Interview with a collector – Arato Ogura


by Bellamy /

5 min read

Interview with a collector, Arato Ogura
Today I have an interview for you that I have wanted to have on the site for a very long time. Arato Ogura has not only got a stunning collection, but a wealth of knowledge. Lets have a look see.

Arato Ogura is a personal friend of mine and something of a mentor. If it wasn’t for Arato I probably wouldn’t be doing what I do now. He gave me the drive, the inspiration and most importantly he helped me to realise my potential. Arato is not a camera geek, he has reached a higher level than that. His knowledge is unsurpassed and he is the first person I call upon when there is something that has stumped me. I have seen many of Arato’s cameras in the past and have been itching to feature some of them.
Arato works in the photographic industry in Tokyo so we get to see each other fairly often. His passion for photography and cameras is infectious. In fact, my GAS is his fault :) Arato got me back into film cameras after a long period away from them. And that is where the seed of JCH was born. Thanks Arato.
So, let’s get started…

What first got you interested in collecting cameras?
The term “collection” is too bold for me, but my love for cameras started early. I remember myself enjoying shooting my father’s Kodak 110 when I was in kindergarden.
My first real camera was a Canon AV-1, using my savings (which I originally intended to buy an astronomical telescope to observe the Comet 1P/Halley) in 1986.
Being too grown‐up for my age, I was fond of NatGeo and news media photogs – not only their masterpiece photos but also more interested in their equipment and how they used it. So, quickly after I bought my Canon, I was kinda shocked to learn that all pro used Nikons in those days, and regretted that possibly I made mistake!

Nikon F3P – my all time fave, coupled with a 50mm which originally belonged to JCH but swapped with my 35mm.

I see that you have a passion for Nikon and Leica. Can you tell us why? They are quite different.
My idols were 70’s-80’s photojournalists, like Diana Walker (The White House Press Photographer), Michael Yamashita (National Geographic), and Peter Turnley (Newsweek) – they used Nikons for long shots and Leicas for close range photos. I think that’s when my passion for pro-wannabie (equipment wise) first ignited.
The Nikon F3HP with its dedicated MD-4 motor drive and Leica M6 were their golden combo those days, accompanied by Domke F-2 bag and Gitzo 326 tripod… and their influence was huge for me.

Voigtlander Bessa-T – enjoying the extraordinary Wow angle of view :)

What defines a great camera for you?
An optically superior lens and a mechanically reliable body makes a great camera for me. Although I’m a plain salaryman and never assigned to cover war zones, it’s frustrating when your camera breaks while you’re traveling and seeing many beautiful things.

Of your collection, which is your favorite camera?
My all time faves are the Nikon F3P (Press version of HP) and Leica M6. These are the cameras I want to be buried with.

Leica MP – I adore manual cameras. Period.

Any secrets on the camera porn shots?
Shooting cameras are great for bored weekends (laugh). I don’t have any studio flash equipment, so the window light is my key light source. When I want to shoot my camera against a clean backdrop, I use a synthetic black flannel cloth called “Total Eclipse” which I got from a studio shop. I also use a plain white T-shirt to reflect the light, or to make a “catch light” in the lens.
I used a Nikon D40 to do these camera shots but it broke down last week, so I might replace it with a D7000 perhaps.

SEIKO Chronograph – Sorry for posting a non-camera pic, but my other passion is military style watches.

Is there a camera that you dream to have? Or do you already have it?
Although I’m interested in digital Leica M cameras, my real “dream” is to find a good condition Leica M4 in black paint, around serial number #126xxxx range – which is actually produced in my birth year. I’ve seen them at camera fairs here and there so it might not be so difficult to get one, but I also want a matching black painted 8 element Summicron so this might take some time. And money of course. Crap…

Show window – One thing nice about living in Tokyo is that there are a lot of camera stores, more opportunities for “love at the first sight” – plastic money is a must here.

Do you use these cameras or are there some ‘shelf queens’ in there?
All of my cameras get used, so none of them are show pieces really. However my MP often get compliments on the streets from a stranger Leica shooter. It’s a second hand a-la-carte MP with M4 style rewind, top engraving, and I put an M4 frame selector and an M4 R lever on – I like the vintage looks of it.

