For so very long, I have longed to create photos that make me think of paintings, or of vintage photos – from the early days of photography, to the tiny prints from the ’60s and ’70s that featured in family photo albums. This longing has taken me through a range of cameras and techniques, though this was by no means exhaustive.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
This camera is everything I hoped the EM5 would be – it is fully featured, feels great in the hand, and not being weather sealed doesn’t matter to me (I’m a fair weather photographer!) It’s my primary camera.
Olympus Pen Lite EPL7
Purchased new for a fraction of the original price. Beautifully made – heavy, metal body, quite retro, with a lovely, over-engineered tilting touch-screen that can even face forwards.
+20mm f1.7 Panasonic lens +45mm Panasonic Leica macro lens + Panasonic 14-140mm ii lens
Fujifilm X30 compact
This purchase was made mainly because I fell in love with the manual zoom of the X10, but wanted an electronic viewfinder and tilting screen. It was fun to use, very robust, looks retro, and reminded me of my old film cameras, with the images having a strong film look.
Fujifilm X10 compact
A beautiful, retro-styled, heavy-bodied compact with manual zoom that also powers the camera on when twisted. Fun to use and with a certain magic in the JPEGs. Bought new for a crazy mark-down price, but sold it as it lacked some features I wanted.
Olympus Pen Lite EPL3
My first micro four thirds camera gave me lots of joy and a gateway into m43.
Olympus OM-D EM-5
I had a brief love/hate relationship with this camera, loving the IQ and awesome styling, but disliking the way it felt, so I sold it within months.
A logical successor to the XZ-1, with numerous useful improvements. Lots of fun to use, with pretty good image quality for a small sensor. But I moved onto the quirky Fujifilm X10 / X30 for a go-everywhere compact.
When I started looking for a point-and-shoot digital camera at the beginning of 2012, I didn’t exactly know what I wanted – just that I wanted a camera small enough to be my constant companion, and that could reignite my passion. Most of my (many) previous camera acquisitions had been determined by others – either the cameras were gifts, or came recommended by those in the know. So I did some research, read field tests and reviews, and narrowed the candidates down to an Olympus PEN or the XZ-1, both of which include ART filters for vintage effects. The additional retro styling of the PEN was tempting; but in the end it came down to money.
The XZ-1 is the first camera I have ever purchased new, and it goes with me everywhere.
Pentax *ist DSLR
When I finally decided it was time to embrace change and buy a digital SLR to replace my old 35mm Canon SLR, I was offered a friend’s *ist which had just been replaced by a newer Nikon. I knew it had been impeccably looked after, and would be a fantastic first DSLR, particularly as it was one of the smallest DSLRs available at the time. It feels perfectly balanced in my hands, and is a pleasure to use.
Just for fun, I coupled a 1950s Kodak Duaflex pseudo-TLR camera with the Pentax *ist via a neoprene tube and a cut-down soft drink bottle, so I can take retro images without the fakery involved with in-camera filters, or post-processing software. It can definitely be improved upon, but I’m pretty happy with it.
Early-2000s Nikon Coolpix 4500
The first digital camera I fell in love with, this neat “little” camera seduced me with its ability to record stunning macro shots. The day I experimented with a friend’s 4500, I was in a swoon after a session spent photographing rose petals, and the distortion of light through water and glass. Astoundingly, that night I had a phone call from the friend’s brother, who had just found a 4500 for sale in his favourite camera store, and wanted to know if I was interested. I couldn’t make the deal fast enough. Sadly, now, the 4500 doesn’t get out much, and it’s time it found a new home.
Early ’80s Canon AE-1 Program
The same camera-enthusiast friend who sold me the *ist and found me the 4500 also found me the AE-1. It was my first manually operated camera, and I have to be honest: I never did get comfortable with operating it manually. Fortunately, in most conditions the program automatic mode achieved what I wanted anyway. It went on a lot of road trips and took some of my favourite photos. It’s still there, in my camera bag, but we both know we’re kidding ourselves about using it now.
Other cameras I’ve owned…
A period of Gear Acquisition Syndrome saw me buy-to-try numerous digital cameras on my quest for the right ‘fit’, including an Olympus Stylus 1, an EP1, a Panasonic GF1, and a Fujifilm XE1, all of which were sold again when they didn’t work out.
1960s Voigtlander Vito C 35mm viewfinder camera, won on eBay, through which I put only a few rolls of film. Sometimes the film doesn’t wind on properly, which leads to interesting superimposed images. It sits ornamentally on a shelf now.
1920s Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie – a gift from a similarly enthusiastic friend, which I’ve never attempted to shoot with. It keeps company with the Voigtlander.
’90s Olympus Mju 35mm ultra compact camera – a very neat little camera; capable, if not exciting. Passed on to me from a friend in 2005, who had been given it by another friend.
Mid-’80s Canon T50 35mm SLR – my first SLR, completely automatic, which I bought from the parents of a friend in 2003. It went on even more road trips than the AE-1, including one memorable trip through the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island.
Early-’80s Minolta compact camera, model unknown – my first camera was a 9th birthday present from an older relative, who had just upgraded hers. Looking back on the photos I took with it for nearly two decades, it taught me a lot about composition and some basics about aperture settings, and I’m grateful for the thoughtful gift that launched a lifelong interest. It eventually died in the glovebox of my car.
Image Editing Software
Picasa, Google’s free image storage / editing software
Google’s Nik software, made available for free download in March 2016
Pixlr-o-matic for fun filters
Vignette app for Android