I happened to pause a moment while looking at my "camera shelf" the other day. Six years into this process of buying, using and selling old film cameras, it's interesting (to me at least) the cameras that I have kept and continue to use. Here's my list, in no order of any particular importance.
NIKON F2: I love the F2. I have two bodies and four different prism finders. I thought that the F2 was a bit too heavy the first time I held one. I wouldn't have imagined at that time that it would have made this list, but the F2 is a camera you appreciate more and more as you use it. It's a flexible, dependable photographic tool. I'll be buried with my F2s.
CONTAX RX: I bought my RX and 50mm Planar lens because I like the way the Contax cameras of this era look. I was surprised at how wonderful this camera is to use and the great images the Carl Zeiss lens is capable of. My RX was produced just as auto focus was taking hold, so it has the brain of an auto focus camera without the capability to actually focus the lens. A little indicator in the finder tells you when your subject is in focus. You don't need it though. The finder in the RX is big and bright and snappy.
LEICA M2: My favorite of the un-metered M bodies, the M2 is simple, quiet, precise and an absolute joy to use. Designed as a less expensive alternative to the M3, the M2 has a cult following for good reason: it's a damn fine camera!
NIKON FM2N: I bought one of these when they first came out and sold it during my divorce. I regretted it as I was counting the money. This is a wonderfully simple and reliable camera that many pros had in their camera bags as back up bodies to whatever pro model Nikon had out at the time. The FM2N just goes. I had Japan Camera Hunter source mine and it was a great experience. Want a great simple SLR? Get one of these.
MAMIYA 645PRO: I don't shoot medium format much, but when I get the itch to, I grab this camera. The Mamiya handles like a 35mm SLR, has oodles of lenses and accessories and is easy to use. With finder and power grip, it's a big and heavy beast. Strip it down to the basic waist level finder and crank-style film advance and it's very portable. When I was shopping, it was a toss-up between the Pentax 645 and the Mamiya. The vast array of accessories available for the Mamiya won me over.
LEICA MP: The first new camera I have purchased in forever and probably the last one I ever will. The Leica MP is the camera I grab most often. Probably because it's small. Also, it has a spot on built in meter. It's simple. Easy. Feels and sounds great. How great is this camera? It's a film camera and it's still in production.
NIKON F4: I held one of these in a camera shop in Tempe, Arizona when they first came out. I thought it was the most amazing camera I had ever held. Autofocus...wow! Nikon jumped way high over the competition when they introduced this camera. Take a look at cameras today and then look at the F4. It's the mother ship. This was the camera that changed everything. By today's standards, the F4's autofocus is pokey, but for what these sell for today, you've just gotta shoot an F4 once in your life.
CANON P: This is the Canon that changed my mind about Canons. I've never liked 'em. Ever. I picked up my P from an eBay seller in Japan. I had Bellamy Hunt source me a 50mm f/1.4 LTM lens for it. The P is a great camera! Fun to shoot. Tack sharp glass. Takes Leica screw mount or Canon LTM lenses. These are cheap online and they are really, really neat cameras. Want one? Get one!
LEICA M3: Hardly an instance goes by when I am out with my M3 that someone doesn't say: "That's a cool old camera!" The Leica M3 is what made Nikon and Canon eventually get out of the rangefinder business. Like the Beechcraft Bonanza airplane, designed in 1947 and hardly changed at all through the years, the M3 was so perfect from the start that Leica only made simple refinements over the years. Today's MP is just the M3 with a meter.
PENTAX ME SUPER: My photography friend Jim Grey sparked my interest in trying a Pentax SLR. I picked up a body and lens on eBay for well under a hundred bucks. This camera was such a pleasant surprise! Fun to shoot, great images, small enough to slip into a coat pocket. If you want to shoot film and not spend a lot of money, pick up one of these!
So there's my list of the keepers. The cameras that I've grown to love. In my AnalogBook, elsewhere on this site, you can see the full gallery of all of the picture takers that have come my way.