A photo of a pig statue with wings located at Pike Place market in Seattle

Hunting for old film cameras in antique shops

About two weeks ago, my wife and I went to Snohomish, a town about 30 miles north of Seattle, where you can find many antique stores on their main street. Snohomish is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We found out about this town a few years back after going to pick up cherries at a nearby farm.

Recently, I have taken an interest in old film cameras. Since I like photography, I knew it was just a matter of time before this would happen. Before our trip to Europe this past summer, I bought a Nikon FE2 at a camera shop in Kenton, WA. I wanted to take some film photos during our trip, and after some research, I bought this camera because it is easy to use and also inexpensive. It’s a bit bulky and heavy as it is an SLR camera, but I didn’t have enough time to look for a rangefinder then.

I took my newly acquired Nikon FE2, made around 1984, and a roll of Kodak Gold film, the only color film available at this camera shop that day, to our European trip.

I first used this camera in Porto, Portugal, our first location in Europe. I posted about Porto about a month ago and shared a few photos I took with this camera. Overall, I am pleased with its quality and functionality.

Back to Snohomish, Washington. If you live in the Seattle area and haven’t gone, visit this town, they have so many interesting stores. If you don’t live in the Seattle area, I recommend planning a visit to Snohomish the next time you are in the area, it’s just 30 miles away from downtown Seattle, and if you like antique shopping, you’re up for a treat.

After visiting 2 or 3 stores, I hadn’t found anything yet. My goal was to find an old film camera, preferably a rangefinder. We were at one of the largest antique shops in Snohomish, browsing through the endless hallways on the second floor when my wife pointed at a glass display case with many items. They had a few cameras, among many things, such as binoculars, antique toys, and some decorations. I asked one of the employees to open the display case for us to take a closer look at the cameras. I opened a few cases and camera bags, but most weren’t what I was looking for until I found two very interesting cameras.

Inside a black pouch was a small, light, and beautiful Ricoh Auto Start rangefinder camera. Then, in a hard brown case, I found another beautiful camera. It was a Braun Paxette with a 50mm lens. Both cameras were in great shape, and after quickly looking at their value on eBay, I offered a slightly lower price for both items and got them.

Ricoh Auto Shot

The Ricoh Auto Shot is a viewfinder camera for 35mm film made in Japan by Ricoh in 1964. It has a selenium meter around the lens and film advance mechanism with a spring motor – this is why it has Auto Shot in the name, it’s pretty cool. Its viewfinder front element is placed within the meter ring.

Below are some photos I’ve taken with it in the past month.

Braun Paxette

Paxette was a line of 35mm film viewfinder and rangefinder cameras made by the Braun company in Nuremberg, Germany, in the middle of the 20th century. These cameras were of high quality, with excellent optics. This camera is beautiful, and as seen in the photos above, it is in perfect condition. I haven’t finished the film I put in the camera yet (Portra 400), but as soon as I shoot all exposures, I’ll have it developed and post some example images from that camera. I’m very excited to see them.

These two cameras will be used from time to time, but I like looking at them more than anything. The engineer in me feels very happy to know that all of these cameras can be used without a battery. They are entirely mechanical, and there’s something beautiful about that.

I am an avid user of technology, but the reality is that all the new technology is limited to a power source. Thus we end up carrying batteries and chargers and spend a lot of time just charging these modern devices. I understand it is a necessary trade-off to get better quality and more functionality. Still, like I said, there is something impressive and beautiful about having a camera work without any batteries or cables.

Have a wonderful weekend!