Over the past 20-plus years with BASS PLAYER, Art Director and photographer Paul Haggard has accumulated a shelf full of broken cameras and some dusty memories. He will recount some over the next few columns until either he can't remember any more, or they fail to be interesting— whichever comes first.
HAVING SPENT SO MUCH TIME AROUND MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS, particularly in the rarified air of precious vintage stringed beauties, I’ve developed a distorted sense of the value of old stuff. I just looked on the internet—1955 Precision Bass: $17,950. 1820 Baldentoni Double Bass: $120,000. 1976 Music Man Stingray: over $2K.
So the same must apply to cameras then, yeah?
I have a 1981 Minolta X-700. Sweet. Mint condition, with motor drive. Anybody want to buy it?
Two 1990s Mamiya RZ67 bodies, several film backs, lenses. $20K original cost. C’mon, $500. You pay postage. C’mon.
Okay, here’s one: Vintage 2003 Kodak DCS Pro 14n. Doesn’t work, but it’s really heavy. It could hold open a big metal door. Did I mention it was vintage?
In these sad times, nobody takes a 1962 Hassleblad C500 out of the case, hooks up a cable release and basks in the beautiful old timbre of the leaf shutter. A gallery of the pre-digital, clockwise from top left: Raphael Saadiq, Ernie Ball Music Man Factory worker, 1952 Fender Precision Bass, Leonard “Hub” Hubbard, Chris Wood Well, maybe I do, but normal people don’t. The thing is, all those cameras, like all those old basses, were integral in creating moments of artistic beauty, if not in the eye of the beholder, at least in the eye of the creator. The only difference is that stringed instruments somehow continue to get better as they get older and older and older. Cameras are like computers now; anything over five years old is only good for leaching heavy metals into the groundwater. Stringed instruments may carry a pedigree of handcrafted beauty, but I hold a soft spot in my heart for the amazingly complex industrial design of a well-built film camera, with a sharp, fast lens.
But ah, like it was only yesterday, I can remember the sweet action on the focus ring of my old 1.4 Nikkor 85mm, and the sublime click of the Mamiya rotating back locking into position, just like they were old, gorgeous, playedin instuments, and these old beautifully-crafted cameras—whose Ebay listings forlornly fall bidless into oblivion—made images just as well as the 2014 Canon EOS-1Dx will. Maybe sometimes better.