Just for fun and for my own archival purposes, I decided to write down the list of all the cameras I’ve owned and used over the years.
I first started learning photography while in high-school back in 1975. I couldn’t afford my own camera so I was borrowing one from my high-school photo club. The first camera I ever used was a Pentax K2 with a standard 43mm f/1.9 lens.
A couple of years later, in 1977, I was in college and was working so I had some money. I made the very common mistake of thinking that a better camera would automatically make me a better photographer so I spent way too much money to buy myself a beautiful Contax RTS with a Zeiss 50mm f/1.7 Planar lens. This is when I learned the hard way that if I wanted to be a better photographer I first had to work on my skills rather than on my gear. The Contax was a great piece of kit with a great lens, but I couldn’t afford to buy any other lens or accessories for it. This is the period where I did all of my own developing and enlarging work in a darkroom, learning a lot more about photography in the process.
So a few years later, in 1982, I sold my Contax and bought myself a more modern and cheaper Minolta X-700. I kept this camera for some 15 years and built a large kit of Minolta lenses and flashes as well as a Tamron telephoto zoom. This camera served me really well.
In the last few years with this kit my photography slowed to a crawl and my equipment bag mostly stayed in a closet gathering dust. It seems that when I lost access to a darkroom I also lost interest in film photography. So in 1997 I sold my entire kit on eBay and bought myself an Olympus D-450 digital camera with a whopping 1.3 Mpixels. This was my entry into the digital photography world and it reignited my interest in photography.
A short few months later I upgraded to an Olympus D-490 with 2.1 Mpixels, setting the pace of digital obsolescence and upgrade cycles for years to come.
Both those cameras were just point-and-shoot and not very satisfying for a serious amateur photographer. So when the innovative Sony F-505 with a then amazing 3.2 Mpixels and a large, fast Carl Zeiss lens came out in 1999, it was love at first sight and I bought one right-away. This was the first satisfying digital camera with full manual controls that I owned, and it was my third camera in 2 years but I used it for 3 years, an eternity in digital time.
In 2003 Nikon released the awesome Coolpix 5400 with a tiny flip-out screen, a reasonably fast 4x zoom and an amazing 5.1 Mpixels.
This was my main camera for the next couple of years and gave me my first appreciation for a small but very capable travel camera. It followed me on trips to Costa Rica, Thailand and Cambodia. This is when I decided to return to “serious” photography and buy myself a DSLR. So in 2004 I bought myself a Nikon D-70 with 6.1 Mpixels and started building a collection of lenses and accessories.
A year later (2005) I upgraded to a very nice Nikon D-200 with a then mind-boggling 10.2 Mpixels. At this point Nikon was playing catch-up with Canon and the D-200 was a very nice camera except for one thing: it had very poor high-ISO performance: 800 ISO was barely usable.
I was quite dissatisfied with the high-ISO performance so when the legendary D700 came out (2008) and blew everybody away with it’s full-frame 12.1 Mpixels sensor and amazing high-ISO performance, I couldn’t resist. I did keep the D200 as a backup body though (I still have it!)
The D700 is a fantastic camera that I still own to this day (2016, 8 years later!). Problem is this is a professional grade, weatherproof, large and heavy camera and this encouraged me to buy glass that was worthy of it. So I upgraded my kit to the holy trinity of Nikkor pro glass: The 14-24mm f/2.8, the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 70-200mm f/2.8. Three great lenses but large, heavy and expensive.
So ironically, after spending thousands of dollars on expensive professional glass, I started using my DSLR less and less. I just couldn’t bring myself to carrying 20 pounds of expensive gear around so unless I was going on a planned photo outing, the D700 would usually stay home. I did get some great shots around my garden in the mountains of Panama though.
However, I longed for a small portable camera with decent quality and full creative controls that I could carry with me everyday. This ended-up being the really nice little Panasonic Lumix LX-3, followed quickly by the LX-5 when the LX-3 was stolen from me. Over the last 5 years or so, I’ve done 90% of my shooting with these little gems.
This, and the advent of smartphones with decent cameras, is what made me realize that portability is hugely important to me. As they say, the best camera is the one you actually have with you. I do photography for the joy of it and lugging around bulky, heavy equipement kind of sucks all the joy out of it while not doing much to improve my photography. This is the reason for my decision to sell my Nikon DSLR kit and move to a smaller mirrorless system.
And now, July 2016, I am finally getting into the M4/3 system with the purchase of a slightly used Olympus OM-D E-M1, the current flagship of the Olympus line. Although it is about to be replaced it is still an awesome camera with great performance and functionality, pro build quality and all in a tight package. So an Olympus was my first digital camera and made me enjoy photography again. Now after falling prey to G.A.S. and buying a huge Nikon pro camera kit that I didn’t enjoy using, I’m back to Olympus and enjoying digital photography again!