WARNING!--This post is going to be extremely long and image heavy. When I conceived it, I thought I’d write it out in a couple of hours. But such is my obsession with extracting dates, times, places, etc. from the detritus of my life that it’s ended up being only slightly shorter than War & Peace. So, if you’re not similarly interested in photographic trivia, you may want to 'look away now'!
Apropos of a mental trip down Memory Lane, brought about by seeing that someone on eBay was selling a Kodak Instamatic 36 --the first camera I ever owned! I thought I’d see if I could compile a list of all the cameras I’ve ever owned in my life. This involved quite a lot of noggin scratching, memory dredging and a fair bit of trying to remember some quirky detail about a camera I’d had in my possession, way back in the mists of time --so that I might posthumously identify it.
I think I’ve pinned down most of them. There may have been one or two others in between this lot but, if so, they made so little impression on me that I’ve completely forgotten even owning them.
I wasn’t going to count the smartphones I’ve owned, only the 'proper' cameras. But, as I got to the digital end of Memory Lane and thus the EXIF info stored in my photos, I came to realise that I’ve taken as many, if not far more, photos with some of my phone cameras, as I have on the 'proper' cameras I’ve owned. So I think they deserve to be in there. Apart from that, there have been times in my smartphone-owning life where the camera on my phone was the only camera I owned. Which also validates their inclusion.
Just to muddy the waters even further; I spent about 15 years as a college lecturer on Art & Design related courses. And 3 or 4 years before that as a student at the same college. This gave me access to and borrowing rights to lots of 'gear' owned by the college where I studied and later taught. Going through the EXIF data I can see that there were times when I used a camera for months at a time --obviously loaned from college-- which I didn’t actually own. I’ve not included those in the main timeline. But I’ve added them at the end as a special bonus for anyone dedicated enough to have read that far!
Got all that? OK. Finally, we can get on with the timeline…
Cameras I have owned – The Analogue Era
1975 – Kodak Instamatic 36.
My first ever camera! I must have got it either for Christmas, or for my 10th birthday. It fair brought a metaphorical tear to my eye when I randomly stumbled across one for sale on eBay, complete with the original box. I was instantly plunged back in time to the excitement of owning my very first camera. And could still remember the feel of the wee camera strap, the ratchety film wind-on, the crude folded metal shutter lever and the myriad of manual settings. ie. twisting the lens to 'Sunny or Cloudy'.
~1980 – Halina 3000.
This was the first camera I bought for myself. A 35mm Compact. All I could remember about this in advance was that it was possibly a Halina. But, once again, eBay came to the rescue when, after scrolling through several listings for old Halina 35mm cameras, I came across a couple of the 3000s for sale and, immediately recognised the badge on the front, the shutter speed setting via the lens ring and the wee window in the top with the light meter needle.
I don’t remember much about this camera. But I have a lingering memory of cheap’n’nasty build quality. I seem to recall I bought it from one of those crappy ads in the back of the Radio Times or suchlike. The timeline placing is based on finding a holiday snap of myself in Dublin in 1980, where I’m holding this camera. It’s in its case though. Hence why I was clueless as to what it actually was, til I went eBay trawling.
~1982 – Pentax K1000.
My third ever camera and my first SLR! I got given it second-hand as a birthday present. My abiding memory of the K1000 was that the light meter automatically triggered as soon as you removed the lens cap. So I would be constantly taking the lens cap on and off, as I’d only remove it to take a photo and then put it straight back on again, in my constant state of anxiety lest the light meter battery ran out. You’ve got to remember this was back in the dark ages where trying to find a replacement for the uncommon light meter battery in a camera might involve a long tedious trek into town and round various camera shops. None of your Amazon Prime in those days!
I’m placing this on the timeline around 1982 because I’m fairly sure I remember having it when I did a 'Photography and Darkroom Skills' course at a further education college in Belfast around 1983 and I’d owned it for a while then --I certainly remember using it to take reference photos for one of my A-level art paintings at school [and developing them in one of the science lab cupboards!]. I’m not sure what became of it or how we ended up parting. But, having seen the price people are asking for them on eBay these days, I wish I still had it!
