For Bellamy Hunt, also known as the Japan Camera Hunter, his love of vintage photo gear is rooted in the way it’s made. “Vintage cameras,” he says, “have stunning designs.” These machines, he adds, “have a certain magic that makes you look inside yourself when you shoot. You feel connected to the creation of something permanent and tangible.”
As the Japan Camera Hunter name implies, Hunt sources cameras—the vintage, the classic, and the unusual—for photographers and collectors alike. We talked to him to learn more about the world of vintage camera collecting and shooting, and to get his best advice for those who want to nab some beautiful old-school gear of their own.
Hunt’s business is based in Tokyo, a perfect location because, he notes, “the quality of items in Japan is very, very high. ‘Mint’ in Japan means no dents, no scratches, no dings.” And, while not all the cameras he purchases for his customers are sourced in Tokyo, Hunt has equally high standards for mint condition. “Generally, people know that I find the better quality cameras within their price range,” Hunt explains, adding, “I don’t let a camera go out [to a customer] if it’s not something I would buy myself or be happy to have.”
Hunt has noticed a resurgence in interest in shooting with SLR and rangefinder film cameras. “The younger generation is a little bit jaded about the immediacy of everything, and perhaps they want something that won’t be on Facebook.” Vintage cameras can afford people the opportunity to unplug for a while.
Whether you perceive the idea of unplugging as positive or negative, shooting with analog cameras truly does force you to slow down. And since film and processing is so expensive, “it’s less about shooting as much as you can and more about being a thoughtful photographer,” says Hunt.