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Would you buy an un-repairable camera?
Old 01-07-2018   #1
karateisland
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Would you buy an un-repairable camera?

I'll do my best to keep it short (skip to the TL;DR section if you're in a hurry).

Backstory
After buying an X100F about a year ago, and coming to think of it as a stupendous camera with an excellent optical viewfinder (despite what some on the forum might say! ) I have decided to move into film.

The roadblocks I hit in decision-making process will be familiar to anyone entering the film rangefinder game in the late '10s. I started putting money aside for an eventual Leica purchase, but, put off by the time it would take me to get the funds together for an M6 with one Zeiss lens, I set my sights on a lower-priced M-mount camera. Turned off by Bessas (can't say why, really), I started researching the CLE and Hexar RF.

Each has its benefits, and they seem like wonderful cameras to a digital shooter who isn't quite ready to drop 3 g's on 35mm. As you RFF readers know, the problem is that both are generally held to be un-repairable at this point. Word on the internet is that the CLE can still be fixed up to some degree, and may be a better bet than the Hexar, which is at serious risk of turning into a brick.

Still, the heart wants what it wants (and the photographer's desires seem to be more intense than most). This heart wants a CLE or a Hexar RF.

TL;DR
So this led me to wonder how many people out there are comfortable buying a camera that cannot be fixed. I know the party line is that one should just buy a Leica instead, but I have seen others that say you can replace an un-fixable camera for less than the cost of repairing a Leica.

In the end, there's a wide variety of sentiments on the matter. Every camera purchase involves some risks and tradeoffs, and the right choice comes down to each individual person's wants, and the risks they're comfortable with taking. This seems obvious, but it can be quite easy to forget in the heat of GAS-induced research.

The real question
If your heart was set on an un-fixable camera, would you ever take the risk yourself, and buy it to be your one-and-only?
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It's only money
Old 01-07-2018   #2
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It's only money

I've got a box of those unrepairable cameras, from ebay, that I took a chance on. But, those were never more than 100 bucks each. Speaking of, if anybody wants a couple black Contax T's with working electronics but crap build quality, please let me know.

Hexars and CLE's can't be bought until you hit at least 300 or so for the CLE and maybe 600 for the hexar. I'd be a little more sad to lose that than 100 bucks if it could not be repaired.

Some of those 100 dollar cameras did work and are now favorites of mine, like an Olympus Pen D3, a Rolleiflex 122, and a Retina 118. All of these are easily repairable too.

I did have a CL and a CLE at one time - the CLE annoyed me because you can't meter in manual mode, and in auto mode sometimes I didn't pay attention to the display telling me I'd get a handheld 2 second exposure and i wasted a few frames doing that. So, although I did like the camera, I got rid of it in the end.
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Old 01-07-2018   #3
Robert Lai
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No, don't do it. Sooner or later it will need service, for which there is none.

I did break the rule myself once. I sold my long serving Nikon F3, and then missed it. So, I bought myself another F3. There are no electronics for the F3 available, as Nikon got rid of all their parts. If something electronic dies on this camera, it's dead.

My Nikon F and F2 will keep going on!

The electronics are the most likely thing to die, and not be repairable. In the same boat now is the Leica M6TTL. No more circuit boards available for that model. If it dies, it's meterless and flashless (the electronics also control the flash). At least the mechanical shutter will still work.

With the two cameras that you are looking at, I'd say no to both. It's just a matter of time until something gives (LCD panels are especially bad). Then you'll regret the money lost.

If you really want a film camera, why not start with something a lot cheaper? There are so many around that are all mechanical. Those Bessas that you don't like are actually very nice to use, also. The finders are first class in clarity.
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Old 01-07-2018   #4
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If you're set on going down the film path and you want the rangefinder experience, I would pick up an m5, or m6 with a voigtlander 35, or a canon screw mount 35 with an m adaptor. Both those lenses can be had for under $300 and the right copy can be incredibly sharp. That kit will be much cheaper than 3k and if you decide film is not for you, you'll be able to re-sell those cameras for what you paid for them.

