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Saturday, 15 January 2011


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Most expensive camera in 1970? Hasselblad EDC
Certainly the most expensive disposable hand held camera ever


Well once you add shipping and handling into the price

Of course, this poll needs a followup question: when did you last use said camera?

(For me, my only remaining film camera is a lomo lc-a. Bought in 2003, last used around 2007.)

Speaking of TTV, how about this self-portrait? Not techincally great execution, but I thought it was a cute idea. And no, it's not photoshop; that's what you'd really see if you were standing where the (photographing) camera was.

To clarify a bit, Ctein is looking for stock commercial products, not one-offs, and he's looking for prices at that time, not cameras that are valuable as collectibles now.

And the poll is directed at people who USE film cameras now!


I'm still regularly using a 7 year old Canon digital SLR, albeit one converted to dedicated infrared capture. But it sharply highlights one of the downsides of digital: the rapid progress in quality and useability with each successive generation makes older models seem quickly worthless. This camera (an Eos-1Ds) cost me so much originally that I couldn't bear to discard it or sell it at a colossal discount. But it's excruciatingly clunky and slow in operation compared to newer descendents. I can put up with this since it's basically a novelty item now; I just use it on sunny days for that infrared look. Its lethargy would drive me crazy if it were still my 'main' camera. And it's outrageously 'noisy' at any ISO above 200.
On the other hand, a 30 year old 4x5" view camera is likely every bit as good and usable as a new one.


When looking for the most expensive camera, you really need to tell us how you want to define "camera". Nikon's Multiphot system cost a lot, but it included: stand, stage, transformer, lights, lenses, filters, adapters, bellows, body, and carrying cases. I'm also not sure when it was introduced. I know it was available in the seventies, but that's all...

I think the poll question is wrong, I bought my most used film camera 6 months ago but it's almost 40 years old!

IMHO the relatively quick turnover in digital equipment is probably not a reflection of reliability as much as a reflection of the shorter product cycles and (in my case) the inability of the consumer to resist the upgrade treadmill.

I've been looking at this womans site for a couple of years now, sent to me by a pal, it seems to be pictures of small town Wisconsin (for the most part) taken through the viewfinder of a tarnished old twin-lens...it actually looks quite like the view through an old Brownie Reflex I have laying around here, not focusable, just a large glass square lens on top you look down through...


As regards digital "upgrades" etc. I started shooting a few years ago on a Nikon D90, 'cause I just didn't have the money to go all the way up to a D300 or a D700, but I bought it because the specs were better than a Canon 40D at the time. I wanted to buy a top of the line digital Rebel (which actually had better specs than the 40D), but didn't think it would last shooting professionally. Now I know a bunch of "pros" that do what I do (which is pretty low for needs like auto-focus speed, frame-rate, etc.), that just shoot Rebels and replace them every few years. Cheapest solution for the quality level and they just buy the next Rebel with the latest specs that keeps coming out. They never seem to get to the point where the wear-and-tear break them before they replace them!

I've bought four film cameras in the last year/year-and-a-half. Three of them are the most beautiful things I've ever bought, and I intend to continue using them for as long as I/film lasts (whichever is - regrettably - the soonest). With reasonable luck, this means around 40 or 50 years. There's no doubt in my mind that all three are capable of lasting the course, and will probably need less maintenance than my own mechanism.
My favorite of the bunch is a previously unused, boxed Black Paint Millennium M6 - unused until I bought it, that is. Nowadays it pains me to leave home without it, and the rewind handle is getting a beautiful patina of wear.
I enjoy my digital cameras, but using the film cameras is a completely different magnitude of pleasure.

At work I used my 1D Mark II cameras (2004 technology, purchased in 2005) for five years, and they held up just fine. The occasional clean+adjust from Canon, and they worked like new. They looked like they'd been dragged behind a truck for a few miles, but that probably made them less attractive to thieves or something. The image quality held up pretty well, too, as the Mark IIn and the Mark III came out, and the 5D and 5D Mark II, etc. I could still get a nice two page spread in our alumni magazine without too much effort.

Then I ended up getting a pair of the 1D Mark IV bodies last spring, so I had to choose the first button in the poll. I have to say, there is no comparison with the older cameras -- the Mark IV is faster, and the image quality is unbelievably better, and they leap tall buildings in a single bound. Maybe not, but it feels that way.

I guess the lesson for me is that in my experience pro-level cameras will last a long time.

Film camera poll - bought my first film camera late on in 1981, a Ricoh KR10 SLR, and used that up until 2004. The next SLR was just last week! A secondhand Nikon F100.

