10 Pocket money Classic Cameras – Part 1 – Guest post by Alan Duncan

Psst!! Wanna buy a classic camera for less than the price of a Takeaway Pizza?

Don’t panic and run! This isn’t some dodgy knock off deal or the garage sale find of the century time. You can literally buy with relative ease a great camera with heaps of Kudos for less than a tenner. I’ve been a fan of picking up cheap but great cameras as my blog at Canny Cameras shows.  Here is 5 of ten great but very different cameras that you can easily get for a tenner or less (bar p&p) on the likes of Ebay.

Starter for 5

What we have is a list of cameras that are sublime in some way or another. The goal here is to list 10 great but very different cameras. I could have easily made a list of quite specific niche cameras like 70’s Japanese compacts but the 5 cameras listed here and the 5 in the next part are all very different. We go from high end zoom compacts right through to things you might have once found in a cornflakes box. We list several iconic cameras that have historical significance. And the best bit is all of ’em cost less than a tenner !!

Attack of the Clones – The Chinon 35EE

Konica C35 Automatic & Chinon 35EE
Chinon 35EE compact rangefinder (R) alongside the near identical classic that is the Konica C35 (L)

The Konica C35 was one of the all time classics rangefinders from the 1970’s. With auto exposure and a great lens,  it was a huge hit. The C35 still commands a bit of money. However several rivals made near identical clones which are much cheaper but almost as good.

The Chinon 35EE is one of those.  With a negligibly faster f/2.7 lens, it is optically almost as good as the Konica. It also has a clear focus square in viewfinder that works even on sunny days. Best of all thought is the price. I bought mines for 99p  and you should expect to pay no more than a tenner.  A bargain for  a brilliant 70’s auto-exposure compact rangefinder.

Other marques like Cosina and Vivitar made similar well regarded clones of the C35 that you can pick up cheaply.  If you want more control, the Ricoh 500RF & 500G offer shutter priority and metered manual modes in the same sized rangefinder package for a little more.

Auntie Katies
Falkirk Feb 2014. Taken on a Chinon 35EE with Kodak BW400CN.

One cam in my pocket – the Olympus XA2

Olympus XA2 Camera

The 1980 XA2 is a fantastical ultra compact pseudo zone focus camera that flourished despite the arrival of AF. Developed from Yoshihisa Maitani’s XA – the classic ultra compact rangefinder, it was sought after and sold well due to rugged ultra compactness. But whilst a XA still fetches £40+,  the XA2 can be picked up for around a fiver.

A much loved pocket or second camera to many, it rightly has a cult following. However it is incredibly cheap to pick up. In part due to the numbers made. However it also doesn’t carry the same hipster mystique as the currently much more expensive Lomo LC-A (ironically once  a cheap copy of the XA2 rivals – the  Cosina CX1 & 2).

This is a great street camera that you can easily pocket. However bear in mind it only uses a weak proprietary mount flash unit and the shutter membrane with age is prone to becoming less responsive. Optically it sharp but given the small size not without compromises.

Charge of the Light Brigade
Edinburgh 2017. Olympus XA2 with Fujifilm Neopan 400CN.

Say Cheesey – Halina Micro 110

If you are reading this Hamish has forgiven me for foisting the Halina Panorama on him. This shouldn’t be here on several counts. The Halina Micro 110 is a plastic Halina that looks like it came in a cornflakes box in the 1970’s. There’s  no controls or settings. It also uses 110 film and clipping that in makes you worry about snapping it.

All of that is true but bear with me….

…the lens actually works out as not that bad. About a 1/4 the size of a 35mm frame, 110 is never going to be the sharpest. Even with quality multi element glass P&S 110 cameras, there’s a degree of softness and graininess. But the micro is not that far behind despite a basic plastic lens. Actually that lens is better than some 110 cameras out there (Lomography Diana Baby 110 I’m looking at you). Your killer camera this ain’t but it will bring a smile to your and others faces.

Haking also designed this titchy camera well. The fold up viewfinder doubles as a shutter guard and film compartment cover doubles as store-able instructions.

Bear in mind 110 film is not cheap to process and it is worth identifying a good lab to do it (can be shocking in the wrong hands).  But if you do the Micro 110 is a joy.

Who watchs the watchmen
Shot taken on Halina Micro 110 with Lomography Color Tiger CN200. The orange dots are a fault of the Lomography film not the camera.

50’s Camera Kodakary -Retinette 1a

Like Carlos Argott who recently reviewed this on 35mmc -I am highly impressed with the gorgeous 1A – One beautiful vintage camera that is matched with a good and f/2.8 fast triplet lens.

