On Being a Hunter-Gatherer, not a Collector (The Vintage Minolta Love Project, Phase Two)

I have a respectable assortment of Minolta gear, even a few big-deal items like the 58mm 1.2 and an SR-2 camera. I enjoy owning them, but I enjoy using them even more. The Vintage Minolta Love project (VMLP) has motivated me to track down sometimes obscure Minolta objects. The project’s purpose is simple—use all the Minolta gear I could not afford when I was younger. Initially, I was driven mainly by a desire to use all the Minolta AF cameras. But soon, that limited scope gave way to manual cameras, lenses, and the thrill of searching took over. Searching alone, however, was not fun—searches had to end in either a rare gem, a bargain price, or even better, both. Looking back, from the start of the VMLP until now has been the hunter-gatherer phase of my Minolta exploration. And now, having gathered all that I hoped, I began pondering what would come next. Was I now a collector?

While this may seem like a minor issue, it was major to me because I had to decide how to move forward. What would be the reason for buying additional Minolta gear? Would it be to use it or only to have it? The question became immediately pertinent because, right on cue, items appeared that were redundant from the standpoint of doing photography but were critical for collecting. My eBay watchlist started growing as I considered all the neat finds popping up. There were specific lens versions, hard-to-find camera models like the Minolta ER, and obscure accessories just begging to be added as collectibles, but not so much as additions to my photography workflow. I did not need these items for anything other than bragging rights.

I’ve spent far more time  than I expected thinking about collecting vs. using, and that time of reflection has made me even more concerned about my motivation to buy more gear. Fortunately, the question was settled quickly by a reality check.

The Minolta SR-T 101 has many sub-variants, and due to buying lots containing multiple items, I have three SR-T 101s. I downloaded a spreadsheet that details SR-T 101 variants and how to identify each definitively.  Then, while going through the spreadsheet and  evaluating my SR-Ts, it hit me–I really did not care–at all. Here, I learned collecting was not my thing. I love my SR-T 101s because they remind me of my undergrad days and wonderful times. That emotional tie explains why I still use them.  Knowing the specific variants would not further enrich the shooting experience.

Eventually, I deleted most of the items from my eBay watchlist and deleted my favorite stored searches. I have as much Minolta gear as I am ever likely to want. However, I did buy a few more items for the VMLP. They are a black SR-7, a black SR-1, a Maxxum 7000 (NIB and very inexpensive), an AF-C P&S, and a pocket-sized folding Minolta Semi P. The black cameras are vanity purchases—they fit my sense of style. The AF-C is quite capable and inconspicuous. And the 7000 is NEW! As for the medium format folder, who couldn’t love 6×4.5 to-go?

When new to photography, getting caught up in buying gear is easy. Chasing offered thrills, but now I realize that my greatest enjoyment comes from making images. And while I like knowing the background and history of my gear, there is a limit.

To someone looking from the outside, my rows of cameras and lenses might qualify me as a collector. But, I consider myself a gatherer, with my hunter days behind me. My focus has switched to selecting the best camera and lens for the image I wish to make. Having spent three years gathering my toys, I’m eager to concentrate on doing photography.  That being said,  I fear waking up one day with a burning desire to use a view camera. Let’s hope that never happens…


  1. It’s good that you recognize what’s going on, because it can easily get out of control! I’ve made an effort to not buy any more cameras for the near future. The only thing I’m still on the lookout for is a 300mm Rokkor tele lens, preferably the f/4.5 one. (I’d take one off your hands if you got “extras”. 😉 )

    1. Author

      Yeah, I had to ask myself what the point was, because things can get out of control. Don’t have a 300mm Tele Rokkor, mainly because I decided that any major telephoto beyond 200mm would be AF. However, there are a few on eBay as I write this.

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