History of My Cameras

Camera gear: we're told that a great photographer can make good images regardless of the equipment that they have.  Similarly, we've seen that just because someone has a good camera doesn't necessarily mean that their photos will suddenly be amazing.  With that said though, it's still fun to think about camera gear and see how far they have come--especially in this digital photography age.  The following is a history of the cameras that I have had as I evolved and developed as a photographer.  

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Nikon N70: Film SLR (1999-2001)
This camera was technically never mine.  I remember when my dad bought this camera back in the late 90s when I was in elementary school and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.  My dad knew a lot about imaging and taking photos.  It was part of his job as a materials science engineer to take microscopic images of minerals and what not.  Many of his photos have been published in magazines. I remember him being pretty excited bringing this camera home.  I remember being startled by the film winding itself at the end of a roll.  I also remember that my oldest sister got to use it a lot when she took a photography class in high school.  Most notably though, I remember that this was the camera my dad used when we went on a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park.  My sister kept the camera when she went to college and we moved to Shanghai

Current Status: Sitting in a box on my bookshelf in my parents house..

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Olympus C200 Zoom: Digital Point and Shoot (2001-2007)
Ah, the Olympus C200 Zoom.  This was the first camera that I got to use extensively.  My dad bought this camera before we moved to Shanghai in 2001.  Once we moved to Shanghai though, he basically gave the camera to me and let me take on the photographing duties of our new environment.  From that point on I was hooked on photography.  I took this camera everywhere I went--from the urban streets of the financial district to the Wuyi Mountains in the Fujian Province.  Eventually, I would move back to the States in 2005.  This would be the camera that I would primarily use until I graduated high school in 2007--all 2.1 glorious Megapixels.

Current Status: Sitting in an unpacked box in my room at my parents house.

HP Photosmart R937: Digital Point and Shoot (2007-2008)
This was the first camera I bought for myself.  I was working at OfficeMax at the time and this was one of the new cameras that just came out.  It boasted the largest touchscreen of any camera at the time--a generous 3.6inches.  I found the design to be interesting.  There was a good sale going on for that camera so I took advantage.  It was a decent camera and I was able to get some good photos out of it.  However, I wasn't too satisfied with it because of its limitations from letting me expand my horizons.  I also realized really quickly that the touchscreen was super inconvenient to dig through and change settings.  It was finally time for me to make the big leap into DSLRs.

Current Status: Unknown

Nikon D80: Digital SLR APS-C (2008-2009)
I ventured into the curious world of Craigslist to find this guy.  I met up with the seller outside the parking lot of a Fred Meyer on my way back from school.  I was either going to get my first DSLR or get mugged or worse.  Fortunately everything was normal and I went home with this camera.  I had been playing around with the DSLRs that we have on display at OfficeMax, so I had gotten pretty comfortable with them.  The D80 was the perfect camera for me at the time in terms of ease of use and advanced functionality.  It still had the AF Motor in the body so I could use older lenses, and it had enough buttons that I could change settings without having to dig through the menus.  I photographed my sister's graduation with this camera.  I photographed youth group shenanigans as well.  This camera only lasted about 8 months before I saw a deal on Craigslist that I just couldn't pass up.

Current Status: Sold

Nikon D300: Digital SLR APS-C (2009-2015)
Someone was selling the D300 on Craigslist for almost half the cost of a new one and significantly less than any other used D300.  This camera was a game-changer in the photography world and I had to have one.  It was faster, had more resolution, had a better image processing, and was just simply built better.  I quickly contacted the seller and we agreed to meet up at a Starbucks in the University Bookstore.  This guy had just bought the D700 and needed to sell his D300 to help with the cost.  I happily helped him out and I never went back to the D80.  The D300 was my main camera throughout my architecture school career.  During the 5 year period during undergrad and grad school, I have photographed many football games, free and paid portrait sessions, and architectural models.  I used it to photograph my first decently paid gig on a golf course as well as plenty of candid photos that have helped many classmates laugh.  Facebook is constantly filled with profile photos taken by me and my D300.  This period was when I grew the most as a photographer thanks to the constant exposure to photography via the Georgia Tech Photography Club.  I was finally able to grow into the advanced tool that this camera was.  I also got a taste of what it was like to be paid for my photography and my photographic services.  Furthermore, I also began to learn how to use strobes and flashes with this camera.

