Years ago, when I was new to Ebay – and, simultaneously, had developed a crush on vintage cameras – I began bidding on a few old pieces. After a few weeks of losing auctions, I finally won my first vintage camera: a Voigtlander Automatic with fixed-lens, made in the ’60s. It duly arrived in the mail a week later from sunny Queensland – I can’t believe I still remember that! – and I squealed for joy. Actually, I don’t remember if I squealed, but I’m assuming I probably did.
I think there is something so…wholesome about the way vintage cameras were styled; and, if the increasing availability of digital cameras bearing retro details is anything to go by, millions of people share my thoughts on this. For those of us who grew up before the digital invasion, vintage cameras take us back to an idealised time of family road trips, summer beaches and barbecues, our first pets, first birthdays, first school formal. I grew up poring over the old family photo albums, and the tiny snaps taken and processed with varying degrees of success. I was enchanted from the get-go.
So, back to the Voigtlander; it was solid and, frankly, unwieldy in the hand. But it was also handsome, and it had complicated dials at the front with which I was transfixed, if wholly unfamiliar, having come from using an ugly early ’80s, fully automatic SLR. (Oh, how I wished that I had grown up during the time when learning to operate a fully manual camera was par for the course!) I rummaged around in my camera bag, loaded it with some do-it-all Kodak 400 film, and away I went. It wasn’t so different from using my childhood camera, an early ’90s point-and-shoot Minolta, inasmuch as it relied on a viewfinder for composition, and used a distance scale for focusing. It was fun, for about 24 hours. Or maybe a little longer.
Anyway, after a short while it developed the interesting quirk of not winding the film on correctly, at random times, and you got some overlaid images – like the one below, of a dead Sulfur crested cockatoo, beneath a partly-dead gum tree. That turned out slightly more morbid than I anticipated.
As I wasn’t committed to restoring it to pristine condition, my interest in using the Voigtlander waned – though I’m pretty sure I did take some reasonable shots with it when it was in the mood…I might have to dig through the old albums, see if I have that memory right. At any rate, it has stayed in my now-diminished camera collection, along with a folding Brownie. The box of random old cameras I had collected over the course of a few years was sold to an enthusiastic chap at a garage sale, and I have rued that folly ever since.