1985-1992 – The Wilderness Years.
I have no recollection whatever of what camera/s I owned at this time. It was just after I’d moved to England and I don’t think I brought one over with me. Also, that part of my life is a bit of a booze & drugs blurred haze. I must have had some kind of a camera… or at least occasional access to one, as I have photos which I’ve taken during that time. But I’m afraid this part of the timeline must, perforce, remain blank, until such times as those missing braincells are returned to me.
On with the show!…
1992 – Sigma 28 AF Zoom.
You know what, I had a whole paragraph written about how I could remember nothing at all about this camera. Not even the brand name. Because, I’d tried a few times to dredge something up from my memory about it and always drawn a blank. Then, last night while brushing my teeth before bed, after once again remembering next to nothing about this camera, I suddenly thought 'It was a camera made by a company you’d associate more with lenses', which immediately made me think of Sigma and… a few intarwebs searches later, I found the fecker.
Now I’m not 100% certain it was the 28. This camera came in three lens configurations. But I’m fairly sure it wasn’t the Sigma 36 AF Zoom as I don’t remember it having that plastic 'window' on the front. The only other option would be the Sigma 50 AF Zoom but I’m putting my money on the 28, as I don’t remember it having that much of a zoom lens.
Anyway, I got this one as either a birthday or Chrimbo pressie from my then girlfriend. She bought me it as she knew I was into photography and didn’t have a camera at the time. Unfortunately, she knew nothing about cameras or photography at all and basically just asked the guy in the camera shop to recommend something.
The camera itself was quite a solid and well-made 35mm compact. And, being made by Sigma, doubtless had a decent-ish lens. But it was pretty much a completely automatic point & shoot jobbie, with not much scope for creative control. So it was one of those pressies where you open it and thank the giver effusively whilst, behind the fixed grin on your face, you are internally crying.
~1997 Nikon F601.
This is a bit of an odd one this. Timeline wise, I’m pretty sure that I’m fairly close with 1997 as I have some photos dating from then that I’m pretty certain were taken with this camera. But the intarwebs tells me it was introduced in 1990 and I’m fairly sure I bought it new. So either; it had quite a long manufacturing run… it was quite out-dated when I bought it… I bought it second-hand… it wasn’t this exact model… or I’m way out in my timeline placing.
Whatever the score is, I don’t have much in the way of fond memories of this one. Or many memories at all. I just have a vague recollection it being quite 'plasticky' and cheap feeling and of the provided kit lens not being that great. In fact [as subsequent entries will suggest] my lack of enthusiasm for this camera may have been my Coke/Pepsi, Levi’s/Wranglers moment in that, I never bought a Nikon camera again. But I did go on to own several Canons.
Cameras I have owned – The Digital Era
From this point on, thanks to the twin joys of internet shopping [combined with my tendency to keep all my old emails] and the EXIF data embedded in digital photos, it becomes a lot easier to pin down precise purchase, usage [and selling] dates. So, off we go, into the brighter, preciser digital future…
2003-10-26 - 2009-07 Canon PowerShot Digital IXUS 400.
My first digital camera. Indestructible wee thing. I finally had to stop using it when the screen cracked after several years of loyal service, where it got used, abused, dropped, sat on, stood on and covered in every noxious substance imaginable. The last time I seemed to be regularly using it was the middle of 2009. But I still had it up until quite recently. I found it in a drawer last year and it still turned on and extended the lens [albeit with a nasty grinding sound].
2008-10-14 - 2009-12 Canon PowerShot Digital IXUS 750.
After my first IXUS eventually finally gave up the ghost, I bought this newer iteration to replace it. I can’t remember too much about it, Having owned an earlier generation IXUS for a long time beforehand, there probably wasn’t a lot that was new and exciting in this one. Why change a winning formula? I think it was just a bit more curvy than the old IXUS 400.