Resisted the temptations of various commenters' dewy-eyed memories of older mechanical cameras, along with your "Leica for a year" challenge. Deciding to go for something that's similar in operation to the DSLR's that I'm used to, and was a real bargain in terms of capability.

APS-C DSLR's will remain my main photography tools, and the F100 is for some full-frame B&W film fun. That 40mm Voigtlander is now rather tempting. Then again, the local shop also has two of those 45mm Nikkors that you mentioned recently ("New/Unused old stock"). Darned gear lust...

"pace of advancement slowing, though, the pace of updating will slow, too. Sooner or later, people really are going to start wanting to use their digital cameras for a decade and longer. Will the cameras be up to that challenge? I wonder."

I don't think we are anywhere near the point where digital processing and sensor component improvements will be slowing. That is unless cost becomes an issue.

I think the mechanical systems as of current professional grade digital cameras are certainly up to a decade of use. Obsolescence of the processor and sensor are the limiting factors for digital cameras not build quality or reliability. We simply cannot predict were the technology will be in ten years.

"It does strike me that the long-term reliability of digital cameras (even high-end ones) does not seem to be very good."

My Nikon Coolpix 995 died recently after 8 years - about 3,000 exposures total, sitting on a microscope - not very impressive for an expensive camera which was never abused.

On the other hand, my daughter's Canon 20D is still going strong at about 6 years old.

Once Removed:

Guy with a film camera taking a picture of a guy with a digital camera taking a picture through the viewfinder of a film camera. Full circle.

Mike: I may be able to offer some guidance on the "most expensive camera in 1970." I have a copy of the Life Library of Photography "Camera Buyer's Guide" for 1970 (it has a Beseler Topcon Super D -- I think -- on the cover). I'll note here some of the most expensive cameras in the various categories included in that year's guide:

Simple Cameras: Kodak Instamatic 414 - $51.95

More Advanced Cameras: Rollei 35 - $229.50

35mm Rangefinder Cameras: Leica M4 w/50mm F/2 lens - $543

35mm and 126 Cartridge Single-Lens Reflex Cameras: Leicaflex SL w/50mm F/2 lens - $738

2 1/4 x 2 1/4 Single-Lens Reflex Cameras: Rolleiflex SL66 w/80mm F/2.8 lens - $1,350

2 1/4 x 2 1/4 Twin-Lens Reflex Cameras: Mamiyaflex C330 w/80mm F/2.8 lens - $319.50

View and Press Cameras: Graflex Super Speed Graphic w/ 135mm f/4.5 lens - $771.15

Polaroid Cameras: Model 360 w/ 114mm F/8.8 lens - $199.95

Half-Frame Cameras: Tessina 35L w/25mm F.2.8 lens - $169.50

This doesn't exactly answer the question about the most expensive camera available in 1970, but the pricing (MSRP, I assume, in 1970 dollars) might give a sene of the overall universe of "higher-end" camera pricing.

Also, I note that a post referred to the Hasselblad EDC. It was not included in the Life lineup, but the Hasselblad 500C with an 80mm F.2.8 lens was priced at $750.

My main camera is a film camera, bought in 1991, a Linhof Technikardan 45. Last used 2 weeks ago. One can still buy it new (with small modifications, as TK 45s) from Linhof.

Hum, I think people are going to ask for a poll about age of the camera, not when it was bought. The one I still use regularly is a 1972 Yashica D - but I bought it since 2008.

The oldest I still use at all is a 1957/64 Brownie Starflex, bought since 2008, but the newest is a 1986 Nikon FG, received in 2003. I'm probably retiring all of them from practical* use by next January.

On the subject of disposing of digital cameras - the instant I get my next digital camera, a mirrorless one, I will sell off my DSLR. It is perfectly serviceable, but the problem is that it is service-able. It has too many parts that can drift out of alignment and need service, and I could use the (small) amount of money I could get for it. I am not going to mess around with having a 'backup' camera of questionable reliability or usefulness. On the other hand, I do have concerns about how long I can make its replacement last. I've never seen a consumer electronics product I've owned, (laptop or cellphones) last more than 6 years in a reliable state.


*but not 'ornamental use', in my case meaning exercising the shutters bimonthly and taking a roll of film every few years out of sentiment.

For still photography, the industry likely reached the point a few years ago at about 10-12MP and a decent ISO 1600 or thereabouts where sensor improvements above and beyond are not requisite except in a few rather limited circumstances.

So when we hit a patch of economic rough sledding like we've been in for 2-3 years, folks (particularly professionals) are more reticent to upgrade.

The analogy of where the PC business was post- Internet bubble v1.0 circa 2000 is perhaps apropo. Folks suddenly found their Pentium II and III machines were adequate for most stuff they needed to do, and held onto their PCs for 3-5 years. And I'm talking a lot of small business owners, here.

