The Cameras

My camera history began in the summer of 1984 (at the age of 13) using my father's Minolta SRT-102 which he used for shooting mind-bogglingly exciting things like eggplants and tomatoes in his garden. A year later I  learned how to develop film and wet-print in a darkroom in my 8th grade photography class. I decided I needed my very own camera at that time, and as I wasn't very smart then, I decided a tag-sale bargain Polaroid OneStep would be the way to go. Seeing my mistake, my father continued to let me use his Minolta whenever I wanted. What a swell guy. You'd think this would be the start of a young photographer's pursuit, but I was quickly distracted by the Flash Gordon Pinball machine at the penny arcade, so there are quite a few shaky years below.

Here's my somewhat embarrassing history of my camera bodies (excluding my screw around cameras like the Rollei 35's, Konica Auto S3, Zeiss Folders, Polaroid Land Cameras and so forth). Also, put the digital bodies in italics, just for fun - cameras in bold are the only ones I still own (updated February 2019). This list also does not reflect the dozens of review cameras I have had like the Hasseblad X1D, Zeiss ZX1, and so forth.

  • 1984 - Minolta SRT-102

  • 1985 - Polaroid OneStep

  • 1987 - Minolta Weathermatic A (110 format - sexy yellow)

  • 1989 - Kodak Disc 3600 (don't judge me - got it for travel to Spain)

  • 1991 - Minolta Freedom 50

  • 1997 - Olympus CAMEDIA C-1400L

  • 2001 - Sony PowerShot A10

  • 2003 - Sony PowerShot A80

  • 2006 - Nikon N60 (decided to look at photography a little more seriously)

  • 2008 - Nikon D80

  • 2010 - Nikon D700

  • 2011 - Rolleiflex 3.5

  • 2013 - Leica ME, Hasselblad 500c

  • 2014 - Zeiss Ikon, Leica M2, Leica M3, Leica M-A, Zero Image Pinhole, Nikon FM, Rollei 35, Nikon S3

  • 2015 - Plaubel-Makina 670, Nikon FM3, Rolleiflex 2.8E, Graflex Century Graphic 2x3

  • 2016 - Yashica Electro 35 GX, Chamonix 45n-2 4x5, Pentax 67, Sony RX1R II

  • 2017 - Nikonos V, Nikon F4s, Sony A7RII

  • 2018 - Voigtlander Bessa R3M, Yashica 124G, Fuji X-Pro 2

As you can see above, I played with a fair mix of digital and film bodies; mostly shitty... and a couple somewhat decent. My photography didn't really get serious until 2006 when I returned to film with a Nikon N60. It was a great little 35mm SLR and so much more fun than the junk PowerShots of the time. That sparked my first bout of G.A.S. and longings to have "better" digital gear. There were a good three years where I was convinced I'd never return to film. It took that long for me to realize that digital does not equal better; it equals different. (And I constantly try to remind myself and others, it's not the gear, it's the process and your preferred results that matters).

So now, I begin to work my way backwards in camera technology - to a time (for me) when the gear was simple, clean and gorgeous. I've had all the modern gizmos and never used or even liked them. Never cared for autofocus or ridiculous burst modes like all them whippersnappers these days. No, I long for the joy of a methodical and purely mechanical analog machine. I don't regret any of the digital years, they were a time of growth for me. Actually, a ton of growth.  Learning filters (real physical Cokins, not post-production Photoshop ones), strobist work, the dabbling in crazy clown vomit (aka, HDR), compositing, portraits and more.

Now that I only shoot film (OK - turned out to be a lie as of October 2016) and have returned to the darkroom (rather than the Lightroom), I find myself looking for simplicity in all my photographic work. I prefer natural light, not because I am lazy as I know how to do strobes, but because I love how it renders on film. It's part of my process of "keeping it real" with real light, real emotions and real color caught on real film. I learned a lot with my 2 years of strobe / portrait work and much of that knowledge is now applied to my natural light work.

I love the process of sitting with a roll of film in a little café, loading it into the camera, and the very satisfyingly quiet "fwoop" of a shutter (or the massive "FUBANG!" of the Pentax that sends women and children hiding under furniture) as I crank through the exposures and later developing the results in the sink with my own chemicals (or the even bigger joy of seeing the color film developed by Richard Photo Lab). I love that the only "preview" I get of my shot is what I see through the no-frills eyepiece of my viewfinder or on the ground glass of a 4x5. No chimping here possible.

And in my honest opinion, I feel my photographic experience and process has become much better through this de-evolution of gear.  But I need to remember, every single piece I have owned (good, bad and shitty) has led me to where I am today. Each experience of a different piece of gear builds a broad understanding of my craft that I can spend my life fine-tuning.