Like most of you good 35mmc readers, I’d love to own a classic Leica. And like most of you (unless you’re a more posh lot than I’d assumed), I’ve been unwilling to make the life sacrifices (unheated house, unpaid cell phone bills, kids skipping college, etc.) necessary to actually buy one. Instead, I have opted for a (much more affordable) Contax iia with a 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar, and a couple of rolls in, I’m not disappointed!
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Since becoming re-interested in film shooting a couple of years ago, I’ve acquired a modest but high-quality collection of classic cameras: a Nikon FM and FE, a Mamiya M645, Olympus XA, Canonet QL-17 GIII, a couple of Yashica-Mat TLRs, a Rolleiflex 2.8C, and most recently, a Rolleiflex 3.5 MX-EVS (I also have a FujiFilm X100f, which is a damned fun little camera). I’d love to get a primo Leica at some point, or a Plaubel Makina or Mamiya 7, but for now, such indulgences are the stuff of fantasy. I paid less than $150 for most of my current cameras, and no more than $300 for any of them (X100f excepted). None are immaculate, but they’re all solid shooters. I find them beautiful beyond words.
I came of age in the ’70’s and ’80’s shooting film like the vast majority of other people did: you picked up your yellow box of Kodak 200 or 400 speed film at Walgreens, shot a birthday party or Thanksgiving or vacation on it, dropped the film back off at the same Walgreens, and a couple of days later were handed a packet with the processed negatives in plastic sleeves, and a pile of cheap prints that looked like s**t but served to document whatever event you’d hoped to document. You’d flip through them, perhaps show them to the other people who’d been present, then write “Xmas 1979” or somesuch on the packet with a Sharpie and dump the envelope into a storage box with the rest of them.
Like many of you, I’m in the habit of scanning Facebook Marketplace for interesting old cameras, with an eye towards a lose list I keep in my head. On this day, I saw one of those “Used camera lot” posts with a bad group photo of a bunch of old cameras, cases, lenses, flash units, and faded boxes of film, with an asking price of $450 for the bunch.
The Olympus 35 SPn is a relatively large and quite impressive-looking rangefinder camera. It is about 5 inches/13 cm long, 3 inches/7.5 cm high. At the time it was originally released in 1969 it was probably regarded as compact. When the 35 SPn went out of production in 1976 it was notably bigger than rivals like the Konica Auto S3/35 FE, the Minolta Hi-matic 7sii (and variants) and the Olympus 35 RD, all of which had similar specs.