(Maybe akin to cameras into the future, the need to upgrade came in the form of video.)

Dear Jams et.al.,

OK, we're looking for a regular-use, regular production camera, here. Not how much money you could dump into a system. Not a specialized scientific or research instrument. Not a one-of-a-kind, not a commemorative. Not upholstered with the hides of a dozen endangered species. Or even in chocolate chip cookie dough!

For example, in 35mm, a body plus a good prime lens. In medium format, a body plus a good prime lens, plus a film back (if it didn't come with one) and maybe a metering prism (if yer so inclined). In view cameras, a camera, a half dozen film holders and a good prime lens.

pax / Ctein

Only reason my most used film camera was bought after 2007 is because I bought a second hand Zeiss Ikon. My AE-1 was given to me new in 1979. My Rollei predates that by a considerable few years...


P.S. - and please stay within a year or so of 1970-- you get further than that and the value of the dollar and other business factors start shifting enough that you're comparing apples and oranges, time-wise.

IOW, any time from when Nixon took office until he got re-elected.

pax / chronological Ctein

I wonder whether the poll is about shopping or camera life-time? In the latter case it doesn't cover 2nd-hand cam market. E.g. I'm running *ist DS that I bought not that long ago in a middle of '09, but nevertheless it's the *ist DS of late '04.

And though I'm going to move on and buy K-5 (if and when they officially report on and get the sensor-snot-issue squared away) I think I'll probably be using both cams: while K-5 doesn't - *ist DS runs on AA-sized batteries and I love non-rechargeable lithium electro-chemestry for outstanding long mileage and superb cold-weather performance. I'm aware of batt grip soluion but it doesn't work for me.


I just tore open the box of my recently overhauled Olympus OM-1n that I bought new in 1979 and have shot more or less continuously since then. I had the battery changed to something current and legal. I love that match needle meter. Still shooting an OM-2n, Trip 35 and some others. Starting to think I need a TLR in my life, thank you Vivian.

Is anyone else's main film camera a Holga?

On the rare occasions that I shoot film, my go-to camera is a Nikon F2S that I bought new in 1975. I've got one of those new-fangled F4 autocameras, and it's beautifully made, but I never warmed up to it like my old F2.

I punched a button on this poll but I have film cameras purchased over 35 years and don't have a main one. I become entranced by one for a few months and then another one for a period of time. Some I'll dink around with for just two or three days then put aside for several months. Developing the film is my main problem with 30 to 40 rolls waiting, all B&W. Have everthing I need but the get up and go. It's hard being a lazy photographer.

I wasn't sure how to answer the poll. I haven't bought a film camera in a long time. The one I'm using now was given to me by someone who didn't want it any longer, so I put down the probable date that it was originally purchased. That seems to match the intent of the survey (equipment longevity).

I would imagine that things in general fall out of favor with their owner before they wear out. That would apply equally to both film and digital cameras.

Thanks, Floyd, that's sure to be helpful.



I have some good info direct from the 1970's for you. Mom always had a camera around, but the bug got
me in High School when I took a journalism class. That started in my junior year and continued until graduation
in 1970. Our school had a Kodak Retina Reflex 35mm and a fleet of Yashica TLR's. By my senior year I had
proudly purchased a Nikkormat FTN w/2.0 Nikkor 50mm lens. Then list from EPOI was over $300.00. I paid
Somewhere around $250.00 and got a hardshell case for the 'cash' price. Never told the parents what that
cost (please don't tell 'em now) That was a TON of money for a High School student in 1969.

Anyway, I still have some publications from that period. I will list for you some prices as they are listed.
The sources are:
Life Library of Photography- Camera Buyers Guide 1970

Simple Camera
Kodak Instamatic x-35 $50
Minolta Auto Pak 600 $50
Konica Konipak 300 $50

Advanced Cameras
Rolie 35 $230

35mm Rangefinder
Leica M4 $543
Leica M5 $765

35mm SLR
Honeywell Pentax SL $190
Minolta Srt 101 $265
Nikkormat FTN $280
Nikon F $316
Nikon F2 $501
Leicaflex SL $756

2 1/4 Slr
Pentax 6x7 $895
Rolleiflex SL66 $999

Yashica Mat 124 $120
Rolleiflex T $300
Mamiya C330 $350

Graflex Super Speed Graphic $648
135mm 4.5 lens

Model 450 $175

Nikonos II $195 w/35 2.5
275 w/28 3.5

Nikon F w/f250 motor $1030
leicflex SL W/motor $1452

Minox C $220

This info is for 1970 dollars and is only a partial list
I also Have a copy of 1970 Popular Photography Directory & buying guide which is more detailed
and lists many more brands and accessories. It is 168 pages as opposed to the 13 of the Time-Life Guide

Let me know if you need more info or actual scans of the pages
Rick B

I tried it once. The dog was the hardest. I then joined three photos together to try for a filmstrip look. This was through an old Argus, using the pop-up flash on my Olympus 420...

