1965-1970: When I was 9 years old in 1965 my dad handed me his Bell & Howell 252 8mm camera and let me shoot some footage for a few seconds. I was hooked! I still have the camera in a leather case and my Dad always scratched his name or initials on everything he owned!
I used this for many short movies that I shot mostly with my friends around the neighborhood in some bike riding adventures, and mini mystery stories that today, don't make much sense. But I sure had fun making them. I rarely edited them but had a small metal splicer and glue for that. Usually the film wouldn't hold the splice so made a huge mess. I eventually just stopped editing the film and tried to shoot everything in sequence. The crazy outtakes are right there in the film (we laughed at those mistakes more than anything else.) which only my friends and family ever watched.
Around 1970 my Uncle Joe gave me his Super8 camera: Kodak XL55, and I started shooting movies with that. It was much easier than the Bell & Howell in that the Kodak Super8 had film cartridges that you just popped in to reload and unload, where the Bell & Howell you had to go in the dark and try and feed the film around inside like a film camera, and pray it was in correctly. This was a wild time as you'd shoot your 3 minutes of film and take it to a drug store and after you'd saved up about $8 or so you could get the film back and run it through the projector and see what you shot weeks before! The XL55 also used batteries so no more hand winding the camera! The Bell & Howell you wound it up and then shot as the spring inside would keep the film advancing correctly. You at least were not winding it continuously, while shooting, like the old black and white movies shot in the 1920's were!
My Dad also used a Kodak Retina still camera and usually shot with color slide film. I don't have the camera right in front of me right now (I do have it!) I think it's a Retina 1a. It looks very similar to the shot posted here. Mine has the partial leather body cover with strap. My Uncle brought this camera back from Germany at the end of WWII where he purchased it. I think my Dad was way more into photography and either just kept using it or my Uncle gave it to him. (I later researched this camera online and it seems the camera wasn't sold in the US till end of 1949. I'm thinking now the story I was told was wrong and my Uncle bought this about 4 years later than everyone thought, unless it was out years earlier in Germany.)
1974-1975: I used the Kodak Retina when I first went to college in 1974 and started taking some photography classes. It was totally manual. You guessed the distance from your subject (that was the focus!) and guessed the exposure settings (that was your meter reading!). So you just guessed everything and hoped for the best. Fortunately most of the shots I took with the camera turned out fine as eventually you get a feel for what settings are working in sun, or shade, etc....and the focus wasn't that picky so most things were in focus. I had a class assignment where I was to do a self portrait and I bought a small timer that screwed into the shutter button....and it worked. A few years later this timer jammed up the camera but at some point my Dad had it fixed and it still works today.
1975-1985: My mother felt sorry for me and took me to a camera store near my college and I got the Pentax MX camera. I wanted a Nikon but they cost way too much.... I also got a darkroom enlarger and tons of other gear to print my own black and white photos. So, I can definitely say that she was supporting my art career, and the fact she paid for most of my college expenses! (I had a job during the summers and saved all that to pay for books and food and such...(now photo film/paper and chemicals!) This camera was a 30 year jump in technology from the Retina! It had a built in exposure meeter (a line would go up or down and you tried to keep it in the center for best exposure!) And you could actually look though the viewfinder and see if the shot was in focus or not! What a concept! I'd buy bulk rolls of Tri-X 400 black and white film with a friend of mine and we'd roll-our-own canisters of 36 shots or so each. We would skip classes run around town shooting things then rush back to the house I was renting near the collage, and develop the film, then develop some black and white 8 x 10 prints. In just a few hours you could see the shots you just took! Amazing! Just seeing the shots in the same day was mind blowing and nearly impossible as everyone else took the film to the drug store and waited a week or two.
Here is a shot I took with the MX and printed myself in my darkroom. I was on some trip around 1978 and this was shot at JFK Airport. I guess I was occasionally paying attention to composition.
The guy here (Elno Swartz) at the art board hired me at the advertising agency summer of 1978, my first job out of college. With his guidance I learned the correct way to paint and illustrate using an airbrush and a brush. I had to unlearn some of the things I'd picked up in college and do things his way. But he was right, and I was so glad I listened to him! He'd been in the business for 40 years with his work on full pages in Life magazine among others...
