I thought I’d put together a timeline on the history of the all the cameras I’ve ever owned. Prior to digital I did have two 35mm film point and shoots but I can’t remember the models. I definitely did not consider myself a photographer until maybe the Sony F717 was purchased.
Epson PhotoPC 650 I think it was a one mega pixel camera. The colors were beyond washed out and horrible, and the thing was huge, despite looking fairly innocent and petite in this picture. I don’t have any examples of anything I took with it, but trust me it was none too impressive. I don’t think I had this camera very long…I think I must have gotten it sometime in 2000.
Sony DSC-S50 This was the camera I bought before we moved to Seattle from Raleigh. I think I paid close to $500 for it at the time (I could be wrong). The lens in it was Zeiss, not that it means as much anymore, but the optics were decidedly better than the Epson and it was more compact. This lasted me for a few years until I really started going out specifically to take photographs, and not being able to achieve the results I really wanted.
Sony DSC-F717 I had a colleague at my day job who had one of these, or maybe it was the previous model the F707. Anyhow it was weird looking, but he had some stuff he had shot with it that really made me want to step my game up a notch. Convincing Melissa to spend $600+ or whatever it was on this thing at the time was not an easy task. In retrospect that amount for a camera and lens attached seems like a total bargain. This was my first camera that had all manual controls. I had not idea what I was doing whatsoever though. I remember having a conversation online with a photographer a bit more advanced than I and not knowing what she meant by interchangeable lenses, or why that was important. Or why you’d need a camera that could handle 1600 ISO. I really only used this one for a matter of months… the results gave me a taste of what was achievable with decent equipment and it put me in lust mode for the new relatively affordable DSLRs that were coming out.
Nikon D70 I got this in the final days of 2004. About this time there were really only a couple of affordable choices out there… the Canon Rebel and the Nikon D70. I made my choice mainly based on the fact that the ergonomics of the Nikon just felt so much better to me. I’m not sure if I would do it differently… there have been times when I’ve yearned for something Canon may have been doing better than Nikon at a given time. Anyhow once the lenses start accumulating it’s hard to jump ship. The D70 served me very well, and at one point I had two of them. A beginning wedding photographer with an equivalent backup camera? Ridiculous!
Nikon D200 2006 brought some big new bodies into the Nikon world in the form of the D80 and the D200. Basically in the DSLR world there are entry level cameras, intermediate cameras, and pro cameras. All of them can take professional quality images, but not all of them have professional quality features. By spending the extra money in the upgrade to the D200 instead of opting for the D80 I was sort of making a statement to myself about my commitment to the direction I wanted to go. The D200 was a pretty big improvement over the D70, and certainly upped my game a bit. But the one thing I was ultimately disappointed with was it’s performance in low light. Yes, it was a lot better than the D70, but when you compared it head to head to the 20D, 30D, or 40D it seemed to come up a bit short. And the 5D really blew it out of the water. Not much else was out there for Nikon at the time… the D2Xs was an awesome camera body, very fast, with amazing image quality. Low light performance some say was worse than the D200. It was about this time that I started to question the Nikon decision, because so much of what I do involves very poor lighting.
Fuji S5 Pro In July of 2008, less than a year after I got the D200 (once you are off the beginner train things start to move quickly in gear acquisitions) I procured a Fuji S5. Essentially it was a Fuji sensor and guts in a Nikon D200 body. I got to keep all of my lenses, and the result was a camera that was (at the time) excellent in low light and has an amazing dynamic range. The downside was the bluffer was SLOW, and the menus were LAME. However it was my primary camera for awhile.
Nikon D300 The D300 solved a lot of the shortcomings of the S5. The buffer was fast, the menus were familiarly Nikon, and the low light capabilities were slightly better than the S5. The D300 was the camera I used for the shortest period of time. It did stick around in our inventory as a back up to the back up (came into play once), and as a photobooth camera.
Nikon D3 The D3 was pretty revolutionary. Combining full frame and intense lowlight capabilities had me inspired to create more than any other piece of equipment I had owned to that point. The D3 wasn’t just better than all of the cameras I had previously used, it blew them out of the water. It was so good that I used it until the end of 2012. Having gotten it in early 2008 that puts it at nearly 4 years of service. And I wouldn’t say it had even really outlived it’s usefulness, we could have kept going using it – but we wanted a change.
Panasonic Lumix LX3 Somewhere in the neighborhood of a hot minute I owned a Panasonic Lumix camera, and I think it was an LX3. I had always yearned for a compact camera that shot RAW, but something about this thing just never clicked with me. It was pretty much entirely menu driven and had no optical viewfinder built in. I fiddled around with it a little, but ultimately sold it maybe a few weeks after I got it. I don’t think I shot a single image from it that I kept. When it comes to cameras manual controls have to be at least partially not buried in menus for me to use it. I also must have an optical viewfinder.
Nikon D700 The D700 is a both the annoying sidenote as well as a faithful producer that worked alongside the D3 for me for almost as long as I had it. That was the annoying part. After we had forked over $5500 on a D3 and a fancy warranty a few months later the D700 was announced. For all intents and purposes it was a mini D3, and the only thing it truly lacked was the dual slot capability of the D3. We ended up getting one for Melissa, and a second one for me as a backup. These cameras saw a lot of action in our business and created a lot of great images. Ultimately after a data loss issue we decided that we could no longer responsibly use single memory slot cameras for paid work anymore. Part of the reason why we went to Canon was the relative affordability of the 5DMKIII.
