Photography And the Sense of Smell
The smell of ether is distinctive and once formed a large part of the universe of the professional photographer. Gun cotton was dissolved in it to produce collodion - a sticky glue that was poured over glass plates and then soaked in silver nitrate to produce wet plates for large-format photography. How many early workers anaesthetised themselves preparing the collodion - or blew themselves up seeing where that funny smell came from with a candle in the darkroom...?
Then again when the flexible film camera came into being -and later the motion picture film - the first films had an acetate base. Fine in the initial stage but prone to breaking down chemically later to form flammable and explosive compounds. A distinctive smell coming from an old 35mm reel of motion picture film should serve as a warning.
Sniff some more. Is there a musty odour associated with your camera or the lenses in your old camera bag? Is the bag itself redolent of old socks? Or cheese? You may well be growing a fine crop of mould in your equipment. You'll need some fresh air, bright sunlight, and professional cleaning to return it from the grave - and no fair trying to trade it in to us, either. We've got noses too and we prefer our fungus sliced and fried over a steak.
The odour of a Soviet camera is also one that will never be forgotten - the Fed, Zorki, Kiev, Krasnoyarsk, Quarz, and many other products of the old empire were issued in real leather cases - presumably from pigskin in many cases - and in many instances pretty fresh from the tanning vat, if the smell was anything to go by. They were lubricated with fish oil. If you used a new one you didn't need Vitamin D tablets for a year - you just breathed deeply.
Is there a distinctive digital smell? Not really - most of the lubricants are artificial and while you might get a new camera smell, it is generally very subdued. It might be worth while for the manufacturers to enclose a scent sachet in the boxes - freshly-brewed coffee or garlic prawns or something to make you feel you have something to look forward to besides reading another manual and getting a firmware upgrade.