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Every Camera I've Ever Owned

January 25, 2008

(Updated 1-Feb-2008; updates in red)


Almost every one, anyway. There were some disposables I used on vacations, there's an Exa I bought at an antique store last summer, and a Baby Brownie I got as a gift around the same time, neither of which I've taken a shot with.

Other than those, here's the complete list, in order, all my great choices and dumb mistakes.

Argus A
1962 or 1963 (free)


Given to me by the guy I bought an enlarger from in 1962 or 1963 (can't remember which). There's a bit more about it in a blog entry. The best picture I took with this camera, and one of the best I've ever taken, is here.
Konica FP
1964 ($160?)


By 1964 I was reading Popular Photography every month, over-and-over until the next issue arrived. I considered myself an expert on SLRs, even though I'm not sure I had ever seen one. The new Konica FP had a metal focal-plane shutter, microprism focusing, and a 1.4 lens, which made it a terrific camera for the price.

I lugged this camera along with a Spiratone lens and TelXtender to the 1964 World's Fair in a heavy suitcase I made from plywood. (Pictures here.) I used it all through high school for yearbook and newspaper pictures, but then I put it away when I went to college. I have slides taken in 1969 on a trip to Florida and in 1970 on a trip to California, but then hardly anything the early 1970s. I guess my photography hobby had run its course, although it did pick up again 30 years later.

I gave the camera away sometime in the 1980s I think, maybe to a cousin. I wish I still had it. (Update: See added note at bottom.)

(Thanks to Dave Thomas for the photo. He remembers that he paid about $160 for his in 1963, so I guess that's about what I paid.)

Canon 110ED
1976 ($105)


I guess that suitcase I took to the World's Fair still haunted me, because in 1976 I went with 110 film in little Instamatic-like cartridges. I still have hundreds of tiny 16mm negatives which are almost impossible to scan on home equipment. Back in Nov. (2007) I sent a hundred or so to ScanCafe, who does their scanning in India. I've seen the web previews, which are terrific, but haven't gotten the actual images back yet. (They're due in Feb.)

I keep trying to buy little cameras to use when my bigger ones are too big to carry (see below), but at least I'm not using them all the time anymore.

I seem to remember giving this camera to my sister. (Update: She says no.)

Canon AE-1
1976 ($265 with lens)


The AE-1 was a breakthrough camera because of its extensive computerization, innovative materials and manufacturing, and low price. I ended up with four lenses, all Canon: The 50mm f/1.8 it came with, a 35mm f/3.5, a 100mm f/2.8, and a 100-200mm f/5.6 zoom.

This was the camera I took on my Op Sail '76 voyage, blogged about here.

Unfortunately, I didn't use this camera much during the 1980s, shooting with grossly inferior cameras instead, like the 110ED, above.

I think I ended up giving the AE-1 to a charity, because I have some notes where I calculated the tax deduction based on an appraisal from a local camera store. I don't miss it nearly as much as I miss my Konica FP. (Update: My sister says she has my AE-1. See added note at bottom.)

Nikon TW2 (?)
1987 (cost unknown)


Why I bought this camera, from where, and for how much I don't remember. I don't even remember the model number, although from the pictures on the Nikon archive site this one seems to be about right. I don't know what happened to the camera, either. Maybe it's in the basement or the garage at the bottom of a box of junk.

I took thousands of pictures with this camera, as it was almost all I used for about 10 years. Fortunately, I did a pretty good job of preserving the negatives and I've recently scanned most of them.

I regret that all those images were shot with such a cheap camera, but maybe I wouldn't have taken them at all if my choices were an SLR or nothing. That's the tradeoff I'm still struggling with: When to carry the big camera, and when to compromise image quality for convenience. That's a theme that runs through this list.

Canon ELPH
1997 ($300)


While putting this article together, never having previously looked at when I bought my cameras, I noticed something weird: I bought the pocketable 110ED and the AE-1 SLR in the same year, 1976, and then 21 years later I did the same thing, buying an ELPH and a Nikon N70 (below) in the same year. In fact, I did it twice more, in 2006 and 2007 (Leica instead of SLR), although by 2006 I was buying so many cameras that maybe the pattern was a coincidence.

Clearly, the theme of small camera/large camera is one that's been with me for a while. (I blogged about it once.)

Back to the ELPH... It was my first and last APS camera, Kodak's third and last attempt to change the world with an easy-loading cartridge. (I think there was a disc camera at some point, too.) At least APS images were bigger that 110! I accumulated maybe 30 or 40 APS cartridges, which I scanned a year or so ago. At the time, I appreciated that each developed cartridge came with a dated index sheet, since dating old pictures has been a problem for me.

Almost all my ELPH pictures were snapshots of my kids. I had a few enlarged to 8x10 and they seemed to be OK.

APS never really caught on like Kodak and its other backers wanted, and by 2000 it was clear that digital was going to kill it off for good. (Kodak almost went with it.)