One of several solid body Retinette cameras made from the late 50’s by Kodak’s German division (replacing early folders models from the 1930’s & 40’s). Other models are metered or rangefinder focus but this is a nice, simple unmetered scale focus viewfinder.

Optically the Retinette isn’t bad. For a 50’s lens sharp centrally with only marginal fall off at the edges. Close but not quite in the same  league of the legendary Voigtländer Vito B (a camera that is arguably the finest German viewfinder ever made – shame it cost a load more).

The Retinette is nicely finished and oozes 50’s Germany Build quality. Often pro-sellers look for £10-30 mark but easily picked up for under a tenner

Writing on the wall
Carlisle, February 2017. Kodak Retinette 1a (type 042) with Fujifilm Neopan 400CN.

Zoom with a View – Pentax Espio AF Zoom

Pentax Espio 120SW & AF Zoom Cameras
Pentax Espio AF Zoom (bottom) with it’s 2002 sibling the 120SW

Want one of those Elite classic AF compacts like the Konica Hexar but can’t afford the 3 figure price tag?

Step this way.
Back in the day, AF Zoom compacts were king of the P&S market not their now lauded fixed focal length siblings. Selling more (both in cost and number), these dominated the P&S market.

There are several great AF Zoom P&S out there.  I could have picked out several – from the best  mju Zooms to the new kids on the block like Samsung and Panasonic (see Hamish’s review of the Samsung ECX1 for example). But the 1982 1992 Espio AF Zoom model IMHO is a stonker.

Granted it has a limited x2 zoom and lacks the metal body of  later models like the 120SW (pictured). But it is still a nice looking slab of black plastic not much bigger than newer models. And it cuts mustard optically too especially at the short end of the Zoom. It is an old school single point AF but that’s all you need on a P&S.  As  expected, it does better on near and median distance shots. Long shots, the Achilles’s heel of a AF P&S,  aren’t too shabby either due to the dedicated landscape mode. I’m not going to kid you, this is no T3 beater optically. But it really isn’t that bad and mines cost me less than a can of Irn-Bru. It also comes with a host of modes and settings including a genuinely useful back light exposure compensation.

Study in Light I
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, 2015. Pentax Espio AF Zoom with Kodak BW400CN.

5 to consider but even if you don’t find joy, there’s 5 very different cameras to come. Including a camera that is over a century old and one of the best selling non disposable 35mm ever made.

In the meanwhile, don’t forget to have a look through my website – Canny Cameras

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16 thoughts on “10 Pocket money Classic Cameras – Part 1 – Guest post by Alan Duncan”

  1. I’ve had both the Espio AF Zoom and the 120SW, and agree that both are very impressive for compact zooms. Your shot of the chair at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is lovely and a great testament to what they can do. I don’t think the AF Zoom is as old as you say though, maybe very late 80s but certainly not 1982. The whole bulky but surprisingly competent Zoom 70 series came before it and they were mid to late 80s I think.

    1. Correct to spot the typo Dan 1992 launch rather than the ’82. Interestingly I picked up a mint 120SW (before I irritatingly dropped it – still functions but a bit bruised) – I still think the older model has the edge

  2. Please tell me where you think you can buy an XA2 for £5. Agreed they are a wonderful camera. But unless you can time travel, or we’re lucky enough to score one at a car boot from a clueless seller, then you may need to add around £50 to your valuation.

    1. Matt, I’ve owned 3 of these in past 3-4 years and only one came in just over a tenner. I checked all the the listed cameras whilst writing this simply using the same method to check a tenner or less was not unrealistic. If you have a search on eBay right now for Olympus XA2 and filter it for sold listings. In the last 3 weeks I count 4 sold for a tenner or less prior to P&P (all functional or untested – but none for sale or parts). Many were sold with the A11 flash unit. 50p more snagged someone a XA2 plus a L35AD and a Pino and between £10-20 there’s a fair few more XA2 sold.

      As with all auctions a bit of luck is needed and granted you are probably going to need to deal with failing light seals yourself and some are of the not tested ilk. Granted if you want to have a fully tested version with a degree of warranty you’ll pay more. But personally I’ve seen XA in decent camera shops seconds displays for the price your suggesting – and yup I would budget 40-60 quid for those, but not a XA2.

      I left the clueless car boot sellers to sell me my XA for a few quid…

      1. Alan,
        I’m no mathematician, but what you’re saying doesn’t add up. So I did my own maths. Like you I checked sold listings on eBay and removed ‘for parts or not working’. As you know, there are a lot of XA2’s for sale. As I’ve only got a matter of seconds before my daughter demands my attention I have only taken the most recent 15 sold listings. They total £614.97 which is an average cost of £41 rounded up. I’m willing to concede that it is possible to fluke a cheap score (I once got an XA2 in perfect condition from Freecycle) so I have removed the cheapest (£13.51) and the most expensive (£95). This makes the total £506.46 which is an average of £38.96.

