My first introduction to a Canon camera was in Durban, South
Africa in 1967, when I purchased a Canon 518 Super 8 movie camera. I used
it extensively during my backpacking trips through South Africa, Swaziland,
Mozambique, Malawi, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Botswana. This camera also
travelled with me to New Zealand in 1969 and over the Kokoda Track in New
Guinea in 1970–71, where it nearly drowned, but that is another story.
Another bearded camera collector
My introduction to still cameras was back in the mid-1950s, when I used
a Kodak Box camera in the Scouts. I also frequently borrowed a Kodak Retina
for taking surfing and motor racing photographs during the late 1950s and
early 1960s, but it was my wife Julie who in 1971 re-introduced me to still
My first Canon still camera was a Canon EXEE with a standard 50mm lens.
It wasn’t until I bought a Canon FTBn with a number of lenses and
filters in 1973, however, that I really started to take an interest in still
photography. This hobby intensified when I became involved in motocross
photography in 1974 and again after I moved to West Australia in 1977. To
help my hobby grow, I began selling photographs to various competing riders.
This hobby lasted for nearly 20 years, during which time I acquired a second
FTBn and two new Canon AE-1 programs to cover senior and junior motocross,
road racing, and BMX. When my enthusiasm waned in 1992, I abandoned this
form of photography and joined the Workshop Camera Club, through which I
entered my photographs into competitions.
My camera collecting began purely by chance, when a collector
came into my optical dispensing practice and mentioned the old cameras
on display in my shop window. He presumed that I was a camera collector,
which at the time I was not. I attended my first West Australian camera
collectors’ meeting in 1994 and was intrigued from the very beginning.
At first, I collected any cameras that came my way, but within a year
or so I realised that this hobby could easily get out of hand. My obsession
meant either a bigger house or a divorce, and as I couldn’t afford
either I decided to specialise in Canon cameras. I still had all my old
Canon cameras, including the faithful 518 cine, and over the following
two years I collected anything and everything Canon. As the result, I
amassed quite a collection of Canon SLR gear even before purchasing a
number of Canon Rangefinders from a collector in Queensland who was disposing
of his entire collection.
In the mid-1990s I picked up a SERENAR 13.5cm /4 telephoto lens. When
the chance arrived for me to purchase a similar lens, I decided to keep
only the best sample in my collection and sell off the other one to help
fund future purchases. As I compared the two lenses, however, I noticed
that there were some subtle variations between them. I had been a philatelic
collector for nearly 40 years, so to me variations meant keeping the item
and finding out more about it. I was surprised to turn up no information
on the lenses, and so I started my own database, adding notes every time
I noticed variations from the 13.5cm-135mm f/4 lens.
One thing led to another and soon I began collecting and recording lens
serial numbers. Using my small database, I quickly noticed variations
among different lenses. My forthcoming book is the result of years of
research. Eventually, it will be followed by two others concentrating
on accessories and cameras, respectively.
Much of the information in these books is based on my educated guesses.
It gets hypothetical at times, but I suppose one lives by the sword and
dies by the sword. A quote from Peter Dechert’s book summarizes
my thoughts perfectly: “If one waits for the revelation of absolute
fact, true truth, one will wait forever.”