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Down the Road

Giving away a $400 film camera
By Milt Gross
Apr 20, 2014 - 12:20:13 AM

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I used to think my Minolta film camera was great. I used it -- actually two of them after I broke one beyond repair by dropping it -- for the entire time I was a news reporter.

I probably pressed the trigger some 5,000 times a year to come up with a lot fewer photos. Because, unlike a digital camera, I couldn't see the shots I had just taken, I invariably took at least two more pictures of whatever I was photographing.

I used a lot of film, keeping ten rolls in my camera bag, which became somewhat amusing when the publisher of a weekly said each reporter should take one roll of film at a time. I grabbed the one and added it to the nine or so that were already jammed into my camera bag.

As a reporter and as an individual on personal outings, I lugged that heavy Minolta everywhere. As a reporter, I had learned to always have a camera handy for emergencies, such as when a bull moose walks toward you in the woods. Of course, as a fellow reporter once observed, who has time to aim a camera when a giant moose is heading your way. The only moose shots I ever got were when Bullwinkle was far enough away to allow me time to fool with the Minolta.*

I lugged that Minolta beast up a Maine Forest Service firetower, on hikes up Maine mountains, and other places that meant taking the Minolta also meant lugging. It was such a heavy beast. At times, when I was heading for the Appalachian Trail to do some volunteering, I lugged the Minolta plus an old Pentax Dolores has, a zoom lense on one and a 50 milimeter on the other.** I couldn't go wrong -- and didn't except for the exhaustion of carrying two of those good old heavy cameras.

A week or so ago, a bus passenger was discussing his Polaroid, that old-fashioned rig from which you pulled a print after taking the photo. I hadn't seen one for about 20 years. He also mentioned that he had seen a Minolta film camera advertised for $40. It was then that the idea of generosity struck me.

(Generosity: giving away something you'll never use again.)

My Minolta and Dolores' Pentax had been sitting on a shelf in the study, collecting dust and doing a good job of that non-chore, since we had bought our digital camera about three years ago. To my surprise, the digital was so good we didn't need the old film cameras.***

The nearby rocks on this Clark Island scene are as clear as are the distant trees, thanks to our digital camera. Milt Gross photo.

The digital camera made it easy to take this shot of a waterfall with both the leaves in the foreground and waterfall in the background both turning out clear. With a film camera, I would have had to choose between a clear foreground or a clear background. Milt Gross photo.

I mentioned the idea of giving the passenger, whom I had known for about ten years, the Minolta, since he said he liked photography and since we knew he couldn't afford a real one. Dolores agreed, and I gave it to him a day or so ago. I even typed directions for operating the beast.

But as I played with it to remind myself of how to operate the Minolta, it dawned on me how heavy it was. That explained to me why all back-in-the-day reporters, including me, had always walked, leaning away from the camera bag. The digital slips into a pants pocket and requires no leaning.

The passenger, George, which is not his real name in case he dislikes seeing his real name in print, expressed a lot of happiness at receiving the Minolta during the entire bus ride from Bangor to Bar Harbor. He was so excited I invited him to phone us with questions about using the camera, and I told him that once he learned the fundamentals, I would show him how to take good distance and close-up shots.

The fascinating part of all this is not how happy George was in receiving the camera, but how happy it made both Dolores and me to give it to him. I had paid around $400 for it new and wanted it well cared for, but it was doing us no good collecting dust on the study shelf.

The morale of this tale may be that it is not only good to smile when you are having your picture taken, but it really causes a great smile to give away a quality film camera you will never again use.

Hope you get some great shots, George.

*Dolores and I were once driving up the Golden Road that runs into the woods northwest of Millinocket. We saw a bull about 50 yards ahead of us, walking toward us on the opposite side of the road. Attached to his antlers was a maple branch sporting its full full color spectrum. While Dolores said, "You're not getting out of the car, are you!" I indeed did just that, camera at the ready. When that bull got to about 100 feet from me, I snapped his antler-decorated photo. He was just near enough for me to hear him say, "Hey, don't show that picture to anybody. It's embarrassing." (Most of that tale is true, although I may not have quoted accurately what Dolores said.)

**The Minolta had a 50 millimeter lense and a 180 mm one. The zoom lense was so powerful I usually got only blurred pictures of that eagle in the sky or whatever else was staying far away. We kept a 50 mm lense on the Pentax and the zoom on the Minolta.

***With the film cameras, we had to focus on an object close by and let the distance kind of blur out, the way the natural eye sees it. The digital somehow focuses on near and far and produces a better photo, with the whole deal being in focus.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013

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