My Hardware Journey

September 05, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

 

 

When I was 9 years old, I was given a Halina 110 film camera for Christmas.  It was probably the most influential gift I’ve ever been given.  At the time, I was very excited.  It was better than older sister #1, whose camera required one of those disposable cube flashes like this and sister #2, whose camera was only slightly better in that it took a larger disposable flash, like this.  My camera had an INTEGRATED FLASH that could be used AGAIN AND AGAIN!!!  THE FUTURE WAS HERE!  I got a lot of use out of that camera.  It stayed with me for years, through many family vacations around Europe.  Much later, when I went to college, I “acquired” my mom’s 1970’s Olympus Trip 35, the first 35mm camera I used.  I loved that camera, and indeed part of the reason I love my Fuji X100s today is that it looks just a little like that Olympus.  I didn’t realise how iconic a camera the Oly was back when I used it, but even then I did recognise that the photo quality blew other 35mm point and shoots out of the water.  I wonder if mom still has that camera.  I should ask her…

 

I bought my first “real” camera (i.e. SLR) in late 1999, right before I headed off on an 18 month trip to Australia and New Zealand.  It was a 15 year old Minolta Maxxum 7000 AF - a very revolutionary camera in its day.   This was when I really fell in love with photography. The camera felt so substantial. The click of the shutter when you pressed the button was… heavenly.  It just felt right.  I can’t remember what lens I paired the camera with, but I loved the photos I took.  I finally learned the basics of exposure.  How aperture related to depth of field, why shutter speed was important and how they all worked together to create properly exposed photographs.  Alas, the love affair was short lived.  The Minolta was stolen from my bedroom in Sydney only a couple of weeks after I arrived.  To the person who stole it - I still hate you, and I will have vengeance…

 

A couple of months later I replaced the 7000 with a new Minolta Dynax 404si.  This camera was a disappointment, I used it for the trip home through Asia, and got a couple of nice shots with it, but it never grabbed the way the 7000 did.  Primarily, it just felt…plastic.

 

For a long time, I got out of the habit of taking photographs.  I was busy starting my career in earnest and studying part-time.  That all changed when I went to New York for the first time in 2003.  Digital was still pretty new then but I was excited to try it, so I splashed out on a Fuji A210, an early 3mp point and shoot.  Looking back, it was a pretty cheap, unsophisticated camera, but it made me fall in love with taking photos all over again.  I loved the idea of taking a photo and seeing the results right there and then.  No more waiting weeks to bring the film to the developers before seeing the results of your shots. No hipster romanticising of film here. In the following years, I bought a succession of ever more sophisticated point and shoot digital cameras, all by Fuji.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2008, just after my son was born, I finally bought my first digital SLR, which were becoming more affordable by then.  Of course, I didn’t then have any idea of the potential costs of photography as a serious hobby.  I think if anyone did, they’d probably never embark on it.  After doing some cursory ebay research, I went with an entry level Canon model (the 450D) over the Nikon rival.  I had no idea how fateful that decision was at the time, but in retrospect I’m very happy I went with Canon - for the simple reason that the there is a lot more availability on the second hand market for lenses than with Nikon, and even new lenses are somewhat more affordable.  I spent about 18 months with the 450D, teaching myself the basics of photography all over again. I quickly realised that the kit lens wasn’t doing the business for me.  It was sharp, yes, but the resulting photos weren’t massively better than a point and shoot.  I quickly started investing in lenses…. first the Canon 50 1.8.  Let me say it here - that lens is the one essential thing everyone starting out in SLR photography should have.

 

 

After the 450D, I moved onto the 60D, still a “crop sensor” camera, but with more rugged build and better controls.  As my photography has progressed, I’ve found that more and more I don’t want to be trawling through menus to find the control I am looking for - I want it to be right at my fingertips, and indeed this is the main advantage (for me) that more expensive cameras generally bring.   

 

 

About two years back I took got an amazing deal on a second hand 5DIII from a photographer who had used it as a second body on a round the world trip and no longer needed it so I snapped it up.  I’m still using this camera today.  There’s an ongoing debate about image quality with full frame vs crop.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice a step up from the 60D to the 5DIII, especially in low light.  However, the main benefit to me was that I could finally use lenses as they were meant to be used.  Using any L series lenses on a crop camera was an exercise in frustration.  They worked, yes, but the focal length ranges, especially on zooms, were always odd.  For example, the 24-105 behaved as a 39-170mm.  That is useful to precisely nobody.  Over the past two years I’ve also acquired a nice collection of lenses.  I find that more and more I’m using prime (non zoom) lenses, to get the look I want.  The one exception is the Canon 70-200 f2.8, which is an absolute beast to carry around but takes exquisite photos wide open.

 

 

In terms of hardware, I think I’m set right now.  I just need to go out and take photos...

 
 

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