I left you with places to search for antique cameras in my last entry, which wasn’t very fair because how do you know that what you find works or not? Most cameras can appear to be in working condition but if you don’t know what to look for you won’t know if it works until after that first film roll is developed….at a cost.
- First things first, inspect the lens. We all know, professional photographer or not, that the lens of a camera is important, the MOST important part of a camera. Especially an antique one. Check for scratches, dust, and dents. Dust is really bad, because you will have to pay someone to take it apart and fix it, if it can be fixed. A deep scratch means that it’s unusable. If there is any mold (yes, mold can grow inside cameras) run away in the opposite direction as far as you can. Most times than not, any damage to the lens costs more to fix than the camera is worth. Chalk it up as a loss and move along to better findings if the lens is not in good condition.
- Next, take off the lens (if you are looking at a model that allows you to do so). Inspect the mirror and click the shutter button to ensure that the mirror is flipping correctly and not getting stuck or jamming up. If you are looking at a waist-level finder, click the shutter a few times rapidly to make sure that it works. If you are looking in a rangefinder, make sure again that the shutter doesn’t jam or stick. You’ll be able to tell if it is or isn’t. Try testing the shutter with the camera open at both very fast and very slow shutter speeds. It is VERY important that the shutter works correctly, if not the photos won’t turn out very well.
- Thirdly, you’ll want to inspect the foam seals. If the lining around the camera door looks solid then you should be good. if you see a residue or almost glue type formation then the light seals need to be replaced. If not, light will leak into the camera causing discoloration on your film! Don’t worry it’s not a deal breaker. Light seals naturally erode over time and are easily (and cheaply) replaced.
- Lastly, hold the camera and try to take a picture! It’s what you’re using it for right? If everything feels right and everything is responsive, then it should be a great find if looked over using the above criteria
It takes a few tries on making the right purchases! I have so many old cameras that will never eat another roll of film. It is all a learning experience! Most of the cameras you inspect probably won’t even work. People tend to dig them up out of attics and boxes and neglected places, none of which are good areas to leave film cameras in for extended periods of time.