Oddly, while trawling through my photos archive and extracting the camera models from the EXIF data, I found a load of photos from a Canon IXUS 750 taken in 2007 [when I was still using my IXUS 400]. I can only assume that particular IXUS 750 was one I’d borrowed from work, as I have the eBay receipt for this one --hence the precise date.
2009-06-07 - 2013-08 Canon PowerShot G10.
Oddly enough, if you’d asked me beforehand how long I had this camera, I’d have thought about a year or even less. But, trawling through my archives of old snaps, I got as far forward as August 2013 and was still finding photos taken on the G10. So it was obviously much more of a faithful old friend than I remembered. I eventually sold it for £50 [or was it £30?] to my girlfriend’s niece, as she was getting into photography.
I remember it as being a big solid lump of a camera. A chunky compact with full manual controls. Unfortunately, it was let down by having a really crappy lens cover design. The wee blinds which cover the lens when not in use were too close to the glass and scratched the lens as it opened and closed whenever–as inevitably happened–any grit found its way between lens cover and lens. A design flaw caused problem which afflicted lots of people with the camera and which Canon [in true mega-corporation fashion] refused to acknowledge.
2010 - 2014 – Canon IXUS 100 IS.
Another year, another IXUS. I’m losing count now. Is this the third? This was another lovely wee thing. Really tiny --especially given what passes for 'pocketable' in the world of compact cameras these days. Almost credit card sized. Although, obviously, a wee bit fatter.
I lost it once, on holiday in Ireland & it turned up about a year later, back in England, dropped down inside the dashboard of the van. I only found it coz I’d removed the dashboard to beat some electrical gremlins into submission! I lost it again [also in Ireland] a year or so later. But, so far, it’s taking longer to find its way home, this time. I guess that’s the downside of having such a dinky wee camera. You set it down somewhere and promptly lose it!
2010 - 2015 – iPhone 3GS.
My first smartphone and the first phone with a camera that took decent enough photos that you could use it as your EDC camera. I’ve actually still got this old iPhone and it still works. Although it’s pretty useless for anything, as there are practically no apps which will still run on it.
2013-12-01 - 2017-06-27 – Canon EOS 7D.
I treated myself to this [body only] and the EF 17-40mm ƒ/4L USM Zoom Lens, while working in a decently paid job. Lovely camera [and lens] and built like a tank. But never got to come out to play as often as it should have, because of the bulkiness. I ended up buying another IXUS [see next entry] as my EDC camera and the 7D got used less and less, until I eventually decided to sell it.
2015-04-07 - 2015-12-15 – Canon Digital IXUS 120 IS.
IXUS number four! I’m becoming repetitive here. A lovely wee 'Pocket Rocket' and successor to the IXUS 100 IS. Combining brilliant 'pocketability' with RAW shooting and pretty much full manual control --albeit via a bit of 'menu diving'. All wrapped in a sleek black metal jacket. Unfortunately, I had to sell it a few months after buying it, due to my ever-present companion; 'skintness'.
2015 - 2019 – HTC One M8.
My second smartphone and switch from using Apple to Android. The HTC One M8 was generally panned on review sites for its crappy camera. But I thought it wasn’t too bad. Although it did have a tendency [especially after I’d had it a few years] for rendering the sky a bit turquoise and foliage a bit artificial looking.
I’ve still got this one too. It still works, though the battery won’t hold charge for more than 1 day. I mainly use it to listen to audiobooks on now.
2017-06-04 - 2017-07-03 and 2017-07-06 - 2018-04-23-- Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II.
So mediocre I bought it twice!
I’ve actually written a fulsome review of my gripes with the G7X MKII and the reason I not only bought it twice but returned it once and sold it the next time. So I’ll not re-hash that again. So the link in the heading for this one will actually take you to my own review of the camera, rather than one by somebody who knows what they’re talking about.
2018-08-17 - 2019-07-21 – Panasonic Lumix DMC LX15.
I bought this one after failing twice to bond with the Canon G7X MkII. I actually found the Lumix LX15 to be a really nice camera all round. I would probably have held onto it, were it not for my lifelong companion 'Terminal Skintness' raising its ugly head again and forcing one of my periodic 'pawning of the family silver' sessions. I had just got hold of the Samsung Galaxy S7 as my phone around this time. So the LX15 seemed a bit more 'surplus to requirements' than it would otherwise have been, if it was my only decent camera.