Also, if you're planning on self processing and scanning your negatives, I would think about budgeting for a pakon. I left film because I lost access to a darkroom and scanning with flatbeds and even dedicated 35mm scanners was slow, tedious and the results were nowhere near the quality of my darkroom prints. Pakon's showed up on the market a couple of years after I got out of the film game and the results that people are getting look really good.
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Old 01-07-2018   #5
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Old 01-07-2018   #6
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Virtually all film cameras with electronics (including meters) are unrepairable. It is just a fact of life. Buy one, use it, and if the electronics go kaput (and you like it), buy another. It is part of the the cost of shooting film. How is this so different from shooting digital? If your digital camera breaks, if it is new enough to be repaired, it is likely not cost-effective. You just buy another one.
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Old 01-07-2018   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raid View Post
Life is short; get what you want. Don't dwell on it too much.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
Virtually all film cameras with electronics (including meters) are unrepairable. It is just a fact of life. Buy one, use it, and if the electronics go kaput (and you like it), buy another. It is part of the the cost of shooting film. How is this so different from shooting digital? If your digital camera breaks, if it is new enough to be repaired, it is likely not cost-effective. You just buy another one.
These two echo my feelings pretty well. It seems to me that hobbyist photography is a sentimental enterprise to begin with, so why not let ourselves be sentimental?

Last edited by karateisland : 01-07-2018 at 10:04. Reason: Repetitive phrasing
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Old 01-07-2018   #8
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Originally Posted by karateisland View Post
These two echo my feelings pretty well. It seems to me that hobbyist photography is a sentimental enterprise to begin with, so why not let ourselves be sentimental?
And I thought I was being rational. I don't feel what I am doing with photography is sentimental in the least. I am creating images in the present not reliving the past, even though a significant part of my work is historical processes.
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Old 01-07-2018   #9
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If my heart said I had to have a camera like that I would buy my camera and a few extra organ... I mean part donors. Dead cameras at a bargain hoping to have good parts.

B2 (;->
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Old 01-07-2018   #10
Ronald M
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Nikon F2. Lots of nice ones around and built for heavy pro use. I bought 4 in last year and a half. Consumer cameras are made poorly and are not repairable.

Film has no magic unless you have a darkroom. Color material availability has been dwindling for 4 decades. B&W is quite viable for now.

10 MP digital will outdo film any day. 36 MP will outdo film medium format any day.

Leica film cameras are old and can suffer age deterioration which you will not spot until an expensive repair is due. Expensive meaning 50% of the camera cost or more.
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Old 01-07-2018   #11
f16sunshine
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OP,
If you don’t mind a suggestion, research a Hexar AF.
Some repairs are still doable and when it finally does brick completely, one can get the excellent f2/35mm lens converted to LTM or M mount.
I’ve had one filling in at the 35mm FL for a few years.... it’s sweet!

As to your question. It depends on the camera. Yes for the cle and no for the HRF... that’s just me.

CLE repairs seem over-dramatized. Some of them are quite simple electronic contact hygene.
The HRF was too low of vf magnification for me .... again that’s just me.
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Old 01-07-2018   #12
karateisland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
And I thought I was being rational. I don't feel what I am doing with photography is sentimental in the least. I am creating images in the present not reliving the past, even though a significant part of my work is historical processes.
Oh for sure--I was running out the door to go snowshoeing, and fired this off a bit carelessly. What I should have said was that your rational argument has helped me justify buying a camera based on sentiment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BillBingham2 View Post
If my heart said I had to have a camera like that I would buy my camera and a few extra organ... I mean part donors. Dead cameras at a bargain hoping to have good parts.

B2 (;->
Good advice! Watching the usual spots, and finding one or two that have fallen out of repair would undoubtedly end up being cheaper than buying a whole new one...

