We had driven by a garage sale that was still open this afternoon on the way home, so I asked Rachael if she wanted to look for a couple more that we hadn't hit yet, if we could find any. We walked up to one of these sales that hadn't been cleaned up and the guy said that everything was half price. He obviously just wanted to get rid of as much as he could before he cleaned up and put it all away. It was then that I saw a table with two old film SLR cameras, getting a little wet, even though they were under a tent. One was a Konica AutoReflex TC with an off-brand, long zoom lens on it. He said that the problem was that the shutter sticks on it, although I later found out that the viewfinder is very cloudy/dirty too. The other camera was a Nikon EM with a Nikon E series 50mm f/1.8 lens on it. I've been wanting an AutoReflex TC for years, as my dad shot with one when I was a kid. I assume he probably still has it sitting on a shelf somewhere. I was just a little disappointed that this one didn't have the legendary Konica Hexanon 40 1.8. Since it only had a long zoom, I thought maybe he had something else to go on that camera. So, I asked if he had any more lenses for them. He said yes, and went in the house and brought out a bag, which contained the real find of the day. There were two Hexanon prime lenses, the 50 1.7 and 28 3.5. He threw them in without changing the price, so technically, I got the best stuff for free.
I've cleaned everything up to assess the find. The Nikon seems to work fine and even has a good battery in it. It's only a lowly EM body (aperture priority only), but in good operating condition. I did not expect miracles from the Konica, given he told me it had problems. I found a bent piece of metal interfering with the mirror, probably caused by improper mounting of a lens. So, I bent it out of the way and it is working fine now, mechanically, at all shutter speeds. The shutter was fine all along, it was the mirror that was sticking, preventing the shutter from operating. The downside is that the viewfinder is cloudy when you look through it. I have no doubt I can fix it up like new, but I'll have to take the top of the camera apart and get into the prism. It'll take a little time, so it's probably going to sit like this for a while.
I don't have time to shoot film much anymore. But, my plan is to get the appropriate adapters, and shoot that wonderful Hexanon glass on my modern digital cameras. Konica's Hexanon lenses have a great reputation. Some have even said that they were ok on the film cameras they were built for back in the 70's, but they work great with digital. I'll be the judge of that, but am looking forward to finding out.
The past 10 years have been a great time to collect great quality film camera equipment. Thanks to digital, value of the film equipment has plummeted. Actually, just recently, some of these "legacy" lenses, like the Hexanons, are making a comeback as people discover how well they work with digital. But, there are certainly bargains to be found. I almost felt guilty about buying his cameras on that garage sale today for such a low price. I've found deals before. But, I think I'll be looking long and hard before I beat this one.
Here is Matt helping me fix up the Nikon. I always put him in charge of exercising the shutter. Basically, he had to shoot and shoot and shoot at all the different shutter speeds over and over to loosen up the shutter. And he does an excellent job with it. :-)
Update 5/17/11 - The cloudyness in the Konica viewfinder was simply from the humidity sitting outside on a rainy day. It has dried out and completely cleared up. I have not put a new battery in it yet to try out the light meter, but the camera appears to work fine.
They certainly don't build them like they used to. Get a digital camera that wet, and you'd be shopping for a new camera. They used to build these things to last. Now, modern cameras are just a disposable item, like so many things these days. I think that is part of the appeal of old, manual cameras. They symbolize quality and reliability, from a time when you could buy a camera, and it would still be a good camera decades down the road.