I wrote a first impressions review of the LX15 shortly after buying it and, as with the G7X MkII above, you can get to that via the link in the title just above.
2019 - PRESENT – Samsung Galaxy S7.
Third ever smartphone. Bought it second hand when it was a couple of years old and it’s still going strong. Definitely the best camera I’ve ever had on a phone. It takes better photos than a lot of the 'proper' cameras I’ve had in the past. It’s only let down by some slightly artificial looking greenery, when I shoot landscapes or foliage and by having that fixed, and quite wide angle, lens.
Again, the link in the title of this section will take you to my own mini-review of the S7, on this 'ere boutique.
2022-11-09 - PRESENT – Sony ZV-1.
Equal in frequency to my 'I must sell my camera coz I’m skint' periods and generally following about a year later come my 'I wish I had a proper camera again!' pinings. And so, a couple of years after getting shot of my Lumix LX15, I started trawling the camera review sites again, hankering after a new toy.
My wishlist was [as ever] full manual control, decent build quality and --new for this time around-- a camera with decent video capabilities, as I’m toying with the idea of shooting more video in future.
I initially thought of buying another Lumix LX15. But they were actually dearer now than when I bought mine back in 2018, which [even allowing for these inflationary times] is not how the pricing of 'old tech' is meant to work.
I also considered the Panasonic Lumix Lx100 MkII but was ultimately put off by a few reviews mentioning that it had a pretty bad 'rolling shutter' problem [and no video stabilisation].
I even considered jumping back onto the G7X bandwaggon for the third time, with the G7X MkIII. Although I was slightly dubious as to whether any of my niggles from the last iteration would have been sorted out. I was finally disabused of that notion by the numerous reports of its terrible focus tracking, which would have made it a poor choice for video.
In the end, it was several videos comparing the Canon G7X MkIII and the Sony ZV-1 [whose focussing & focus tracking is light years ahead of Canon’s] that persuaded me to give the ZV-1 a punt. My first ever foray into Sony camera ownership [apart from a Hi8 video camcorder, several centuries ago]. It’s far too soon to tell whether this one is a keeper or not. I timed my purchase to coincide with the onset of the 'dark when you get up – dark when you get home from work' time of year. So I’ve barely taken any photos with it so far.
Watch this space for my opinions, once the dust has settled.
And now, before I bring this interminable post to an end, an added bonus section.
As I was sifting through the EXIF data for the thousands of snaps I’ve taken in the digital era, I came across, in addition to the cameras I’ve actually owned, quite a few periods where [as mentioned up at the top] I’ve had cameras on loan from college/work for such lengthy periods that they became de facto 'my current camera'. So here then I present:
Cameras I didn’t actually own, but used for lengthy periods of time
1996 – Apple QuickTake 100.
If ever there was a 'Dishonourable Mention' then this heap of crap has got to be it. Yes, I know all the 'Blah… Blah… first commercially available digital camera… Blah… Blah…' justification that goes with mention of the Apple QuickTake 100. But, let’s face it; it was absolutely pants. Slow as feck. Tiny 640x480 photos. The image quality was appalling. It made people look like they were made of pink plasticine. And, the crowning turd in the cess-pit; the PICT file format which it used was a proprietary Apple format that they subsequently abandoned. So, if you have any of these files lying about, you have to jump through hoops to try and find something which can open them and then convert them to a saner format like JPEG.
With my judgement at the time swayed by the perceived futuristic possibilities of 'Digital…? Photography…?' [to be said in a Peter Kay, 'Garlic…? Bread…?' voice], I borrowed one of these to take on an exchange visit to Córdoba in Spain, instead of a 'proper' film camera and so, as a result, have a handful of shitty smudges to remind me of that trip, instead of some decent photos.