I still have the ELPH, but I'm sure I will never again buy a roll of APS film for it.

Nikon N70
1997 ($400 for body)


I bought this up-to-date SLR after starting to read I recall Philip Greenspun calling the N70 with a 24-120mm zoom a "nice toy" or something like that, so that's what I got. Indeed, it was a nice toy, and I started to use it instead of the ELPH, which today means that I have some very high quality negatives, all of which I've scanned. I got an excellent 85mm f/1.8 from KEH, used, which I still put on my D200 (see below) when I want a fast, long lens. (85mm on the D200 is like the 135mm I had on my Konica FP.) Also, I bought a new 16mm f/2.8 rectilinear fisheye. It works OK on my D70 and D200, but doesn't cover 180° anymore because of the D200's smaller sensor. (I put together page for about this lens on my D70.)

I still have the N70, which I think of as a spare body, although I'm not likely to ever use it.

Sony Mavica MVC-FD7
1998 ($700)


I can't believe what I paid for this camera! I really wanted a digital, mostly to photograph wrist watches. (If you don't believe me, click here.)

Mavicas did have one outstanding feature: They stored their images on floppy disks. This worked because the 640x480 images were only about 120K each. Later Sony moved to CDs, but by then flash memory had become practical and getting rid of the big and power-hungry drive made the cameras much smaller.

The Mavica is still with me, although I can't think of why I would ever actually use it.

Olympus C-2040
2001 ($450?)


When digital cameras matured a bit I wanted something better and smaller than the Mavica, and I remember reading web sites like looking for the best choice. In 2001 things were just as they are today: Dozens of cameras with slightly different features, and newer ones showing up every few months. Finally, in despair, I just went to a local Circuit City and bought what they had, which turned out to be a great camera, especially with its on-camera flash.

I took hundreds of pictures with my C-2040 and, although they're only 2 megapixels, they still look good today.

After I bought a C-50 (see below), I sold the C-2040 on eBay in 2003 for $172.50, which I thought was a terrific price.

Olympus C-50
2003 ($450)


By 2003 digicams had moved to 5 megapixels or more, and I wanted something more pocketable than the 2040, so I got a C-50. This time the choice was easy: I wanted another Olympus, since the C-2040 had worked so well, and I liked the clamshell design of the C-50. Turned out to be a good decision.

I still have the C-50, because when the time came to sell it prices had dropped too much. My daughter still occasionally uses it. I should have continued to use it myself, but instead I bought a Casio S500 (see below), which was even more pocketable, but the difference turned out to be unimportant.

Nikon D70
2004 ($1000)


The D70, one of the first sub-$1000 digital SLRs, changed how I approached photography. By 2004 I was using digicams exclusively for snapshots, saving my film N70 for more serious photography, but the inconvenience of film meant that I didn't do much serious photography, and the N70 was hardly ever used.

I think Canon may have had a sub-$1000 before Nikon, but I had those three Nikon lenses, so a Nikon body was the obvious choice. These digital SLRs started people thinking that maybe digital would actually replace film. The D70 wouldn't do it, but clearly it wouldn't be long.

I remember when the UPS driver arrived with the D70 while I was sitting on my front porch with a friend. I opened the box, put the camera to my eye, and said, "It's an SLR!" I was amazed and thrilled that a camera just like my N70 could be digital.

The D70 got me really interested in photography all over again. It became a new, serious hobby, although it was also my oldest hobby.

The old 24-120mm zoom (pre-VR) wasn't really a very good lens, so I replaced it with the cheap 18-55mm kit zoom, which was much sharper and had a more useful range. That was dumb, because I later bought the much more expensive 17-55mm zoom for its fixed f/2.8 speed. Unfortunately, the new zoom is big and heavy; the combination on the already heavy D200 (see below) is frightening. (The newest digitals are even heavier.)

A year or so ago I had the D70 converted to infrared (blog article), so I still use it.

Casio EX-S500
2006 ($275)


As I said above, buying this camera was a mistake, because my Olympus C-50 was pocketable enough, and I'm not sure the Casio takes better pictures.

I tried to sell the Casio on eBay, but nobody wanted to pay very much, so I kept it. I doubt that I'll use it, because my Canon G9 is my pocket camera now (see below). The S500 sits on the shelf near the Mavica.

Nikon D200
2006 ($1600)


I bought the D200 because I wanted a camera that could take higher-resolution pictures than my D70, and it turned out to be a great choice. (It also freed up the D70 for infrared.) I use the D200 whenever I need a long focal length, or a flash, or need to follow active kids, as my Leica (see below) can't do any of those things.

I won't upgrade the D200 to a D300 or a D3, but I might replace it when Nikon makes a high-resolution (20+ megapixels) full-frame digital, which can't be more than a year or two away.

The D200's only weakness is its size and weight. I never take the D200 on long hikes (where Colorado mountains are best seen), even though its zoom would be handy. I take the Leica instead (see below).

Panasonic DMC-LX2
2006 ($430)


I really wanted a pocket camera that could shoot raw, so when the LX2 was announced I bought one. It's a great camera, although it lacks an optical viewfinder and the lens protrudes. Other than that, there was no reason to replace the LX2, except that Canon had announced the G9 which was just like the terrific G7, but with raw. So, I got a G9 (see below).

Fortunately, I was able to sell the LX2 on eBay in 2007 for $295, which means that my brief use of it cost me only $135.

Leica M8
2007 ($4800 for body)


The M8 is ridiculously overpriced for a digital camera, but priced normally for a Leica. My only lens, a 35mm Summicron f/2, cost another $2000 or so. I got the pair because I wanted to shoot with a Leica, for which I place all of the blame on Michael Reichmann of the Luminous Landscape for his initial Leica article.

But, Michael was right. I've taken my best photos with the Leica, mostly on long hikes in Colorado when carrying a heavier camera (D200) would have been unpleasant. The Leica takes better pictures than my D200 anyway, mostly because it has a bigger sensor, it has no anti-aliasing filter, I use it with a prime lens (which I could do on the D200 but don't), and the 35mm Summicron takes amazingly sharp pictures. I also like the precise focusing that the Leica rangefinder allows, and I like that the focus never changes until I change it. (The D200 can be used that way, but no SLR can focus as well as a Leica, although an SLR can focus faster, which sometimes makes all the difference.)

So maybe the Leica was my dumbest camera purchase, but it was also arguably the best, because it opened up possibilities for me.

Canon G9
2007 ($500)


Michael Reichmann is to blame for my getting the G9, too. He said, "If the G7 had raw mode, I would buy one in a flash. As I wrote in this article's sub head — It Could Have Been a Contender! Maybe next year." And, he was right, "next year" brought the G9, which is a G7 with raw.

Finally, I have a pocketable digital that I really like using, as I blogged about recently.

Mamiya RB67
2007 ($600 with lens, used)


I bought this outfit (body with film holder and 90mm lens) from KEH for a great price, considering that it's in perfect condition. I wanted to try to make high-resolution photographs by scanning medium-format film, but now I'm not sure I want to go to the trouble. Maybe someday.

I might sell the Mamiya on eBay or keep it. Not sure yet.



My next camera will probably be a digital that can do what I thought the Mamiya was going to do. It won't be a digital back for the Mamiya, because I think 35mm digital SLRs have already crossed over into medium-format territory with the new Canon 1Ds Mark III. In two or three years, Nikon will have something better, and so will Canon. (Nikon is a guess; Canon is a near certainty.)

So, I'll hold off buying anything for three years. Or so I think...

1-Feb-2008 Update

After writing this article, I started to miss that Konica FP even more. The only ones I could find on eBay were either broken or were selling for too much ($500+). Then I found Greg Weber via Google. He's been repairing Konicas for a long time, and still does. Sells used ones, too. I gave him a call, told him what I wanted ("needs to look good and function, but doesn't need to be in adjustment"), and he called back in an hour or so with the good news: He had a few FPs, including one perfect for me. He even fired the shutter while I was on the phone so I could hear it. That was last Tuesday, I think, and the camera arrived today.

Then, I thought, why not get an AE-1, too? Lots of those on eBay and I easily got one for $52 plus shipping (including a motor drive, an off-brand longer lens and flash, and a bag). The AE-1 arrived today, too. Not only did the camera work, but so did the motor drive.

The new arrivals are pictured at the top.

Turned out I pulled the trigger on the AE-1 too quickly: My sister told me on Wednesday that she had mine!

So now I have everything back except the 110ED, the Nikon TW2, and the two digitals I sold. It's easy to buy 110EDs on eBay, but I don't think I'll bother. TW2s are harder to get, mostly because they're worthless. The digitals are probably easy to get, but I don't care about them.

Blog Archives

Photography Articles

Raw Conversion: Better Never Than Late April 24, 2008

Scanning in India by Way of California With ScanCafe February 15, 2008

How To Back Up Your Personal Computer January 30, 2008

Every Camera I've Ever Owned January 25, 2008

Sharpening JPEGs for the Web January 4, 2008

Lessons Learned From My Memory Problem December 20, 2007

Hunting Down a Mac Hardware Problem December 20, 2007

Trimming GPS Tracks With GPSTrackViewer November 13, 2007

The World's Shortest Camera Buying Guide September 22, 2007

Transporting and Storing Portable Backup Drives August 26, 2007

"The Luminous Landscape" Teaches Me to Print August 4, 2007

Creating a Google Photo Map (Revised) June 26, 2007

Sony GPS-CS1: Not Good Enough for Geotagging Photos June 24, 2007

Epson P-3000/P-5000 Multimedia Storage Viewer March 10, 2007

Trying Out Infrared January 20, 2007

Stupid Designs Hold Digital Back April 1, 2006


Other, older articles



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