I had a 50mm lens and a 135mm longer lens for the camera. I rarely took the time to switch off the 50mm lens so the 135 got very little use and stayed in it's little case most of the time. I "zoomed" with my feet by getting closer or farther away.
Here is a shot of a co-student in one of my classes around 1978. His whole family was part of their own little circus troupe. And yes, he did come to class once in his clown costume and make up. He later went off to Barnum and Bailey Clown College. Shooting his family on stage was my first ever assignment!
1985-1999: My MX was getting so much use and I was actually getting paid for some photo shoots now and then (though I look back now and realize I still didn't know much about composition or what I knew I didn't really apply it.). I was hired to shoot photos for a college brochure and was working with the designer. He would point out what I needed to cover and I shot it. The school hired me also to shoot their graduation commencement event. During this time around 1985 my MX camera winder started acting up and stopped working. I mailed it off to a place in NY and they fixed it and mailed it back. I decided during all this I'd better have a back up camera so in a pawn shop I got a Pentax MEplus...it had an auto exposure setting! Wow, another advancement! So I mostly used the ME after that point. The MX was eventually lost when I loaned it out and didn't see it again leaving me with just the ME. I eventually bought a cheap zoom lens for it that was probably 24-80mm or so. This was my first zoom lens and I've always been hooked on them over the prime lenses. I never wanted to lose a shot fiddling around changing out the lenses. Especially once the quality of the zooms equaled the prime lenses. My work in commercial art (I ran my own graphic art studio from 1983-1996) didn't allow me much time to shoot many photos, just the occasional shot to use as reference for an illustration, or the occasional cover photo for a magazine now and then. Many years would go by and I was getting into video again...my kids were all born in the 80's so I was shooting tons of video of them growing up in the 90's, and some stills with the ME. Here is a photo I took during the shoot at Lee Collage for their brochures. Some of the shots I hand colored to look vintage. This was a few years before I'd be using computers.
1990-1999: Shooting my kids at every event, dance classes, baseball, basketball, you name it, I always had this bad boy (Magnavox EasyCam CVR 325) with me. And usually also the Pentax ME around my neck at the same time! I even took this camcorder on roller coasters! Crazy! It shot full VHS tapes so you just popped them in the VHS payer and watched what you just did earlier in the day! We had so much fun with this camera. I used it constantly for 9 years and it never acted up, never failed to perform! VHS tapes were cheap so I shot entire events! Sure, no one wanted to sit and watch all this video but I still had it! I didn't edit any of it, just shot it and watched it and saved the tapes. Years later I had all the tapes converted to mini HD tapes and I sometimes load them into a computer and play around with editing them. I made 3 DVD's of 1990-1993 or something. I go now to play those DVD's and they don't want to work. You can sure say something for the old VHS tapes as they may not look as sharp but you could still watch them years later! Now, no one has a VHS player. After I went on to other cameras the kids still used this as a VHS player for years after! I bought a small computer monitor and hooked this to it and they could play movies they rented or had recorded off the TV with this! It was pretty much all plastic but still a bit heavy but never gave up! Came in a high impact carry case.
1999: the start of the Digital age (for me): I must of been reading about digital cameras in the photo magazines as I'm not sure what possessed me to run out and buy one. I knew I had to have the "see it immediately on the back" feature! I didn't know much else. I did know that I already knew how to use Photoshop and knew about computers since my first one was in 1990! I had Photoshop as soon as it was available for the PC. In 1996 I got a job working for Sierra On-Line working on video games and creating art with Photoshop and working with 3D programs like 3DMax. So I was also excited to have more control over the photos myself. I'd been retouching photos since 1978 when I got my first job out of college for an advertising agency in Akron, OH. But as soon as computers came on the scene I jumped on the bandwagon! Anyway, I go in the camera store and the guys there didn't seem to know digital cameras from shinola....I got a few bits and pieces of info on the 20 or so cameras they had, they said-- were crappy....these guys were probably diehard film camera guys now that I think about it.
