Just a brief idle thought: I'll bet the first Lytro cameras will one day be collectible.
It remains to be seen whether they'll be an early appearance of a future mainstream technology, or a one-off curiosity. Either way.
As an aside, I'm curious just how the digital transition has affected camera collecting. I'm not close enough to the collecting community to have a read on that. I'll bet somebody like Jason Schneider would have an interesting opinion about it. I don't think it's easy to reach Jason by email, so I guess I won't ask. But it would be an interesting question to put to a few collectors, just to hear their thoughts. Anyone know any big-time camera collectors?
It did occur to me that one reason it was so important to Leica to produce a digital M was to protect its collector community. (I heard in the '90s that there were then between 1,200 and 2,000 very serious Leica collectors worldwide.) For that matter, I wonder how many S2's have been purchased, tested sparingly, and been put lovingly away? Always felt to me like there's an expiration date on a digital camera, but maybe that's just me.
Pages from the Tamarkin October 2011 Auction catalog for a Leica given by Ernest Hemingway to a friend. Estimated at $25,000–50,000.
Re yesterday's post, in part about dividing lines exceeding fuzzy, I wonder what the dividing line is between people who like to buy lots of cameras, and camera collectors? Is it just whether the camera is bought to be used or displayed? As with most such things, it probably has to more to do with intent and focus than with just numbers. That is, it's probably possible to have a serious collection of twenty or thirty objects but a "user motley" of eighty or a hundred.
Which reminds me, I've been waiting for a lazy weekend day like this to reorganize the camera cabinet and get rid of some of the junque....
UPDATE (11/11/11): The Hemingway Leica sold for $25,000. Thanks to Gary Nylander for letting me know.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by David Brown: "A kind friend told me I had crossed the line from camera owner to collector when I had to purchase a large cabinet just to store them."
Featured Comment by Walter Glover: "Friends here in Sydney have a camera store dealing worldwide with collectibles. They say that the heat has gone out of the market since the advent of digital. They have several showcases full of stuff which they now more or less treat as a museum. A museum which few, if any, ever bother to even glance at.
"I have always been a camera user; I have what I need to produce what I want to produce and that is all. But I have had friends who were inoculated with 'collector serum' and have never worked them out to be honest."
Featured Comment by Bill Hughes: "I'm not a collector, I'm a photographer. Amateur, true, but a photographer. Having said that, I still possess every camera I have ever owned including those I have acquired but not used.
"I think the difference is that I have only ever bought a camera in order to take photographs, not to put away and not use. Even those cameras I have which don't work I would like to bring back into use—admittedly I won't get rid of them if they're irreparable though. I'm not a collecter, but I could become a hoarder if I'm not careful."
Featured Comment by Mark Sampson: "I just went to a photographica show/sale today; many vintage photographs ranging from Caponigros down to $5 tintypes, and a lot of gear. It was fairly well attended and the vendors said they were making sales...and yes, I bought something (but not as a collectible)."
Featured Comment by Josh Marshall: "The other thing that makes digital cameras difficult to store: batteries! They're all proprietary types that die after three years, used or not."
Featured Comment by Adam Lanigan: "As with most things in life, 'The Onion' skewers the subject perfectly: 'Everything in Entire World Now Collectible.'
"As far as camera collecting goes, I'd place myself into the category of Automatic Accumulator. I've amassed a 'collection' of cameras simply by being 'a camera guy', as more and more people bring me the old film cameras they haven't used in 15 years, thinking that I 'might get some use out of it.' I keep waiting for the person who just has no use for their old dusty Leica M."
Featured Comment by Tom Kwas: "I know more than one person who has 'every camera they ever bought,' but virtually none of them are professional photographers. A lot of pros keep a camera that means something to them (first Hasselblad they bought, Deardorff they used for 35 years, something like that), but most of the time, they're dumping equipment to buy newer equipment, as they just aren't making the income they used to thirty years ago.
"Space is also a problem. Thirty years ago I knew shooters that had loft studios, might have lived in them, might have still had and kept them when they bought a house. Now every one I know is living small and renting a studio when they absolutely need one and can charge for it. No place for dozens of cabinets with vintage equipment anymore, to take that once a year picture....
"Fleabay is both a blessing and a curse. It allows you to get a decent return on some equipment you want to let go, much better than the 20% KEH or the local camera store might give you, but it also drives up prices on almost everything to, in some cases, ridiculous amounts. People always say to me in camera stores and yard sales: '...yeah, well, that's going for x-amount on eBay...,' and yeah, it's 'going' for that amount, but unless you're checking the 'completed sales' category, you don't have an idea of what it's really going for...I see lots of Artars going for thousands, relisted for months on end, but if you check completed sales, a lot are 'selling' for a few hundred...."