Hand-me-down Heroes : No. 6
We love cameras. We love geeking out about their wiz bang specs, elaborate craftsmanship and proudly share/boast about our technical and ergonomic marvels. This series however, will open the aperture on perhaps an oft overlooked aspect of our gear: sentimentality.
Hand-me-down Heroes is a new series aiming to share the stories of the machines that started us down this rabbit hole. Bequeathed by a family member or close friend, these are the cupid cameras that pierced us with the arrow of photographic obsession. Though they may no longer be our daily workhorses, lack some luxurious features, or missing that brand image, the memories they’ve witnessed and the valuable lessons learned have no price tag.
James Ingles: Minolta SRT 303
G’day I’m Jingles and this is a eulogy for my hand-me-down-hero, a Minolta SRT 303.
You were my first camera, the camera I learned photography with. You taught me to love photography. We made some great images together. We were a great pair. Although we only had a few short years together I’ll never forget you. I’ll forever treasure the memories and all the fun times we had together.
During year 11 and 12 at high school I got to elect which subjects I took, I chose all of the creative subjects I could so that I didn’t have to do maths. I hated maths, mostly because I was no good at it and maybe partially because I never had a good maths teacher. Either way maths was my least favourite subject at school. So I elected to do English, Art & Design, IT (we designed web sites in our IT class), and photography.
When I elected to take photography as a subject I was so excited to never have to sit and suffer through another maths class again that one thing slipped my mind; I didn’t have a camera. I still took the photography class anyway.
Lucky for me that my father owned a camera he hadn’t used for years. Also lucky for me is that my father kindly handed down to me his old camera, a Minolta SRT 303, a few lenses, and some accessories. I’ll be forever grateful to my father for that act of kindness which started a life love for photography.
Photography fast became my favourite subject at school due in part to having a wonderful photography teacher. Ian was his name and he was one of the best teachers I had during my school years. He was a wonderful teacher and made it easy to learn how to properly expose an image, he also loaded countless film cassettes with 36 frames of Ilford HP5+ and sent me off to make photos.
The other reason I grew to love photography is because on Friday’s I had double photography for the last two periods of the day and we were allowed to go on unsupervised excursions. At the time I had a girlfriend who also took the same photography class, so most Fridays we would both fill in the form to go on an unsupervised excursion and start our weekends early by catching the bus then train into the city to make photos.
This was circa 2000/1 when digital cameras were only just starting to become popular (My school had an early digital camera that used 3 1/2” floppy disks to store images which were 640×480) or any good so I learned the art of photography using a film camera. I feel like learning how to manually expose an image, develop, and print photos was an invaluable lesson in photography. I’m glad I learned photography when I did. I enjoyed the whole process. It also made the transition to digital photography super easy.
After high school I had neither the space or money to buy the equipment that I needed to keep shooting, developing, and printing photos so I gravitated towards digital photography. Around the same time I finished high school my parents purchased a digital camera which I’m pretty I used more than anyone else. Later when I got a job and could afford my own camera I purchased a Canon digital camera. Then a few Nikon full frame DSLRs, and a crop sensor Nikon camera that I got converted to IR. For a number of years the Minolta SRT 303 gathered dust until I grew sick of digital photography.
After practising digital photography for a number of years I grew tired of digital cameras and how complex they had become. Missing a photo because I had accidentally changed a setting is super frustrating as is trying to figure out which setting I had changed and faffing about to change it back to what it was. I really liked my X100F except for how long it’s batteries didn’t last. I started missing the simplicity of film photography so I dusted off my Minolta SRT 303 and took it to get fixed because I had discovered that the lens didn’t mount properly, they didn’t click and lock into place. This most likely happened last time it was ‘fixed’. Unfortunately it was likely to cost just as much, or more, to fix as would cost to buy another camera. My poor Minolta SRT 303 had gone the way of a lot of my favourite photographers. It had passed on.
So I purchased a Minolta X-570 which I paired with a 35mm Rokkor lens. I ran a few rolls of film through it before I became curious about shooting a rangefinder and purchased a Voigtländer Bessa R4A and a 35 mm f/1.4 Nokton VM II which has now become my every day camera. I’m also looking at purchasing a Leica M7, and I’m keen for a Nikon F3 after that. But for now I’m still in love with Bessy my Voigtländer Bessa R4A. I don’t care if it’s known as the poor man’s Leica (#stopcameracism), it’s a wonderful camera, I really enjoy shooting with it.
I still have the Minolta SRT 303, it’s proudly on display next to my TV. I’ll never part with it even if it’s no longer usable since it’s too sentimental given that it was my first camera, the camera that I used to learn photography with. And the camera that kick started my love of photography.
RIP my beautiful Minolta SRT 303
All photos were shot in Melbourne, Aus with a Voigtländer Bessa R4A, paired with a 35mm f/1.4 Nokton VM II and Ilford HP5+. Dates Unknown.
Oh and don’t forget your contact details (Insta, website, flickr et al). Send your Hand-me-down Heroes here. And please make sure the shot is of good quality, you are a photographer after all.