The workable camera collection is made up of collectible cameras that can still be used or that can be slightly modified to utilize today's off the shelf film. A functioning collection of old cameras is possible, even with older cameras that use obsolete films. For photographers who have these workable collections the shutter still clicks, whether it is in the studio or out in the field. The results that are achieved are rather remarkable as each camera is unique. The images that are captured with these collectible cameras reflect the appeal of yesteryear with a tinge of a retro essence that is hard to duplicate with today's technology. On the other side of the spectrum, results are often achieved that rival some contemporary cameras.
The collectible cameras that specify the use of obsolete films are those that will require customization. These special custom modifications are usually non-invasive and not damaging to the original camera. Special features are usually added to a film spool or the film take up area; thus, adapting the use of contemporary films. This type of collecting isn't for everyone. Customization can be complex spanning from the cameras, to the darkroom for developing and even to the digital darkroom for printing. Extreme enthusiasts may find themselves customizing negative scanning trays to digitize their precious images.
Some cameras that are known to be easily customized for contemporary roll films are the 17.5 mm subminiature cameras and the Kodak Brownie 6-16 or the 6-20. One type of spy camera is the Speedex camera made in Japan during WWII. They were made to take 17.5mm film, which is exactly half of 35mm. Today, photographers can produce their own film in the darkroom simply by slicing the 35mm film. Film Slitters are readily available in specialty camera shops and on e-Bay. Box cameras like the Kodak Brownies are customized to utilize the 120 roll film by handcrafting wooden spacers which hold the medium format spools. Alternatively, 120 roll films can be re-rolled onto the original 620/616 size spools.
Finding Collectible Cameras
Finding the right workable collectible camera can be difficult. Some basic features and characteristics to look for are not so apparent to the casual shopper. Generally good condition and an aesthetic appearance is preferred, but not a necessity. The essential characteristic to all workable cameras is that the lens is clear, free from fungus and scratch free. The shutter should function properly and smoothly.
Before purchasing a collectible camera for the workable collection some research should be done. Not all cameras can be refurbished and customized for contemporary films. Knowing the camera's history, manufacturer, model number and original film specification is very important.
Collectible and antique cameras can be found in specialty shops, antique malls, thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales and online auctions. Prices of these cameras can range from five dollars to thousands.
Collectors of all types often find additional research and support from online communities and forums. These internet sources are a fabulous resource and provide an abundance of information. Assistance can be found on how to repair and maintain antique and collectible cameras as well as fresh ideas for adapting obsolete cameras to utilize today films. Collecting communities offer a wealth of resources and in the true spirit of the internet share information freely. Old out of print manuals can be found as PDF documents and downloaded at no cost. Collecting communities are often geared towards specific types of collections. No matter what type of camera you collect you will find most communities and forums very informative.