Saturday, January 1, 2005

What’s old is new again


By James Booth

If I just bought it, it's new to me. Like everything else these days, photography equipment, whether digital or film, can run into rather high dollar amounts. How is the budget-minded photographer supposed to keep up with inflation? With quality, used equipment, that's how. If you just bought it, it's new to you, isn't it?

I must confess, other than my wife's Minolta Maxxum 300si, I've never bought a brand new camera in my life. I think everything costs too much. So to defray the cost of my photo equipment, I'm content to buy a used version of last year's model, or even the year before.

As a matter of fact, other than my tripods, reflector umbrellas, slaves and cords, all of my other photo equipment is used. By purchasing used equipment, you can often get a higher quality item than if you were to buy the newest, latest and greatest thing to hit the market. A prime example is the camera I bought a year ago.

Around this time last year, I decided that it was time to buy a new camera. At the time, I had a Mamiya M645, a medium format film camera. For more information on medium format photography, see our article "What's medium format?" in the May 2004 issue of Connected Photographer Magazine,

The M645 was the first model of 6x4.5 medium format film camera that Mamiya made, and debuted in the mid-70s. This particular camera was purchased new by my grandfather, and passed on to me when my daughter was born.

By now though, the silver coating on the prism inside the prism finder was beginning to come off. This had no effect whatsoever on image quality, as the finder is only used for viewing, not for exposure. But it did make it kind of difficult to focus sometimes because the band where the silver was coming off ran directly across the middle of the focusing area.

Repair or replace?

In dealing with this problem, I had several options, as the prism couldn't be repaired or replaced. I could replace the entire prism finder with a used one, as new ones for that particular model are no longer available. I could switch to a waist-level finder. I could deal with it. Or, I could just replace the whole camera, which is what I chose to do since that camera was just shy of 30 years old.

I now had a few rather difficult decisions to make. What model of camera to get? Film or digital? New or used? After a bit of research into quality, available models, and price, I decided to stick with film, which meant medium format. Once I left 35mm for medium format, there was no going back.