the one piece of photographic equipment that I feel genuinely attached to. I have a lot of memories with that camera, I'm responsible for all the brassing on it. I can pick it up and it just feels right, the controls fall instinctively to hand, I don't even have to think about it when I use it. I bought it off a wealthy old lady who bought it on a whim and she couldn't get on with it. I hope to keep on enjoying it, putting the occasional roll of Delta 400 or Velvia through it and fondling every now and again when searching through my office for bits of kit.

Happy memories and comforting thoughts really.

I used to buy film at Rodman's sometimes. I wonder if our paths DID cross....


I've not kept any photographic kit for 27 years but for about 18 years a Pentax Super A was my main SLR.....
..no, thinking about it some more I have had my Cullman tripod for about 27 years though it did require repair with some very strong glue when the plastic threads holding the head on went smooth. Part of the reason for this was that I used to regularly unscrew the head to use the legs as a base for my bicycle wheel building jig!
An audio oldie for you Mike - I am still using the Rega Planar turntable I bought in 1973.

Cheers, Robin

Still using my Gitzo Studex 323 which I bought in1983, no worse for wear!


I think it's wonderful to have things that were built to last. In an age of cheap manufacturing and expensive repairs, it's often times easier to buy a new (toaster, microwave, belt, pair of pants, cheap tripod, Canon 35mm f2 lens) one than repair the old one.

My father is a few years older than you and he's very fond making sure that the things he buys are good enough to outlive him. It seemed a little morbid to me at fist, but now I admire it.

Ah, the Planar 3--the K1000 of turntables!

Mike J.

We now know Baker Photo sold at least 2 Giant telestudex tripods because I bought mine there. Abe Baker wondered why I wanted it because I shot only with Leica M's, then I showed him some Kodachromes and he saw why. I traded mine several years ago and now get to visit it at the dealer every so often as they haven't found a new home for it yet, I think it looks too used. I got mine in the late '70's or early '80's.

Abe! That was his first name, all right. I only ever called him "Mr. Baker." I moonlighted at the frame shop next door (working two jobs for the first and last time--70 hours a week is too much for yrs. trly.), so I would visit Baker's almost every day (albeit not for very long).

Mike J.

It's nice to see things last that long, I have learned that buy it right the first time, you only have to buy it once, :).

A little off topic, but recently, we are shopping to replace our appliances, reading online reviews are just scary.
It's almost as if buying extended warranty is a must now a days to protect consumers against poor quality junk, and these are not cheapie stuff to begin with. What happened to our expectations?

Ignoring other health and lifestyle factors (the silliness of this comment is encapsulated in that opening), a fifty-year-old American male (congratulations, BTW!) can expect to live considerably longer than 27 years. The average life expectancy figure of 77.6 years for US males is arrived at by averaging the lives of all males, including those who never make it as far as you have so your own figure at the age of fifty is higher shouldn't include the many who sadly die young. Likewise, the life expectancy for someone who's already 77 is not seven months.

So: please look for _very_ long-term domain name renewal deals and keep pestering Amazon France about that link. Thank you :)

Re: extended warranties

Even these are a scam. I bought a Sony 27" TV from a Sony outlet story in MA, and one of the extended warranties. Well, the set developed an electrical problem (it continually turned on and off), so I called the number. As it turns out, SONY uses a third part for these services, and the company changed contractors after our purchase.

So, I finally tracked down the present warranty service, and they told me I would get a NEW TV--provided I ship the unit to Florida!!!!! (It nearly weighs 100 lbs.) At my expense!!!!

"Bag that, I'll call a local repairman," I thought. Once he heard the unit model, he said it would be cheaper just to get a new one.

By this point, I figured I was out both TV and replacement, but in the end the questionable quality of the unit played out in my favor: in order to see the model number, I moved the unit, and somehow that resolved the problem. It now works perfectly. Go figure.

The key points to this little tale are:

1. Increasingly medium-ticket consumer electronics should be seen as disposable items.
2. The extended warranties are often less than what you think. In this case, the provider changes, and the service was in reality unusable.

While I appreciate innovation, Mike's old Gitzo shows there is still much of value in older, "dumber" technology as well.



The first camera I bought for myself was probably the Argus AF, ca. 1930s, that I found at a flea market when I was about half *its* age. Still works.


"A little off topic, but recently, we are shopping to replace our appliances, reading online reviews are just scary.
It's almost as if buying extended warranty is a must now a days to protect consumers against poor quality junk, and these are not cheapie stuff to begin with. What happened to our expectations?"

