Revisiting My Late Grandfather’s Vintage Camera Collection

He loved his cameras—and now they're a family treasure.

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vintage camera collection
Photo: Ann Lane

A gift from papa

I am somewhat of a minimalist at heart. I keep very little in the way of things. But one collection I do enjoy having sits on the very top shelf in our living room. It’s in a prominent place where it can easily be viewed and appreciated. I have always had an interest in photography, so this vintage camera collection is something that holds both inspiration and sentiment for me. I have, on occasion, picked up old cameras in secondhand shops. I have always loved the look and the idea of owning a vintage camera, but I always ended up putting back what I had picked up because it just didn’t feel authentically “mine.”

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Vintage camera - A closeup of the Kodak Duaflex with top-mounted viewfinder
Photo: Ann Lane

Where my interest in photography first began

The vintage cameras in this collection, however, were acquired when my grandfather—Papa, as we called him—passed away. I remember Papa as always being the one with the camera and that could very well have been where my interest in photography first began. I remember the excitement of sending in rolls of film to be developed at Woolworth’s and having to wait two weeks for the prints to be processed. My Papa and Gran immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1972, so some of the cameras in this collection come from Scotland, while the others are Canadian made.

One of the most recognizable is the Kodak Duaflex (pictured above), which was manufactured in Toronto with the original version hitting the market in 1947. The Duaflex was the first in this particular line of cameras to continue production to about 1960, although by the time the final version came to market—the Duaflex IV, another one of Papa’s prized cameras—the manufacturing was being done in Rochester. A unique feature on both of these models is the viewfinder located on the top. When looking down into the camera, you see a clear but reversed scene. Even without film to load in it now, it’s interesting to look through the glass and see a perspective that’s so different from the way modern cameras operate.

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The Jelco Zoom 77 hand-cranked 8-mm movie camera
Photo: Ann Lane

The power of nostalgia

The Jelco Zoom 77 (pictured above), another member of my collection, was purchased for precisely £18 (British pounds) in Scotland in 1966. It is an 8-mm movie camera that was manufactured by Nihon Cine Industry Co. Ltd., in Japan. Since this camera doesn’t operate with batteries, it has a hand-winder on the side to power the motor. The original bill of sale for this one is safely tucked away inside the carry case that it came with.

Although I love all of the cameras in my collection, my favourite is the Halina 35X. I love its look, and the nostalgia evoked by its old leather case. Fully manual and truly classic in appearance, it was apparently quite popular in the U.K. in the 1960s. For anyone who could afford the luxury of a camera, it gave them the opportunity to begin capturing the moments and scenes that mattered most to them. This camera also came with an (almost) undiscovered surprise inside for me…

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Ann as a child, camera in hand, with a smiling Papa seated behind her
Courtesy Ann Lane
Ann as a child, camera in hand, with a smiling Papa seated behind her.

A photographic journey back in time

Until I began writing this story, I had never thought to open up the backside of this particular vintage camera. I have taken the cameras down from the shelf to clean them, many times, and simply enjoy the feel of them in my hands but I have never, ever thought to open up the back. Now that I have, I am thrilled to have discovered that there is a roll of film still inside with half of the exposures already used. The treasures that I imagine to be on that roll have me intrigued! I know my next project is going to be a photographic journey back in time.

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Originally Published in Our Canada

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