dsc_0265-smallYour holiday gift arrived, a nice antique camera. Now what do you do?

Someone special thought of you this holiday season, and you now have a new-to- you antique camera. It is beautiful, gleaming with chrome, heavy, made of Bakelite… and full of switches and knobs you have never seen before. Maybe you are new to photography and the only photos you have taken are with an iPhone. Or, you are a more seasoned photographer but haven’t ever used an antique camera, or an analog camera for that matter…..

Luckily there is a lot of information out there to help you with your first antique camera.

Here are a few tips to help you out:

  1. Find someone you know that has an antique camera collection, or has used an antique camera. Some of these cameras are hard to open, or have seemingly hidden buttons or levers to get the front, side or back to open. Ask for help before you accidently break something while trying to open it up.
  2. If you don’t have a friend, use the Internet. There is a lot of information on the web, and even a video or two (or several) that will walk you through how to operate your camera.
  3. Once you learn the basics, play around with your camera until you get comfortable with the controls. This is before you ever load a roll of film in the camera. You don’t need film getting in the way of your learning, you will just be frustrated and possibly out an expense you didn’t plan on.
  4. If you have an old roll of film you don’t mind throwing out, use this roll to load, advance, expose and rewind in your camera. I also have a few sheets of film I use to practice loading holders with. Don’t worry if you ruin this roll (or sheets). Use it to try out all the features on the camera. Heck, open up the camera and see how it works. It will help when you use a fresh roll of film to make exposures in your camera.
  5. Shoot side by side with a camera you already are comfortable with. The light meter says it is 1/250 at f/8, so set it the same on both cameras to get a feel of how the other camera works.
  6. Practice, practice, practice. Some cameras are simple, while others are a lot more complex. Even a seasoned veteran (ahem, me) forgets sometimes to complete a sequence of actions on a camera and messes up a frame or two. It happens, but it happens less as you get familiar with your camera.
  7. Have fun! This old antique camera should be a blast to shoot with. Take it out and run film through it and enjoy the results. My belief is that if a camera still functions (and isn’t just a decoration) it should be taken out and used to make pictures.

 

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The Mercury II is a half frame 35mm camera manufactured after WWII ended. It has to be one of the most complex and daunting cameras to operate!