So this year I got close to owning 50 cameras.  I know there are those that own way more than that (or have) but for me it’s just a little too many.  To settle this, I have been trying to whittle the numbers down and pass some cameras on to new owners; I still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be and for some of them its a painful experience to let go.

It’s also not helped by me continuing to acquire more 😀

In the process though I am identifying the few cameras that I really like, use regularly and expect to do so more going forward.  Those few will get (or already have had) a CLA so I can be sure they are in good shape to provide me with years of enjoyment and reliability.

So what are those few favourites and why do I like them?

In no particular order….

Voigtländer Bessa RF (Folder)

Of course Voigtländer had to feature in my list and this is one of three favourites. When I got this it had a damaged bellows (unusual for a Voigtländer) and I immediately sent it off to be fixed up by Jurgen kreckel at Certo6

It came back in wonderful condition and it takes amazing photographs.  This makes nice large 6×9 negatives and the lens does a great job at maximizing on this.

I prefer using it for landscapes (urban and natural) making best use of all that negative real-estate.

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The built-in coupled rangefinder works really well  and I can be confident that focus is spot on.

The downside is that with such a large negative your are limited to 8 shots per roll so that 120 disappears pretty quickly.

Being a folder it is pretty compact and just about slides into the back pocket of my Jeans or a jacket pocket.

It’s not a fast shooter by any means; it springs open quickly enough but the rangefinder and viewfinder are separate and shutter cocking is manual, so too of course are the exposure settings which needs a separate light meter to calculate.

None of that detracts from my enjoyment of this camera and it easily makes it into my top five.

(see a previous review here)

Miranda Sensorex

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bit of an underdog this one and I know many people have struggled to like them, partly due to reliability.  For me though, I have not had any major issues.  I had two and both worked very well; one occasionally had shutter lag (clipping) but after a CLA it is working perfectly and I sold the second one to a new student of film photography.

This is the only SLR in my top five and one of only five I own (currently).  This one works well for me, I like the shutter release on the front (pushing back toward your face), I like the built in light meter that is coupled to the aperture meaning no need to close it down for reading.  I love the 50mm lens and what it produces.

It’s a simple manual SLR that just ticks all my boxes and with the cross-hair ‘grill’ on the front it looks great too.

(see a previous review here)

Voigtländer Prominent

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The second Voigtländer on the list this is an interchangeable lens rangefinder.  I was a latecomer to the world of rangefinders and the more I use them the more I like them.  This is a good one and it took me a while to find one at a price I could justify.

Tall and small

Once I got it though I loved it.  I like the awkward positioning of the focus wheel (something that puts many people off but actually is the same as the Bessa above).  The lens is about as good as you can get in my opinion (for the year) and after it had a CLA the whole camera has worked perfectly.

I have pretty much stopped using the other Voigtlander 35mm cameras I have as a result – although the Vitomatic is still a great compact camera for travelling.

Empty tables

It does take a couple of shots to get into how this one operates (if I’ve been using another) but it makes for a really good general use camera; I have a 100mm lens for it too though not used that an awful lot.

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(see a previous review here)

Mamiya C330

Pen-F Digital

One of two TLRs in my list and what a TLR – this is a bit of a monster and weighs in at about 5lb+ so it’s by no means an everyday carry around camera.  This was on my list of desirable cameras for a long time but prices prevented me taking the plunge.  Eventually I got there (by buying it in parts as its nicely component-ized) and have not been disappointed by the quality of the pictures.

Again its manual (as all of my five are) and there is no built in light meter but that’s really not a problem.  It’s great for portraits and the detail that lens and film present is incredible – it definitely lives up to it’s status as a pro camera.

Unfortunately mine has developed a fault and my camera repair guy has said it’s likely to fail soon due to a gear in the winder that is not available anymore.  It still works for the moment and after a long search I have another on the way to replace it.

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(see a previous review here)

Voigtländer Superb

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The name says it all SUPERB!  What a great vintage TLR this is.  Feature packed and a definite rival to the Rollei it was built to compete with.  It’s complex though and has it’s own oddities which probably affected it sales so now it’s rarer than hens teeth.  Got mine through that auction site in a rare low bid success.  The most unusual part I guess is that the film travels horizontally (right to left) – not seen that on any other TLR.

Mine’s not perfect, it’s seen some action and there is a slight light leak which I have not been able to resolve (yet) – using it in a case or taping up the area of the leak gets around the issue and so it makes my top 5.

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I like using it as I am a lover of waist level shooting and this one is just lovely to use with everything accessed from above.

I said feature packed, right?  Okay – Built in film counter, lever operated winder, parallax correction, great lens, spirit level, bright view screen (after new mirror put in).

The CLA it had earlier this year made it easy to use and produce great images – I need to use this one more.

I like what the manual says about using this camera;

All your Attention On The Picture!”  “That is the basic idea which has been fully developed and expressed in the ‘Superb’.  One movement follows another in easy rhythm – you cannot forget anything and not a single awkward movement distracts your attention from the pictorial composition of the picture.  All you have to do is acquaint yourself with the new camera in such a way that it becomes a familiar instrument in your hands”

It’s a great talking piece and when I am out with it it usually draws attention with people wanting to know how old it is etc.

(see a previous review here)

What didn’t quite make my top five?

Voigtlander Vitomatic II – it’s a perfect compact rangefinder for travelling and I do love it, so it was a close thing this not quite getting into the top five.  It’s top shutter speed of 1/300 limits it a little (especially in sunny California) but other than that I can’t really fault it; I guess I like the others just a little more.

Yashica 44 – This is a beautiful little TLR and if it weren’t for the 127 film it might have replaced one of the above.  But it does use a harder to come by (and more expensive) film format and so as a result I don’t use it very often and it’s down here in the also-rans

The other camera that was a contender is my newly acquired Mamiya 35 Executive.  I’ve not had it long enough to give it a full workout but the one film I’ve shot so far came out marvelous.  It’s a fixed lens rangefinder but that 48mm Mamiya Sekor 1.9 lens is quite a lens and it has a super quiet shutter; I expect to shoot this one a fair bit in the future.

Lastly I have to mention the little pocket rocket that is the Vito-C.  It’s plastic I know but it’s ultra-compact and that lens delivers (when I get the zone focusing right); it’s almost always with me for when I have the urge but as a result it’s never a main shooter and so it’s a while between film changes.

So that’s it.  My top five (or kinda nine I guess) 🙂

Do you have a favourite camera or cameras? What do you like about them?

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