On the way to Hamsterdam.


Hamsterviel! Hamsterviel!!

Anyway, it’s work, but I have a day to myself so I think I’m gonna try for one museum or another, or maybe just drive around. Hard to rent a ride with an automatic and it’s been 22 years since I drove a stick daily, so I’ll have to see how much damage I can do.

Why play to other people’s strengths?

It’s really good to be able to shoot a firearm, but thousands if not millions of people can do so better than I can.

it’s wonderful to be fit and toned and capable of using your body like a weapon, but that ship has long since sailed for me. I’m plenty strong, but I never was coordinated and I’m no longer fast.

You wouldn’t bring a knife to a gunfight, (If you’re not James Coburn)

and you wouldn’t go to a gunfight against a better trained or better practiced or better equipped opponent. If you think you would, I recommend you go play paintball against some experienced players and come back with your clothes soaked in humility.

No, you would poison a gunfighter. You would shoot a poisoner, probably. You would lay a trap for an expert swordsman or knifefighter. Anyone can become moderately adept at anything, given a bit of time, and the whole point is to let the opponent (Who is very good at their chosen discipline) be out of their element. No, there is no zen master who cannot be taken by surprise. The most cautious and suspicious people I know have taken things I have given them into their homes and thanked me, without truly knowing of the items I gave to them were safe; I have proven this to myself thousands of times.(Well, probably hundreds. But at least a thousand) This is how you win against superior skills, superior numbers, superior brains. No, you don’t even have to be that smart. Just pay attention.

Cameraboos and collecting

At the onset of Digital, a lot of really, really good film cameras went begging, and i have a locker full of cameras that were literally given to me.

Some are junk, and some are very nice, and many are in between.

And it all speaks to how people took photographs. See, the real hardcore film junkies, back in the day, wanted a camera that would allow them to do anything. Long exposures. Short exposures. Double exposures. Guys went looking for more and more lens, and if you go through old issues of Popular Photography (From the thirties and forties, not the nineties) you will discover that a LOT of the magazine was about gadgetry and tricks. How to make an impromptu film processing lab out of some old sheets and visqueen in an African Savannah. How to adapt your Leica lens collection to your fancy new Pentax SLR. How to process reels of movie film in your bathtub.

Because Camera geeks are like all other geeks. Off the shelf is just not good enough- or for that matter, fast enough or slow enough or anything enough. So they tinkered. Experimented. Argued over the best methods for doing anything.

Manufacturers faced a serious dilemma. How to make a camera simple enough to operate that a casual user would be able to take a decent picture, and complex enough that the cameraboos would load up on them and everyone and their brother would make accessories. One of the companies in the early days that really did this well was Argus. You had focus, a film advance, a shutter speed, and an aperture, those were the basic controls you needed. It came with a chart that showed you how to set those values based on observable data. A Leica had enough controls that it intimidated a lot of people, it wasn’t an amateur’s camera. The Russians made knockoffs of Leica and Hasselblad and Pentax and they were mostly rubbish. Kodak continued to make cameras for the sole purpose of selling their film.

Cameras started out as boxes with simple lenses and spring loaded shutters. You took your picture and then took your chances. Unless conditions were perfect, your pictures were going to suck. Adjustable shutter speeds, aperture, focus as well as varying film attributes changed that, but it got complex. And then years were spent trying to re-simplify it.

The distillation of all of this was the Instamatic. Kodak figured out that most people didn’t want to be a camera geek, they wanted a picture of Suzie and Brad’s prom. So the instamatic, with it’s easy to load cartridge, and one speed shutter, and fairly decent quality (For molded plastic) lens, was the fastest selling thing since sliced bread. I am to this day surprised the earth isn’t covered in a layer of Instamatic cameras about 10 feet thick. They must have all been recycled into Glocks and football helmets.

The higher end makers figured out that they could make decent cameras with good lenses which had automatic exposure and speed and even, eventually, focus. This got some people back into high end cameras, but not a lot. And then digital came along and film all but disappeared. Digital does it all for you, and you generally get a picture that is recognizable right away, and if you cut Aunt Edna’s head off, you can take another picture right away and it doesn’t cost a dime.

There was a window when you could get a leica which was once a months pay for an average person for the cost of a really nice lunch for four. I did not at that time, though I should have. Now, the prices are going up because of a new kind of cameraboo, and I consider myself lucky to have latched onto the few gems I have. Still, the ‘Simple” cameras are common and cheap enough, and it’s still very inexpensive to be a collector of early Argus, or old Kodak folders, or even some of the better low end german stuff. The Russian cameras are a hoot, just because there are so many variations, and i am told that the very early Kiev cameras contained some very good lenses before socialist quality control kicked in, but as shelf warmers they’re interesting.

Personally, I like the “Consumer” cameras. The ones that had minimal controls, were aimed at the guy who wanted to have memories of their trip to the Grand Canyon or Disney and were designed to be as simple as possible without having to know too much about “Emulsion sensitivity” And those cameras are still cheap, even on Ebay, and once in a while you can see them at flea markets for next to nothing. I just bought a Canonet, a really nice fixed lens rangefinder, and leather case, for $2. Auto exposure with manual settings.

So you can be a collector of nice cameras as cheaply as once you might have been a collector of small autoloaders. And yes, they’ll often still work, the ones that do fail generally do so because of complex focal plane shutters. Happy hunting!

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