I have a confession to make; I have more cameras than there are days in the week and yet I still can't sell any of them. I’ve tried so many times to reduce the number of cameras and accessories I own, but something at the back of my mind is always telling me, “it might come in handy one day”.
Sat on my shelf I have nine cameras: a Fujifilm X-T1 that I haven’t used in over a year, a broken Canon AE-1 that I keep meaning to sell for parts, a working Canon AE-1, a temperamental Fujifilm Instax, a Nikon FM2 that's my preferred SLR, and my everyday workhorse the Sony A7 III. I also have a Pentax 6x7 that I bought recently, and two semi-automatic 35mm point and shoots that I use for my non-serious film work. You could say I’m a hoarder… I prefer to use the term collector.
In the grand scheme of things and compared to other photographers (especially avid collectors), my collection is still pretty small but it's only going to get bigger. There is something very fulfilling in owning a collection of cameras. Just as a stamp collector gets a thrill from obtaining a rare or unusual stamp, I get the same satisfaction from cameras (although I'm yet to own anything particularly weird and whacky).
One of the downsides to building a camera collection is it can be more expensive than other collections – and there are often so many ongoing costs to think about (film, developing, lenses and so on). However, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages and while it might not be the cheapest hobby, I’ve found it to be one of the most rewarding.
Over the years, I’ve been pretty savvy about investing in new (and really old) kit. I’m always checking eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree for bargains to be had, and whenever I go to a charity shop I check to see if they have any old film cameras. I have been known to buy cameras just because they were cheap, and it’s a habit I’m trying to break free from – but sometimes it’s just too tempting. How could I turn anyone turn down a Nikon Twin Zoom 35-70 when it was just £10 at The Photography Show?
I thought as film got more expensive, and developing costs increased, I might be warier about investing in film cameras, but actually the opposite is true. I’m shooting more film than ever and on more formats than ever; 35mm, medium format and Instax instant film. There is something so satisfying about shooting analog that I find ways to justify the ever-increasing costs, even with energy bills skyrocketing.
These days when I mention that I’ve bought another camera I’m either on the receiving end of an eye roll or subject to the infamous quote by Brenda from Bristol (taken from a BBC interview about the general elections): “You’re joking? Not another one!”
It may be a running joke among my friends and family that I have a bit of a problem when it comes to buying cameras, but why is it any different from collecting books or Beanie Babies or Lego sets? At least I can use my cameras for paid jobs, they inspire me to be more creative, and they do look very pretty on my shelf.