My guess for most expensive 1970 camera would be some Linhoff. But that is just speculation.


I bought my Leica M4 in 1969, and it has been my main film camera continuously since then. Apart from cleaning and lube every five years or so, it has never needed repair, and it certainly hasn't been babied. Still sounds as sweet as it did 40 years ago.

I'm thinking for 35mm SLR: Alpa 11E.

While I certainly do not qualify as a member of the “brain trust”, I would think that the ALPA 10 or ALPA 11 from 1970’ish would qualify as the most expensive standard production 35mm from that era. ALPA “Custom Built In Switzerland By Swiss Watchmakers”; with prices to match!! Like any legendary camera – the key to success is the glass. Some truly magnificent lenses from Angenieux, Kinoptik, Kern Switer, and the like. Lenses that are still in demand today. Lenses that were/are the photographic equivalent of fine musical instruments – when “played” with finesse – rendering exquisite imagery and personality.

My two most used film cameras are a 1975 vintage Leica CL, and a 1980ish Canon A-1.

I expect that the distribution curve here will not look like that of the digital one. Obvious, but I'm interested in seeing the results.

The Sinar P was introduced in 1970. I think it was the most expensive camera body at the time. I was a first year photography student at RIT and the Sinar rep paid a visit to show off the Sinar system. It was state of the art and very expensive.

While my main digital camera is from 2007, I still use my digital cameras from 2003 and 2005 at least a few times a year. I also have a 1999 digital camera that I use now and then because it still makes nice images.

I have a feeling that your digital camera survey may have to postpone a few year.

Digital evolution normally go through an explosive stage and then when "good enough is good enough", it is no longer replacement due to "not good enough" but really due to break down. I have a D300 and I think Thom still said that I have to find a real reason to upgrade. This is quite different when you have a D100 vs even D70 and D70 vs D200.

If you ask me to question about DSLR, I think this may be the year the answer is still valid.

I can't find anything for 1970 but I did find this 1960 Olden catalog.


Interestingly in 1960 the most expensive Leica was less than the cheapest Bronica.

Most expensive camera without lens is an 8x10 Sinar and the most expensive camera with lens in the 1960 Olden catalog is a Linhof Aero Tecnica. I would bet on some Linhof being the most expensive in 1970. The thing is, where do you stop? I'm sure that anyone with money could order up a process camera that would cost as much as a small building since that is essentialy what they are with some extra plumbing and a really nice lens in one wall

Every once in a while I dig out my 1962 Asahi Pentax SV. I bought it with Tak 55/1.8 and 35/3.5 lenses for $85, new. When I run a roll of film through it, I expect to see light leaks, but it still works great.

I stayed with Pentax and have their 'retro-styled' K-5, today. The K-5 has the solid feel of the SV. Those old M42 lenses work just fine on the K-5, too. Could not be happier.

On the question of the most expensive production camera in 1970, I think Rick B's list is pretty good. Could be wrong, but if I recall correctly, the most expensive production 35mm in 1970 was probably the Alpa. Maybe someone with an old photo magazine can find it in there.

My vote is also for the Linhof Super Technika V or some variant.

Just to clarify my "click" I bought both of my most used film cameras in '02 and '03 (a Bronica etrs and a Leica M6) they were both second hand at the time and had many miles on the clock. To continue the car dealer analogy the Bronica had, I think, been "raced, rallied and rolled ....". Both still give great service on a very regular basis.

Wish I could say the same about the digitals in my life, the collection of camera shaped bookends grows. Am contemplating which books my D3 will hold up one day ..... seeing as my D200 is now "uneconomic to repair" likes the others before it.

In 1970 I bought a Nikkormat FTN with a 50mm 1.4. I bought it at a department store on Okinawa and it cost me a months pay.
I don't exactly remember what a months pay was back then but for the record I was a spec five in the army so it wasn't a fortune but it felt like one.
As for the most expensive camera sold that year? Like most everyone else here I'm clueless.
Best guess though would be something from Linhof, Sinar or some kind of limited edition special use from a company like Seitz.
One thing is certain, when someone hits this one there is going to be a lot of "aw jeez, why didn't I think of that one..." followed by the traditional palm slap on the forehead thing.

I recall that Alpa SLR's were very expensive compared to all the others in the 70's?


Though I only have my feeble memory 70's, just ask Robin Williams!