        I’m not really out to have an argument. But it’s a tall claim to say that an XA2 is generally available for £5. Cheap deals in film photography are quickly disappearing unfortunately.

        Having said all that, I did win a Nikon Lite touch 120ED for £3.50. But it aint no Olympus XA2.

        1. We could be here all night Matt depending on how you choose to analyse the statistic and I think we’ll just need to differ here. All I can say Matt is all the cameras in this Top 10 I’ve bought in recent years for less than a tenner. I’ve owned 3 XA2 and bar my current one (came film tested and a degree of warranty for just over 12 quid) cost less than a tenner. All cameras in the list when I looked using the method above had a 25% or greater chance for being sold for a tenner or less on the 1st page of recent sales – I didn’t adjust for buy it now or higher auctions

          £40-60 will buy you the much better XA

        2. In Alan’s defence, if you do search the sold items there are a number of XA2s in recent weeks that have sold for less than £10. I think his point was they are out there, not necessarily that you can go and buy one off the shelf every day of the week for that money.

          I used to be more of a bargain hunter than I am now, because whilst you do get some good buys if you’re patient, I got to the point where waiting an extra month or two and spending the extra hours trawling eBay just wasn’t worth the £10 or £20 or £30 I’d possible save by doing so.

          If I really wanted an XA2 now I’d probably just cough up £30 or £40 and get one that fully tested and working. If that’s your only compact camera, it’s still very cheap.

          Following from this, I would these days rather have one such camera and spend say £40 and just get on with using it, than take a risk on half a dozen that might or might not work and potentially waste film and processing costs just to find out.

          I quite like the XA2, but having owned probably a dozen Pentax Espios I would second Alan’s recommendation. And there must be literally hundreds of those going through eBay every month dead cheap, and often in near mint condition.

  3. Absolutely agree.
    Lots of pretty cameras able to take excellent photographs are sold here or there for a very small money. One wonders why those all old Leicas are so expensive.
    My Retina IIF for instance is a wonderful rangefinder camera

  4. Pingback: 10 Pocket money Classic Cameras - Part 2 - 35mmc

  5. Richard Williams

    Great post Alan! I almost bought one of those Retinettes recently but I get all the 1950’s joy I could want out of my Voigtlander Vito B. I left it in the charity shop for someone else to enjoy. Similar to your Pentax Espios, I had a nice Minolta Riva Zoom until a few weeks ago. It felt like a really high quality piece of kit (probably cost loads originally) and took nice pictures, but I also have an Olympus Mju iii zoom which I like better. I stuck the Minolta on Ebay half hoping it wouldn’t sell, but it did so has now gone to better home. While my general preference is for a nice compact 35mm manual SLR, sometimes, it’s just more fun to point and shoot. I’m not a big fan of VERY plasticky P&S cameras – I had a Halina 160 and hated it – but I love the more modern, higher quality models. I love your website by the way and am looking forward to the next five you’ve got to recommend.

    1. I’ve struggled to sell many of a perfectly good AF Zoom over the years for anything worthwhile. The only ones that really hold the value are the mju zooms and the Leica compacts (the minoltas et al they are based on can cost a we bit more too). My lost but hopefully my local charity shops gain !!

      Seriously though it is criminal that you can pick up what would have been a high end camera costing a couple of hundred quid at the turn of the century for a quid or 2. The next part has perhaps the biggest bargain from original cost of ’em all

  6. Richard Williams

    And lo, LITERALLY (and I mean the actual, rather than teenage definition) as I made this comment, Hamish posted up the next part of your article. Don’t have to wait at all now. Happy days! 🙂

  7. There are a ton of different Pentax Espios, are there any standout models? Or is it better to just get as early a model as possible? Also do you know if every iteration had all those features? Thanks for the list!

    1. The Espio series is full of cracking models but also some turkeys. Dan James raved about the 160 and 115G has had some good reviews as does the 928. Feature support is variable. I’ve a 120SW which won more awards and has a stonking 120 zoom but is is no better in shooting (perhaps worse) and has more limited modes. Granted depending on what you use the camera for having the bombers odd modes of the AF Zoom seem pointless but..

  8. I can confirm the high quality of the retinettes. They are so beautyful to hold and use, and my example gave me warm picturetones. The voightländer vito B may have brilliant, vibrant colors, but they are slightly heavy and plumb in usage, compared to the elegant retinette. The vito C’s on the other handy are bigger and have better ergonimics,but its more like a semiprofessional SLR in your hand, not a scalefocus cameras. So Retinette for the win!

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