Big Huge Labs reminded me that my Flickr birthday is in just a few days. My first photo upload was on May 12, 2004. Flickr itself turned 10 in February, but it was the Big Huge Labs stat and the photo walks today that really got me thinking about how long it’s been.
For whatever reason, that has me thinking about the cameras I’ve used over those years. Ten years is long enough that I had to go looking to remember some, and long enough that I found some I’d forgotten. I’ve been going through the photos, and I believe there’s a sample from almost every camera I’ve ever had, including some film cameras. The two exceptions I can think of are a Kodak Disc camera I had as a child, and a 1970s era, 110-format Kodak camera I’d taken on a trip to NYC when I was 19.
Here, then, are almost all the cameras I’ve ever owned…
Years in use: 1992-1996
This camera belonged to a family member and was given to my mother on his death. She used it quite a bit for a time, but while in high school I started to take possession of it. I enrolled in photo classes at the local college to get access to their darkroom. I bought hundreds of rolls of cheap ASA 125 black and white film from Freestyle and pushed it to 1000 and beyond. I estimated I’d exposed over 4,000 frames during my senior year.
I continued shooting during my first year of college, but other interests soon consumed me. The camera hadn’t been used for years when I later passed it on to my sister.
Altogether, I had the OM10 with 50mm F1.8 and a 75-150mm zoom, as well as an off-brand autowinder grip and 35mm-ish lens.
I’ve scanned only a small portion of the film I’d shot, but one of my favorites is on Flickr:
Olympus Stylus Epic
Years in use: 1998-2002
I purchased this compact point and shoot for Sandee as a wedding present. In retrospect I can see how badly I failed at the gift, but it’s a simple, beautiful camera (the Wikipedia article is almost glowing with praise). It was sleekly sculpted, champagne color, and the clamshell slide opened silky smooth with a gratifying a click at the end. The American version had less labeling on the case than the one pictured above.
This is the camera we settled down with. It went to family events and on a few vacations. The pictures it took were excellent by Lomographic standards, and if digital cameras had never come to pass, I’d probably still be using this now. As it is, I have no idea where it was lost to.
I’ve only posted a few photos from this camera to Flickr, though I did dig a few up recently. Here are two of my favorites:
Olympus C-4000 Zoom
Years in use: 2002-2005
I received my C-4000Z as a generous gift in December 2002. I’d borrowed some cameras from work (including a really bad Sony with 3.5″ floppy drive), but my photo skills had gone fallow by the time this came into my life. For the first couple years I think I mostly used it in program mode. I set the flash to second curtain sync, and played with white balance and exposure compensation, but not much else.
I did, however, develop a good rapport with some dogs, and even shot a bit of video with this camera:
Then I actually planned out this particular photo, and that’s when my interest in photography turned from casual hobby into something I actually cared about:
Sandee and I spent the summer of 2005 preparing and photographing food after that, and pretty soon I went looking for a new camera.
Sony Clié PEG-TH55
Years in use: 2004-2005
Sony took PalmOS and added WiFi, a browser, and a camera. The result was actually not bad for its time. Objectively, the camera was atrocious, but often enough, it was the camera I had with me.
My favorite photos comes from the day I had it with me in the Mapparium. In late 2005 I had it with me in a pool in Atlanta where it took its last video.
Olympus C-7000 Zoom
Years in use: 2005-2008
I bought this camera on 20 September 2005. Eight days later I sold it to a friend, Cliff, and bought my next camera. Cliff put it into an underwater housing and took it on some dives, but he let me borrow it back a few times. I believe the camera still works, but Cliff hasn’t been diving lately and I’ve got a more convenient camera for water adventures, so it hasn’t been used for some time.
I don’t have too many photos with the camera. One of my shots was remixed into a political poster, and I took it on vacation in Mexico, but my favorite is probably this one during a kayaking trip in Maine:
Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom
Years in use: 2005-2007
This is the camera I hastily replaced the C-7000 with, and it remains one of my favorites. The all-in-one design mated a healthy zoom to the sensor in a package that was both substantial and respectfully large, while also being far more compact than an equivalent SLR. It shoots raw (though I don’t believe I ever did), is covered in direct buttons for many functions, and had a 28mm equivalent lens.