The 3 film cameras I use the most are:
Rollei SL66E. It was used when I bought it over 25 years ago. Still going strong.
Contax N1. Bought it new 6 or 7 years ago.
Leica M4. It dates from the 1970's and I bought it last year.
They all work perfectly. One more reason I don't use digital.
Morry Katz

My guess for most expensive camera in 1970 would be the Rollei SL66.

And the most current and in use film camera I bought a couple of months ago is a Canon EF, which is very nicely made and has a nice black paint finish with some subtle brassing. It was originally made in the mid-70s. I really enjoy using it, which is the first time I've shot film in nearly ten years.

As mentioned already the poll is not measuring what it purports to measure. I answered 2008 and later in both polls, but my most used digital (a D80) and film (a N8008) cameras were both bought used. So the technology dates back from 2006 and 1988, respectively.

I still use a Canon 20D. DPReview's review of it is dated November 2004.

In lieu of a newer DSLR body I have added a lens or two and a few flashes to my camerae bag, and a G10. Learning about flash (a process that is still very much underway!) has had a far more positive effect on my photography than any other new kit. I use the flashes with my Canon G10 as well. Great value.

Speaking of long-term reliability, I wonder. My oldest digital is a 3mg Olympus cheapo from about 2000. Works as well as ever, but there is little to go wrong. Also have a better one from 2004, a D70s from 2005, and a D300 from 2008.

The D70 has taken well over 15,000 photos. The D300 8,000+. The others probably several thousand.

I have an Olypmus OM-1, bought when I was still in high school which I doubt has taken as many photos as the D70, but the meter no longer works, it leaks light, and one lens has just about died. The Oly rangefinder I have has again developed a sticking shutter. It MAY have taken 10,000 plus photos. So are we counting longevity/reliability in terms of use or just time in hand?

I will regret posting this, for I am sure as soon as I say anything about any of my cameras being reliable it will immediately crumble into a pile of dust.

Expensive camera....a Linhof or Sinar perhaps?

I bought my Pentax 67 in 2009; the camera itself is from the early 90's, but I had it completely overhauled when I bought it, so it may well count as only a couple years old, mechanically.

This poll made me laugh when thinking about the vintage of my cameras.

For 35mm, I have a Canon F1 (mechanical), Canon FTb, and a Pentax MX. My dad bought the F1 in the early 70s, so I bought the FTb so we could share lenses. He gave me the F1 when he moved over to the MX and stopped using the F1. I got the MX when he went digital.

I used that FTb as my primary film camera from the early 70s until I got that F1. Both of those cameras fit in my hands like they were made for them, not due to the design, but due to all of the years of having them in my hands. It is almost like they disappear and become a part of me. That said, I have used the MX lately due to its small size.

Like you, I wonder if my new Pentax K-r will have the kind of staying power as those old cameras. I don't know. Fewer moving parts, but its a computer with a lens. I just can't imagine it will be as durable as my old standards.

Anyway, which of my film cameras is used most currently is a close call, between my 4x5 Walker Titan SF or ARCA Swiss Discovery, or my WP Improved Seneca. Lately, it has been the Seneca, so that is the one I used in the poll. It is around 100 years old, but I just purchased it in the last few years.

The funny thing is, before I bought that K-r, in some ways my most modern camera might have been the Walker, with its composite and stainless steel construction!

In addition to the poll of when the main film camera was bough, there should be another one about when it was made ;-)

Regarding expensive cameras, I would look at the premium brands' more expensive models, e.g Alpa, Rollei, Hasselblad, Linhof, Sinar. The Leicalfex seems mighty expensive. Sicne I'm a Hasselblad user, the two models to check are the SWC and the 500EL -- both should be significantly more than the basic 500 back in 1970 (I don't have any prices -- I wasn't even born at the time!)

Aiptek vga through eos1.


1970, I'd be thinking something like a Linhof Technika IV with a 150/2.8 Xenotar or 135/3.5 Planar, which I think were both available then. They offered a kit with three Zeiss lenses, of which the 75mm Biogon would have been the most expensive, but I don't know offhand if the Biogon was available in 1970. These would all be rangefinder coupled Linhof-selected lenses.

I agree with Sigfried above. My impression is that many people buy new DLSRs because they want a new toy, with better specs etc., not because the previous one stopped working. For example, being an Olympus user, I follow a few related forums and could quote a few users who were very surprised when their E-1 (2003) or E-330 (2004?) stopped working. A quick read through Camera Shutter Life Expectancy Database shows that most users probably never reach their DSLR's life end.

