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Sunday, 07 May 2023


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Hey, Hey, I have 2 Minolta SRT 101’s and a LEICA M3 double stroke. I’m so happy I actually made some sort of list not that anybody cares but me. I had the Minoltas cleaned, shutter speeds calibrated, and light seals replaced a few years ago. They are working well as the day I purchased them. The small company that refurbished them sent me images of the cameras when they were completely disassembled, lots of parts in there. They were and are wonderful cameras, so glad I kept them and did not sell them when digital cameras took over. I also have a Minolta XE7 which was a joint design with LEICA, it has a nifty multi exposure feature on it. It was however prone to shutter issues and was sent back to Minolta twice for repair.

And not all “classical” music is,…classical.

For me and many other photographers in my demographic (born 1946-64), THE classic film camera is the original OM series Olympus; OM-1, OM-2, OM-3, OM-4. I currently own 17 of them, at least one of each model in both silver and black. Thank you Yoshihisa Maitani. Also a collection of Olympus rangefinder cameras from same era or older.

Being old, the term "classic" is always sliding into ranges that make me wince. And not just for cameras. In my town, we have an FM radio station that bragged for decades about playing "classic rock", which was great during the horror that was disco and new wave. But today, 75% of the songs, still being called classic are from 2000 and later.

In the camera world, people are calling the Nikon F4 a classic (on a Nikon site that I go to), but for me that moniker should stop at the F2. Ten more years, and the Z6 will be called classic by 30 year olds.

easy one for me my Nikon FM 3a

The pinnacle,in the opinion of many and myself, as an affordable prosumer film slr with an entire lens line readily available. great handling and style in black or chrome - what more can you need for a classic. sadly the last of its line in film slr's,its demise caused by digital.

Mike --

Hmmm. The question -- precisely what attributes distinguish a "classic" from others? -- isn't obvious. You suggest (my re-framing, pardon me): 1) popular (by market test); 2) respected (within contemporaneous technology bounds); and 3) useful in creating artistically significant work. I think (and this isn't particularly important to me) that there is another attribute: a distinctive design that is both "fit-for-purpose" (as the Brit's say) but at once both functional and recognizably lean . . . even elegant.

Both the Spotmatics and Leicas you cite meet that last criteria; perhaps the SRT is a little weak on that dimension. It 'tis a pity since i used examples of all three back in the day and the SRT worked the best for me, but had critical reliability issues in rough day-to-day PJ usage; the dad-gum silk thread shutter dial linkage would fail at the worst times. Thus i modestly disagree with you on that selection.

In the generation of late 60s to early 80s SLRs one would have to include the Olympus OM-1 and -- for me at least -- *exclude* the Nikon F (which contributed a vast body of work and with which I had a great deal of experience). The latter was simply needlessly bulky and metering prisms were unreliable kludges; the F2 was better but, in every way the Nikon F3 was the "classic" of the set by my criteria.

A minor footnote: the Nikon FM was close, but no cigar in this race too: while tough and functionally efficient, it wasn't really popular enough and not quite as elegantly designed as the OM-1. Another regrettable loser is the Pentax MX/ME; it never really caught on and perhaps came too late. I never used one (unlike the FM) but they certainly seemed to be elegantly designed and functional and the Takumar optics were an attraction.

So i would add an Oly OM-1 and Nikon F3 to your list and, sadly, drop the Minolta SRT-101.

-- gary ray

Agreed. But enough with the preamble. Tell us about the camera! :-)

I have used (and still own) both Pentax Spotmatics and Minolta SR-Ts. For my list, I would add my Mamiya TLR and RB67!

What's more classic than a box camera?

Original exposure setting is 1/25 at f16. By covering part of the circular shutter opening with black electrical tape,
and placing a small washer over the aperture opening, the exposure setting became 1/125 at f22. This enabled
the use of Kodak T-MAX 400 film with the camera.

What's wrong with "Good Bargain on Old Film Camera:" as a title?

Yeah, but you have to work into the definition something that gains popularity after it stops being made - like a cult movie or something. For instance I’d wager the Bronica 645 RF is in higher relative demand today than it ever was new. I think the Voigtlander Bessa R2 I have lying around has appreciated since I stopped using it.

I own some vintage cameras. This one is a classic, widely used by some of the best documentary photographers of the World War II generation. This one is just old.

Two suggestions, one from my head, one from my heart:

My head says Nikon FM2n.

My heart says Olympus OM-1 (really, any of the single digit OMs would do, but I feel like (heart again), that the OM-1 most purely captures the gestalt of that system.

What do I own? OM-1, and a seldom used pair of OM-2SP and OM-4T. Oh yes, and way too many OM series lenses, mostly bought when they were less expensive used.