I finally decided on the 1 megapixel Kodak DC210plus.( One megapixel, 29-58mm 2x zoom. 1152 x864 images.) It was $300 I think, which was an outrageous amount to throw down back in 1999. At least for me it was. And you have to realize my last film camera was still working and I'd had it for many years! I bought the 210plus and shot with it for a while and loved the fact the shots were immediately viewable and I liked controlling the post-processing. I quickly realized that 1 megapixel was great for online use but printing out something was mostly unusable. I needed more resolution! So I was already in despair...I used the camera for about a year like this....and I probably started taking more shots than I did before, for sure.....and this probably kept my interest in photography going but I was still not happy.....Here is a shot with the DC210plus:
No bad if nothing is moving and the light is just right....etc...the flash was always a bit too bright and there were very few controls to fix anything.....this was definitely a starter camera and I needed more....
2000: I was working for another gaming company Boss Game Studio in 2000, and one of the other guys there was selling his Canon Pro S70. He had just bought a Nikon. (I was thinking, shouldn't I just be finally buying a Nikon?) But the price was very reasonable considering, so I took the plunge. I can't remember what I paid for it but it was not cheap! This camera had: 1.5 Megapixels, 28-70 zoom, 1536 x 1024 images. So not a huge jump in quality as it turned out. I wasn't happy with it from the start but most of the time it was my fault as I didn't read the manual, something I usually always do, since I thought I knew what I was doing, I guess. It would have the white blance set to something funky and all my shots would be blue, or the focus would never really lock in...all I know is that I was sick that I'd paid for this. I limped along with it for about a year....here is a shot with it....better than the DC210plus at least....and it looked more "pro"
This is a shot of my daughter who was 15.
Here is s shot Bonnie took of me while I'm thinking, "why did I buy this?"
2001-2003: Finally, a camera that could keep up with me and give me quality shots! The Canon G1 was 3.3 megapixels, 2045 x 1536 images, 28-100 3.6x zoom, 1/1.8" CCD. From the specs 3.3 megapixels don't sound like much today but for back in the early 2000's this was fantastic! The quality was finally what I was looking for! I could print a 8 x 10 and it looked great! I was very happy with this camera for a while.....I eventually shot a birthday party and got carried away shooting with the flash over and over and later on the flash was never powering up quite the same...I almost burned it up I guess.....looking back I could have added a better flash to the hotshoe and kept using this camera even longer....though I have an addiction to getting a new camera about every two years even if I'm happy with what I've got! Hey, it's me again!
2004-2005: Canon Powershot S70. I need to mention that most of the cameras I'll sell the ones I'm not happy with before I jump into buying another one. This one I was very happy with but sold it as I was moving on to another one....could of kept this one longer. It was small, could almost fit in a pocket, 3.6x zoom, 28-100mm, 7.1 megapixels. 2207 x 3009 image size. I mostly bought this to take on a trip with Bonnie and my parents. We stayed in San Francisco for a few days then took a huge cruise ship for many days at sea to Hawaii! I ended up taking over 2000 shots with this camera on that trip. I was very happy with this camera till I went out one night with a photographer friend to shoot some night scenes of Seattle. We get there and the weather is perfect. The city is beautiful....and this camera had very few manual settings so I missed the shots. He got some fantastic shots with a Canon DSLR. I knew it was time to take the next step.... though I will later keep a camera on my belt that is smaller and something I can take with me where my larger cameras can't go. I'll also include those cameras here.
2005-2007: Nikon D50. We decide we need to move from Seattle, WA area and live near my parents in Kentucky. Not something I ever thought I'd be doing. I'd escaped from KY two times before, would I ever make it out a third time? To ease the pain I decided I'd get me a nice DSLR. I did my research and read all about the different choices. A day before we are to move a house full of stuff to KY I go in a Ritz Camera store and told them I wanted a nice Canon DSLR that I'd read about. Next thing I know I'm leaving the store with the Nikon D50. To this day i don't know how they did this? I always do my research thoroughly and know more than the salesmen at these places. All I can figure is that all those years of not being able to afford a Nikon caught up with me....in the back of my mind I'd always thought Nikon was the best of the best. I'm sure they probably were back in the 70's but a lot had happened through the years.....I'm sure Canon was the cutting edge of digital at this time, or so I thought....anyway, I bought it and took it with me shooting all the way to Kentucky. Again, I quickly realize this is the starter camera for Nikon DSLR's. It has the quick scene modes, and all that jazz....and other dumbed down features.....but the quality was fantastic. 300 dpi shots, 6 megapixels, 2" LCD. I used the kit lens of 24-50 or something like that and then started experimenting with Tamron zooms but settled on the Nikkor 18-200 eventually.