Plus One for everyone on this post that says it's the chip technology and processing engine vs. the actual mechanical technology that's causing the upgrade interest. Although I truly believe that the shutters in modern digitals are pretty "disposable" compared to many of my older film cameras (one reason I applaud the development of mirror-less cameras, or what Wired Mag is referring to as EVIL Cameras!), just looking at my older digital files from Canon 10D's and 20D's, and it's easy to see that every permutation of the "Digic" processor is improving color, contrast, and saturation (dare I say it, making it look more film-like), and reducing noise!

In addition, the photographers I know, would talk incessantly about the quality of digital image files. A lot of us owned the Canon 20D, and it wasn't unusual to hear people saying stuff like: "...well, it looks OK under strobe, but in flat day-light, it looks entirely different and not very good..." etc. etc. As the processing engines and chips have gotten better, I hear less and less of this and more people happy with the performance over all situations...I know more people upgrading because of this more than anything...

One person already made a comparison between computers and cameras, but that relationship could be defined even more strongly. All digital cameras are little more than computers with lenses; their half-life is very similar to that of computers.

We're just swapping out computers, little ones you carry in your hands and biggers ones you park on your desks. Some stop working and the cost of repair is not justified, so then new ones happen.

Of course there's a divergence in the comparison with software, but not completely, with bigger firmware that couldn't possibly run with the computing power of early cameras, just like CS5 in all its bloated glory could not possibly run on an older computer without driving you crazy - assuming you have the supported operating systems to start with.


I remember a Sinar P was a very expensive camera introduced in 1970. I don't know how it compares to the others but maybe Rick can check his price list.

My digital camera is a 6 mp Fuji F10 from circa 2005 or so. Still works fine for what I use it for. For any more demanding use I have an array of film cameras, from plastic toys up to a 4x5 Speed Graphic. Most of these were purchased by me in the last few years, but are all 30+ years old.

...maybe worthwhile to note that regardless of when "we" bought our current main or most used film camera, it may have been purchased used...as was my EOS 3, my most recent and most used filmer.

Re the film camera poll: I bought my "current main or most-used film camera" in 1997. It was a Minolta XD-11 (from 1977); it was (and still is) in excellent condition despite alot of use.

...additional post.
I still use my EOS 10D dslr, purchased new in early 2003...the startup time is slow, guaranteed...but I've become so accustomed to the quirks of the camera that I can coax entirely usable images from it when required. In good light (low ISOs)...its entirely usable, mostly as back-up to my 50D.

I chime in t other readers comments: May be you should re-formulate the question. I use a lot a Bronica SQ I got in 2008, but it was built 20 or 25 years ago...

re: camera age

An original Digital Rebel (Aug. 2003) is still my main camera because I'm broke and over the years have allocated funds to bigger hobbies, chiefly computers. But yeah, I'd get something else "if I could."

The DigiReb's only signs of age are some minor surface wear and the original battery no longer holds as long a charge.

But as to your pondering, the main threat to people retaining use of a digital camera for 10 or so years is if manufacturers begin (or accelerate?) the use of cheaper materials and design, knowing they don't need to make them last longer.

Having said that, the flaw in that "common wisdom" is the reality that the Japanese regularly design and manufacture (or rather, have manufactured for them) to a standard in excess of typical ownership cycles.

The best-relevant example here is Japanese cars. They can easily last 300,000 miles and many years here in the States, but the home market customers would never keep a car long or put that many miles on one, for various reasons.

Most used film camera: a truly ugly black chrome M6.
Purchased "pre-owned" in the mid-nineties.
Last used: yesterday.

Most recent camera: a Pentax K5 that arrived last week.

Not used much yet because I'm old, and it's cold (and dark) in Detroit. Sue me.

Have an old Canon? somewhere in the loft that went many miles in my pack, can't remember the price but it was low enough that a Corporal could afford it in 1963. Fixed lens, 35mm. Took a beating. The scans below from 45 year old prints that also took a beating, film disappeared along with my seabag in 1968-69.


In 1970, I think the Zeiss Contarex was pretty expensive, maybe more than the Leicaflex

An idle thought: When I purchased my D3, I thought, "this is the last camera I would ever really need." It does exactly what I need it to do and no more. I still think I'll shoot with it until it breaks, which I hope is many years from now, although Mike will dryly note that I will succumb to marketing on another camera long before the D3 gives up the ghost (not idle speculation, I already bought an Oly E-P2). Between my purchase of the D3 and now, the _capabilities_ of the devices have changed. It has always been true that with digital you are "buying the film" with the camera. With the D3, I finally had a camera that would easily outperform (in terms of ability to record an image), any film I had ever used. This included my low-light favorites that I never really required to perform at speeds greater than ISO 1600. But now 1600 is just greasy kid's stuff, barely worth a mention as an upper limit on any serious camera being made today (sorry i-Phone, my requirements would crush your puny sensor into a silica-based paste, bwa-ha-ha-ha). So the field has changed in the last three years . . . and although I'd like to say my requirements haven't, you know what? That movie-mode on my Oly gets a lot more use than I thought it would. Why do I use it? Because it is there. (BTW: I think Mike ran a poll designed to flesh out the appetite of TOPper's for the integration of still and video . . at the time I confidently checked a box along the lines of "Nope, just not interested." Oh well.)

