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Anecdotal Accounts regarding Reliability of Things Made During the 1980s...
Old 10-29-2018   #1
Sumarongi
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Anecdotal Accounts regarding Reliability of Things Made During the 1980s...

(Inspired by another post...)

In, say, 1988, 30 years ago, cameras had been becoming much much cheaper than in the 1950s, 1960s, or early 1970s. (Just compare the income data, and the difference becomes clearly visible.)

One of the reasons for the decreased prices: the makers had replaced heavy but sturdy mechanical parts with sometimes all too flimsy plastics and 覧 ditto electronics. (Notable exceptions are, as always, Leitz/Leica M, Hasselblad, and few others 覧 but of course, their cameras and lenses didn't become cheaper!)

Thus, thanks to lower prices, many more cameras were bought than previously, and consequently, the individual cameras were used 覧 less.

I strongly suppose many cameras 覧 even semi-pro and pro cameras 覧 from that period still work fine just because they haven't been used as much as one would have guessed.

That again, IMHO, is the main reason why many today erroneously think that they've built reliable cameras, then, *thirty years ago*.

Your thoughts?
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Old 10-29-2018   #2
Richard G
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I'll disagree to get the ball rolling! The Nikon F3 is better than anyone ever says it is and they say a lot. There were problems with some early Leica M6's but the run overall has been remarkable. I have an Olympus OM2n still going strong after some years of professional use when bought new in the early 1980s by my father. I did replace the light seals about ten years ago. One of the great developments after the 1950s has been the quality of lubricants. Many cameras will never be serviced or need servicing. Many cameras, Pentax, Canon, Nikon, Leica, Minolta of that era of the 1980s were overbuilt and can take more than most could throw at them, not just what they have thrown at them.
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Old 10-29-2018   #3
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Reliability from the 80s is IMO related to the widespread use of electronics, which in their first instances weren’t always the best. Most of them worked and still work fine, there’s just a few bad apples that do what bad apples do.
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Old 10-29-2018   #4
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Yup, I think if they fail it's usually electronics related, like the Nikon F3 meter readout etc., while the mechanical side was usually very mature and durable. So how much they were used wouldn't have much impact because the electronics die of age and maybe exposure but not from heavy use.
Lenses, I think, in many cases became more mechanically fragile due to use of plastics (thank you, Pentax, for not going that way until AF). Stupid because lenses should be forever, bodies can be replaced.
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Old 10-29-2018   #5
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Damn, never seen m-dash used twice to show an m-dash. Usually a double dash is used when you can't use a proper m-dash. "--". Props to you for re-invention, and blowing my type nerd mind on Monday morning. Sorry for off-topic post.
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Old 10-29-2018   #6
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In my experience newer electronics, including computer equipment, phones, and digital cameras from the 2000s and 2010s, are not reliable at all (sensors fail and can't be replaced, for example, or a chip or battery failure turns the camera or computer into a brick). Film cameras with simple electronics from the 80s can last a long time (especially if the electronics are only for metering or a non-essential display), and when they fail sometimes the circuits can be fixed. Not so much the ones with more complicated electronics.
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Old 10-29-2018   #7
Steve M.
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The older cameras were built simpler and better compared to now, and prices generally work on a supply and demand economic basis. If the market was saturated with cameras, the prices go down because people look for a less expensive camera that still gives them what they want. A lot of the most popular cameras like the AE-1 and AE-1 Program from many years ago had electronics and are still chugging along. Reliability usually has more to do with design and quality, not usage. Those old cameras are awfully hard to kill!
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Old 10-29-2018   #8
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AE-1 for example, more have died due to mechanical issues, not electronic ones. My family's AE-1 was used for over 20 years, before it finally succumbed to the dreaded shutter squeak and would lock up randomly. The electronics were still working perfectly at the time.
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Old 10-29-2018   #9
Bill Clark
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My old cameras, for the most part still work. They are mechanical.

The equipment being made now is, for me, much superior to any of my mechanical stuff. I’m amazed at the photographs I can make with my iPhone and iPad.

The early electronic assisted cameras left a lot to be desired. Although I thought it was quite an achievement when I bought a Nikkormat in 1972 and it has a TTL light meter.

I can remember when Popular Elevtronics in the 1970s had on its’ cover an I.C.chip made from Intel. Just for grins google the ic chip, intel, fairchild and others on the building of businesses that would become silicon valley.

