The Poundland Camera Challenge : Whot I learned

Earlier this year I set out on a challenge to buy cameras for a pound or less (minus postage) from either eBay, Car boots or Charity shops.  But how has it worked out and what have been the highs and the lows as I draw together the last few cameras.

Ilford Sportsman Mark II
Ilford Sportsman Mark II. 35mm 1950’s camera that I got for 99p

The rules were simple. The camera had to either be complete or possibly fitting my existing lens systems (Nikon or Pentax K). I wasn’t allowed to get a duplicate  what I owned nor could I start on another film format (so that mean 35mm or 120). My only breaches were APS/110 cameras that turned up in job lots. I could only pay up to a pound excluding postage as well

  • You can get Classic Cameras for next to nought

    You really still can. During this process I’ve seen absolute classic cameras with real history like the Brownie No. 2 sell for a quid and genuinely useful wee numbers like Chinon 35EE rangefinders  go for the same. Even SLR bodies passed me by for a quid. I didn’t get any of these as I either already had one or  in the case of the SLR they were on another lens system and would have busted the £1 rule buying a lens.

    Papa's got a brand new pre war box
    Mines cost me more but you can get a classic like this Brownie No. 2 for a quid or less

    My star Vintage camera was a Ilford sportsman with case in pretty good nick oozing 50’s chic with reliable German engineering. Although I failed to buy an SLR for a quid I did come close a few times (working Canon EOS with lens that ended up selling for less than a fiver for example). I did get a Nikon F-401 body for £1.50 in great nic and with manual however. There are some cameras that you’ll never get this cheap and still demand higher prices because of demand ranging from Leica rangefinders (triple figure numbers) to the humble Olympus Trip 35 (tenner should see you right). The Brownie No. 2 whilst a historical classic is perhaps passed by many due to it’s limitations and a shed load were made. Thinking laterally (see later)   

  • AF compacts are really cheap but….

    The bulk of the Poundland review to date have been on AF compacts. These little wonders from the 80’s, 90’s and noughties often carry more processing power than the spacecraft that landed man on the moon but just don’t sell for much now. Models that once sold for triple figures can be bought for a quid or less

    Canon Sure Shot 60 Zoom
    Most AF Compacts like this Canon Sure Shot 60 Zoom can be source for peanuts but yet cost £100+ at launch

    Before the challenge I would never have bothered with these (too like modern digital compacts) and that’s why barr the few high end models like the Contax T2 or Fuji Natura (or to a less extent the Olympus mju series) sell for tuppence. But these can be great cameras often with fantastic sharp optics and loads of features. I’ve kept a few for P&S at parties etc where you want a quick acting number with built in flash.

  • …but You won’t make your Fortune selling them (AF Compacts)

    Off all the cameras I bought, AF compacts were the easiest to get for a quid. This should have sounded ominous alarm bells for selling on though.  There really isn’t a huge demand except for the sought after classics.  I tried selling the Canon Sure Shot 60 and Olympus Superzoom 80S for starting price of £4-5 that would have about covered my original purchase (inc postage). After 8 attempts to sell these went to charity shop land as I had no bidders (barr a rather irritating italian whom didn’t pay)

    The problem for these cameras is legion.  Firstly there are more around as not only are they newer (therefore in principle less chance for being broken) but as the 20th century progressed in many places we had higher standards of living so luxury items like cameras became more common place and in some ways disposable.

    Pentax Espio AF Zoom
    Pentax Espio AF Zoom. Corking for what it is but perhaps too much like a digital compact

    Secondly they often feel too much like a modern digital camera so get by passed as souless in favour of earlier shooters. This is especially true with the more mediocre or awful end. Whilst they actually may take technically better photos than mediocre or naff models from earlier decades they lose the charm. That why people will pay for an original Diana plastic camera but technically better but tosh like the Minolta AF-E II just doesn’t sell.

    Minolta AF-EII Just don't bother.....
    Minolta AF-EII Just don’t bother. Really just don’t bother

    Thirdly as we’ve seen AF SLR bodies can be sourced pretty cheaply these days so why stop at a compact

  • Job Lots can be your Friend

    During this process I bought 2 joblots for a quid and was pleasantly surprised. These were sold as seen and untested and granted there was some true crap that just had to go in the bin. But there was gold amongst what was left. The highlight was probably the Pentax Espio AF Zoom which was almost in mint condition but lots of other cameras came that have been fun to use. The Joblots also gave me the only sale of the process with a relatively rare Kodak Brownie  that manage to cover the cost of its whole job lot (including the more expensive postage). Have a look at the photos and don’t spend loads (the reality is your unlikely to get a working leica in one of these). It’s a bit of a lottery and should be treated as such but it can be fun.

  • Charity Shops have wised up

    In fairness to them good on ’em. You’ll now struggle to get a camera for a quid from these guys. Some like Oxfam have got pretty serious about grading there stock and sell it on line for professional seller rates (their shop in Keswick is a good choice if you want to pay for graded stuff). Others less so organised but you’ll pay a bit more than you did

  • Sellers know your market (and fees)

    Unless you’re selling something that has cachet don’t start your auction at 99p. EBay will take 10% of the final value fee but PayPal will take a whopping 20p + 3.4% (so sell for  99p and you will lose  a 1/3rd straight away). Do your research first using eBay refine searches option to look at completed auctions. Some cameras have that cachet and will sell well but others don’t even if quite good

  • Think Laterally

    Some cameras have a weird cachet and pricing to match. The Lomo LC-A is probably the best example. This 80’s soviet P&S is hard to find second hand for much less than £60 and although quirky is pretty lo-fi. The lomography movement have pushed up prices incredibly  but think laterally a mo. For less than a tenner you can get its obvious rival the Olympus XA2 and a tenner or more will bring the zone focus big daddy the Olympus trip 35. If you wanna stay soviet you can either spend about a third importing the bonkers FED 50 or for a tenner or less get the Lomo Smena 8m.  Similarly you’ll be talking about a £150-250 for a classic Nikon F3 professional SLR body. A Nikon FE/FM will set you back over £50 arguably a much similar camera but you can get a nikon body like my F-401 that will use almost all AI lens for peanuts (remember the lens is more important than the body at the end of the day)

    Nikon F-401 (aka N4004)
    This Nikon F-401 (aka N4004) AF SLR body didn’t quite make it for the challenge  at £1.50 (the lens came with a knackered EM for a tenner) but works fine

I’ve a couple more cameras to review from the project but hope this helps

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