I have been given many cameras in my life and I’ve bought a few too. This is the list as best I can remember it. I’m sure I have missed out a few but the ones featured here I definitely owned, in this order.
Kodak – Box Brownie
This was given to me my my dad, as were all my early cameras. I must have been around five or six years old. I don’t remember what I shot with it and don’t think I have any pictures that I took with it.
Kodak – Instamatic
My first practical camera. I took a lot of snaps on one of these. I remember trying trick photography like forced perspective to make it look like my mate Robert Mills was stood on the hand of a giant. I shot a pic of my toy snake in the grass like a real one. I took a nice portrait of my Grandad larking around on a bollard in a harbour somewhere.
The Polaroid camera was fun. Instant pics, what’s not to like? The definition wasn’t great and the cartridges were expensive compared to regular film. I still have a few prints left. They were shot around ’83 so I must of kept the Polaroid for a good few years.
Most digital printers online now offer retro prints with the signature white border of a Polaroid they look really good.
A cheaper version of the Kodak disc camera, this was the first brand new camera for me and my brother Magnus. We thought they were really cool at the time but small negatives and cheap lenses meant poor images. A bit of fun but I didn’t get any memorable photos with it.
In retrospect they were one of many attempts to re-invent film photography as digital CCD chips were already being developed in the background. Eastman Kodak had a prototype digital camera in 1975.
At college I favoured the flight-case filled with Nikon cameras to the one filled with Canons. After I left college this Canon was found in a cupboard belonging to a family member and, when no one claimed it, I was allowed to keep it. Joy, my first proper camera!
I was particularly chuffed with it because the art foundation teacher from my college, the late and sorely missed Dave Balans, lent me his personal Canon A1 for my first paid photography assignment. So I had already used one.
My one needed a service and a 50mm lens to get me up and running. I stuck with it for a few years but eventually I got fed up with it’s habit of overexposing. I used to end up with very thick, dark negatives that required huge printing times. I’m sure most of them are fine but my one had a serious exposure issue.
Mamiyaflex Twin Lens Reflex
The Mamiyaflex was another gift. The late Bob Gates, a family friend, gave it to me because he was having trouble getting the right focus adjuster for his glasses if I recall correctly. My first and only medium format camera, it took beautiful photographs.
For those who don’t know the frames on a camera like this are about four times bigger than 35mm film. That gives a huge amount of definition. Also the lenses are pretty good on some of these twin lens cameras. On the downside there are only 12 frames on a roll and you need a light meter. Eventually I let this camera go for the same reason Bob did, it was bloody hard to focus.
Around this time I started looking into digital cameras for the first time and I really fancied medium format. At that time there was a digital back available for the Bronica, the price… a mere £15,000, not including the price of the Bronica or a lens. I decided to hang fire on digital.
Minolta – Dynax
In the late 90’s I shelled out on my own camera for the very first time… with a loan from my friend Susan Orrett. I don’t remember the exact model number but it looked like the one in the picture and it came with two lenses. That meant I could do both near and far!
I had some real fun with this camera and got my eye back in training for subject and composition.
Sony – DSC-P92
My first ever digital camera. I waited a long time because I didn’t think the quality was good enough. Eventually I had a play with my Dads Sony and I was really surprised at how good it was. So I took the plunge. Vibrant colours, no depth of field issues and extreme close-ups. It’s easy to see why people prefer digital compacts to tricky 35mm film cameras.
Canon – EOS 3
While I was researching high end digital cameras that I couldn’t afford it occurred to me that I could pick up a decent used film camera on ebay for buttons. So I ordered this Canon and bought a cheap lens for it.
When it arrived I could not believe the size of it! After a few years using digital compacts I had forgotten how big film cameras were and this one was massive. I was a fan of the Lomography website and so I wanted to try cross processing a colour film to get some rich retro colours. I also shot a black and white film. Both films had to be developed in Lancaster which was a pain and it took two weeks to get them back. After shooting only two or three rolls of film I was fed up with the hassle and also finding it hard to operate the camera itself. So I stuck it back on ebay and got shot.
If you fancy shooting some real film check out Lomography. They sell old school cameras and various film stocks.
Fujifilm – X-E1
I spent 2 years obsessively reading camera magazines and reviews before buying my current camera. I knew I wanted my first good quality lens and the 18-55 lens that came with it is not your average kit lens you get bundled with a new camera. It was designed for this camera and cost £600 if you were to buy it separately.
So now I have my first “proper” digital camera and my first quality lens. What’s more, it looks like the old rangefinder cameras and a bit like the beautiful but unattainable Leicas. It has filters which emulate the old Fuli film stocks Astia, Provia and Velvia. At it’s heart is the X-Trans sensor, used in the larger X-Pro 1 camera, which shows pin sharp detail even when viewed at 100% on screen. Seriously, check out some of the sample shots on line it gives full frame DSLRs a run for their money.
I bought it in January 2014. It’s three years old now but I wouldn’t swap it for anything.
Well, maybe an X-E2…