Digital photography took a short time period to get going. It was the coming together of hardware, software and component manufacturing most notably the ic chips.

An early visionary had a device calked Newton. The idea, when the hardware and software caught up to Steve Jobs vision changed society with the iPhone.

At any rate, there was a period during the transformation of mechanical to electro/mechanical with growing pains. The visionaries had the vision it just took a while to turn their dreams into reality.

Info on Newton:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Newton

John Draper, a character, interesting read on silicon valley:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Draper

IC chip info:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_circuit

Info on Fairchild:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_Semiconductor

I find it interesting how photography has played a major role with the development of ic chips.
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Old 10-29-2018   #10
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Remember that the late 1980s saw the increased use of autofocus. For the first time, there were autofocus cameras - F4 and EOS 1 - that were intended for professional use. For autofocus to work, the lens parts have to be lighter, and built to a somewhat sloppier tolerance, than the old brass and glass lenses. We used F4s for a number of years and found them anything but durable. The F5, however, lasted until we switched to digital. The autofocus lenses, however, lasted into the digital era and we used them hard at our newspapers.
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Old 10-29-2018   #11
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The primary issue is batteries. We saw this with mechanical cameras with light meters when they discontinued mercury batteries. There are some kludgy workarounds but it is a problem for otherwise working cameras from the 1960s and 1970s. I fully expect my two digital cameras to be working in 30 years, except that the proprietary batteries will wear out long before then and replacements may not be available. Legacy memory cards also may be an issue. But cameras and lenses are just tools and can be replaced. They need not last decades. Technology moves too fast to worry about that. Day to day reliability in the near term is more important.
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Old 10-29-2018   #12
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The "longevity", or to say "reliability after 30 years" as opposed to "reliability at the time they were on the market", of the low end cameras from the 1970s & 1980s may well be lower than those from the previous decades. At the time those cameras were marketed, they were reliable as a general rule.



Ruggedness suffered a bit in the cheaper offerings due largely to the plastic used, but often it was poor engineering that was realy to blame. A clear example can be seen when comparing Canon's P&S models (Sure Shots, ...) and Nikon's. Canon's worked fine is handled properly, but broke easily (particularily the back latches) while Nikon's could take a beating. I replaced hundreds of backs on Canon Sure Shots because of a broken latch hook and never replaced or repaired a single competing Nikon for similar problems. The plastics used in both cases were very similar. It was Nikon's engineering design that proved well suited for the materials chosen while Canon's was very very poor.
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Old 10-29-2018   #13
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I took this photo 9 or 10 years ago before sending the meter in for a repair with one of my old Weston Master II's that needed rebalancing. Both are still going strong nowadays and no batteries required. I like having the complete outfit as if I bought them together new...




It's from the mid 1930's by the way and has a sticker underneath reminding me of the upgrade.

Regards, David

Last edited by David Hughes : 10-29-2018 at 08:49. Reason: CRLF's
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Old 10-29-2018   #14
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I have used heavily my two Nikon FE2 bodies purchased around 1987 and they are still going strong. Nikon replaced the seals, checked them, and said they met factory specs. I haven't personally been disappointed with anything made in the 1980's.
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Old 10-29-2018   #15
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the most important factor in the reliability of electronics is storage. the right storage makes the difference between a working camera and a paper weight.

do all of the usual things: store in a cool, dark, dry (but not too dry), dust-free environment. take the batteries out. get those static shielding bags, too.
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Old 10-29-2018   #16
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I don't really remember the 1980s. From 1979 to 1990 is really pretty much a blur.
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Old 10-29-2018   #17
Sumarongi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmattock View Post
I don't really remember the 1980s. From 1979 to 1990 is really pretty much a blur.
Ha!
"Wer sich an die 80er erinnern kann, hat sie nicht miterlebt."
https://de.wikiquote.org/wiki/Falco

You're Falco, the Austrian musician!?

覧 I *knew* Falco faked his death!
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Old 10-29-2018   #18
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I think of all the cameras I've owned, the 1980s ones have been the most reliable. I've owned three Nikon F3s, F4, FA, various point and shoots like the Action Touch. All have worked fantastically. The same for my older Canon EOS bodies, when I was in that phase. My very first 35mm SLR was a ~1981 Pentax ME Super and for the decade I owned it, it performed flawlessly.

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Old 10-29-2018   #19
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As far as I see, we have (so far) three factions:

1. Plastic (among other factors) is to blame, e.g:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dwig View Post
Ruggedness suffered a bit in the cheaper offerings due largely to the plastic used, but often it was poor engineering that was realy to blame. A clear example can be seen when comparing Canon's P&S models (Sure Shots, ...) and Nikon's. Canon's worked fine is handled properly, but broke easily (particularily the back latches) while Nikon's could take a beating. I replaced hundreds of backs on Canon Sure Shots because of a broken latch hook and never replaced or repaired a single competing Nikon for similar problems. The plastics used in both cases were very similar. It was Nikon's engineering design that proved well suited for the materials chosen while Canon's was very very poor.
2. Electronics (of the 1980s) are to blame, e.g:

Quote:
Originally Posted by michaelwj View Post
Reliability from the 80s is IMO related to the widespread use of electronics, which in their first instances weren稚 always the best. Most of them worked and still work fine, there痴 just a few bad apples that do what bad apples do.
3. Electronics (of the 1980s) are *not* to blame, e.g:

Quote:
Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
In my experience newer electronics, including computer equipment, phones, and digital cameras from the 2000s and 2010s, are not reliable at all (sensors fail and can't be replaced, for example, or a chip or battery failure turns the camera or computer into a brick). Film cameras with simple electronics from the 80s can last a long time (especially if the electronics are only for metering or a non-essential display), and when they fail sometimes the circuits can be fixed. Not so much the ones with more complicated electronics.
All the other statements are precious, too. (aizan's recommendation cannot be repeated often enough, I guess!)

Hm, so far no consensus in sight?!
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Old 10-29-2018   #20
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I am aware that some compromises were made in that decade. Famously the Leica M4.2 was regarded as being a notch below the earlier Leicas in build quality due to the use of inferior materials including zinc top plate and plastic. I have no personal experience of the M4.2 but I did own an M4P and can say that I came to regard it as being of poorer quality than my M3. (But then again what camera is equal to that beauty?). I recall for example that the flash sync port assembly was poorly designed and made with a plastic interior mount which was inclined to crack and break away with use causing the port exterior assembly to fall off. For what was one of the most expensive 35mm cameras available I thought this intolerable.
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Old 10-29-2018   #21
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The later M4-P top plates were zinc, not the M4-2. The change in M4-P occurred after the 70th anniversary model.

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Old 10-29-2018   #22
Ko.Fe.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peterm1 View Post
I am aware ...
Actually you are not...

Here old myth about M4-2 less quality materials and plastic comes again.
Peter M, time to read this https://www.rangefinderforum.com/for...8&postcount=17
It is never late.

I sold M4-P and keeping M4-2, btw.


PS. Keep on beating old horse, it helps to keep prices low.
M4-2 is bad camera! Because Peter M told so. LOL.
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Old 10-29-2018   #23
Richard G
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
Actually you are not...

Here old myth about M4-2 less quality materials and plastic comes again.
Peter M, time to read this https://www.rangefinderforum.com/for...8&postcount=17
It is never late.

I sold M4-P and keeping M4-2, btw.


PS. Keep on beating old horse, it helps to keep prices low.
M4-2 is bad camera! Because Peter M told so. LOL.
Loved my M4-2 bought in 1986 and treated hard for ten years, my least babied camera ever. It痴 Canadian Summicron is still glued to my Monochrom.
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Old 10-29-2018   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
Actually you are not...

Here old myth about M4-2 less quality materials and plastic comes again.
Peter M, time to read this https://www.rangefinderforum.com/for...8&postcount=17
It is never late.
.
A lot of inaccuracies in that link.
"The flash sync fastenings in the bottom plate are plastic and not hi quality metal like in M4-2."
Not true. My M4-2's are plastic and they snapped right off, just by snagging my sweater. Also the RF flare badly as it is not the same quality as the M4.
I had the exterior lens coated by Youxin and it is now much better.

Either way, I still love it as it feels great to use, and has an excellent uncluttered finder.

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Old 10-29-2018   #25
Robert Lai
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I don't know why the M4-2 is so maligned when it is actually built very well. Furthermore, it saved the entire Leica rangefinder line from extinction. I believe somewhere in the middle of M4-2 production, the condenser lens was taken out of the rangefinder path, leading to flare problems. Earlier M4-2 have the same RF as the M4. I had DAG check my M4-2 when he overhauled it, and he said that it's the M4 type RF.


The plastic flash plug mounts are the main weakness, but surely by now these have been upgraded!
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