Monday, September 24, 2007

I wonder who had this Contax camera when it was new.

Although I have gone completely digital with my photography endeavors, I still have this special interest for the 35mm SLR cameras. They were a marvel of engineering precision. Yes, digital is wonderful and I can do things with my Pentax K10D that I could only have dreamed of, just a few years ago. You know, it will get better still and in the years up ahead, we will likely say that the newer new digital revolution is bringing photography to levels that we could only have dreamed of. Of course, the up and coming generation of that time will only see that as normal. The evolution cycle will no doubt continue.
This past weekend, while I was glancing through the tables and the stuff laid down on the ground at the local flea market, here in Southern California, I found a vendor with a bunch of old camera equipment. Actually, most of the cameras were in real bad shape and some of them were broken. I spotted an old camera bag and peeped into it.There it was; a like-new Contax 139 quartz camera with the Contax 50 Years anniversary TLA20 flash, a Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.7 prime lens, the original Contax winder, all manuals, a 70-200mm Vivitar Series 1 telephoto and a very rare Vivitar 2x Macro Focusing Teleconverter. I got all excited but tried to act innocent about it. “How much do you want for this old dusty camera?” I asked. “Lets see, one hundred dollars” said the gentleman. Will you take $75.00?” The answer was a quick “no, this is a good camera”. “Okay then, I guess I will pass”. I know how these flea market sellers operate and I had not walked tree steps, when I heard, “I will make a deal just for you, I will take $80.00 no less”.

So the short of it...the camera has a new owner. I knew it was worth a lot more. Like a little kid, I couldn't wait to get home. Once I returned home, I logged on Ebay and checked the prices of recent completed auctions for all the same items sold individually. Surprise, surprise…the total of all items, in fair condition mind you, were sold for nearly $800.00. I would say that my Contax is in excellent condition so it’s an even better deal. The seals are like new, the glass is perfect, everything works like new. The meter is right on.

I wonder who had the camera when it was new? I wonder who used it last? Wouldn't you like to see what a camera like that recorded on film through the years? I know I would. How did it end up for sale at a flea market by someone who didn't know the difference between a Contax SLR and a Polaroid camera? I will probably never know.
I don’t really need this mid-1970's camera. The last thing I need is another camera. I should sell it on Ebay. On the other hand, I do love the claping sound of the shutter, the wizzing noise of the motor drive, the ease of manual focusing with the split center screen and the simplicity of it all. The Carl Zeiss lens is solidly made of aluminum with numbers engraved instead of stamped on the frame. It still is a great lens by any standard. How could I sell this great camera? It reminds me of when I was a younger man and still dreaming of becoming a National Geographic photographer. Ah! those were the good years.

Well...I’m not selling it, I have decided. I have a piece of history in my hands, and it’s a keeper. I do have dozens of old 35mm cameras like Nikon, Pentax, Canon, Minolta, Miranda, Kodak, but I didn’t have a Contax. Now I have one, and it's my first Contax at that. I will keep it until it’s my turn to push up daisies, and someday, perhaps with some luck or destiny, someone will get excited with their great find; an old Contax camera found at a flea market, garage sale or at a storage facility auction. Like me, they will be proud of their purchase and will wonder what the camera recorded on film through the years? How did it find its way for sale at a flea market by someone who didn't know the difference between a Contax and a Polaroid camera? They may never know. By the way, my wife likes the simplicity of the camera and will use the camera with film soon.

Thank you for reading,

Yvon Bourque

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