2007-2010: Nikon D300. 12 megapixels, 3" LCD, 4288 x 2848 image sizes. This is the camera I still have as I can't bear to part with it. It really could do everything I needed it to do. If you have the right lens you can shoot any time day or night. Mostly I was using the Nikkor 18-200 with this camera and it was 3.5-5.5 so didn't open up like the lenses I use now that are 2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range. I used this camera most of the time I was in KY and got some amazing shots with it. The only real reason I don't still use it is the fact it wasn't a full frame sensor camera and of course I have to have the latest thing! We moved to San Diego, September of 2010. In December I started shooting with a meet up group that shot models, and I learned more about the equipment. I did the first shoot with the D300 and the shots looked great. Especially with a Nikkor 60mm lens I had at the time. But you know me now.....I had to keep moving forward anyway! Really, I could have easily stayed with this camera for many years, just trying out different lenses. I mostly shot with the 18-200 at this point. Again, if I'd just though more about lenses and getting better ones, I could have stayed with the D300. The shots I was getting with this camera were fantastic and detail was amazing. It also helped that I was learning how to light the subjects using off-camera flashes. I got tons of experience in a short amount of time by doing lots of shoots.
2011-2012: Nikon D700. 12 megapixels, full frame, 3" LCD, Nikkor 28-300 3.5- 5.6 VRII. My timing was good as I'd be doing more and more shoots and this camera could really keep up the pace with me. It became a part of me and I didn't have to fiddle around looking for settings as they are mostly right on the camera within easy reach. The full frame really did make a difference as it was giving me so much more of a tonal range...with details in the very dark areas and very light areas. Still shooting in very little light was a bit of a problem but since most of the time I had my own lights with me, this was mostly a non-issue. I eventually wised up and got a better lens. Nikkor 24-70 2.8. This lens with this camera was a win-win situation. Suddenly I could get the exposures right on very quickly and the focus was even faster than the D300. I even bought the battery grip mostly to look cool (more like a D3!), and it did add an extra battery to the mix. One good plus was the D700 used the same batteries as the D300....unheard of...so now I had 3 to use as I always had one extra with me with the D300. I'll do about 100 photo shoots with this camera and be very happy. Upgrade? Not me, no way....this is the demon dog I've always wanted and it was $3,000 so hell, I can't afford to upgrade anyway! Or will I?
2013: Nikon D4. Nikkor 70-200 2.8, Nikkor 16mm 2.8. 16 megapixels, 10 Frames Per Second, 1080p HD video. This camera can see and shoot in next to no light at all! Seriously......I can see almost nothing and it will still focus and shoot! The sensor is so sensitive....I can always shoot a few stops lower than with any other camera in the same light. It also helps that I have two of the best zoom lenses Nikon makes both 2.8 throughout the zoom. Really took me a while to catch on to how much better that is. And these lenses are sharp no matter what setting I have them on! I get basically the same shots as the D700 but I don't have to fiddle with them in Photoshop nearly as much. This camera has a fantastic dynamic range to the tones and colors, it's amazing. I really wanted to up grade from the D700 with the D800 but the super high Megapixels actually turned me off.....I don't want to deal with tons of super large files! Maybe if I'm shooting images that need to be blown up to billboard size but then I'll just shoot more shots of whatever it is and stitch them together for one massive image. This hasn't been something I've had to deal with so I'm very happy being able to print shots at 18 x 24 for my studio walls. The more I use this camera the more features I find it seems.
New addition December 2013: Nikon Df. I also got the retro leather cover for it. Here it is with my oldest Nikkor lens, 50mm 1.4, I picked up the lens for cheap back in 2006 or so. The Df was $2700 so now I know I'm crazy! I'm having a blast playing around with this and the images are amazing! Same sensor as my D4. This will be my backup camera or to take to car shows etc…where I want to lighten the load. I will end up using this camera more and more since it is way lighter and seems to do just a touch better with skin tones than the D4.
I sent my D4 in to Nikon to have the rubber on the back glued back down as it's warranty was almost up…..so used the Df to do a few photo shoots recently and it worked out great. Here is a shot:
Nikon Df, Nikkor 24-70 2.8. Alien Bee with beauty dish and SB700 flash.
For years I've always carried a smaller camera with me at all times. Some of them are: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3, Canon G10, Canon S90, and for quite a while now the Canon SX230. I've also been experimenting with underwater shooting and have used the FujiFilm XP100, and about to try out the Olympus TG-2.
I could go on and on but to sum up these cameras the SX230 I've kept the longest by far. It has the 14x zoom, and shoots fantastic video as well. The G10 was too large to carry around everywhere, the Lumix was nice but the shots were mostly soft and fuzzyish.....the S90 was great quality but after a short while mine started to take a while to come on, and then when you were looking through the LED to compose a shot it would just go off. You'd have to work fast. Just small problems that the SX230 has not had. I've taken it everywhere and used it quite a bit. Here are a few shots taken with it:
My underwater experiments with the FujiFilm XP100:
And here are some shots taken with the FujiFilm XP100:
This is much harder than it looks and most shots are not in focus (even though i took my time and tried to give it time to focus) or the details are soft, or the pose is wrong, etc....Still looking for a camera with sharper images. The shots above were worked on with Topaz Labs filters, Photoshop, magic, anything I could do to make them better.....
And soon I'll be trying out the Olympus TG-2 (Underwater):
I got to try it out a month ago or so and here is one of the shots:
Sharks, turtle, coral added in later. This camera is much sharper than the Fujifilm XP100 but I'll probably not be satisfied till I try out the Nikon AW1 underwater camera!
Another pocket camera I just bought: Sony HX50V.
I did some online research and a lot of the site reviewing smaller compact cameras were still choosing the Sony HX50V even though it first came out over a year ago! So I went to Best Buy (not the best place for the price but I wanted to just look it over. Of course I went ahead and bought it. It has a 24-710mm equvilent zoom! It has all the manual settings and still fits on my belt though it's bulkier than what I was using. It shoots great HD video! 60fps or 30fps. This is the main reason I'll be using it...to shoot video on the fly and of course that crazy zoom! I've had this camera for a month now and and very happy with it. Here is a shot of a concert where I was about 50 feet away with about 10 rows of people in front of me. I raised up the camera over my head and zoomed way in and got this shot:
Later I realized that if you over-ride the auto settings the camera performs even better than I ever expected! I set up a little still life with a flower and a softbox and with all manual settings got this shot:
What really amazed me is that by choosing all the correct settings myself like ISO 80, etc...I could get a shot with this much detail with this non-full frame sensor! When I viewed this shot at 100% on my monitor.....I was still blown away! Didn't think this was possible with a $300-$350 pocket camera.
MORE CLASSIC CAMERAS
This one is a Kodak Junior six-20 Series II that my mom gave me around 2006 that she picked up in a swap meet or second hand store. I think it's from around 1919 but I'll recheck that. I took this shot of it and used it in my first photo book.
Here are a few old cameras and flashes, I recently got off eBay.
This is the Argus C3 made famous recently for being used in the Harry Potter Movie.
Argus C3 with flash. I actually added some black and white tri-x film to it and I'm trying it out for kicks. First time I've shot 35mm film since around 1997. I'll let you know how the shots come out. The exposure meeter came with it up on the cold-shoe attachment. It doesn't seem to work though. I got the flash attachment and some bulbs from a separate eBay auction.
