Well, yes, I know this is supposed to be about Canon. But sometimes we have to take a side trip to gain some perspective. And this particular piece of news is a tad discouraging as a collector. But I have always known there will be lots of cameras I will never be able to afford. And then there are those that are so unique that if someone has it, everyone else is out of luck. But sometimes I look at what some collectors manage to assemble and I turn green with envy. A mortal sin, I know, but one that is hard to avoid.

Now, I have only been at this collecting thing for a year and with a modest budget I’ve done all right. But I would like to win the lottery and get to play with the big boys.

I follow dpReview and get e-mail from them about the latest news in the camera world. And this week I read about the sale of a Nikon Camera in a European auction. It got me thinking.

This past November,  WestLicht Photographica, an Austrian camera auction house, held an auction of 685 lots of cameras, lenses, accessories and prints. They do this every year and they put up for sale the finest of the fine in cameras, lenses and gear. In this auction was a Nikon 1, the earliest known surviving Nikon camera, in excellent condition, with a 50mm f/2.0 Nikkor-H lens, and, if that is not enough, a leather case that looks fantastic. A truly beautiful camera!


Originally this model was known simply as the Nikon but as additional models were produced it came to be called the Nikon 1. Apparently, according to dpReview, Nikon’s were available only in Japan and it was a Life photographer, David Douglas, who came across Nikkor lenses and he made theses excellent lenses known to others in the press corps and eventually they took word of these lenses and cameras home to the United States.

It was in March of 1948 that Nikon began to assemble cameras, beginning with serial number 60922. (one wonders why this number). They had been into lenses for many years and the cameras were a new product. The camera in the auction was one of two made in April of 1948 and apparently the third of all Nikon’s to be produced. It was offered with the original Nikkor-H lens No. 70811, with matching lens cap. Apparently this was the 11th such lens produced.


The camera is in excellent condition as these pictures will attest. It was apparently in the collection of the famous Japanese collector Tad Sato. It is hard to believe that this very special camera has survived in such pristine condition. That is a very valuable contribution collectors of all types make to the world: our heritage gets preserved.

So what is a camera like this worth. From the little bit of collecting I have done, I know that collector grade speciality items are expensive. But I would have never, ever, guessed that this camera would have sold for 384,000 Euro (about $406,000 USD). It did. And this is what got me thinking about collecting.

I have no expectation of ever travelling in these circles. I can just imagine the purchaser’s collection. I am sure it is unbelievable and valuable in the extreme. And it got me feeling discouraged. Not a rational reaction, I suspect, but for a moment I had that feeling. And that got me to thinking about whether it was all worth it.

It is strange. I have already decided I cannot collect everything. It’s not physiclly possible. I feel no remorse at saying that I am not interested in Nikon cameras. So why do I feel this about a camera I would not want. But then I think, what is the purpose of this collecting? My wife, Susan, is asking that question all of the time. And my answer is, it is worth it because I am having fun. I am learning about cameras in detail I did not know before, I am experimenting with photography (more about that in a later post) and my evenings with my small collection are a pleasure. Probably I enjoy my cameras as much as this purchaser enjoys his. And this collecting gives us something in common. I suspect we would like each other and have much to talk about. But I am sure we do not shop in the same clothing store!

I met a fellow at a swap meet and we were both looking at cameras. He began asking me questions and he said he wanted to create a small collection. Nothing fancy. Just a few pieces on the mantle that he could enjoy. He wondered what I would recommend as a small set that he could set out to find. He had it right. He wanted a few inexpensive but nice cameras that he could enjoy. That is the way collecting should be done. And my flash of camera envy is out of place in that outlook. It is about pleasure and doing the best you can with what you have. But still ….

I guess I’ll recover from my malaise but this has sure got me thinking. And the thinking is not over.

Now for some credits. The pictures are not mine. I got them off dpReview who, I believe, got them from the auction house. Thank you for these. And if you are interested in learning more, a lot more, then here are some links. These are great sources. Use them and learn.

Here is the original article I came across in dpReview. Subscribe to this site if you have not already.

This is the auction house in Europe. Check out the wealth of historical sales data here!

This is an American auction house I came across. Although not involved in this current story, a good source.