Salvation Army Film Cameras

Visiting the Salvation Army on weekends for film cameras is both a pleasure and a sadness.  First the sadness.

Count Your Blessings when you visit the Salvation Army

At first when I visited the huge Salvation Army store on Clybourn Avenue in Chicago, IL, it was a candy store of cameras given away by their owners.

But after a while I progressed beyond my film camera fervor and looked at the people shopping.  Most people weren’t looking for camera bargains.

Yes, there are patrons looking for bargains.  A camera collector looking for cameras, a young college couple purchasing used appliances for their first household, people like that.

But mainly the shoppers are just plain poor, trying to survive in the big city.  Mothers purchasing bright clothing, hoping to please their little children.  The little children in the store smile with glee testing out old toys while the older children in the store have sterner faces as they try on clothing.  The older children know why they’re at the Salvation army shopping that day:  they can’t afford to shop at Wal-Mart.

Sorry, no photos from the inside of the Salvation Army store.  They don’t allow it.  And I respect their rules.

So count your blessing when you visit the Salvation Army looking for cameras and other collectibles.  I do.

The Camera Counter at the Salvation Army

My Salvation Army has a camera counter on the 2nd floor.  I seem to visit it once a month

It’s a glass counter about 2 X 2 X 3 feet in dimensions stuffed with cameras so tightly you have no idea what’s in there.  You look as much as you can but you really need to get your hands on everything, if only the staff will let you.

I’ve been to the store 3 times asking for permission to “go behind the counter”.  Three times they said no.

Today they said yes.

  1. An Olympia camera is easily visible at the front.  I pull it out and show it to the 2 counter ladies answering questions from the throng of customers.  “It’s a Chinese fake of an Olympus camera,” I tell the ladies.  They smile nicely.  They don’t care (and why should they).
  2. Minoltas everywhere.  I can’t even keep track of all the Minolta SLRs that I see in re-sale shops.  I wouldn’t know a good one from a bad one.  I just try each one out to see if they work without a battery, they don’t.
  3. Canon AF 35ML, $45 dollars.  I have one of these cameras already and wouldn’t mind having another.  They have a 1.9 aperture and are a great low light camera.  No stealth though.  They are as loud as blender when you take a photo.  “It’s only worth $5 I plead.”  No, $45.  Just because it’s more modern they want more money.

Sears TLS and Asahi Pentax Spotmatic

Buried in the camera counter I find two bodies:  Sears TLS and Asahi Pentax Spotmatic.

I missed out on a Sears TLS with 3 lenses earlier this week for $63 plus shipping and I’m still thinking about it.  But you just can’t get into bidding wars on cameras.  Unprofitable, unpleasant.  Matt Denton has a nice write-up on the Sears TLS and you might read it.

I remember what Karen Nakamura wrote about the rock solid Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SLR and I wanted one.

I test them as best I can.  No lenses, just bodies.

  1. Shutter speeds work.
  2. No lenses means no aperture to test.
  3. Film transport seems to work.
  4. Camera seals are not too bad, may not need replacement.
  5. Meter dead as a doornail.

I try to open both battery covers and they won’t budge with my borrowed penny from the counter ladies.  Corroded batteries are a possibility.  If so, the meter will never work.

Ten Dollars for Each Camera

The cameras have no price tag.  I ask the lady what they want for the two cameras.  “Ten dollars a camera.”

I tell her the batteries may be corroded and they have no lenses (both true).  She just smiles.  “Ten dollars a camera.”

I offer seven dollars.  Yes, she said, “Ten dollars a camera.”

“OK, ten dollars a camera.  I’ll take both.”

They lady I thought could barely speak English smiles, jumps a little off the ground (honest) and says to the other counter lady, in English:  “I won.  I won.”

Good camera deals at the Salvation Army?

You bet.  It was almost worth $20 just watching the counter lady jump for joy when she won our camera negotiation.  I’m happy with two used camera film bodies that I can test with a lens and film.

At home I worked on the Sears TLS and the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic battery covers.  The Sears TLS is definitely corroded.  But I can always shoot the Sears TLS manually.  The Spotmatic batter cover came off with a good screwdriver.  No corrosion.

I tried one of my screw mount lenses on both cameras and they seemed to work fine.  The threads are still working.  I have two new cameras to test, in time.

What is a Film Camera?

Yes, I will answer that question more technically as this blog evolves.  I’ll talk about 35, 120, 220 formats and more.

But “What is a Film Camera?” for me is an opportunity to collect film cameras, take photos, meet people, and count my blessings at the Salvation Army store.

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