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.
If you’d like to see some of the photos from this camera you can do so on Instagram. If you’d like to see more of my writing you can find me website here or have a look at my other articles on 35mmc.
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33 thoughts on “Exploring and Discussing the Idea of the “Bucket List Camera” – By Holly Gilman”
Oh, dear, Holly, what a problem! Great choice with your Mamiya. The more that you use it the more you will appreciate all its attributes, I’m sure. Slow in use, a little cumbersome, but it will reward you with some excellent images if you persevere. My first was the C330, minus the “f”, and now I have the C330S.
As I understand it, a bucket list has many wishes on it, so is it cheating if I mention three cameras that were on mine? Here goes.
Numbers 1 = were the first ever cameras I really lusted after, even before I took up photography seriously as a hobby in 1960. In the late 1950’s I attended the local Boys’ Club, a recreational facility of a type long gone. Whilst there I met a photographer who had gear that I’d never heard of and was seriously expensive to a 14/15 year old: Leica and Bolex. The Leica was an M3 and the Bolex an H16 reflex. Although I doubt that bucket list was a term used back then, these two cameras were it! But it was not until 1980 or so before I had them both. (Remember, this was in the days before the internet, when camera buying was mostly via what your local dealers had in store.)
My introduction to Contax rangefinders came in the mid-1970’s with a IIa. This lead to my increasing knowledge about Contax rangefinders in general, and one in particular stood out as being a must have – the historically important model 1. But I never ever saw one in the flesh, and it was only about 4 years ago that I found a suitable one on the internet. By suitable I mean high score cosmetically and fully working, and given for how long I’d waited, I was prepared to push the boat out a little to get the right one. Looking back, around 40 years seems an awful long time to complete a small collection of 5 Contax rangefinder models!
Amazing! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this! And again I see that there is more of an emotional side to it – this influence from when you were a teenager… I don’t believe I have ever heard someone talk this way about digital so it would be interesting to hear if someone has an emotional attachment to a digital camera!
I’m pretty attached to my digital cameras too! As pure objects they may not have the same tactile or aesthetic appeal as classic film cameras – I think the Fuji X series comes close, though I don’t own one – but I still use (and love) my crop-sensor Nikon D5200, the first DSLR I got for myself 8 years ago. It’s the only digital camera I possess (other than my phone) and I’ve carried it with me all over the world, unprotected, just rattling around in my backpack, dropped it, got rain and snow on it, forgotten it in pubs and found it again, and taken photos which I never could with the limited film gear (and skills) that I possess – timelapse of the Milky Way, hummingbird in flight, things like that. Oh, and I use it to digitise my film negatives 😉
Also, growing up we couldn’t afford a DSLR, just had a bridge camera which my entire family used. When I graduated in 2009 and got my first salary, my brother and I pooled our funds and bought a DSLR for my dad. It was a surprise gift for his birthday; we told him we just got a camera bag, not that it had a camera inside. He is a man of few words, but when he opened the bag he was completely overwhelmed. “What have you done? What have you two done?” he kept asking. He had tears in his eyes.
What a lovely story about your father’s response to the present that you and your brother gave him. As the years have passed I’m willing to bet that you understand his response more than ever, and what it was that was really making him cry.
That is such an amazing story but unfortunately you just don’t hear that sort of thing very often about digital. So beautiful!
What a nice story! You were so nice to your dad. I seldom read of such a response to a digital camera, but your dad obviously was thrilled.
I’d need a pretty deep bucket if I were to write my own bucket list as there are so many I want to try. But I can categorise why I have near on 100 film cameras to date in the following way.
Nostalgia: these include my first ever camera 63 years ago (a Brownie 127) and the OM1, OM2 plus the little Pentax Auto 110 I used when I travelled around a lot of the World.
Curiosity: after years of SLRs I was curious as to how different shooting other “formats” would be so bought a Bronica ETRSi, a YashicaMat TLR and several rangefinders.
History: I am fascinated how good results can be achieved from old cameras and especially old MF folders. My oldest folder is over 100 years old and still working.
Perversity: I love taking an old, cheap, point and shoot to see just how good results I can get out of it, proving you don’t always “need” a Leica, Hassy…..
Fun: let’s never forget that.
Fun should be at the base of it all! You are absolutely right!
I love the idea of travelling the world with a 110 camera! Fantastic size for a travel companion!
My bucket list camera is a Haselblad 500cm. While a youngish man in the 1970s this was the camera that pros used at weddings and so I got to see many of them when friends and colleagues tied the knot. I was able to rent one a few times in the 90s and was amazed by the ease of use as well as by the sound of the shutter and film advance. No other camera that I have used has the same solid ker-chunk sound of the film being wound. I still dream about the sound and the feel of the camera in-hand. Maybe once I win the lottery.
Shutter and film advance sounds are magical. It’s one of my favourite things about the Pentacon six!
A great idea for an article but where are the photos that make your case. After all the proof is in the pudding! Personally, my go to slr is still my Leicaflex, rangefinder is Canon L3, medium format 500CM Hasselblad, and for digital, a Sony A7ii w/ adapters for all my manual lenses. As for a best of, as a dentist acquaintance put it best, “The best camera is the one you have with you to get the shot.”
Too true – perhaps I’ll do a follow up article about whether it’s living up to my expectation! With example images of course!
Like always, what a great article from you! They are always inspiring and introspective.
Ah, bucket lists, the bane of existence for my wallet. Luckily I have a patient wife. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve had a bucket list ever since I returned to film. I would say that it is a declining venture for me, but it has definitely been prevalent over the last 12 months. I have owned about 150 cameras during that time. I’ve sold some to fund others and I plan on continuing to shave off some volume as I settle my kit. Lots of my choices have been because of internet lore (YouTube, 35mmc, etc). I have gotten a few important takeaways from this adventure.
The first thing I learned is “be careful what you wish for”. It is a lesson that I learned when I bought a Nikon F3HP. It is difficult to find a bad review of it anywhere. The results from that Nikon glass were gorgeous to my eye. The camera itself though, I could just not find myself liking it. It never fit to my hand or my style. It was sad because I had paid a lot to get it from a shop. I had traded in my Nikon L35AF (which I regret and miss to this day) and a couple more cameras and cash to get it. It was an overpay and it just never worked out. I ended up trading it in for some lenses and some film.
Now, as mentioned before, hype has played a part in my choices. I do own a MJUII, even though I saw plenty of arguments here about there being better alternatives. I honestly really like it as my daily carry. I put it in a pocket and it’s there should I need it. I have loved the results. I just bought a Pentax 6×7 (the oldest model) because I wanted 6×7. I was open to the RB67 or the Bronica GS-1 but it happened that that was the camera available to me at the time and made the jump.
I think that my bucket list has slowly moved towards just having a camera for all my needs, which I believe that I have achieved so far. I have my pick for 35mm SLR (x700 or 139q, 35mm rangefinder (QL19 GIII), 35mm daily carry (MJUII or FED50), 645 (Bronica ETR), 6×6 (MAT-124 G or Kiev 6c), 6×7 (Pentax), and instant (SX-70).
Was it worth it to try over a hundred cameras? Not always. Did it allow me to build a solid kit to fit my daily whim or a project? Absolutely! Will I buy more cameras? Probably, but now it is really down to can’t pass opportunities. That and projects like the one that I am planning for this site where I will review the Canon “Puke Green” T SLR line. I’m just waiting for T90 to arrive for the series to begin!
Amazing! I also imagine that even though there were some disappointing purchases that there was also a lot of excitement and enjoyment in trying and experimenting?
Thank for another great article, Holly. Funny how that bucket list “dream camera” can be something less than a dream in reality. I had serious lust for the Mamiya twin-lens cameras in the early nineties, and wound up with a C330 and a C22. I wanted them for 6×6 landscape work, without the bulk. expense, complexity, and COST of an SLR. Turns out that there was never a camera that I was so unable to bond with as those, and I still can’t say why! It looks like your experience will be much more positive than mine.
The dream camera does change over time. For the past 20 years, Leicas, and especially my M3, were my dream cameras. But for a while, I’ve felt that the most important challenge in my work is to describe, fully and with the greatest precision and respect possible, the people I’m photographing. The best 35mm equipment is no match for medium format, in that respect. The M3, the least versatile but loveliest of the Leicas, got sold to finance a pair of Fuji GW690II “Texas Leicas”. Not dream cameras, by any of my standards; they’re ugly, plastic-covered lumps. But they are unique and really the only thing that will do the job I need done.
Perhaps the point I’m making is that a “dream camera” is no longer very motivating. I guess I have “dream images” that I want to make real, and just want whatever camera will best do that job.
Enjoy your Mamiya! I hope it makes your dream images a reality.
Thank you! It’s certainly more about the experience than the camera – maybe it was the tlr style that I wanted to try who knows! I’m certainly very happy with it ????
Thanks for the article. I like the different viewpoints. I have two camera I always wanted, a Leica M6 with 50mm and a Hasselblad 500C. I particularly like shooting with the M6, its easy but feels confidant (if thats possible for a camera!). The Hasselblad is wonderful in its own way but heavy to lug around. Recently, a friend gave me a Fuji XPro1. It has become my walk around camera and spans the worlds of old and new as I can use my Leica lenses with it. When I pickup a favored camera the feeling it gives me from its weight and the layout of the controls gives me a little jolt of energy when I am taking the picture.
They are old friends who are always available for a visual adventure.
Having tried just about every camera on what I would call a bucket list, this is where I have fallen. I use the Nikon F and Leica M systems the most. The ability to interchange lenses between film and digital bodies gives great versatility. Tomorrow I am going to NYC to shoot. It will likely be raining, so the Nikon system allows a kit that will be reasonably waterproof but heavy. Everything is a tradeoff. With the Nikon F6, I don’ have to worry at all about shutter speeds, it is a smooth and eminent camera. The other beast will be the D 850, an image making machine. Most important to me is the quality of the lenses. Nothing beats good glass, even on a less than worthy camera body.
The Nikon does seem to be a versatile piece of kit!
Bucket list camera: maybe the Rolleiflex SL66. I first saw this amazingly complicated camera in 1968 or 1969 in camera stores in Harvard Square, Massachusetts. For a high school student, the staggering price was totally out of consideration. Today? I have a Hasselblad system and a Rolleiflex 3.5E, so medium format is coveted. Look for a SL66? I think no, and I have not found solid information if any repair service exists in USA.
Thanks for your article. I think I’m perfectly happy with my photo gear at the moment. I’ve three Minolta SLRs for my Rokkor lenses and a Yashica FR-1 for my Zeiss lenses and a Sony A7II for all of them. That’s more than enough for me.
What’s really on my bucket list for photography, is to find more time for it and get a better photographer. A much better photographer.
The only gear I really want to explore is 6×6, perhaps with a Bronica SQ or – of course – a Hasselblad (but I’ll never have the money for a Hasselblad) or even with a TLR.
I really love my Sony. When I first shot it, it was like coming home. I didn’t get familiar with my previous digital cameras, but with the A7II I attached my manual lenses and shot it like the Minolta X-700 that was in my family since I was a little boy (my parents passed it to me in 2018). I hope the Sony will last some more years, my SLR certainly will.
Yes – for the past year my main aim has been to just learn the cameras I have and improve, which I think I have done when I compare the work I produce now to the work I was producing pre-pandemic. I would say the thing that has most improved my photography though is looking at my negatives – rather than relying on a lab to dev and scan, actually seeing how they look myself and then troubleshooting. 🙂
I don’t think I really had a bucket list per se; my collection grew from the small but important start of my fathers Voigtländer Vito B which was the camera I learned with. I now own many Voigtländers and I guess there are a few I would still like to own.
I (like you) did hanker after a C330 and have owned one for a year or two now; it desperately needs a service and it’s a hella bulky thing to carry around so I haven’t used it for a while but I do very much enjoy shooting with it.
One day a year or so ago I took it down town to the middle of LA to shoot some pictures while walking with my wife; almost everywhere we went someone would say “nice camera!” or something similar. My wife jokingly became annoyed at this in that they noticed my camera more than her. This culminated at the end of the walk where while crossing a road, someone in a cafe 100 yards away suddenly shouted at us “C330??!!” To which I waved my thumb and my wife just shook her head 😀
I hope you enjoy yours 🙂
HAHAHAH amazing story. I do find I feel self-conscious when I’m out shooting with it around town and it’s certainly not discrete or an easy carry. But every roll I have shot through it so far has blown me away. I’m usually of the opinion that it’s all about the photographer and not the camera but that camera really does improve my image making hahah!
I agree with Mike and Hamish. I have tried well over 300 cameras and I don’t have a bucket list either. My bucket list would also be a darkroom for printing like Kit. Though saying that, I do have a habit of rebuying cameras I have sold, I miss the once they are gone.so I guess all my cameras with a story are on my…oh that would be nice to own again list. It can’t be a bucket though as I have already owned them 🙂
hahah! I would be interested to know whether you can quickly identify a camera that any given image was taken on? It’s something that I find really easy to do for my film cameras but I don’t know whether that would change if I had shot with over 300 cameras!
I’m going against the grain a bit here to say that the more experience I have with film cameras the more I appreciate the mid 90s mid-range consumer cameras.
I can throw a Pentax Espio (for example) in my jacket pocket and it’ll be there for me, producing perfectly acceptable photographic memories. These cameras are (still) reliable, with the batteries still available. I don’t need to overly worry about dropping it, losing it, and it’s not a theft magnet – there’ll always be another one on eBay tomorrow.
Maybe that’s why I take snapshots rather than photographs!
Exactly! There is no 1 ultimate camera – there is the camera that you want/need at that moment in time. That camera may linger in your mind for years (as the mamiya did for me) or be more about a format/system type as you mention here with compact cameras. It’s really interesting to see people’s viewpoints on here in comparision to the GAS factory facebook group (which I do enjoy aswell).
Another very thought provoking article, and lots of interesting comments too.
As others have alluded to, the bucket list changes over time, for quite a wide range of reasons.
At 13, when I first got into photography, I wanted an SLR, any SLR because I wanted to play around with different lenses, and to have a camera better than my mates Olympus Trip.
As a student it was a Nikon F, to get better lenses and to have something a bit cooler than a Praktica.
When I wanted to try medium format, I got a Rolleicord VB ( dirt cheap at the time)
I had always wanted a Leica, and I saved up and bought a iiif.
In some ways I was very fortunate as my late father was a serious camera collector and repairer, so I got the opportunity to try lots of stuff out
first. Not all of the purchases worked out – I struggled with the dark viewfinder on the Rollei , and the tiny viewfinder/rangefinder on the Leica is a real pain. I probably have only put a couple of films through each, but I don’t feel inclined to part with them, as they are a part of my photographic journey, and a reminder of the fact that the grass is not always greener..
I picked the Nikon up again recently, and you know, I think suits me just fine.
Thank you! I think that’s the thing, it’s all so much more about experience and emotion than a particular brand (unless there is an emotion attached to the brand). Also, very interesting point about keeping hold of those you thought you wanted but ultimately didn’t. So far the only camera I have gotten rid of was an eos 600 that broke but I now regret getting rid of it because it would have made the perfect test camera in my new direction of attempting to service and fix cameras haha!
Now that’s a good article! More of that kind of thing please! I’m done with nit picking other people’s images and more to the point what others think is good. It’s all good. But I cannot get enough reviews and opinions of gear. More gas please!
What a great assortment of experiences and thoughts. All of these cameras mentioned continue to serve a purpose. My own life collection started with an Argus C-3. I then moved to an Exakta VII slr through high school. During my USAF days a Pentax H3 and Mx as well as a Yashica 124 served me well. Since then, like others I have used many, many fine cameras. I am not brand prejudiced. I have my Canon P and 7sz rangefinders, my Nikon F, F2as,F4s SLRs. Still have a Pentax MX, I love my 2 Canon T90s and EOS 1. Today, like many, I use digital now having gone though Canon t3I, m3, m6, m6II, 6d and 5d4. I do have a Fuji GW690 III and a Mamiya RB67 for medium format.
What do I use daily? Lol, the tiny Pentax MX or the Canon M6 II mirrorless. These are just so handy.
I love to take and process pictures, I like everyones images, there are no right or wrong approaches to photography.
Ansel Adams made a statement something like this…”every person must follow his or her own beacon to determine what is right in there own eyes”
Dream cameras are an odd thing – they resonate with us, but often the case is that most other photographers hate them, some to the point of openly despising them and being insulting (almost) to photographers who have them.
A few examples…
My Nikkormats. I’ve owned FTNs, ELs and now have two FT2s. They are truly my favorite go-tos. Oddly, most (admittedly digital) photogaphers hate them. “The poor man’s Nikon” as they are known. One actually asked, “are you so poor to not being able to afford a real Nikon?”
The Contax G1. When these came out, almost everyone who has reviewed them had something negative to say about them. That they were obsolete when they came out (mid 1990s), there were too few lenses in the G series, as an all-electronics camera they would be prone to sudden death syndrome, and so on. None of which has ever happened in my case, except in 2006 I had one of my (I own four) G1s suddenly stop auto-rewinding film an I had to manually activate the winder by pushing down a tiny button with a toothpick (which the G1 manual expressedly forbade doing, but it never did cause any damage). After about 18 months I turned on this G1 one day and boom!! the auto-wind was working again. It has done so since.
Any 6×6 German folding camera. I have two, a 1950 Zeiss Nettar with an albada finder and a 1953 Voigtlander Perkeo I with a superb Color Skopar lens. Primitive even by the standards of their day but the results are phenomenal. Look at a well exposed 6×6 Fujichrome or Ektachrome slide and your life will never be the same. For some reason, these cameras seem to upset young yuppies (who mostly use Sony digital cameras nowadays, I’ve noticed) or anyone with a Leica of any sort. Scornful looks or even offhand remarks.
But then I must look at the other side and I have to say 90 out of every 100 photographers are supportive of we elderly duffers using these ancient cameras. Or surely it isn’t me…
I truly did enjoy this most excellent and well thought out article. It opened my eyes to some new ideas and in this day and age of brand-name camera sameness, that”s a good thing.