In another idiotic episode, it seems I borrowed this camera [or another QuickTake] in 1999 to take on a once-in-a-lifetime working visit to Melbourne in Australia. I have a load of equally shite quality photos from then which I have, at some stage in the past converted to JPG [losing any EXIF info they once contained] and a handful of 'broken' ones, saved with a .PCT extension.
I actually find it hard to believe I would have borrowed a QuickTake again. Especially not 3 years later. So maybe they were from another camera, converted to PICT at some stage in the past and [whatever the case] are now unopenable.
1998 – Fujifilm DX-8.
I have no recollection of this camera at all. When 'DX-8' started showing up through scanning of EXIF data in my photos archive, I mistakenly thought it must be an old Nikon model [confusing it with D-80 I think]. It was only when I took a closer look at the extended EXIF data that I saw it was a Fujifilm camera.
I’m actually wondering whether I borrowed this camera again in 1999 when I went to Australia [see previous entry] and that the mysterious .PCT files I have from Oz are actually something else, possibly from this Fujifilm DX-8 which, at some stage, I have mistakenly assigned the wrong file extension.
If that sounds crazy, remember that, pre-OSX, Apple computers didn’t use file extensions. So any files I’ve retained from before then would have had file extensions applied retrospectively [and, in this case, possibly erroneously].
2002 – Nikon Coolpix (E)900.
This one identifies itself in the EXIF data as 'E900' but seems to be referred to as plain ol' '900' everywhere else. So take your pick!
Another one I had no recollection of ever having in my possession, til it showed up in the EXIF data for around the end of 2002 - beginning of 2003. However, I can remember us having a load of these in college. So it must have been borrowed from there. Odd as I remember thinking they were horrible looking cameras. With that weird twisty hinge in the middle to angle the lens in different directions --and 'Coolpix' has got to be right up there with the cheesiest brand names of all time. So I’m not sure why I would have borrowed one. Mind you, if they were all we had at college, apart from the accursed QuickTakes, it was probably the least worst option.
That’s to say, 'the least worst digital option'. We had loads of perfectly serviceable 35mm film cameras too. But I thought I was riding the wave of the future by dipping a toe in the digital waters back then. The main benefit being that, for college work, you could bring the images directly into Photoshop / Illustrator / whatever, without all that messing about in the darkroom and then scanning palaver --which was involved in doing it the old-fashioned way.
2003 – Canon Powershot G2.
Another one that popped up in the EXIF results as a complete surprise to me. I’ve no recollection of having had my greasy mitts on this one either. Though it seems I used it for about 5 months during this time.
2008 – Nikon D80.
I had this one, end of 2008 - beginning of 2009. At the risk of sounding like a broken record; it’s another of those cameras that made so little impression on me one way or the other that I have almost no recollection of it at all, save that, from photos of it, it looks vaguely familiar.
And that, my dears, is the end of this epic ramble down Memory Lane and trawl through my photographic archives. I’m actually quite impressed that I’ve managed to piece so much together from fragments of half-remembered photographic times past. And I’ll try not to let that 'lost decade' from 1982 - 1992 gnaw away at me too much.
I’m going to finish this screed now, before it becomes even more unwieldy than it already is. There’s still quite a lot of data collated from all that EXIF trawling, that’s crying out to my inner nerd for collating at some stage. But I’ll save that for another day and another post.
By the way. The photo at the top of the page shows the first camera I ever laid my hands on. When I was wee, we had this model Box Brownie, which had belonged to my Mammy, in the house. I never remember it having any film in it. But all the photos of me as a jug-eared baby were taken on this camera. When I was still knee-high to a grasshopper, I used to mess about with it, taking pretend photos.
So I think it merits an honourable mention.
In one of those spooky coincidences / glitches in the The Matrix moments… the other day I was re-indexing my huge collection of photos [20 thousand and counting!] when I spotted this flash past on the screen. Nothing less than [as far as I know] the only picture ever of wee me clutching to my scrawny bosom the very Kodak Instamatic 36 camera, with which I began both my photographic voyage through life --and this interminable article!
So here, for your collected mirth, I am. In all my 1970s plastic-anoraked glory. On holiday in Cricceith in Wales: