Cameras And Adventures | A Fantastic Life
After 40 years experience in the photography industry here’s a list of film and digital cameras I've owned over the years.
During that time I’ve had the good fortune to travel widely and experience a variety of exciting adventures on five continents.
Since my early days working in a camera store, running a wedding/portrait studio and working as a newspaper photographer I've enjoyed owning a range of cameras.
My first overseas travels were undertaken with Canon F-1 cameras that I was loaned by Canon in Australia. Subsequent expeditions were undertaken with a range of Hasselblad and Leica film based cameras.
Over more recent times I've travelled and photographed extensively with Canon 5D and Canon 5D Mark II, Nikon D800e, Leica M9 and Sony A7Rii digital cameras.
I believe I'm correct to say that, since the beginning of my career in photography, the cameras that I've owned include the following:
Nikon Nikkormat FT-3
Kodak Handle (instant picture) camera
Hasselblad 500CM, 503CW, 903SWC, X-PAN and X-PAN II
Leica M6, M7, MP
Leica R6.2 and R8
Canon 5D and Canon 5D Mark II
Panasonic Lumix (I'm unsure of the model)
I’ve also owned a 4”X5” large format (folding) field camera, though the brand name escapes me. It was a beautiful thing, all wood and brass with the removable lens being attached to the camera via an accordion-like bellows.
But, while beautiful, that camera was frustrating to use and leaked light like the proverbial sieve. What’s more the lens I’d bought, second hand, to go with it broke down at critical stages, including while on a trip to Ladakh (Land of the Passes) in far northern India.
What's Most Important When You Buy A new Camera
So, nostalgia aside, reliability, stability and easy of use should be essential considerations when buying camera equipment.
This is a lesson I learned, the hard way, on several occasions during my formative years as a travel and documentary photographer.
While technological features are a key consideration when buying a new camera it also needs to meet the following criteria:
Comfortable to hold and carry
Relatively easy to use
Built to withstand the rigors associated with travel and photographing under a wide variety of environmental conditions
My Journey From Film To Digital Cameras
My first two DSLR cameras were Canon (5D and 5D Mark II) largely because, at that time, Canon were the only manufacturer to make full frame DSLR cameras.
In fact I entered the DSLR market later than most photographers because I wanted a full frame camera at a particular price.
I finally made the move to digital in September 2005, when I purchased an original Canon 5D camera and a bunch of lenses. Why Canon?
Nikon had no full frame DSLR cameras and Sony didn’t exist on the DSLR market back in those days.
Unfortunately, when I made the move to digital the re-sale value on film cameras and lenses was very low.
I lost a lot of money selling 3 Hasselblad bodies and 6 lenses as well as 2 Leica bodies and 4 lenses second hand.
While relatively new, and in excellent condition, the majority of the marketplace had well and truly turned to digital. What’s more I had to find extra money for a new Canon kit.
And that’s in addition to probably $40,000 spent on computers and associated peripherals over the years. Moving to digital, at least in those earlier years, was very expensive indeed.
Once I’d bought my Canon 5D I needed to purchase several lenses and flashes. Once you’ve bought into a system it’s expensive to change brands.
So, despite significant technological advances from Nikon, I stayed with Canon when I upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark II. And, for the most part, I was happy with that decision.
But things change and, after many years, I came back to Nikon.
My very first SLR camera was the Nikon Nikkormat FT-3 which I believe I bought back in 1979.
I purchased a Nikon FE-2 a few years later, but it wasn't until mid-2012, with the purchase of a Nikon D800e and associated lenses that I once again joined the Nikon fold.
Why I Use And Recommend Sony Mirrorless Cameras
In the later part of 2015 I entered the mirrorless camera market with a Sony a7Rii. I've added to that the excellent Sony/Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 and Sony/Zeiss FE 24-70 f/4 lenses.
The Sony alpha is a wonderful though, quite complex, camera system.
The improvements in handling, size, weight and highly programable functionality are staggering and several of Sony's lenses are absolutely world class.
I'm very happy with Sony, although I very much enjoyed using a Leica SL camera which I believe to be a simply stunning mirrorless camera.
Likewise the Leica Q is an incredible camera that’s more than capable of meeting the needs of most well heeled enthusiast level travel photographers.
A Warning About Bias From Well Meaning Folk
For me it's never been about bias. I'm neither a Canon nor a Nikon fan boy and, as I've just indicated, I'm not particularly bonded to Sony, although it is a camera system I highly recommend.
I'm only interested in what camera system provides me with the flexibility and quality I need for the work I'm producing at the time.
However, after owning so many cameras over the years, I do have an innate understanding of the workings of so many camera systems, which has proven to be a huge asset when it comes to teaching folks how to use their own cameras.
While it's wise that the research you undertake into buying a new camera includes seeking opinions from trusted sources, it's always important to expect bias on behalf of even the most well meaning friend or mentor.
The camera that suits them best is not necessarily going to be the best option for you.
In fact the word best should probably be avoided. What good is it buying the world's best camera if, for example, it's so large and heavy you can barely carry it.
Please don't base you're purchase decision on camera specifications alone.
Camera Logic And The Way You Think
All cameras were not created equally. Some brands and models will suit the way your own brain works more so than others. The location and naming of particular features may make far more sense, to you, on one camera than on another.
It’s particularly important, when buying your first mirrorless or DSLR camera, to understand that you are also likely to be buying into a particular brand logic and system.
All the more important to understand which camera logic best suits the way your own brain manages and navigates data. This is where actually spending time playing with a range of cameras, before you buy, is of such critical importance.
Buying a new camera is a big decision and it's important to understand that once you buy a few lenses and, maybe, a dedicated flash you’ll find it more difficult to change brands down the track.
I wish you well with your future photography and hope that you end up purchasing the camera gear and accessories that best meet your own, individual needs.