My display case at home contains too many 35mm SLR cameras. Beautiful, elegant examples from some of the big names in film camera manufacturing; Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta, Konica, stare wistfully through the glass. The cameras are from my brief yet intense period of searching for my perfect 35mm SLR camera.
Cosmetically gorgeous, I have photographed with each of them. Yet each one of them has eventually been returned to the display case. Too fiddly, too flimsy, too heavy, too ostentatious, they all had something that jarred with me. Upon reflection, I can acknowledge that the issues weren’t with the cameras but rather with me. One photographer’s definition of a perfect camera is not necessarily that of mine. The trial-and-error process I went through of trying various 35mm SLR cameras was actually a process of self-discovery.
No-one is more surprised than me that my go-to 35mm SLR camera these days is one made by a manufacturer I had never heard of until recently. I was given a Chinon Memotron II by a work colleague. With its large body, name plate missing, broken film rewind lever, loud mirror slap and rather unique shutter release button, it’s fair to say that the Memotron and I didn’t hit it off immediately. Despite my initial misgivings (what kind of a name is Memotron??) I was prepared to give the camera a fair go. Perhaps it was my low initial expectations of the camera that allowed me to be surprised and impressed with it once I started photographing with it. Look, I’m not a technical-minded person. I can’t tell you exactly why the Memotron II and I have gelled.
With its black body and missing name plate it is unobtrusive. It feels solidly built, reliable and able to survive a day’s shooting without me having to worry too much about accidentally knocking or dropping it.
It has a M42 lens mount so I can use a range of lovely old lenses without having to deal with fiddly lens adapters. It has a TTL aperture-priority automatic exposure that works beautifully with the M42 lenses (I suspect this feature is the deal-sealer for me). It allows me to do multiple exposures with ease. It has mirror lock-up for long exposures. Exposure settings can be locked in for subsequent frames. Exposure compensation settings are easily controlled. Shutter speeds range from B to 1/2000th of a second.
Maybe these camera specifications sound great to you, or perhaps they don’t. And that’s okay by me. Each to their own I say (and my display case of cameras attest). The joy I receive from using this camera far outweighs the pain of rewinding the film with the broken film rewind knob. For now, my search for the perfect SLR is over.
Film photographer Jane McLoughlin is based in Australia. See more of her work on her Instagram.