Despite the digital boom, analog cameras are everywhere. There’s probably one gathering dust in your attic, or packed away in a forgotten box of family heirlooms. So commonplace are these cameras, in fact, that it seems hard to believe there’s a dearth in supply.
Yet that’s exactly what’s happening at the moment: More people want those cameras than can get their hands on one because they’re hidden in the world’s cupboards, warehouses, and studio storage spaces. Camera Rescue is on a mission to change all that.
Pixsy meets Camera Rescue:
“Globally there are probably 100 million unused cameras, and maybe 500,000 active users,” says Juho Leppänen, who cofounded Camera Rescue in 2018. The organization aims to connect that vast majority of people who have access to analog cameras but no use for them, with the minority who are in the market for one. The platform puts owners of analog cameras in touch with local shops, who can purchase and, if necessary, repair the item before selling it on.
Leppänen originally started a buying and selling shop in 2010 in Tampere in his native Finland. At the time, he was the only shop of its kind in the country, and his customer’s main demographic was older men, more intent on collecting cameras than actually using them. In the last five years or so, however, Leppänen has noticed a shift. Across the world, film cameras have seen a renaissance, with young creatives embracing the medium as an antidote to the instant gratification of digital. In 2016 he founded an e-commerce startup to answer the surge in demand.
But soon he hit a snag. “Europe is a very fragmented market, with different languages, legislation, currencies, etc.,” Leppänen explains. “The analog camera market is not in a position to have an e-commerce marketplace where everyone can gather to buy and sell.” At the same time, most cameras require servicing before they can be resold, adding an extra layer of complexity to an already challenging proposition.
So what started as a profit-seeking venture swiftly morphed into an organization dedicated to rescuing the world’s analog cameras.
Today, Camera Rescue has a network of crew members across Europe, working to source cameras, get them repaired, and release them back into the world with a new lease of life. “Everyone working with us has a heart for it,” says Leppänen. “Many of the experts could be earning a lot more, but they choose to do this instead.”
At the Camera Rescue showroom in Tampere, analog cameras line the walls. Upstairs in the workshop, over 3000 cameras sit waiting to be repaired, while a dedicated team of experts works painstakingly to restore each instrument to its former glory. Camera Rescue’s goal is to process 100,000 cameras.
So far, since Leppänen started counting back in 2010, they’re almost at 50,000, with just over a year to go. The challenge is steep, but recent developments are helping to scale up operations. A new browser-based app, due for imminent release, allows camera owners to upload images and details about their camera and solicit offers from repair shops in their local area.
“It’s all about finding ways to let people know the service exists,” says Leppänen. Another issue is that as the organization rescues more cameras, an increasing number of them require repairs, having last been serviced in the 1990s. This translates to a more labor-intensive maintenance process, which in turn affects scalability. Leppänen, however, remains undaunted. He plans to scale up sales to support a growing team of repair assistants, as well as collaborate with other individuals and organizations to support efforts elsewhere. “We’ve always been about sharing rather than trying to hog the market,” he says.
Camera Rescue is poised to help those looking to start up a similar service or process, provide advice and infrastructural support, and share learnings and knowledge. In the meantime, analog camera lovers can purchase cameras, lenses, and other equipment directly from the organization’s online portal, kamerastore.com; and anyone looking to sell their analog camera or locate a local repair center can head to the Camera Rescue homepage.