I was bidding on a Nikkor 50mm 1.4 Auto-S lens and someone out bid me but I didn't care because I'd seen another auction in the meantime for the very same lens, plus this Nikkormat camera, and a focusing bellows, for just $4 more! So I jumped on this. Didn't realize it also had the body case and strap that seems never used. The lens was very similar to the older 50mm 1.4 I already had and both are soft at the widest aperture. My next experiment will be with a macro 50mm….
This is my Retina 1a from above in this blog but I added this Argus flash…and it works! I have some Tri-X in this camera also and I'll be developing it and seeing how the shots come out.
Here is the old Retina 1a again but this time sporting the classic folding metal flash attachment. I have not tried this flash as i don't want to waste the bulbs.
I also bought a cheap light meter to use with this setup…but I seem to have misplaced it. It wasn't giving off the correct reading anyway….that's my next mission----- to find an old, cool looking, working light meeter…..I've never used one before! Well, unless you count the ones built into the cameras.
I loved the Sony HX50V so much I ran out and got the upgrade: Sony HX90V since it had a pop up electronic viewfinder!
2 more new cameras? One is the Sony RX100 M4. And the other one is the Nikon P900.
I went on a trip to Europe: Paris and Budapest and wanted the best pocket camera I could find. It was the Sony RX100 M4.
It has a 1" sensor, a 24-70 Ziess lens and can shoot RAW files! Pop up viewfinder and tilt screen!
It really did the trick during the trip!
I'm amazed how sharp the files are. And the videos are also great! It will shoot 4K video (5 min clips) but I've not checked out that feature yet as I just got a SD card that could handle that speed. It's very specific in what quality card you have to have to use that feature. It also shoot High Speed Video for ultra slow motion! Here is a shot from this camera where I used it almost all the time at Ren Faire this year (2016):
And I've even used the RX100IV underwater with a DiCApak underwater housing!
This was zoomed in about to 100mm but you can see the quality, though I did add textures to the shot with Topaz Labs filters while in Photoshop. Here is more of a zoom example:
P900 around where I live:
So on my trip to Europe I sometimes had my Nikon Df with 24-70 lens, and the P900, and the RX100 M4. All at the same time! That way I was ready for anything! And it worked!
And I just remembered another camera I have had for about 2 years, the Hero3+ GoPro! I've mostly used it for underwater shoots along with the Olympus G4.
UPDATE Jan 16th, 2017
Been a while since I added to this posting. Back in June of 2016 after 9 months of research via YouTube and internet forums, etc....I bought a Sony A7R2.
I was so impressed shooting in all types of light situations (The fireworks shots were handheld, night, pouring rain, holding an umbrella, 1/60th a second 6400 ISO...amazing since this lens is not a low light lens by any means. 3.5-6.3. But it pulled it off! I then shot one of my meetup events all with the same set up! Other than changing settings more often since the zoom darkens the exposure when zooming in.....it worked like a charm!
Next I shot Alley Art Fest in Vista:
I was so impressed that around November of 2016 I sold all my Nikon gear from 10 years and bought another A7R2 and more lenses. For model shoots I have both cameras around my neck, one with a 35mm 2.8 Zeiss lens for wide shots, and the other with a Zeiss 55 1.8 for more portrait head shots. This works out great as I don't have to keep swapping lenses, and can get all the shots! Both of these lenses are super sharp! I now have these lenses: Zeiss 35 2.8, Zeiss 55 1.8, Sony 28 2.0, 90 2.8 G macro, and 24-240 3.5-6.5. Also a 16mm Fisheye that attaches to the 28 2.0 making it a 3.5. I'm now covered from 16 fisheye to 240mm......not too shabby. From a shoot early 2017 near Lake Arrowhead up in the mountains. Most of the time I was using the 35 2.8 since I wanted to get the backgrounds in the shot:
My most recent shoot (01/11/2017) in my studio (shot mostly with the 35mm but some closeups with the amazing 55 1.8):
Redhead: Lana Vic Sin, with Jessica Pierce.
Also in 2016 I started working for Colour In Your Life where I'm shooting video with a 3 camera setup for interviews with artists. The shows will be on YouTube and on a TV show in Australia and New Zealand and soon in the US. I tried shooting with my A7R2's but to get the look they were used to I bought 3 Sony FDR-AX53 camcorders.