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November 07, 2003 - Image 73

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-11-07

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iG'aF:4tiji lc

has plenty o tow s to look

An avid camera enthusiast, Farber,
a retired pharmaceutical industry
entrepreneur, has acquired thou-
sands of cameras since making his
first collectible purchase in 1975.
He houses part of the massive col-
lection in his suburban Detroit
home in a basement showroom that
looks like a camera store. The oth-
ers are on display in a converted
"I've always been interested in
cameras. I had a darkroom when I
was 10," says Farber, who doesn't
remember what triggered his pas-
sion for collecting or even which
camera he bought first.
He does, however, remember
finite details about each camera he
takes off a shelf. For each, Farber
knows how many were produced,
where they were made, by whom
and how much they are worth.
He points out a Leica-brand
rangefinder from 1935. "It is the
only model that ever made a shut-
ter in the front," he says.
He pulls out a large-canister
sports camera that can take 250
pictures without changing the
film. "This one was made for the
1936 Olympics."
Admittedly, collecting cameras
you never use is an odd passion,
Farber says.

"I'm like the person who col-
lects fancy cars but doesn't want
to drive them," he says. "The fun
is in buying the cameras and
schmoozing at the shows."
While most camera and photog-
raphy buffs prefer specific types
or brands in their personal collec-
tions, Farber buys and displays
anything related to cameras.
In the past few decades, he
has gone to countless camera
shows, acquiring cameras of all
makes, dates, models and brands.
He has built an equally impres-
sive collection of accessories for
each particular camera brand,
including lenses, lighting equip-
ment, filters, enlargers, cases and
And though he can't estimate
the value of his collection, and he
isn't sure of the exact number of
cameras, he knows which camera
is the most valuable. Inside one of
his display cases is a flawless
1950s Leica rangefinder which he
says is worth an estimated
$25,000. "If you get one scratch
on it, the value drops," he says.
Among his prized possessions
are dozens of vintage view cam-
eras used for portraits during the
1880s to the 1930s. Most people
only see these types of cameras in

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_ j- tt Ira essl



1 a

classic movies featuring the likes
of Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin
and Laurel and Hardy.
Nearby is a gold-plated single-
lens reflex model Leica which he
estimates is worth about $5,000.
On the other side of the room is a
series of original model Minox
"spy" cameras, which date back to
1932 . He also has a series of origi-
nal model Rollies from the 1930s,
primarily used for portrait photog-
raphy. Many of these cameras are
similar models to the ones used
today by wedding and fashion pho-
"Some of my favorites are the
ones that aren't worth much at
all," he admits, pointing to a shelf
of inexpensive, yet visibly
appealing, Kodak snapshot cam-
eras made for organizations for
kids during the 1930s and 1940s.
Among them are green Girl Scout
and brown Boy Scout models.
Across the room on another
shelf is a group of dime-store
cameras, one with Fred
Flintstone featured prominently
on the box. Each is worth about
50 cents, or as Farber says,
"Whatever someone will pay for
Farber loves talking about his
collectible fake that he picked up

_ pi) / °tog-

at a camera show. It is a standard
Leica rangefinder which sports a
numbered plate of the same
name. Farber estimates its value
at $8,000.
"The real model is worth
$35,000," Farber boasts. "It is a
good fake."
Farber says camera collecting
has changed in the past few
decades. He speculates that fewer
are interested in the hobby
because making them is no longer
a craft. They are machine made,
and the details are not the same.
On a tour of his cameras,
Farber asks questions about the
Nikon D-100 digital camera being
used to shoot his collection. He
doesn't like digital. He thinks it
has cheapened the craft.
"There is no beauty to these
new cameras," he says. "They are
just big chunks of plastic. There
is no art to taking a picture any-
more. Everything is automatic.
"The old wooden ones were
hand-built," he adds. "Old cam-
eras have a beauty to them. It's a
nostalgic thing."
He then looks at the photo after
it instantly pops up on a screen on
the back of the camera. "It looks
fine. It's fine," he says.


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