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Making Sense of Old Cameras


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Making Sense of Old Cameras

11 Apr 2021 12:10PM   Views : 441 Unique : 243

Anybody who has picked up a tiny Rollei35 camera and attempted to wind on the film without extending the lens first will be very aware that doing this breaks the camera. So the key to not doing this is knowledge, and the best way to this knowledge, assuming you are not with someone who knows, is to read the instructions before meddling. With old mechanical cameras this can be very important. If you have a Pentax 67 medium format film camera, do you set the shutter speed before of after you wind on? I would find out before doing it because, again, get it wrong and early examples will cease to function....Fortunately, instruction books for everything can be found online, as photocopy versions from Old Timer Cameras and other sources. The huge box of instruction manuals I have occupies far more space than Sue would like, if she knew about it anyway....
If you want more detail, next step up are the Focal Camera Guides, small pocket sized volumes in hardback and paperback and covering a huge number of cameras.

Bessamatic Guide (Focal Press, 1960, 167x125mm, 80pp)


Some marques have a huge following and have spawned all sorts of user guides, collectors guides and even museums, like the Rollei Museum on Jersey.

Complete Rollei TLR Collector's Guide (Hove Foto Books, 1993, 210x146mm, 180pp, ISBN 1-874031-95-9)



Even current marques can have a rich history and Pentax cameras still work in a similar way to those from the film era. The lenses can still be used on digital SLRs, so they may be of particular interest to those who want to use classic kit.

The Asahi Pentax Way is one example of another large series of books, and most other marques are likely to have their own versions.

The Asahi Pentax Way, Eleventh Edition, with supplement (Focal Press, 1980, 216x140mm, 476pp, ISBN 0 240 51018 6)


Pentax are also featured in the Modern Classics range, as are Olympus.

Complete User's Guide to Olympus Modern Classics (Hove Foto Books, 1991, 189x125mm, 189pp, ISBN 0-906447_90-9


The internet is great for finding information, but we need to know what we are looking for. Books are great for browsing and having information constantly to hand without having to switch anything on. In the case of books the information, although not always right, is probably right more of the time as it has been through an editing process and someone has paid for the content to be published. Reading the right book at the right time will also help you buy an unbroken Rollei35.


altitude50 16 21.4k United Kingdom
12 Apr 2021 8:17AM
Useful information, John.
As a collector of film cameras, ranging from 1913 (Kodak VP) to the 1980's including a few rare ones, there are a large number of special 'tricks' to memorise when looking after mechanical cameras. My most used advice is - do not try to use the self timer. You probably have a digital camera already or a mobile, use that instead for your self-portrait..
If you do try to test the self timer, a lever on the front of most 35mm cameras, then if it stops working part way, so does your shutter.
Also, cameras do not like damp places, funghi & mould do.

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