My Ever Shrinking Camera Collection

In the last year my collection of cameras has decreased to essentially two 35mm film SLRs, a DSLR, a few digital compacts and my Xperia phone.

In reality I haven’t shot any film in perhaps 18 months now, and in the last three months have only picked up three of the digitals, using my phone for everything else. 

During the same time I’ve rediscovered cycling and am now using bikes as transportation to my photography explorations, rather than my car.

None of my digital compacts are large by any means, but the one I seem to reach for first is the smallest of them all, as it’s the only one that will completely disappear in my pocket whilst riding.

It’s the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-L1, from 2004, which makes it positively vintage in digital camera terms.

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So why am I favouring the little L1 over other higher spec’d and greatly enjoyable compacts like my Pentax Q, Ricoh siblings the GX100 and GRD III, and Lumix pair the LX3 and GF1?

Put simply, less is more, and the Sony is plenty. 

Looking at its capabilities first, it’s enough for my needs. The Sony’s 4MP images are ample quality for online use or 8 x 6 inch prints.

It doesn’t have unnecessary modes and functions, and in fact once I initially set up Program mode, Center AF [sic] and ISO400 and left everything else on Normal, the only setting I change is between colour (the default when you switch on) or b/w.

And this is mainly so I can cheat and see in black and white with the camera’s assistance rather than purely in my own imagination.

The Sony’s “enoughness” extends to its size too.

It’s big enough to handle very well. At the rear, the thumb rest has raised metal dots to aid grip, and the strap lug is positioned and angled so your thumb beds into it comfortably and aids handling further.

On the front, Sony intelligently positioned the lens at one end, leaving the rest of the small body for your fingers to close around.

Yet it remains tiny overall, measuring 95mm long, 26mm deep and 46mm high, and weighing a mere 145g.

My LX3 is one of the smallest compacts with such a capable lens and set of features, but even this feels bloated next to the Sony.

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And as I said before, this means it’s really the only camera I have that truly disappears in a fleece or jacket pocket whilst I’m riding. I can’t see or feel it’s there, but when I see something interesting I want to photograph, I just stop and whip out the L1.

But all this compactness and simplicity wouldn’t account for much if the photos were rubbish.

Fortunately, and best of all, the Sony makes photographs I really like.

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The black and white images are pretty good straight out of camera, but I usually add a little extra via my standard Snapseed 13 second process.

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At multiple times in my photographic journey I’ve wondered whether I could be a one camera photographer.

It’s true I like a little variety, and my remaining handful of digital cameras give me that.

But all the time I’m walking or biking to camera shoots, and all the time it’s still working, I can’t see me needing to look beyond the cracking little Sony DSC-L1.

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How about you? Is your camera collection – and the size of the cameras you’re using – shrinking, or expanding?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography and cycling life looks like right now.

13 thoughts on “My Ever Shrinking Camera Collection”

  1. Congratulations on thinning the herd, Dan — it can require some tough decisions since (as you’ve discussed before) there is no single “perfect” camera for every situation. For me the Panasonic GX85 has come pretty darned close, though, and it’s now the only body I shoot with … though I do have two of them. It’s compact but not so tiny that I can’t operate the functions; responsive; and has plenty of resolving power for my needs. I do still miss some of my old cameras for various reasons (too many to list, but among them a Canon 70D and a Leica V-Lux 1), but for the increasing amount of travel I’m doing there’s no beating the smaller form factor of a mirrorless and its equally small lenses.

    1. Thanks Heide. Well, I don’t travel that much (other than fairly locally by bike) but if I did I know I’d have to just choose one small camera. So I can see why the relatively small GX85 fits the bill for you.

      Why do you have two though? Do you carry both at a time with different settings and lenses?

      1. Having two bodies is great for events because I can keep a wide-to-standard zoom on one and a telephoto on the other — prevents missed shots because you’re fumbling around to switch lenses. And when I travel it’s nice to have a back-up, too. I’ve only had a camera fail me once on a trip, but I’ve never forgotten THAT lesson!

