If there's a piece of photo equipment you've had real difficulty in locating, you might try a camera swap meet.
Bill Bagnall, the king of such events in Orange County, calls them "Camera Expos." One Sunday each month for the past five years, he has turned a small exhibit hall into a camera-fancier's delight. Generally, there are more than 100 sellers' tables and more than 600 buyers.
The expo started five years ago at Brookhurst Community Center in Anaheim, but has moved to the much larger Sequoia Club in Buena Park. The items range from 8-by-10 format cameras to subminiature cameras. But don't look for major bargains here. These are not distress sales.
The sellers, who come from Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico and throughout California, know what they are doing. So let the buyer beware.
Warnings aside, if you're looking for used equipment, this is a great place to start--cameras, lenses, darkroom equipment, lighting gear, accessories, filters, books, magazines, old photos and tripods.
"It resembles any other swap meet," Bagnall said. "It's for anyone looking for an odd-size filter, a gimmick or accessory for his camera that a camera store no longer carries, someone just getting into photography looking for a nice, clean used 35-millimeter (camera), or someone who wants to move up to a larger format camera. With over 100 tables, it's 10 camera stores rolled into one.
"There are occasional rare buys out there, but many of my exhibitors have been doing it for years. They have obtained their merchandise from various sources: garage sales in their neighborhoods, estate sales. Some run advertisements buying equipment. There is a mix of sellers, including several camera store dealers.
"Good old 35-mm. single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras probably dominate the tables. We haven't seen much of the high-tech cameras like Canon T-90 yet because it hasn't been on the market that long to become a used item."
One can expect to buy used equipment at one-third to one-half off the new price depending on quality. Since Hasselblad, Nikon and Canon retain their value, this alone can be worth the $3 price of admission.
For the beginner, Bagnall recommends Canon camera bodies at $60 to $90 in the FT series, which are excellent cameras.
"They don't have all the bells and whistles that the newer ones do," Bagnall said. "They are simple enough so you don't have to go to Caltech to learn how to run them."
The next Camera Expo is scheduled for May 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sequoia Athletic Club at 7530 Orangethorpe Ave., Buena Park.
The photography column, which runs each Saturday in Orange County Life, is intended to help both the serious amateur and weekend shooter. Questions and ideas are encouraged. Write to: Robert Lachman, Chief Photographer, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif., 92626.