Reunited

I'm always curious about the provenance of the old cameras I acquire. Unfortunately, many of the cameras I buy are 30 or more years old, so their history is mostly unknown.

I know a lot about my Retina rangefinder; it belonged to my father. He bought it in 1952 in the Army PX. He shot it for years and then gave it to me. I even have some of the original packaging.

I'm somewhat sure that there weren't many previous owners of my Leica M2. The Leica shop I bought it from said it came from a collector and when I sent it off to Youxin Ye for CLA, he told me it appeared to have been rarely used. Based on that, I imagine my Leica didn't change hands too many times or if it did, it belonged to collectors and not shooters.

I bought my Nikon F2S and 50mm lens from a camera shop here in town. The owner of the shop told me that the camera was traded in by its original owner. I asked if I could have the name of the owner and was told that they would ask him if it was okay to give me his name. California has pretty strict privacy laws. I haven't thought to ask again. When I sent this camera to Sover Wong for CLA, he told me that the camera had been well taken care of. The F2 was in production for over a decade and during that time, several different metered and un-metered finders were available. Lots of F2 owners swapped out finders, so it's common to find a 1972 body with a 1977 finder. Sover told me he was pretty sure that the camera body and finder on my Nikon came out of the factory together. Additionally, when I checked the serial number on the lens that came with the camera against Nikon's production dates, they were close enough for me to think that the photographer who owned this F2 might have bought the lens around the same time as the body.

Recently, I bought a Pentax Spotmatic F from a very nice man who used to work for Pentax. The camera came from his own collection and with its original soft case and warranty card.

When my purchase arrived, I was delighted with the condition of the camera and in having some original documentation, so I emailed the seller to let him know. In his response, he asked if I might also be interested in a Pentax SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8 lens to go with the camera. That was precisely the lens I wanted to mate with the SPF to allow the open aperture metering to work as designed. His asking price for the 55 was fair and we transacted. Many cameras were sold in the 1970s as part of "kits." You got the camera, standard lens, soft case and strap. The 55mm SMC Takumar f/1.8 was a pretty common kit lens for the SPF. When the lens arrived, I mounted it on the camera and upon closer examination, noticed that the serial number on the lens and the serial number on the warranty card matched! This camera and lens left the Asahi Optical Company factory 42 years ago together! Cool! At least to a camera geek.

 Pentax Spotmatic F with SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8

Pentax Spotmatic F with SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8

 Camera serial number

Camera serial number

 Lens serial number

Lens serial number

The history of many of the old film cameras I own is lost to the mist of time, but it's still fun to ponder their provenance. I like to think about a time when these cameras were brand new, sitting on the store shelf, an anxious and excited photographer handling the latest state-of-the art photo gear for the first time. Who was this photographer? What type of film was the first to be wound through? What kind of images has this lens seen? Where has this camera been? 

For the most part, I'll never know but it is fun when I can at least connect some of the dots and reunite this old Pentax with its factory lens.