Gear Theory

An Experience Thrift Hunting in my Hometown – By Gavin Bain

February 5, 2019

In November 2018 my wife, our daughter and I took a trip back to my hometown in Sydney, Australia for my brothers wedding. I took a fair few rolls of film and my Zorki 4 sporting an Industar 50, with the goal being to purchase as many thrift store cameras as I could find/afford, and bring bags of cameras home from the motherland.

If you’ve read any of my other articles here, you’ll know that thrift stores where I live now just don’t stock cameras. On the rare time you might find one it is triple the eBay price. So I dragged my wife and daughter along to a Vinnies (St Vincent’s De Paul) that I had incredible luck with when I used to lived nearby. Nothing. I then went to a Salvos (Salvation Army), nothing. Where did all the cameras go?! Jonathan Paragas, or kingjvpes as he’s known, makes it look so simple. And it used to be that simple for me, what the hell happened?

I sent a few text messages back and forth with an old school friend and film shooter about the horrible luck I was having. He told me of another Vinnies near our old school that always had cameras, and actually the place he bought his MJU for a couple bucks. Second last day in Sydney, I was indecisive on whether I should bother to drive all the way over. Do I? Don’t I? Is it just going to be a waste? My wife, the ever present voice of reason in my life, told me we’re here I might as well try. So we went.

We walked up to the store and in the front window was a Zenit and a Praktica. A good sign, although their prices weren’t. But I walked to the back of the store and this is what I found. (I only have screenshots from my Instagram story, I was too excited to take real photos).


Instead of finding MJU’s like my friend, or Leica’s and Contax’s like the people in the Vintage Camera Collector Facebook group do, it was a treasure trove of cheap point and shoots, and over priced SLR’s (and a Yashica 44). There was another bin full of point and shoots I don’t have any photos of. But that lead me to a dilemma. I committed to this, drove all the way over with my wife and 9 month old. I have to take something home for the trouble! But what?

I looked and looked for anything of worth that was a good deal and all I could decide upon was a Nikon TW Zoom and a 1957 Ilford Sportsman. Unfortunately not the Nikon L35AF I dreamt of. The Sportsman is broken but I’m a devout Ilford fanboy so it’s a nice display piece for my desk. I knew nothing about the Nikon but hey, it’s a Nikon it can’t be all bad! So I bought it.

I am actually very surprised with the camera. 9/10 times it’s sharp and the colour rendition is very pleasing. There’s an added warmth to the images. I shot a roll of Kodak Ultramax at box speed to test it and it’s a lovely camera!

These are the shots:

I find myself using this camera a lot more than I expected to. My original thoughts were that I could sell it and make my money back if it wasn’t what I expected, but I’m keeping this one. For now…

If you made it this far, I appreciate you giving me some of your time to read my experiences. Remember, stay broke and shoot film!

Instagram: @gavinbain

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  • Reply
    Lee Stirling
    February 5, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    An interesting read. I was disappointed for you when you did not find any decent options in the first places you visited and I’m glad you are enjoying your TW Zoom. Through several excursions to local thrift stores in my area over time, I have been able to get my hands on a Nikon L35AF in decent, working condition for $15. It’s quite nice and renders beautiful images. I also bought an Olympus Infinity Twin for $3.00 that is also surprisingly nice.

  • Reply
    graham line
    February 5, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    Thrift shops in my area (US Pacific Northwes) tend to concentrate their photo gear in one or two larger shops. Goodwill Industries is the big one here. There is usually a selection of off-brand film SLRs for $25-30 and often a mid-range Nikon, Canon or Minolta for slightly more. Lots of slow third-party zooms. I’m told that more desirable collector gear is sold througheBay though haven’t followed this up. Same goes for lighting equipment and tripods.

    • Reply
      Bruce Parker
      February 6, 2019 at 10:38 am

      Seattle Goodwill on Ebay has lots of listings. Frequently untested, so they list as part or repair. Some interesting stuff.

  • Reply
    Adam Smith
    February 6, 2019 at 12:22 am

    I can relate! The same thing happened in Traverse City, Michigan. One day, all of a sudden, it was as if all the cameras disappeared. Though on occasion, I do find something, such as a four dollar Olympus Stylus Epic (I sold it, as I was not impressed with it) and random canon zooms of the late 1990’s. So now, I scout the goodwill online store: for sweet finds from across the United States. Give it a try…its sort of like Ebay where everyone bids. There are often some neat cameras they no longer sell in store. Great article!

  • Reply
    Kevin Thomas
    February 6, 2019 at 1:06 am

    When I started this vintage camera thing 5 years ago, my primary source was estate sales. It was a rare estate sale that didn’t have at least one camera. Today, it’s very unusual to find one with a film camera for sale – although I did find a Futura-S recently 😁

  • Reply
    Ryan A
    February 6, 2019 at 9:04 am

    Hi! I was wondering at which Vinnies is this located at? I have tried looking around and never have any luck!

    • Reply
      February 6, 2019 at 9:08 am

      Liverpool, New South Wales 🙂

  • Reply
    February 7, 2019 at 12:26 am

    I live in a rural city in Japan and the two second hand shops in the city don’t have any film cameras. One shop has a small selection of digital cameras. However, I did get a Canon AV-1 in pretty good condition from the other shop for ten dollars.

  • Reply
    Recommended Reading 2/8/19 - mike eckman dot com
    February 8, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    […] when all you find are plastic fixed focus point and shoot cameras at your local Goodwill store.  Gavin Bain from 35mmc recants a recent journey finding a bargain Nikon TW Zoom while browsing shops in his […]

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