        1. Heide, I can really see the logic and appeal of this idea!

          I have a couple of cameras where I also have a close sibling, for example Ricoh GX100 and GRD III, and Lumix LX3 and GF1. But they do have SOME differences, so if I took them both out and kept switching between the two there would be a break in the flow whilst I remembered which camera I was using, and adjusted.

          But having two examples of the same camera, say one with a wide lens, one with tele, you can have most other settings the same, and of course the feel and overall control would be identical with the two.

          Food for thought!

          1. Exactly, Dan! I’ve programmed all of the menus and buttons identically on both cameras so the muscle memory can kick in, regardless of which lens is attached. I learned this trick from a couple of photojournalists I used to work with, and it has served me very well indeed.

  2. My camera collection is shrinking, both in the number of cameras and in their size.
    My standard approach to selling cameras (and lenses or accessories) is to put them into dead storage and put an entry for one year later in my calendar to sell them. If I take one out of storage during that year, even for just an hour, the one year timer is reset when I put it back.
    At this point, all of my large format and medium format film cameras, all of my 35mm film cameras except for the screw-mount Leica gear, and all of my digital cameras except for my iPhone are in dead storage. I continue to use a borrowed Fuji X-T20 for digitizing my negatives but all of my Fuji lenses are in dead storage too so it’s really a scanner, and not a camera.
    Of all my film cameras, the only ones that I can wear on a strap over my shoulder and under my jacket are the screw-mount Leicas with collapsible lenses. And that was an important factor in choosing them as my one remaining film camera system.

    1. Hi Doug, thanks for your input.

      Those old Leicas seem to keep delivering for you, and how ironic that such an old camera is your first choice for compactness, when we perhaps tend to think that compactness is something only modern cameras have given us.

      So when is the next dead storage deadline, and when’s the last one, ie the time at which you’ll take out the last camera in there that’s not been used for a year and sell it so you have nothing but your current and regularly used cameras?

      Neat idea by the way, I’ve tried variations of this with success for cameras, clothes and other items.

      1. Hi Dan, I’ve been following your cutting back on cameras with interest. In a way, the little Sony looks like a latter day digital parallel of the old Leicas.

        Compactness was an important selling point of the Leica when it was first offered for general sale in 1925. All of the screw-mount cameras through the IIIf of 1950-1957 are essentially the same size as the original model.

        The year just ran out on a Harmon Titan 4×5 pinhole camera. It’s going with us on the train to Florida later this month where it will be passed on to a relative. The most recent addition to the queue was the Nikon F kit with three lenses. If it stays there it will be up for sale in October of 2019.

        1. It’s another example where bigger better faster more is not actually the best way forward, despite what advertising might try to sell/tell us.

          I think phones are going through a similar phase with larger screens. It’s comical seeing some of these oversized devices bursted out of of people’s pockets. I still like a phone to be pocketable, that’s why it’s called a mobile phone. If I want a bigger screen I use a tablet or laptop in a fixed location. Just don’t get why people have some massive unwieldy, slippery phones…

          How often do you retrieve a camera from storage? Do they mostly go the course of a year without being thought about or retrieved?

          1. It’s about 50-50. Roughly half of them stay stored for the year and are then given to family, or sold if there are no takers. The other half come out of storage for various reasons. Most recently I found a late Nikon F waist-level viewfinder (the one with four sides) for less than half the usual price on eBay and bought it to see how the Nikon with the WLVF compared with a Leica with the Visoflex. The experiment took five minutes – I can’t see the entire frame on the Nikon with the magnifier flipped up and there is no good way to push it back down without getting fingerprints on the glass. The Nikon went back into dead storage, along with the new WLVF, and the one-year timer was reset.

          2. Oh that’s very strict. I think in that last example I probably wouldn’t have reset the counter again as it was out of storage so briefly. : )

          3. It doesn’t cost me anything to store the camera a little longer. All of them are old enough that depreciation is no longer an issue. I find comfort in knowing that I have not been tempted by the camera, in any respect, for a full year before I let it go.

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