Film cameras have a provenance. And that makes buying them fun.
You’ve heard the phrase provenance on many TV shows about auctions, art, collectibles. This is what Wikipedia says about provenance.
Provenance, from the French provenir, “to come from”, refers to the chronology of the ownership or location of an historical object. The term was originally mostly used for works of art, but is now used in similar senses in a wide range of fields, including science and computing.
In plain English, “who owned your camera”.
Uncle Paul, the Africa Camera, the Nikon Nikkormat FtN
My very good friend Paul died at the age of 50. My kids called him Uncle Paul. Knew him for 23 years.
When he was alive he showed me his Nikon FtN and telephoto lens that he took to Africa around 1971. He was about 22 when he saved up enough money to visit Africa before his first year in college. He didn’t go on safari. He hung out in Africa, walking around, taking pictures of lions, dining with cannibals (honest), and drinking Coke at a local fast food stand. Great stories.
His camera was an Nikon Nikkormat FtN. Its original price in the late 1960’s was $279.50. Paul purchased the FtN, a 50mm lens, and a telephoto zoom lens. $400 solid. I wonder how many hours he had to work as a school janitor to afford that camera gear?
His camera is alive and well, and recently tested. Here’s one photo in my Chicago, IL backyard.
Purchasing a Film Camera, Think Provenance
Anytime you purchase a film camera, find out if it has a story, a provenance.
On TV, people do this to increase the re-sale price of the object. If you’re purchasing a 100 year old camera that was used to photograph World War I, you may have an incredibly valuable camera.
Even if the film camera is from a garage sale or Craigslist, it still has a provenance, a history. So when I purchase a film camera, I enjoy the camera’s story.
Film camera provenance is just another reason why collecting film cameras is fun. Ask someone where the camera has been, who owned it, what it was used for. You may enjoy film camera provenance as much as I do.
Selling your Dad or Mom’s Cameras, Think Provenance
If you’re thinking of selling all of your dad’s cameras, stop a moment and think provenance. Nobody will ever treasure that camera like one of your grandchildren might treasure it. Keep at least one film camera from your parents, and sell the rest, maybe.
Uncle Paul’s Africa Camera
And by the way, Uncle Paul’s Nikon Nikkormat FTN that went to Africa sat in my basement for 7 long years after his death. One day I went looking for it. I found it.
I’ve been collecting and shooting film cameras ever since.