First, some history:
In about the year 1982 my father, and our homeowners insurance, helped me buy the camera i would use, almost every day, for the next, oh, 20 years. But prior to that, as i remember, for a birthday gift (or something else entirely) my father bought me a Canon A-1. I had been using one of his many and varied cameras for years already, but now i had one of my own. He probably bought it to keep me away from his stuff. Little did i know the A-1 was the quintessential “swingin’ bachelor” camera. It was marketed mostly to smarmy smarmsters (full-page ads in Playboy) who might convince women they were “pros” by having such a camera. The f-stop and shutter speed was shown along the bottom of the viewfinder in bright red LED characters when you pressed the shutter halfway. It was way cool. If i remember correctly it was one of the first cameras with full auto, program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, and one other mode that i can’t remember. That was a big deal back in those days. Those six modes enabled marketers to use the expression “hexa-photo cybernetic” in their very 70’s print ads. In real life it was a tinny little camera and i was always afraid i’d break it. The shutter made a disconcerting metal on metal “plink” when you released it.
Anyway, that camera, along with my accumulated lenses, was stolen when, like a total moron, i left my bag in the back seat of Ed’s car in midtown manhattan. So my father filed an insurance claim and behold and lo they paid it! So… taking what i had learned from the A-1 i went in to NYC, to the former church of photography — Willoughby’s, and bought a truly professional camera: the Canon F-1. More than twenty years later that camera is still in fine condition (although some of the paint has departed and the pentaprism has a dent). I bought a motor-drive and a really great used 50mm lens at a flea market. I was taking some pictures of my friend Kelly on the Staten Island Ferry one day and the sound of the motor drive drew a bit of a crowd. Later i added a 16mm lens that became my favorite. I called it my “metaphor” lens.
But i just couldn’t keep paying for film, paper, chemicals *and* a darkroom all the while hardly earning back a penny. Oh, i sold a photograph here and there, but never enough to cover my costs let alone make a profit. So after a while i just stopped shooting and the camera now sits along with a earlier model twin F-1 i scored at another flea market.
But then i noticed still digital cameras were beginning to come into their own. I got to shoot with a totally dopey Canon monstrosity for Ordway Center in Saint Paul that produced mediocre files, ate batteries, and looked like a piece of 70’s furniture. Ordway replaced that camera with an Olympus C-4040 when some poor schmuck stole the Canon. The Olympus was a great little camera and using it changed the way i thought about digital photography.
After using the little Olympus for various personal projects I made the digital plunge and bought a Canon Powershot G5 (above) shortly after it was introduced. I can honestly say i’ve never been happier with a purchase. I’ve shot thousands of images with that camera all over Minnesota… i’ve had it out in sub-zero weather, in 99 degree 100% humidity days, crammed in a drybag in my kayak, and marginally protected in pouring rain and it has never failed me. But after about seven years i’ve sort of pushed it as far as i can. The little Canon is still a fine camera (despite the growing number of hot pixels) and it will always have a place in my bag, but i’ve made the real plunge now and acquired a Nikon D-300.
I’ve only had the camera for two days now… and i’ve only shot about 100 test images, but i can say for sure the reviews are, so far, bang-on. Well, aside from the lens… which seems to produce lateral chromatic aberration near the edges when zoomed to 18mm on a stupendous scale. But i have to spend some time with the beast and see what works and what is just window dressing. I’m fairly sure my first major purchase will be a proper fixed focal length wide angle lens, but i’ll have to put at least two more paychecks in the bank before that happens. More images to come… i hope.