I’d started to take photography seriously, and this felt like a serious camera. I was confident enough to ask people to let me take their picture. Sometimes it was a guy who’d spent his life collecting thermometers, other times it was a guy in a smash up derby car. I started looking for photos in everything and everywhere I went.
This camera model is searchable, but very few of my photos taken with it appear in the search results.
Olympus Stylus Verve
Years in use: 2005-2007
I bought the Verve in 2005 at the same time I bought the C-7000. Ostensibly it was a gift for Sandee, but really it was meant to be a replacement for the Clié: a camera small enough to go everywhere, but better.
And everywhere it went. To see Avenue Q in Las Vegas, They Might Be Giants in a casino lounge show, to new year’s eve parties, to the Seattle Public Library, at the Internet Archive, and many points in between. Eventually, however, the camera started to feel disposable and it went on a kayaking trip:
And yet the camera still works. The batteries don’t last long, and everybody’s smartphone now has a much better camera, but this one still works.
Palm Treo 650
Years in use: 2006-2007
Again, this is one of those objectively crappy cameras that is nonetheless the camera I happened to have at a few important moments.
I thought this phone was the cat’s pajamas until the iPhone was introduced. I passed the phone on to a family member. The phone was retired in 2008 and was subsequently recycled with the carrier.
Olympus Stylus 700
Years in use: 2006
The Stylus 700 was a beautifully compact camera, and a great successor to the Verve and Epic: an easily pocketable, go-everywhere camera that took outstanding photos for its time and market segment. Then it broke.
I had it for a few months near the end of 2006. I was traveling a lot at the time, but took it on at least one hike. It even shot video at 640×480.
Years in use: 2007-2008
I was in line to buy the original iPhone on June 29, 2007. It was worth it.
Like the Clié and Treo, the camera was pretty lousy, but at least I always had it with me.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi
Years in use: 2007-2014
I didn’t want this camera. What I wanted was a super wide angle lens, and I was frustrated that the only way I could get it was on an SLR. I was especially frustrated with the mirror, and the retrofocus designs necessary because of it. The current crop of compact system cameras is what I would have really wanted, but this was years before that market shift.
I’d encountered some wide angle photos on Flickr, perhaps this was one, and realized I’d need a new lens to achieve that look. I looked seriously at the Olympus lineup before I picked the Canon EF-S 10-22mm. The camera itself was almost an afterthought.
As it turned out, I grew to appreciate a lot more than the wide lens. The camera’s quick focus, short shutter delay, and fast sequential shooting capabilities drove me even further down the shoot first, curate later path. And after years with cameras that couldn’t manage better than ASA400, the Rebel’s ASA1600 capability opened up new worlds.
This is also the camera I had when I started playing with timelapse and HDR.
Years in use: 2008-2011
This is the cheap video camera I got because the Rebel couldn’t do video. I picked it based on price and Amazon reviews, but was quickly frustrated by the poor low-light performance, limited angle of view, and the need for a separate device. I made a wide-angle adapter out of a door peephole, but more often than not the camera stayed home, and it was eventually replaced by better quality video on my iPhone 4.
Apple iPhone 3G
Years in use: 2008-2009
I had one. I waited in line for it, but I’m not sure which of my photos on Flickr were shot with it. As I remember it, the camera was the same as in the previous model, and by then people were starting to clamor for better.
I’m pretty sure I posted at least one photo with this camera, but I’m not sure which, and when going through them, none looked memorable.
Olympus Stylus 1030 SW
Years in use: 2009-present
Another camera I ostensibly bought for Sandee, and again purchased at the some time I bought a camera for myself. Sandee appreciated the gesture, but rarely used the camera. The release of the iPhone 3GS, with its significantly better camera, thoroughly displaced this one.
On the other hand, the camera did find use at a Banditos Misteriosos water gun battle, on kayaking trips, including a week on the St. Croix along the border with Canada, and I’m planning to take it to Hawaii this summer. Keep your fingers crossed that the seals are still supple and waterproof for me?