Quote:
Originally Posted by f16sunshine View Post
OP,
If you donít mind a suggestion, research a Hexar AF.
Some repairs are still doable and when it finally does brick completely, one can get the excellent f2/35mm lens converted to LTM or M mount.
Iíve had one filling in at the 35mm FL for a few years.... itís sweet!
Wow, that lens! You weren't kidding...
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Old 01-08-2018   #13
mich rassena
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Most of my camera collection is comprised of $25 cameras which would cost more to fix than they are worth. For example, Kodak Retinas, lovely cameras, but not worth it to repair. That's not going to stop me from using them and enjoying them.

The way I see it, with the marketplace the way it is, cameras are disposable. The days when it made sense to fix them are over. Unless you've spent thousands on a camera body, it seems more wasteful to repair rather than replace. However true this is with film cameras, it's doubly so with digital.
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Old 01-08-2018   #14
Pentode
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I agree with Robert Lai anout electronics being the most likely element of an old camera to let you down. In some cases that can be a real problem and in others... not so much.

A solid, mechanical camera with a dead meter might not scare me off at all but a camera that relies entirely on obsolete circuitry can be a real hassle.

One of my favorite cameras is the Minolta XD-11, which is dependent upon an obsolete circuit board. I recently bought a clean backup just in case my workhorse ever dies.

Years ago I shot with a Minolta XK, another “unfixable camera because of its finicky electronics. It got dodgy on me and I ended up selling it for parts because it couldn’t be repaired. I don’t regret having bought it, though. It was a really enjoyable camera to use and I’ve actually considered taking my chances on another one recently.

So, yes, I would buy an unrepairable camera if I knew I’d have fun using it.
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Old 01-08-2018   #15
Bille
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karateisland View Post
The real question
If your heart was set on an un-fixable camera, would you ever take the risk yourself, and buy it to be your one-and-only?
Depends. If itīs a technological dead-end like Samsung NX, then no.
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Old 01-08-2018   #16
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How does the cost factor against the risk, the reward, and available resources? I'll take a shot at almost anything if the cost doesn't stretch available resources, but the probability of failure and the benefits of the particular piece of equipment relative to the other available options.

I'll give you two scenarios I had in the last couple years. First, I bought a Leica IIIa with a Summar for $100 with just a couple photos and vague description. The body was in bad shape and turned out to need lots of mechanical attention as well. The lens, well, the front element was opaque with abrasions, the aperture and the focus helicoid didn't move at all, and most of the chrome was worn off the barrel. The cost was manageable, but writing off $100 isn't something I like to do; the risk was that either the lens or the body or both were unsalvageable; the reward was a nice original pre-war Leica rig, examples of which I did not already possess. Bought and restored, it paid off, but without knowing that I had much of the skill set necessary to save at least the body (I learned cerium oxide polishing on that lens), I don't know that I would have tackled it.

More recently, I bought a Minox 35ML in as-is condition. Given the reputation of these cameras, I assumed the worst. I have no experience working on Minox 35s, and very little electronic skill to fall back on. The reward would be a cute little pocket camera to try out and compare with some others I've used; the risk was that it would be a plastic brick; the cost made the decision for me: $2.49. Even if I couldn't fix it - and I assumed I couldn't - it was never going to be a burden.

In short, try to apply objective analysis and make a choice based on rational factors, not internet camera porn lust.
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Old 01-08-2018   #17
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Absolutely.

I did.

It's a gorgeous paper weight and a hand blown glass paper weight ball costs as much or more. Oh...and the lens was worth more than the whole.

Enjoy!
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Old 01-08-2018   #18
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A CLA on almost any camera exceeds the camera's market value. Many Leicas are an exception to that, especially M's, as well as a few others. But for all the rest, at least until there are no other working copies available, they might as well be unrepairable given the way that most folks balance costs.

As long as you understand and accept the risks, buy the best example of whatever you want and can afford and go for it.
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Old 01-08-2018   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pixelated View Post
A CLA on almost any camera exceeds the camera's market value... ...they might as well be unrepairable given the way that most folks balance costs.
You make a good point. I, for one, don’t mind paying for a CLA if I know it will result in years of trouble-free use - even for cameras with very little book value, but I know not everyone feels that way. Personally, I’d rather keep a camera out of the landfill and know I have a working example with a clean bill of health than roll the dice on replacing it with another which may or may not be any better off than the one I already have.