What will be the useful life of these machines? Probably only as long as replacements for the proprietary batteries and recording media are available. Any guesses?

Maybe the better question is how far do you think some amount, say $5000 in today's dollars, will take you down the road in photographic terms compared to what a comparable expenditure would have done forty years ago. In digital terms: 5 years? 10 max? I'd assume that that is $3000 for a "pro-sumer" grade camera and three lenses, at least two computers at $500 each during that time period. Dial in your own poison for printers, web hosting etc. In 1970 dollars one on-line constant dollar calculator says that that $5K amount was worth $891 in 1970 dollars. Seems to me, based on the prices quoted in this thread, like you could have bought a pretty good camera and three lenses and set up a pretty respectable darkroom in 1970 for that $891 and still had a good amount left over for film, paper and chemistry. My [email protected]'d guess is that you would have been able to get a good 20 years of fun out of that hardware, more if you were lucky. If you bought a good enlarger in 1970, you would not have needed another. Ditto the camera, lens etc.

My thesis is that shorter product cycles and "advances" associated with a new silica-based photo industry have increased the cost of this activity over the last half century.

Now where's that brain trust when you really need them?


My vote for the most expensive camera body in 1970 would go to the Sinar-P 8x10. Second place would probably be a Rollei SL66 body.

Slightly surprised me to realise that I've had my Pentax 67 for 25 years, my Canon F1N bodies for 25 years, and my Canon EOS RT bodies for 10 years.

Haven't felt the need to update any of them.

For the record, the Linhof Technika of 1970 would have been the V, not the IV, as I previously posted. The V was introduced in 1963, and I have an ad (no price) showing the V with the 135/3.5 Planar. I also have a Linhof booklet showing that the 150/2.8 Xenotar and the Zeiss lenses were available in the era of the Tech IV, so they would have been available in 1970 as well.

The current Master Technika was introduced in 1972, but the V was still available until 1976, according to The Linhof Camera Story.

Rolleiflex Planar 2.8 E2 - 1958
Nikkormat FTn - 1962
Leica M6 - 1985
Voigtlander R3A and R4A - 1995
Panasonic GF1 - 2009

The GF1 is used occasionally for photos I need an instant result for or posting on EBay. I don't much like it but it's useful sometimes.
The Nikkormat is now only used for macro work - rarely.
The Rolleiflex and the M6 are my 'favourites' but the Voigtlander Bessas are my 'beater' cameras. The R3A lives in the car.

Wow, Leica Ms were cheap in 1970. A new M4 with a 50mm summicron all for $543? That's about $3,000 today. An M9 body alone is well over double that price, as is the lens by itself, and I doubt the M9 will be as usable 40 years hence.

Is it really true that old film cameras last longer? My friend is still using a Pentax *istD bought back when they first came out (late 2003) which now has over 100,000 clicks. Works great. My brother still owns and operates my *istDS, on 40,000.

By the time I sold my Canon AE1 it was 10 years old and on it's second shutter and had had to have the back replaced to cure light leaks. The reason I kept repairing it was the cost of replacement (and miniscule trade in value).

I did get a Nikon F601 subsequently which needed a new winder sprocket after a year. I notice then that the AF lenses were a very different item to the MF ones I had previously. Much more plastic.

Digital cameras certainly DO go wrong, but it seems that they can be repaired just as easily as the old ones. The electronics are almost entirely replaceable, sensors can be remapped etc. Thing is each generation is so improved it's too tempting to upgrade and there is zero demand for clunky old models.

The issue with mechanical longevity, if there is one, has been the progression towards cheaper mass production techniques and materials that was already affecting low end film SLRs back in the early '90s. Even so I can't say I've noticed things getting worse.


I've purchased five film cameras in the past several years. Four were used 4x5 cameras between 40-60 years old. (2 Meridians, a 45B and a 45CE prototype, a Sinar Norma, and a Graflex Super Graphic).

The three field cameras were more expensive used, than they cost new-- in unadjusted dollars. Film and processing dwarfs the cost of a large format camera and lens, shot with any intensity. Tremendous bargains vs. the quality of image returned, still.