Film box collection – I mentioned my photo hobby started in the 80’s, and here’s some of the proof.

And finally, it is all about shooting after all, so what do you like to shoot?
Travel photography. I never leave home without a camera no matter on business or holiday, and it’s my pure joy to shoot historic sites, back alleys, gardens, restaurants, stations and airports, and even on board.

Many thanks to Arato for sharing your thoughts and your beautiful pictures with all of the JCH followers. Your cameraporn images are inspiring to me and I and going to have to try out some of your techniques soon.
If you would like to see more of Arato’s images the I suggest you check out his flickr page. It really is excellent

Please remember that the images are reproduced with the kind permission of Arato Ogura and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

Do you have a collection that you would like to share with the followers of JCH? Send me a mail and lets share your passion.
Remember to comment and get yourself some camera karma.

7 comments on “Interview with a collector – Arato Ogura”

    InFrame August 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm / Reply

    Enjoyed the write up. It is a very blokey thing with watches. I’ve always wanted a US military watch from the Vietnam war with genuine history but need a twin version of Bellamy as VietnamWatchHunter… Collecting either Cameras or Watches does suck you in.

    ZDP-189 August 20, 2012 at 12:02 am / Reply

    Thanks for posting! That’s a great personal story and made me think of cameras I’d not considered before. Tell us more about the F3P and why you consider it to be better than the other cameras?

    The reason I ask is while many Nikon fans hotly debate the ultimate Nikon SLR, be it the F2, F3, F5, FM3A etc., they all have a deeply considered explanation that tells volumes about a photographer, his work and personality.

    While afficionados may not agree on the best ever Nikon, the EM is possibly the least respected Nikon SLR made, yet it’s the only one I own and is fast and responsive.

    Arato Ogura August 20, 2012 at 8:31 am / Reply

    Thanks very much InFrame and ZDP-189 for your kind comments.

    ZDP-189 > Re : F3P
    I did not use the term “better” to describe it, it’s just my personal fave.
    The F3P is a stripped-down, partially dust & water sealed version of F3HP. It was issued in response to hardcore news photogs’ demands in the 80’s, and can be easily distinguished by its standard hot shoe on top of its titanium prism, raised shutter dial, mechanically locked and water sealed shutter button, white counter indexes, and blanked self timer window.
    It was one of the real pro cameras in those days, and you had to be a working press photog or an NPS member to purchase one – directly from the service depot.

    I’m not into debating what’s the best – it really depends on your shooting style and mental values. However I never disagree with the “The best camera is the one that’s with you” theory.

    Happy shooting,

    Jason Howe October 18, 2012 at 10:39 am / Reply

    I really enjoyed this, especially the background!!

    It sounds like Arato is the Mr Miyagi to your Karate Kid Bellamy :-) Great to have a friend and mentor with such knowledge.

    Superb quality gear shots also, proving beyond doubt that you don’t need expensive lighting or even artificial lighting to get quality images.

    All the best to you both,


    Sanjay Prasad February 21, 2013 at 7:01 am / Reply

    Fascinating read, even more so for me as I have both an F3p with the 50mm 1.4, and a definite thing for military Seiko’s on nato straps! The F3p has seen other cameras come, and rarely go, but it still is my favourite. Guigiaro did a few Nikons but none ever felt quite as comfortable as the F3, one question I have is yours isn’t with the MD-4. Have you replaced the MF-6B back to a plain version?

    Toby Madrigal April 28, 2017 at 3:39 am / Reply

    Interesting that guys who like cameras (real cameras that use film like Nikon F/F2/F3 and the film Leicas M3/M2/M4) also like watches. My favourites are the F/F3 and the M3/M4-P that I use regularly. Watches? I mainly wear my Omega Speedmaster (Moonwatch) as I’ve had it since 1977. I bought a Rolex Submariner Date in 2008 but only wear it in winter with a pullover sleeve over it, not in summer with a short sleeved shirt. I’m acutely conscious of the fact that Rolex wearers have been shot and stabbed for them. Pity, but that’s the world we live in.

    Steven Yang April 17, 2018 at 7:38 pm / Reply

    do you ever use your F3P or just keep it on your shelf?

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