I agree - having lived through the era when they were around - with your choices of classic cameras.

In addition, I would add that the Nikon F is also a classic camera, but not those that follow.

Definitely too the Rolleiflex TLR and Hasselblad 500C/CM.

Some say that the shutter mechanism of the Pentax Spotmatic sound like when opening the Dupont lighters. Just digressin'.

I'm with you on "classic", both in general, and those particular cameras. Similarly, the Nikkormat and the Nikon F are classic cameras, but perhaps the Nikon FA is not. The Canon AE-1 is, but the Pellix QL is not. (Non-classic cameras may have premiered important innovations, for example.)

There are great big tracts of doubtful territory, which I propose we ignore. It's a matter of opinion and not an entirely precise thing in my head, and trying to classify every camera would be an insane waste of time.

Got lots of "old" cameras. "Classics"? Not so much... The Rolleicord III & Zeiss Super Ikonta for sure. Perhaps the black Nikkormat FTn as it brassed up nicely over the years but that would be about it.

Hopefully in a decade or two I'll still be using my Leica M 240 and can call it a classic rather than just old ;)

I am currently using a borrowed Leica M4 for this year. I also have a Nikon FM which I would consider classic per your definition Mike. It is basic transportation and just gets the job done.

Speaking of classics you left one giant of a classic off your informal list, the Nikon f.

Enough said.

I regard myself as a classic photographer. Make of it what you will.

This post is "classic Mike". ;)

"DEFINITIONS" are often in the hands of individuals or organizations. In many States, Classic and Antique cars are defined solely on year of manufacture (I believe primarily the chassis number?). Also, some NotSoCool cars of classics by virtue of their availability and easy of repair/restoration. One man's treasure is another's "not-so-much".
So, back to cameras. Personal nostalgia is a factor that drives some people to find, renovate, and if possible, use a particular camera. Whether is was YOUR first, YOUR father's, or your heart'e desire when you were unable to find the coins to get one, it can become the spark that ignites the memories of good time pst. In my case, I have a Nikon Ftn with a 50/1.4 and a Retina IIIc that are both not mint but fully functional. The Ftn was my first serious camera given to me by an uncle that purchased it overseas, brand new, when he was in Korea in the Army. He moved into an F2. The Retina was always a desire of mine when I was in elementary school. Likely due to my German heritage and grandfather's love for German mechanical engineering. He had one for a long time and I am not sure what ever happened to it.
I agree with all of the cameras you chose as 'classic' and those that did not make your cut. I frequently ponder "What will be the classic camera of today?" in the digital annals. It needs to be cameras built by one source, not collaborations between two or three manufacturers. That may never happen. The need for optics, software, hardware design, marketing expertise, and "national" loyalty are all ting of the distant past.
Just my 76 year old perspective :-))

Sounds like me stopping at neighbourhood yard sales. “Do you have any old cameras?” would often yield something like a Casio digicam. Now I resort to “Do you have any old cameras? Film, not digital; metal, not plastic”

My Nikon F I bought in 1969 is a classic in every sense of the word. Still works, still looks good and it was my "dream" camera (way) back in the day. Sadly it has not seen film in 20 years.

'Classic' is a very subjective word. Am I a 'antique' at 76 years old? If so, I am a Kodak Medalist :-((
Depending on the State where you register a car,'classic' can be a variable depending on simply the age of the vehicle. Some are classic at 20yrs, others at 40yrs, and yet others call 50yrs 'antique'. I guess that is where I am, well past C and A.
Pertaining to cameras, I feel age is not the only factor, nor sales figures, but often personal sentiment.
As for me, my Nikon Ftn with 50/1.4 that my uncle gave me (he purchased it when he was in Korea during the late 50's) when he upgraded to an F2 in the early 70's. Also, the Retina IIIc that my grandfather of German heritage used and eventually handed over to me. When he moved into a point-n-shoot in the early late 70's. I do not have either of them, but went and purchased very nice replacements of both about 15 years ago. Still have both and occasionally exercise them with a roll of B+W.
I joined the digital parade when I abandoned my Nikon F4 as well as the brand altogether for personal use. Went to Canon, then to Leica/Panasonic and still use that family today.
I wonder what will be 'classic' in 25 years, other than the iPhone 14, which based on progression of that "CAMERA" since its introduction in 2007.

Classic photographer with classic cameras-

Wow. I started with a SR1 before moving to the SR7, SRT101 and SRT102.
Didn't realize that the SRT101 was a classic.

Spotmatic definitely. I’m curious about Nikon fm3a vs f100, is it manual old school vs too modren? Current price differential is striking.

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