Just before christmas an opportunity came up that I couldn’t refuse.
A camera that I have been researching since I began in film photography came up for sale in the Facebook film photography marketplace. The Mamiya C330 (in this case, designated the f variation). It looked to be in fantastic condition, complete with protective briefcase, extra lens, lens hood, prism viewfinder and paramender. All for much cheaper than I’d seen equivalents being sold for on ebay.
Part of me felt it was too good to be true, part of me battled with my own decision earlier that year to not buy any more cameras for the time being, but ultimately things really fell into place. I won’t take you through all the “signs” which told me to go for it but here was the clincher – the seller had said they didn’t want to post and would rather it was collected, I don’t live anywhere near the chap but my sister lives an hour away and this lovely gentleman agreed to a socially distanced drop off, driving the 2 hour round trip to my sisters place AND she was due to come back our way the next day for Christmas, meaning I could check it all over and make sure it was all legit.
Making such a purchase is not a light decision in this household, we do not have money coming out of our ears but this was a special item. This was one of my “Bucket List cameras”. I knew that people would question why, it’s not a Leica or a Hasselblad or any other of the classically desired cameras, and frankly I struggle to explain it myself. I just really wanted a Mamiya C330.
“Bucket List Cameras”
As I shot the first 2 rolls through the camera I pondered the idea of Bucket List cameras and what others would consider theirs. What gets people dreaming of cameras? Is it the format? The brand? The rarity? Or is it something else?
Wondering about this, I reached out to a few people who I thought would have an interesting perspective; people who have shot a wide variety of cameras, people who make their living out of photography. I received a range of answers, but what was interesting was that none of them really had a specific camera in mind, maybe an idea of one that would fit their vision but it was really more about the experience than the camera. A surprise to me when surrounded by all the technical reviews out there!
A couple of those I asked were more well-known names within the film community, people who have shot a wide variety of cameras. I’m sharing their input with you here, as I think there’s an interesting message that might usually get lost in the subject of GAS.
Mike has been reviewing cameras for 6 years and has shot well over 300 cameras. He’s even shot cameras that that require specially hand cut film like the KMZ Ajax and historically significant cameras like the Leica Model A.
When I spoke with Mike about what he would consider his bucket list camera he told me that having shot so many different cameras, of different shapes, sizes, features and uses, that it was hard for him to fall in love with or have any desire for one specific model.
What Mike feels he needs, or misses, is a regular go to camera. A camera that is adaptable enough to suit any photographic need he throws at it. Rather than say he needs a single Bucket List camera, he thinks he needs a Bucket List system. He loves the Nikon cameras and owns many of them, but is lacking a camera like the Nikon F6, a camera that recently made headlines as it was officially discontinued. Eventually he would like to add a Nikon F6 to his collection, along with a selection of capable lenses such as a Nikon Fisheye 21mm f/4, a fast 50mm prime, maybe the 85mm f/1.8 and a monster f2.8 telephoto.
It’s an ambitious bucket list for sure but maybe when that day comes he will feel he has the perfect system and can calm down the rate at which he shoots different cameras.
Hamish (the founder of this website) has shared a few images with me over the time I have been writing for the site which showcase his impressive collection of cameras so I thought his opinion on Bucket List cameras would be an interesting one.
Many of the readers of this article may recall that this website was founded on a love of point and shoot film cameras, it has evolved and expanded and now he has tried a vast array of cameras, lenses and systems. Our conversation was certainly food for thought and in some ways surprisingly different to Mike’s view despite being in a relatively similar position.
Hamish felt that there is no one camera but that in each moment there is a right camera for him. He said this could be dictated by the subject or the lighting something else external, but as much as that it’s just about how he is feeling on that day or, week or even just in that minute he goes to the cabinet.
Sometimes he feels an urge to shoot something simple and quick like the point and shoots, and sometimes he craves images that come from a particular lens.
He also said that he has tried so many cameras now that he isn’t really phased by and brand or have any desire for any particular camera. He has found himself to be a lot less fussy than he used to be too. So for example, if he wants to shoot an autofocus SLR, he feels he could probably be just as happy with an 80s Pentax (above) as he would be something like a Nikon F100. As long as the lens is fit for purpose, he’s found within the sort of things he shoots with film, he doesn’t “need” anything too fancy.
With all that said, he also suggested that there might be a day he sells it all and just commits to one or a couple of cameras he is entirely familiar and happy with, but that’s unlikely to happen whilst he is still running 35mmc.
When I asked Kit Young, a darkroom printer extraordinaire, whether he had a Bucket List camera he told me that he isn’t really fussed about gear – that it’s a means to an end, he’s interested in the printing. In general I would agree with this, for me it’s not really about the gear in terms of striving for sharper lenses or this or that model of Leica, it’s about the experience of shooting. Kit is perfectly happy with the cameras that he currently uses, I’ve seen his work on both 35mm and 8×10 and frankly it doesn’t matter what the camera was, they’re superb.
As our conversation progressed, he let me know that rather than a specific camera he was looking to have another go at 6×6 medium format images. He’d had a bad experience with a Mamiya C330 (we clearly have different tastes) but he wanted to try the format again.
I thought this was a perfect way to round out a conversation on Bucket List cameras – from a complete amateur (me) to those who have tried a multitude of cameras to Kit, completely uninterested in the brand or model but always focused on the resulting image.
I knew it would be interesting to talk to those with so much more experience than me but it’s been more thought-provoking than I had first believed. Why is it that so many film photographers go down the route of collecting and trying out different cameras (I’ll hold my hands up and say that was the route I was heading down a couple of years ago) but that eventually so many end up feeling philosophical about it all. Most of us will end up caring more about the experience, the familiarity and the loyalty of a well-known and trusty camera.
I’ve only shot 2 rolls through the Mamiya but it is a glorious experience. The bright viewfinder, the focus wheels, the intuitive placement of the shutter, the ease of loading film. I probably won’t write a full review of it because it’s such a well-documented camera that I really don’t need to add my opinion. I hope that it will be with me for many years to come.