Thursday, August 29, 2013

random wisdom

Well, Krugman is preoccupied with "the markets' sudden turn against emerging economies".  So I guess it is up to me to sort out what is happening in the old film cameras sector.

What is on everyone's mind, of course, is "Where are all the plastic Point-and-Shoot cameras?"

I used to be not very long ago that I could go into any one of half a dozen big junk stores and find a large bin of P&S cameras to paw through.  I brought home quite a few gems, including the Mickey Mouse.  I also picked up two or three Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim for a couple bucks at a time when they were going for $30-$40 on ebay.  I even came away with a few decidedly un-crappy cameras which I found buried in the plastic, including a couple Olympus mju and one very fine Olympus 35RC.

Now when I go to the same second-hand outlets, I'm lucky to find one or two uninteresting plastic cameras hanging on the wall over boxes of tangled electrical cords, sealed up in plastic bags, and way over-priced.  No more bins or boxes over-flowing with plastic-lensed treasures.  I'm a little afraid to ask the store clerks what happened for fear they are going to tell me that any plastic cameras that might come in are ending up at the curb in recycling bins.

There is probably no big mystery in any of the above.  Pretty much everyone these days has a phone/camera that makes ok photos which can be manipulated in Photo-Shop to look like they were made with real cameras.  Perhaps of more immediate importance, there are no longer any 1-hour photo processing places left in town, and film is just about gone from the shelves.

At the same time, strange to say, there are several junk stores in town in which are now displaying collections of non-plastic film cameras.  Mostly, these are low-end box cameras and simple old manual cameras, but there are also a few nicer items like Yashica tlr models.  The prices are generally competitive with ebay offerings.  I'm not sure what to make of this development, or to what degree the phenomenon extends beyond Albuquerque, though I suspect it has something to do with the general digital/no-film situation.

It has been quite a while since I have been able to talk myself into buying any cameras at ebay, but I still enjoy browsing the vintage cameras section just to see what is out there.  I believe I am seeing some softening of prices there, though that is purely a subjective judgment on my part.  The price softening seems to me to be most pronounced in the second-tier segment of the market which I generally have haunted over the years. For instance, I'm seeing the nice little Japanese Zenobia Zeiss-copies going for as low as $25.  I've also noticed some working Barnack Leicas selling for around $125.  The genuinely rare, higher-end stuff seems to be holding its prices, but in the ten years I've been following the market closely the collector items don't really seem to have appreciated in value, particularly if you take inflation into account.  So, that is not good news for those who have acquired old cameras as an investment, but maybe not a bad trend for those of us who value them primarily as picture makers.

1 comment:

Jim said...

I wish I had more time to hit thrift and junk stores. But when I do visit one, few cameras are available, and all I find are plastic cameras in poor condition. I think these places sell their better stuff on eBay. I know my local Goodwill offers all their decent cameras on, an auction site run by the greater Goodwill organization. I don't blame them, really; they can make much more on the cameras that way.

I've bought several from shopgoodwill in the past year or so. I do get more broken cameras this way -- few Goodwills bother with testing the camera at all. I bought a Spotmatic from there for about $25 shipped -- with a dead light meter, it turned out. I bought a working replacement body on eBay recently for about $20 shipped. I hope not to have that kind of adventure too many more times.

I have about 10 cameras in the queue awaiting their first roll of film. But I'm starting to lose interest in buying more, which is an odd feeling to which I am utterly unaccustomed. I really just want to shoot a handful of my existing cameras more. Right now, I have film in my Olympus XA and XA2 and in my Kodak Monitor. I do have film in the working Spotmatic, though.