Looking back at my first camera

It’s a humble experience to find your first camera. The camera that started your journey and curiosity in photography. I was amazed to find that almost nothing was different from my old camera, regarding specs. The only main thing that changed was that whole film into digital thing, that’s about it. So if the only major change in a camera that was released in 1976 to my current camera was the conversion to digital. Why was my photography so different, from inception to present? It made me wonder, I pondered over this revelation, till it came to me. The most important thing to a photographers development was their experiences.

There will be people that argue, autofocus, video functions, ISO, pixels, resolution etc. I’m sure someone could point out a spec list of evaluation so long that it could even prove smoking to be healthy. But really what do we buy cameras for? To take photographs, thats it! That spec argument is just a debate of convenience and it’s missing the point. What is more important, is what you have learned, what you have experienced? For an artists development, resistance, struggle, limitations and obstacles lead the way to progression. Embracing inconvenience over the easy path.

This makes me wonder why I even changed my camera, why did I get a new one? I guess the consumerist society we live in influenced me in thinking that a new camera would make me a better photographer. Looking back this insight was very sobering, the camera doesn’t make the photographer, and neither does its specs. Analogue, large-format, digital, all these things are trivial compared to the development of the photographer’s eye.

Looking back in retrospect is something we can only do once we pass the threshold. Only time gives us this privilege. It’s something we all need to learn for ourselves, through our own experiences. I’d love to know what your first camera was and what your current camera is. But more than that, what are the major differences, and are those differences just specs. Was there something else more important in your own photography journey that shaped you and your craft beyond the confinements of the camera? Whatever you deem to be important will be, I just implore you to look back and see how far you have come. Because your photography journey is yours and yours alone own, it’s not your cameras.


  1. The first camera I bought was a Pentax ME Super with a 50mm f1.7 lens. After many other cameras along the way I now have 2 that I use daily - a Nikon F2 with 35mm f2 and 50mm f1.8 lenses and a Fujifilm X-T2 with 35mm f1.4 lens and a Nikon to Fujifilm lens adapter so I can use the Nikkors on the X-T2. I’d prefer to use just one camera and lens and if I had to choose it would probably be the Nikon f2 with the 50mm lens as it sees as I see and I prefer the film slr feel a rangefinder like the M6 (which I owned 2 of but never really got on with photographically - always disappointed with the results!)
    • That's the beautiful things about an SLR, you get what you see. And nothing beats the sound of that mirror when you press the shutter button. I took me a few years to get comfortable not seeing depth of field through the lens. But in saying that I do love my camera, as we all should as photographers, regardless of what we prefer from others.
  2. A whimsical little piece that poses a very good question, why are we swayed by the new? Of course there is wear and tear, which is a good reason to change. There is also technical improvement and perhaps that along with an increase in budget (e.g. one has a better job) will get better quality from a technical stance. The rest is smoke and mirrors unfortunately. I started with a fixed lens rangefinder with shutter priority (Yashica Electro 35 GTN) and moved on via about a hundred "experiments" to a variable lens rangefinder with aperture priority (Leica M-D type 262). I think that I am a victim of advertising, in most cases my next camera was the result of much "research" and usually ultimately disappointed. It wasn't until I started to read that there is an alternative, which is to decide what you want and learn how to use it. It is hard work. I found that the first nudge for me was from a very old timey blogger called Mike Johnston of "The Online Photographer". He posited the idea that a student could learn more about photography by buying an old Leica iii, using it for a year with one type of black and white film, and because it is an ancient Leica, it can be sold on for around what you paid for it in the first place. He maintained that you could spend three years in college and not learn as much. Before I came to that point and for a short time afterwards, I always lusted after the next innovation, but I kept coming back in my mind to that Leica year, and eventually realised that photography is not easy, perhaps I would never get much better at it... ... but, the Leica had taught me that the rules were so simple that you could spend a lifetime honing them. Still trying.

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