Confessions of a Recovering Camera Addict
Hi. My name is Dave B.
I am a cameraholic. I know where it began — it was over 40 years ago. It was really my older cousin who introduced me to it. He was in the Peace Corps. and he made a stop in Japan where they were making some very fine cameras – and bought me a Pentax Spotmatic.
How he could he have known what a tale of woe would ensue.
I was about 15 years old at the time – and this was the finest piece of equipment I had ever held. It gave me a slightly euphoric feeling to use it.
But I have compiled a list of equipment which at some point I’d just like to stand here and read to you. It is sickening. I almost burnt it before I came here. Well, I’m not going to read you the list. I don’t think we have the time. But here’s what happened after the Spotmatic.
I bought the Canon AE-1 Program. I was still a kid and I didn’t have much money to blow on cameras. But when I "grew up" the addiction got worse. What happened was that I landed a job that paid quite a bit of money.
And worse, the location of the job was three blocks from the old B&H store. (To be honest that was the only reason I took the damned job – to be close to my supplier).
What a setup. I used to sneak out of work – down through the freight elevator – and over to B&H where I’d pick up some little piece of something and sneak back to the office with it and close the door. Sometimes I might just come back with a nice glossy brochure of a new camera and read it lovingly with my office door locked.
If I couldn’t afford a lens or a camera, I’d walk out with a new filter. After a while, I had the most expensive filters (B+W) in different sizes for every lens.
Sometimes I’d just walk around with my cameras and see how they fit in different bags. One day – just to show how wild the whole thing was getting – I put one of my Leica lenses into a bag and wandered off and forgot I had left it in the bag. When I got home from work, you can imagine my panic when my $2,500 lens was missing and then – as if hit by a giant hammer – I realize that I’ve left it in that camera bag in the store, and the store is now closed.
Can you imagine the sleepless night? The wondering – do they go through the displays at night? Should I call someone? No, they might find it and say they didn’t.
So there I was, the next morning – waiting for the store to open praying that my lens would still be in the bag. Got to get to it before anyone else. Which bag was it? Oh – that green canvas bag. Was it there? The door opens and I rush in like a maniac to get to that bag. There it is! I quickly open the bag and sure enough, my beautiful baby is sitting there. I take it out and stick it quickly in my own camera bag.
That was the bottom I think. That was when I knew the disease was getting out of control.
I was in over my head. I was having trouble paying the rent, but there in the closet was the beautiful Hexar classic (silent mode), sitting next to a Canonet rangefinder. There was the giant Pentax 67 – I think I owned all the glass they made. There was a awful little Pentax 645 (gawd that was a technical low-point).
And then it only got worse. I began to pine for Contax SLRs with their magical german glass (or Japanese). Studying their MTF charts. Ah – those were lenses. From there up to the Rolleiflex Twin Lens (used). Best lens I ever had. Why did I sell it? I don’t know. Years later I bought another one. Equally good. Then sold it.
In those days I held onto to cameras. Even if they were gathering dust. I just wanted to possess them. I realized later that the disease stemmed from a deep depression that was caused by the meaningless high-paying job that I hated – but that’s for the next meeting.
I loved the Contax lenses – who wouldn’t. But their cameras, and I used a few of them – not up to snuff for me.
One morning I woke up and looked around. Near the bed wrappings for a camera I had bought the day before – and it looked big. What had I done? I’m sure you’ve all had that next morning feeling after a wild adventure of some sort. But there, lying on the floor was the 4 x 5 viewfinder camera I had bought that night from a stranger who was hanging around the corner near B&H.
I made this strange leap to 4 x 5 viewfinder cameras for no good reason at all. The stranger had said he was on his way to sell it to B&H but would give me a good deal on it.
I had seen this camera in brochures – but hadn’t really thought of going to 4 x 5. The stranger said I could have it for $400 cash. It was one of those wooden view cameras and he had everything stuff into his knapsack: loupe, black cloth, and two German lenses. He said that he had to get rid of the camera because he already had four view cameras.
So first it was this wooden Wista 4 x 5. It was sort of fun to collect those negative holders. Even fun to practice loading in a changing bag.
Camera had a tendency to shake in the wind. Too much wobble. But all those tilts and pans? That was fun.
Trade it in and get a hunk of metal with the Toyo 4 x 5. Most of the "big" pictures like Promenade were shot with that. Took it all over the place. Like walking a Great Dane in a china shop.
I was even enthralled by camera manuals.
Even the crappy ones ((0%).
I would sit around and memorize these manuals that I couldn’t even understand – and yet I had had trouble learning any other languages. But I knew and studied the MTF charts until I could see them in my sleep.
I played with every button on the camera. It was – I admit – a rush. You might even call it a high. For a while, when I had that new camera – nothing bothered me. The meaningless of life – well it had it’s good points as well. The problem was that the high was short-lived. As with any addiction – you feel good for a while – but the effect of owning that fine piece of camera – usually within six-months it was gone. Kaput.
You need something else to fill the void. Well – it doesn’t have to be a camera. Not at first. At first it’s a new camera bag. (Think of the woman with 30 pair of shoes if you want to equate this with something more common.)
You could always sit around see how best to fit pieces of a camera into various camera bags. Take the velcro dividers out. See how they can bend in various ways. I wonder which way I can fit the telephoto with the shade on? Let me try this.
And so – one day – realizing how crazy this all was – I took the pledge – and carefully went through all the cameras that weren’t being used and carted them down to B&H and got something for them – yes, I got the Contax G2, with a full complement of lenses.
Well, of course one G2 wasn’t enough – you always say that you need a backup camera – even though you aren’t really going anywhere special. But just in case. So a second Contax G2 is bought. Nice camera if you don’t mind squinting through a thick piece of dirty glass.
And I have to say – I stuck with that for a long time until the other camera bug which had been eating at me – the Leica bug – forced itself on me – and the G2 and a few other odds and ends went into the new Leica M6 with three brand new expensive lenses. That should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t.
A couple of years later I traded – in one swoop – all the Leica stuff in for (gasp) a Canon Elan something or other and a bunch of Canon glass. (Shoot me somebody).
There are reasons – I can remember what I was thinking at the time – but I’m ashamed to even talk about such a travesty.
The Canon led me into digital: The first digital rebel, then the Canon 20D.
And then – believe it or not – back to the Leica (this time a used M3).
I am sure I’ve left out a couple of cameras – can’t remember them all. And I guess I can’t confess all in my alotted time – but in conclusion (what a stupid phrase) – what you should know is that help is available. The Ansel Adams Institute (AAI) – newly funded, and situated at the top of Half Dome – is there to help you break the camera dependence cycle and live the carefree lifestyle you are entitled to.