Nearly three years ago I picked up a Pentax 645N and SMC-A 35mm f/3.5 lens for about $.15 to the dollar, unadjusted. Fantastic image quality as well. Favorite walking around camera for wide angle work. Sumptuous viewfinder compared to a DSLR.

My 35mm film cameras (2-F5 Nikons, 2 Pentax LX), however, have sat largely unused since I jumped to digital with a Nikon D200 four years ago, followed up with a D300 the first week these came out. Tele work, nothing else is in the same league as digital, and APS-C is a winner for the "free" T/C effect.

I think worrying about your digital camera being obsolete is useless.
We should really look at Digital Photography and entirely new means to end, from the standpoint of the camera.

We are still in the early majority phase of the technology. The growth of the quality and features is still on the rise. I wonder if the people who first use the first analog cameras felt the same way as new and smaller cameras, better film, better equipment, better chemicals came out.

Why yes we are losing the exclusivity that Early adoption, and before that innovation brought us in our use. But this is true with all product life cycles.

I watched the same excitement when home computers came out, and people lamented about what they had paid for their computer that filled a room, then it died out as every house got a computer. Then magically when the iMac came out, a entire new market segment was addressed and the reinvention of the internet started, and the excitement came back. Then that started to die out in mid 2000s then the iphone comes out, and once again the excitement is reborn.

When the Macintosh II came out, I remember watching printing shops tell their staff, not to worry color printing is so expensive, who will ever buy their own color computer.

I think this can be seen in Rodger's adoption curve. http://suewaters.wikispaces.com/Rogers

I use a 2004 vintage Canon 1d Mark II, bought used in 2008. IMO, For Canon users who don't care about video or having a shiny new camera the older 1d and 1ds are better options than most of the newer models.

While I clicked the "Between 2008 and now" answer, as it was just purchased in the spring, my main film squeeze is an early 80s Yashicamat 124g. I just got it back from some service on Friday in fact, and the owner said it's in fantastic shape (other than the slipping focus dial that he had fixed) and should last quite a while longer.

In his opinion the best Yashicamat was the D. "So solid you could probably drive nails with it."

Steve's comment about a digicam with 100K cycles on the shutter raises another point. I was recently engaged in the humbling project of reviewing last year's photographs for a personal project. Some months had more, and some fewer exposures, but the total for the year, divided among three cameras was around 12,000 images. I am hobbyist, an amateur in the sense of doing photography because I love it, but I _never_ shot 12,000 images a year in my film-only days. More like 1,000 negatives a year. Another version of the point I was making above: Although my thesis is that photography (at least the way I do it) is more expensive now than then, I also get to do more. And on balance, that's probably a good thing; at least from my perspective as a developing photographer. I spend more time viewing images and being critical of the results of my decisions to press the shutter button and less time in the darkroom thinking about the ultimate expression of a particular image. There are other changes too. In my film days I was not interested in color. Now I work almost exclusively in color. Thank you D3. And there's that moving-image thing. Thank you Olympus. And there's still the hankering for products out of my financial reach. Thank you Leica.

Ben Marks

My most used film camera is my Voigtlander Bessa R3A which I got around 2005.

While I have bought other film cameras more recently than that, they're older (with the exception of the Holga), but I've not used any of them as much as I've used the R3A.

I often think if I could only have one camera, the Voigtlander would be it.

Adam Lanigan,
In his opinion the best Yashicamat was the D. "So solid you could probably drive nails with it."
I have one, and that's probably the truth. However, on mine an unreliable frame counter became really, really annoying. I use a workaround - a back from a Yashica A that has a little red window so you can see the frame numbers. It fits perfectly, probably because they only ever used one set of tooling for their entire production run.


Strictly speaking I didn't buy my current most used film camera, but had it given to me in late 2009. I've bought some extra lenses for it though. The camera itself dates to 1984. My second most used film camera is older than me and a more recent acquisition (early 2010, also for free).

I was one of the very few who answered 2002 for my most recently bought digital camera. An Olympus C4000Z, still going strong despite being dropped on its head more than a few times. The most recent on Sunday, onto our driveway, where it picked up a few extra scratches on the body but remains otherwise unharmed.

To Ben Marks...

I agree. Digital encourages boundless experimentation because the up front cost is all there is.

I recently checked the stash of negs I have neatly collated between 1985 and 1990 (the years of tenure with my Canon AE1p) and it amounts to a grand total of 458 36 rolls, or a grand total of 17,000 exposures (approx - I usually got 37 off a roll). That's a mere 3,400 a year.

Nowadays I probably shoot eight or nine times as much in a year as I did then because I totally disregard the film cost. A day out dedicated to photography will normally see 100+ exposures at a minimum, and possibly 500 or more at an event.

I think the whole equation is now different, and IMO none the worse for it.


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