Fuji X100 Fuji sure does know how to make a quirky camera. The X100 when it came out wasn’t something that I truly coveted. It definitely looked cool, but I am very used to be able to interchange lenses, and while a 35mm f/2 equivalent is a great focal length for most day to day use, I still prefer to have some options. Shortly after the X100 made it’s debut, Fuji came out with the XPro1. The XPro1 was essentially the X100 with interchangeable lenses. I wanted the XPro1 to be my next professional camera. An ultra lightweight camera body with a nearly silent shutter in a very compact size is extremely appealing to a wedding photographer. But as I read more and more reviews about the XPro1 and it’s debilitating quirks I decided that the technology for a mirrorless camera that could be used in a fast paced setting like a wedding just wasn’t there yet. I decided to get a used X100 to play around with as the camera I take with me when I don’t want to lug an SLR around. For hiking, and walking around it’s great. But it has some frustrating shortcomings that make me want to chuck it. Ultimately I found the fixed 35mm lens the biggest limitation with it and sold it.
Canon 5DMKIII I don’t really have a lot of brand loyalty, nor do I get into those dumb conversations with photographers about Nikon being better than Canon or vice versa. Canon was the first kid on the block with full frame when they released the original 5D. I used to downplay the significance of full frame when it wasn’t an option with Nikon, but it in fact was a big deal. The 5DMKII when it came out became pretty much the camera of choice for most wedding photographers, and videographers. The main thing I’ve always envied about Canon was their lenses. When Nikon had no decent primes, Canon seemed very appealing. Nikon eventually caught up, but they still don’t have any modern AF primes that are f/1.2, and their 135mm is a dinosaur compared to Canon’s. The MKIII didn’t really self itself to me, the Nikon D4, D800, and D600 did the pitching. Let me explain. When Nikon released the D3S I wanted it, but we had just moved to Portland and our finances were taking a nosedive so I could never really justify it. I decided to wait until they upgraded the D700 to a D3S sensor like everyone expected they would. Except they didn’t do that. They released the D4 (upgrade to the D3S), which looked amazing, but at $6000 it was impossible to justify. Then Nikon released the D800, which is 36 FUCKING MEGAPIXELS. The D700 is a 12MP camera. I have made prints off of it 6 feet wide. I did not (and still do not) need file sizes 3 times what I was used to. All Nikon needed to do was put an option in for small or medium RAW files like Canon does and that would have been our upgrade. Finally they release the D600, which for all intents was a great prosumer camera (minus the oil sensor spot recall). So where did that leave us? Upgrading to used D3S bodies that 3 years old in technology, and still more used than a new 5dMKIII was. What I really wanted was a D700 with two slots that had better lowlight performance. We did the math, and it was cheaper for us to switch to Canon than try and outfit ourselves with four used D3S bodies. So we switched. We shot with the 5D3s for a couple of years. Initially I think I was more excited about it than the reality. The positive were improved ISO performance, a very quiet (and useful) silent shutter mode, dual slot backups for all of our cameras, and the glorious 135mm f/2L lens. The downsides were poor autofocus performance, and atrocious dynamic range.
Canon 5D I’m paranoid. We had three 5DMKIIIs, but Melissa wasn’t keen on buying a fourth because she was a single body shooter. Having actually shot a wedding where two cameras went down in one day I decided I need some extra insurance and bought a friend’s 5D as a backup. I probably shot a total of 20 frames on it in the two years it sat in our bag just in case. The menus and LCD is so bad I think it’s the closest thing I’ve had to a film camera since film.
Canon Rebel T3 This little bastard got some use as a photo booth camera. That’s the only thing we use it for and I can’t say much else about it.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 My first trip to New York City was for a December engagement session. The day after the session I walked the city for some street photos and couldn’t stop thinking about how great it would be to have a smaller camera system. I had been thinking about the E-M5 for awhile after reading a couple of reviews on it. While this camera like every camera has some quirks to it, I am pretty much in love. I have three fast primes for it, covering 24mm, 50mm, and 90mm in 35mm equivalents. The files it produces given the size of the sensor are fairly robust. I don’t really use it in low light, although the in camera stabilization has proven to be useful. The bokeh on a 4/3rds sensor isn’t fantastic, but the compression with the 45mm f/1.8 I’m using produces a pretty nice portrait.
Nikon D750 When the Nikon D810 came out I had pretty much by then convinced myself that a move back to Nikon was imminent. The only think really holding me to Canon was the 135mm, and the financial hassle of selling and switching. Shortly after the D810 was announced, Nikon pulls this weird rabbit out of the bag called the D750, which was about $1000 less. It didn’t take me too long after that to make the plunge. The D750 feels like a pretty different camera from the D700, and it’s got its share of quirks. Over my experience with the 5D3, it’s much much improved. The autofocus works. I get way more in focus shots than I did with the 5D3. The other big plus is that the dynamic range on the files is very robust. It’s lighter in weight, and I like that a lot. The tilt screen is kinda useful and Melissa has enjoyed the wifi for product photography. The things I’m not a major fan of are the inclusion of a pop up flash (Nikon – really STOP THIS), the max shutter speed of 1/4000th (sort of a non issue with the low native ISO, but still), lack of a PC sync port (again not majorly necessary anymore, but still), the fact that changing the ISO turns on the back monitor and you can’t turn that off, and finally the flare issue. I will however gladly take all of these things over the 5D3.