Current Status: In my possession, backup Camera for larger events

Sony NEX 5r: Mirrorless APS-C (2012)
This camera was a gift given to me by one of my great aunts.  This was my first mirrorless camera and I was amazed by the size of the camera to the output quality of it.  I never really used this camera too seriously though, however.  I did more videos with it than photos and that's probably when I enjoyed it the most.  I didn't like the lens that it came with.  I bought an adapter that allowed me to mount my Nikon lenses onto the body, which limited the lenses to manual focus only.  As soon as I did that, the image quality increased exponentially.  My favorite combo would be the Nikon 35mm f1.8 on this body because the lens is small enough it doesn't make it seem too awkward.  This was when I was able to finally tangibly see the benefits of higher quality glass vs lower quality ones.

Current Status: In my possession, used sparingly

Pentax K1000 SE: Film SLR (2013)
This camera is fun to use.  The simplicity of the manual controls forces me to slow down and compose and think about the shot I'm about to take.  Definitely a back to basics kind of camera--no wonder it's such a popular entry photography class camera.  It provides everything you need to take a photo, nothing more and nothing less.  My favorite part of this camera is probably the split prism focusing.  It makes focusing manually quite enjoyable and easy.  I'm probably faster at focusing manually with this camera than any other camera I have.  I hope that one day a digital camera would be able to emulate this kind of manual focusing.  

Current Status: In my possession, used every so often

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Olympus OM-D E-M5: Mirrorless MFT (2013)
This camera was another one of those great deals that I just couldn't pass up.  I was browsing through my local Best Buy's clearance/open box sections and found this guy for half the MSRP price.  I was later told that a customer had bought this camera online and didn't realize it didn't come with a lens, so they returned it in store.  And since this Best Buy doesn't normally stock this camera, they had to get rid of it for cheap.  So I essentially picked up a brand new E-M5 for half the price.  I picked up a nice small lens for it and was really pleased with this camera despite its smaller micro-four-third sensor size.  This was a perfect camera to do street photography without lugging around a giant DSLR.  It also looks great with the retro body design.  This is definitely one of my favorite cameras as far as aesthetics and design goes.  It also just feels nice to operate and it's very comfortable walking around with.

Current Status: In my possession, street photography camera

Nikon D810: Digital SLR Full Frame (2015-Present)
And finally I have the D810.  This has been the largest investment I've put into my photography career so far and by far one of my favorites.  This camera is solid and can take a good beating.  Upgrading from the D300 to the D810 felt natural.  I was ready to go out and shoot without any trouble.  I wouldn't say that I needed to upgrade to a full frame camera, but this was during a period of time in Nikon's history where it seemed like they weren't invested in the prosumer DX format.  It wasn't until recently where they released a new DX lens and a new prosumer body.  And although I am still very interested in the D500, I don't have an itch to go buy one.  My D300 is still a very capable camera.  Switching to full frame with such a high resolution has definitely forced me to pay a bit more attention to my fundamentals of photography.  Do I have a fast enough shutter speed to freeze motion? Am I focused on the subject well enough? The flaws of a persons photographs are magnified when shooting high resolution full frame.  I would probably say my only complaint is that the file sizes are huge!

Current Status: In my possession, main camera 

At the end of the day though, the gear that we use for photography really are just tools.  They are absolutely useless if we don't use them, and they do not automatically allow photographers to make better photos.  Becoming a better photographer requires a lot of time and commitment to practice and improving upon skill sets.  

Timothy NiouComment