Last edited by Pentode : 01-08-2018 at 17:27. Reason: Typo
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Old 01-08-2018   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karateisland View Post
As you RFF readers know, the problem is that both are generally held to be un-repairable at this point. Word on the internet is that the CLE can still be fixed up to some degree, and may be a better bet than the Hexar, which is at serious risk of turning into a brick.
Or you might buy one and it'll work perfectly for decades to come. Especially the CLE... Like someone said in another thread, the electronics in 70s-80s-era cameras were pretty robust. Probably more durable than the new lead-free circuitry they make stuff out of nowadays. Un-repairable doesn't automatically mean its unreliable.
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Old 01-08-2018   #21
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Everything is repairable.
Not necessarily expensive, either.

I've never known of a Hexar (either type) becoming a brick, first hand nor the camera of someone I have known who has used theirs. The AF has known issues and those can be fixed. The RF is what the M7 should or could have been. It's just a better camera than the Leica, in my opinion. And honestly, if you buy a Leica, it's going to need work either right out of the gate or a few years in. Leica service is not cheap either and these days it takes longer than others. Of course, I'm in a yearlong waiting line to get my Nikon
F2AS overhauled by Sover Wong but I went in knowing there was a long wait. I have plenty of other cameras I can use in lieu of the hammer.

Anyway, if you want a Hexar, get one and get one that has a good history and low shutter count, if you can ascertain that information. I wanted a Mamiya 6 so I bought one after I sold my dreadful Leica M9. Then I didn't want to change lenses, so I bought another. That camera supposedly has even more risk but I can't and I won't live like that.

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Old 01-08-2018   #22
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Ha! I was so enamored about my first DSLR, I went and got a second one for a back-up, and it went toes up the first time I went to use it. So I got a later "bullet proof" model to replace them both.

It was the classic "costs more to fix than buy another one" scenario, and I didn't waste one minute feeling sorry about the demise of the back-up. Heck, it was a ten year old camera, so something was bound to go wrong. The only problem was it's a kind of fatal flaw very common to the model, and I wasn't going to spend time and money trying to bring it back to life.

I've got a mess of film cameras I've tried over the years, and it usually boils down to the ones I was happy with many ears ago are still the best ones I've got. So yeah, if you've got the hots for "X" camera and lens, go for it. You'll find out soon enough whether it was a good decision or not. If it doesn't work out, then you can go chasing after another frail model.

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Old 01-08-2018   #23
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Many many newer cameras are not really fixable, they get replaced. That's just a side effect of mass production vs. Skilled custom repair work. Given that, I would buy an unrepairable camera if I thought I would get "sufficient" use out of it before it breaks. Of course that is a guess at best. A lot depends on price and perceived reliability.
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Old 01-08-2018   #24
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Generally, there is no one and only. We are talking cameras after all...

If the kids are fed and the rent is paid get what you want. Frankly, if you want a Leica just get a Leica; the CLE or the Hexar is a stop gap. You will spend less in the long run. Get the M6.
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Old 01-09-2018   #25
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Quote:
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In the same boat now is the Leica M6TTL. No more circuit boards available for that model. If it dies, it's meterless and flashless (the electronics also control the flash).
WHAT??
Leica doesn't hold part for TTLs??
what about the classic?
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Old 01-09-2018   #26
David Hughes
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Hi,

I guess I'd better say it...

If the worry is the electronics then look at the purely mechanical ones. The Leica M2 and M4's are the obvious ones and they work with handheld meters or else the little clip on meters that were sold for them at the time.

If the meters have been stored in their boxes or are the battery driven ones you've a good chance of getting one that works. And people can repair them, I've 30's meters to use with 30's cameras (because I like to have the whole outfit) and the repairers made a new cell for it.

If you don't like the original clip on ones then there's dozens of others about.

After my experiences with modern all-electronic cameras I'd never pay serious money for them but am happy to buy and try and use them at silly prices.

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