To me, collecting old vintage cameras is a long-time hobby, and also, I used them for recording my life moments as I find that emotions are best captured on a vintage camera. I also find them quite charming as they add a great feel to my house interiors when I just casually place them on a shelf. It has also became a conversation starter for my dinner dates.
So, when was the camera actually invented? Actually, cameras evolved from the camera obscura, and continued to change through many states of photographic technology. According to the Antique & 19th Century Cameras and Collectors Weekly, the camera surfaced in 1839 when Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre invented their one-of-a-kind image on a silver-plated copper sheet, an invention they dubbed the ‘daguerreotype’. Since then, many inventors tweaked it such that it became lighter, smaller, and operated better, and finally, George Eastman pioneered the use of photographic film in 1885, manufacturing his first camera “Kodak”, which was put up for sale in 1888.
Erstwhile, people have relied on paintings, sketches and drawings to document down things, people and surroundings, and to have the camera revolutionalise this process was quite a wild idea. Hence, the initial concept was not that well received. However, as popular brands such as Kodak flooded the market, the concept of using a camera became popular, and nowadays, it is quite difficult to find a really good vintage camera that is still in excellent working condition.
Prices range from around $50 onwards to as much as $10,000 for the really rare ones. Some vintage cameras are more valuable than others, so besides looking at the brand and model, you also need to check whether it is in good working condition by actually touching and trying it out. Most often than not however, online auction sites are where we mostly look for such antique cameras, so we do not really have a choice to try it before we purchase, so buyers beware, do take note of the sellers’ ratings and buyers’ comments before making a purchase on the vintage beauty that you are eyeing. Some of the more popular brands of vintage cameras that I usually look for include Leica, Kodak, Minolta, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Polaroid and Zeiss Ikon.
Some Features of Good, Vintage Cameras
The following materials came from Dusty Old Thing, but I would summarise them here.
Brand and Model: Check that the brand of the camera is clearly displayed on the camera; it should be on the front. Ideally, you should be able to find the model number as well. Look at sites such as Antique & 19th Century Cameras and Cameras & Co or even McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique & Classic Cameras to help you with identification.
Dials and Buttons: If you are able to touch and try the camera, check that all the dials and buttons on it are working well. Sometimes, an old camera tend to have one or two faulty buttons or dials, which is quite common. But if you just want to display a vintage camera, then this might not be a priority for you. You can even ask for a lower price if some of the parts are not functioning.
Rust and Mold: Usually, an old camera will have some rust and mold, and even fungus on the glass and lens, which can affect its value. Watch out especially for fungus on the lens, take it out and examine it under the lights.
Style and Size: A camera’s age can be determined based on its design – whether it is a folding design, a box type, or a 35mm camera. Usually, the smaller the camera, the more modern it tends to be.
But if you have a good price guide like McKeown’s with you, there is no need to worry about the above identification problems. Here are also 13 of the best vintage cameras that you can look at, from Gear Patrol. Have fun with memories!
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