I have been told by people well-placed in that industry that the introduction of lightweight plastic components has seriously compromised the longevity of modern appliances; long-time repairmen tell me the same. The aim was to keep the sticker price at low levels but it's difficult to do that and maintain quality. But maybe, generally speaking, we're not able to recognize quality anymore anyway.

Isn't it odd because we're supposed to be living in a culture where the consumer calls the shots, so we're told. If we do call the shots, we might be calling them wrong.

I appreciate that, and I promise I will do my best to stay optimistic. However I *think* I already incorporated the advantage you're talking about--the website I found, at least (and who knows how accurate their figures are?) pegged the LE of an American male at just short of 73 years, and the LE of a 50-year-old at 27.6 years. I'm about to turn 51, although I honestly don't know if that reduces my number or extends it!

LE is a strange number, isn't it? Because if you think of it, we each abruptly confound our own LE at some point short of its fulfillment. At every point, we have some sort of LE that extends into the future, simply because we have lived that long; or is any healthy, still-kicking person's LE officially zero? (I hope not, for that poor S.O.B.'s sake!) My great-aunt will turn 100 next month--surely her LE is one or two or three years, or some other number greater than 100.

John Madden has been making this point recently with regard to football defenses, noting that average performance over time doesn't necessarily trump do-or-die situations as a marker of how good a defense is. Averages indicate trends, but they don't predict performance in extraordinary situations.

To relate this back to photography, I once had a friend/teacher who would assign his graduate students to shoot prodigous amounts of film. I was curious about this, so I forced myself to go to an event that I knew wouldn't inspire me particularly and shoot ten rolls, then far in excess of what I would ordinarily shoot. I even rented an extra lens for the occasion. Sure enough, I didn't get any compellingly great shots that day, despite the 360 frames shot--so I resolved to stick to my low-volume ways!

Mike J.

Re extended warranties and all that, my late friend Phil Davis had occasion to replace his water heater in the late '90s. He was offered an extended warranty, and he replied that the outgoing water heater had been in place since the 1940s. The plumber's response was, "Oh, Sir, this new one is not going to last for fifty years, believe me."

They don't make 'em like they used to. Come to think of it, that was true of Phil, too.

Mike J.

I think it's been about 25 years (which is a few years more than half of my life) since I bought my Canon "New" F-1 new with the insurance money from my Canon A-1 setup that was stolen when our house was burglarized, and it's still working fine with routine maintenance every few years.

I bought one of the new 6X carbon fiber Gitzos last year, which is everything I think I could ever want in a tripod, and sold off two others to offset the cost and make a little more space.

Don't remember Baker's. We were Ritz Camera people, in the basement of Murphy's down Maccomb from Burkas. ch

Mike, did you ever capture the ambience of Baker's Photo on film? It would be a treasure. Mr & Mrs Baker's store ranks right up there with Julia Child's kitchen. Perhaps a bit less organized.
By the way, Rodman's is thriving — still deliciously different, but long without a camera department.

Unfortunately I didn't. It was a true old-style camera shop, with a little bit of everything, piles on piles, treasures here and there, discoveries to be made, and more than a little dust on some things. Most of all, as you probably remember, clutter, clutter, clutter! I loved it, of course.

I never tried to take a picture of Baker's but I missed a chance to take a picture of the last hot-lead linotype printing shop in D.C. The old guy who ran it gave me permission but I didn't follow up in time, and before you know it he was out of business and those huge ancient machines that had been in place for decades were gone. I still regret missing that. Very picturesque place.

Mike J.

Well, I've still got my first "real" camera, a Nikkormat FTN, that I bought in 1969. Well over my "half life" ago. The camera has survived a rollover crash in a Honda 600 and a fall from the overhead locker on a flight back from China in the late '70s (perhaps the reason for the "object can shift in flight" announcement). It has outlasted the battery technology (mercury cells) used in the meter, but that was a simple and relatively inexpensive fix. Seems likely it may outlast me.

Brings back memories. I used to work part time at National Camera on 18th St NW then Pennsylvania Ave. It was a bit more than 27 years ago, maybe 35, when I got an aluminum tripod, it may have been a Gitzo, and it's still going strong, just heavy.

Since we're going off-topic so much anyway, can someone recommend a pair of winter gloves that will: a) allow me to work the controls on my camera, and b) keep my hands reasonably warm?

Years ago there was a glove-mitten that had removable fingers--"hinged" (if you will) from the back, approximately at the knuckles--and a flap-back mitten part as well for warming up your fingers even more when you weren't manipulating anything. I *think* they were hunter's or shooter's gloves, although I can't find them with a web search now. Sorry I can't provide any information beyond that.

Mike J.

Mike is probably talking about these:

You'll find them in any outdoor store. I use them for everything from photography to riding a bike and climbing in cold weather.

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