Years in use: 2009-2014
This is a very nearly the perfect camera. It has a fast 24mm equivalent lens, a large sensor for its size (though smaller still than the micro 4/3 sensor), a good menu system, and compact form factor. The camera replaced my Rebel as my default camera for quite a while. The camera travels very well, and it’s the only (non-phone) camera I took with me on a few trips.
For a while, it was the camera I’d recommend to anybody who asked, especially those who complained of complexity. I looked back on my photos with the camera recently and found a lot to be pleased with.
Why is it only “nearly perfect?” The camera has no mechanism for remote shutter release, not even IR, and definitely not USB-tethered shooting. I assembled a small Arduino-controlled servo to press the shutter button my remote control, but the arrangement is inelegant and larger than the Rebel (which natively accepts remote control input). Finally, though noise and low-light performance are good compared to compacts, it pales compared to any camera with a larger sensor.
The family line continued up to the LX7, which Panasonic recently pulled from the market. I was very close to buying that model a few times. I believe the only thing that stopped me was the lack of remote control.
Apple iPhone 3GS
Years in use: 2009-2010
This generation of iPhone brought with it a dramatically better camera. The photos and video taken with this iPhone could be used without apology for their quality.
As it turned out, it was the video camera I had with me when I met Roman Shusterman on Coney Island taking an NSFW stand for Free Speech. It’s also the camera I had with me when I moved cross-country to San Francisco.
Apple iPhone 4
Years in use: 2010-2012
This is the phone on which Instragram launched and forced the world (and established camera manufacturers) to take notice of smartphones’ role in shaping the future of photography.
Ironically, my own photo activity stagnated during this time.
GoPro HD Hero 2
Years in use: 2011-present
I don’t do any of the extreme activities featured in the GoPro product videos, but I knew I wanted one. The durability and built-in intervalometer seemed ideal. I mounted it on the window of my cross-country Amtrak train, I hung it from a kite. The intervalometer makes it tempting to turn it on and curate the results later, as I did for a trip down the Merced River in Yosemite. I’ve also tried using it as a regular camera with a shutter button.
That facts, however, are that timelapse using a GoPro are often unsatisfying, and nobody is seriously using this as a “regular camera with a shutter button.”
Flickr does not appear to be able to identify this camera model from the EXIF data.
Apple iPad 3
Years in use: 2012-present
I didn’t buy the iPad for its camera, and I still laugh when I see people taking pictures in public with tablets, but I’ve used it that way myself and posted some of the photos to Flickr.
Apple iPhone 5
Years in use: 2012-present
This phone has a fantastic camera, better in some respects than the Lumix LX3 I so adore. I had a chance to compare the two on my trip to Europe in December 2012. I loved them both, but two-thirds of the photos I published to Flickr are from my iPhone (part of the reason for that is GPS).
Canon EOS M
Years in use: 2014-present
Eventually I gave up and decided to give the EOS M a try. Magic Lantern was part of that, but it turns out it doesn’t work out as well as I’d hoped. The camera itself, however, is far better than critics had suggested. Did Canon hobble it to protect its other cameras? You bet, and Canon appears to be losing ground in Asian markets to competitors with better ILC offerings. One report claims Sony sold more units in S. Korea than Canon in the last quarter, as one example.
The camera focuses okay with my 10-22mm and pretty fast with the 22mm STM. Focus is slower and more light sensitive than phase detection systems, but that’s a tradeoff some may be willing to take for the smaller size.
My real gripe is that the camera seems to have an artificial speed limit. When timelapsing, my old Rebel from 2007 can shoot separately triggered JPGs at about two per second without missing a frame. When bracketing, I could reliably do a three exposure frame every two seconds. The EOS M, despite being substantially newer, can’t keep up. Whether I’m shooting bracketed JPGs or single RAW files, the camera can’t keep up with the old Rebel. I now have to shoot with a three second delay between frames.
I don’t know what camera I might jump to next, but this camera feels like an interim step for me, an incremental improvement in some respects over my old camera, and I still hope for more. I went here because it saved me from buying an expensive super-wide angle lens for a different camera system, but I’m guessing I’ll have to make that move eventually.
For now, however, I’m enjoying the little thing: