People who know me will know I’ve had a keen interest in photography from an early age. Maybe only of interest to camera buffs, but I thought it would be good to trace my cameras back as far as I can recall…
It all began when I was 5 or 6 maybe, and I used to be fascinated by the bellows cameras owned by my grandparents, which used large format roll film. An art to load, I can still smell the strange smell of grease used in the shutter blade machanisms, and remember the snake like rolls of backing paper on the film. I remember taking a couple of rolls apart to see how they worked.
As a small boy of about 8 or 9, I remember mum and dad buying a kodak instamatic camera in Scarborough and, while they busily took their black and white pictures, i walked around with the camera box, full of little squares of paper with pencil drawings of mum, dad, and the ship always moored in Scarborough, pretending it was my camera too.
Eventually I got my first camera for Christmas, a Polaroid Swinger. Polaroid film at the time was very expensive, and I remember selling photos at my uncle’s wedding for 50p a time. I suppose this was my first step towards being self employed.
When I was 15, while on a school archaeology trip I was put in charge of the school’s Halina Paulette, and learned how to use the built in light meter to set the aperture on the lens. I wanted one, but couldn’t afford it.
But with the advent of 110 film and Dixon’s cheap camera range, I opted instead for this little Halina Super Mini snap and shoot. I still made a lot of good photos with it.
Still only 16, I exchanged the Halina for an updated model with one with a built in flash – the photos where still incredibly grainy due to the minute 110 film format. And the sliding case rewind action was really quite “James Bond”. I loved it.
At 17 I started work, and looking through my mum’s shopping catalogue one day I spotted this camera for £16 – a full weeks wages. Built in Russia out of old tank parts, this is easily the most robust camera I’ve seen, and being fully manual I had to learn all the basics of photography. And a keen learner, I read every book and magazine going. No Youtube in those days.
A year or two later, and now armed with an array of different focal length lenses, flashguns and other accessories, I added the TTL version to my kit with its novel Through The Lens (TTL!) metering.
When I started my next job at the ripe old age of 20, Dixons once again undercut all the major manufacturers like Nikon, Pentax etc. and brought out this very nice Chinon CE4 for £70, which I had for quite a while. It was a beautiful camera to work with and I would get through quite a few rolls of 35mm film a month, much to the annoyance of my then girlfriend. In typical fashion I had to have all the accessories that went with it.
But technology moves on, and as my CE4 got older and weary, I treated myself to an upgrade. The rather plasticky and futuristically styled Chinon CP7M (again from Dixons) was one of the first non-branded cameras with a built in motor wind, an innovative LCD display and “program” mode, saving the effort of manually setting the lens and shutter speeds. If I’m being honest, I preferred the CE4 for build quality.
Eventually my eyesight failed to the point where I could no longer focus the camera manually using the viewfinder, and so I invested in this auto focus Minolta, still using 35mm film. I remember quite clearly two things. My wife not being overly happy with my purchase (although she never complained), and my workmates thinking I was mad to spend that much money on a camera. It lasted 16 years so I think it was a good investment. I’ve still got it safely hidden in the loft in its protective case complete with receipt.
Well after the time when digital SLR’s hit the market, I laboured on with the 35mm roll film but progressively found myself converting my prints into digital images on CD. Maintaining my trend for upgrading due to special occasions, my daughter’s wedding was the catalyst needed to upgrade to digital, and I found for the first time that I was in a financial position to buy a decent brand. And most unusually (nothing to due with the forthcoming subject matter I’m sure), my wife caught the bug and had me splash out and buy a complete kit set rather than just the body as normal.
Two years ago I had a small cleaning accident with the Nikon D40, and as I held my wife partially responsible for providing the “clean” make up brush full of rouge (not an approved cleaning additive for the internals on your expensive DSLR) I really had no choice but to replace it with what I hope will be my last camera, a Nikon D3200. Now two years down the road I’m very happy with it and it has produced some outstanding photos, although the zoom on the standard kit lens is wearing and I might need a new one eventually.
What next? We will have to wait and see. Stay tuned.