This is the Best Camera Condition Description I’ve Ever Seen

This is the Best Camera Condition Description I’ve Ever Seen

2800 1575 James Tocchio

There’s a running gag among the CP staff writers, and if you’re a camera collector or anyone who has spent some time browsing eBay for vintage cameras you’ll likely get the joke. It centers around camera sellers’ descriptions and the often incongruous ways that some sellers list the condition of the cameras they’re selling.

There’s the infamous “(EXC++++)” which is, as closely as anyone can guess, a condition description denoting that the camera for sale is excellent, plus a lot of pluses. Take this one with a grain of salt. I recently bought an “EXC++++” camera that was completely broken. When I contacted the seller inquiring, “what the heck, man!?” he replied, “Of course it has some problems. That’s why it was listed EXC++++.” This nearly broke my brain.

Then there’s the equally vague use of percentages in grading. What does it mean when a camera is “80-89% of original”? Interesting side note, the company that uses this system rates these cameras also as “Excellent” and “Excellent Plus,” words that are exceedingly subjective and essentially meaningless.

And then there’s the absolute favorite recurring gag here among the writers; the constantly repeated claim from Japanese sellers that a camera or lens contains “Not a tiny dust.”

And it’s these Japanese sellers who most frequently provide the whimsical break from the rigors of everyday life, with their amazing descriptions that seem somehow enhanced by the translation barrier. We really love them.

Take, for example, this recent excerpt sent to me by Dustin Vaughn-Luma. It was found in the condition description of a Leica M6, selling out of Tokyo. I have never seen a more beautiful, profoundly puzzling, and ultimately rewarding condition description for a camera for sale anywhere, any time.

The following words are pure poetry. Read them slowly, and enjoy.

There are many threads and scratches accompanying aged fatigue and use.
It is a durable wind body that felt the mighty warriors.
For those who like vintage style it is recommended.
Although there are many rust floats on the Leica-specific surface of this age.
It has become a good spice combined with the overall feeling of stinking.

My first reaction to this poem; simple joy. But let’s examine it closer.

This perfect construct of verbiage starts innocuously enough. “There are many threads and scratches.” I understand that, mostly, though the word “threads” hints at trouble to come. Then, we reach the end of the sentence “accompanying aged fatigue and use.” This is where we begin to see the true existential examination that was no doubt the entire aim of the author.

Next, we hear of the body and its durability. It has a “wind body” which at some point “felt the mighty warriors.” Who are these mighty warriors? From where did they originate? Were they victorious, or were they vanquished perhaps by automatic film advance and a pair of AA batteries? These questions remain enigmatically unaddressed.

The next line of the stanza, “For those who like vintage style it is recommended.” This is straightforward; a simple phrase that makes sense. It’s not until we read the next line of the poem that we realize that this easily understood line exists only to lull us into a sense of the familiar, so that the author can forcibly yank us back to his or her own vision of reality.

“Rust floats on the Leica-specific surface of this age.”

Was a more profound sequence of words ever strung together? The surface of this age. Rust floats upon it. My god. It’s true.

Finally, we are left with a striking reflection on the nature of life. “It has become a good spice” signifies that the age, though as previously shown does float with rust, is indeed good at its core. This goodness “combined with a feeling of stinking,” shows the author’s nuanced understanding that life, while inherently joyful, also stinks.

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[The original inspiration for this post can be seen here]

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
14 comments
  • Well, I can make sense of ‘thread’, at least. It’s most likely a machine translation screw-up between the correct term 擦れ (su-re: scratch, mark, rubbing) and another word with the same pronunciation, スレ (su-re: internet thread, topic, etc.). I have no clue as to the rest, unfortunately…

  • You sir have made my day!

  • My favorite is “mint, except for the dent”.

  • By golly, the way I chose to see the world previously has been shattered – only to be pieced together again in the form kintsukuroi.

    I dont think I’ve ever laughed from reading something before btw… you’re word are truly visual

  • A description worthy of comparison to Kawabata and Mishima. I sometimes browse eBay for cameras I read about here, mostly the “Buy it now” category since setting the alarm clock and bidding 5 seconds before an auction ends is a young man’s game. And for the most part it’s Japanese sellers, or maybe just one. The formatting of the descriptions always looks the same. And I too was baffled by the, shall we say, generous but relatively arbitrary amount of plusses. I usually skip the general description (I mean I’ve already googled the history and specs of the camera) and go straight to the description of body, electronic system if available and lens.

  • Hilarious! There is some tiny dust. Mint+
    I hasten to add I speak no Japanese yet have travelled there myself. The eBay language is neither English or Japanese. It’s ebayish

  • “Casual Photophile – small dusts and floating rusts for your photographic soul”

  • I can’t help but smile every time I see “works perfectry”.

  • I laughed for a full minute and my wife thought that I had finally gone over the edge 🙂
    Such a beautifully expressive piece.
    So much nicer than….. “…… life is s#!t… and then you die….”
    Thank you for making my day 🙂

  • Joe shoots resurrected cameras January 27, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    And then you get the people who think they’re crafty by calling something “minty.” Unless you’re referring to its aroma, this word means nothing, and I doubt you’d get a refund for an item not being “minty.” As far as the plusses go, I’ve bought quite a lot of music over the years and assumed that it was taken from the Goldmine Standard of grading records, but multiple plusses mean nothing as far as I’m aware. You can read more here: https://www.goldminemag.com/collector-resources/record-grading-101 If there isn’t a standard for grading cameras in the same way, perhaps it’s time that someone started one!

  • The best I’ve ever seen is this one:
    I sell a Minolta X700, zoom 35-70, new condition without charger, (forgot it abroad).

  • shootfilmridesteel January 29, 2019 at 8:12 am

    I’d go for a minty smelling camera. I mean, have you smelled on old Kiev?

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio