Dedicated to the cause

For the best part of three decades photographer John S Payne has been a walking talking advertisement for the Nikon brand, amassing a lens and camera cache of more than 300 items.

John S Payne is not a man to do things by halves. Upon graduating from New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science he didn’t settle for life in a white lab coat in the Big Apple, instead he moved back to the place of his birth in the southern states and became fixated with taking photos.

When seeking a suitable home for his burgeoning photography business, John decided against a run-of-the-mill darkroom, instead locating and then purchasing a 1929-era theatre he then developed into a contemporary studio and living space.

Vintage ride

And so it was that after handing over $US225 to purchase his first “serious camera”, a Nikkormate FT-2, in 1975 he decided against on-selling it at the conclusion of its working life and instead went on to buy a further 154 camera bodies from the same brand.John’s interest in photography was first piqued 43 years ago, when aged just 10 he began shooting back and white film, and processing and printing it in a home darkroom set up by his parents.

After turning pro in 1983, he earned his living specialising in advertising, wedding and portrait photography. Today he photographs a mix of commercial, landscape and portraits.

In addition he has cornered the market in North Carolina for “seniors photography” which involved working with local high schools to take profile shots and shoot sports team images for their yearbooks. But it for his incredible collection of Nikon-branded camera bodies and lenses that John’s fame is spreading.



Since he began seriously collecting Nikon equipment in 1990, John has amassed an impressive collection that includes 155 camera bodies, 175 lenses and an assortment of other accessories including motor drives and bulk film backs. The cameras are mainly Nikon F SLR variations, including around 25 F2, F3, F4 and F5 variations, as well as “a couple” of Nikonos V models.Digital items include a Nikon E2 body and DSLR models from Nikon D1 to D4.

Current estimates suggest the value of his collection is around $US100,000 ($A130,000). “The most expensive item, based on what I have paid, is my Nikon D3S body. [However] based on value the [item worth the most] is an early, very early, Nikon F in black with an early motor.” He sources the items from camera shops or via word-of-mouth from other collectors.


Extra yards

Despite the huge array of items at his disposal, John says he only selects around five digital bodies and 12 lenses to use in his everyday work with the remainder of the gear “displayed not stored”. “There’s nothing unusual in that, I just like to see it,” he says.Reticent to refer to his penchant for collecting cameras and lenses as an obsession, the understated 53-year-old struggles to explain what motivates his collecting.

“I wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘super fan’. My photographer friends seem to like it. I have used Nikon products since 1975 and they simply are the best tools available to me to do my job.”


In John’s bag – for sports action

In John’s bag – for everything else

Words: Tracey Porter

Published by mynikonlife Sep 2, 2016
Categories: Gear, News