Excellence or Perfection?

Should we strive for perfection or excellence? I would argue that it is good to aim for continuous improvement. When it comes to offering a classic camera for sale, I would go that extra step and aim for excellence. But not perfection. 

I think anyone looking for perfection will be disappointed. It is of course subjective. What is perfection after all? It might be different for different people. And your view of perfection might change over time anyway.

At Trip Man, I have have come to love classic cameras for their signs of age and their patina, signs that the camera has enjoyed life and been used by the owner. Most of our cameras are 40 years old or more now and only a tiny percentage are what I'd call 'mint' condition. I do get them occasionally and I tend to service them and clean them lightly and offer them for sale as original cameras, without adding new leather.

But the majority of cameras I find have some little signs of their age, such as bright marks (very light scratching to the chrome surface) often caused by putting the camera in the original Olympus pouch. The zip rubs on the corners a bit. It doesn't worry me though - I'd rather the camera had been stored in the case than not. It will have been protected from the elements and from knocks. Importantly, storing a Trip 35 in the case will have prolonged the life of the selenium light meter.

So for me, the fact that a mechanical thing actually still works is more important than looking 'mint'. True, I'm not keen on dents and dings and I wouldn't sell a camera like that, but some minor cosmetic issues are not an issue. As long as the camera has been cared for and used carefully, and can continue to be used, I'm happy. 

What I don't like to see are dirty lenses and viewfinders. I'm a bit OCD with this. The main thing about image taking is the experience of capturing the moment and that image looking like what you saw at that time. So I am really careful to check lenses and viewfinders and I take them apart and replace any glass that has been scratched, pitted, marked or is cracked. I clean all of the lens elements and try my best to reassemble the lens so it is clear of fungus and dust too. 

When a camera is 40 years old, it will have dirt on it and inside, so I do my best to clean the camera, inside and out. I'm like that with my car too! I don't enjoy driving a dirty car with smeared windows. I want a clear view and want it to look good. I don't want perfection - my car does have some dents and scrapes and you can tell it is old, but at least it runs really well, because I make sure it is properly serviced and has a regular oil change. 

I took this photo of my brother next to my old Mercedes workhorse using my Trip 35 with HP5 film.

So I want to make a thing the best it can be so it keeps working and is enjoyable to use and gets good results. It will then work for me as long as I want it to. I enjoy looking after things and don't like throwing things away. This is probably why working on classic cameras suits me so well. 

"Perfect is the enemy of good" (Voltaire).

I strive for excellence and not perfection.