10000 is a figure we seem to hear often these days.
Some say 10000 hours of practice leads to mastery of your chosen craft.
Others say 10000 steps a day is the key to good health.
A rather famous photographer said your first 10000 photographs are your worst.
It’s the last of these I’m most interested in, and how it relates not only to beginning to master photography, but also to fully understanding, embracing, and bonding with one camera.
In late 2011, after a few years of using Sony camera phones, I bought my first “proper” camera, a Nikon Coolpix P300.
Not ever being one who likes to splash out money, I remember researching it pretty thoroughly before laying down the £300 to make it mine.
In retrospect, eight years and quite probably about 308 other cameras later, that choice was an excellent one.
Some of the main attributes of the Coolpix remain near the top of my essential requirements for a camera today.
Check. It’s slim, trouser pocketable, and about as small as a camera can be before it becomes awkward to handle.
Check. Despite being a black slab reminiscent of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the rubber strip down the front of the camera and the rubber thumb grip at the rear make it surprisingly grip-able, and the shutter button is exactly where you need it to be.
Shallow depth of field capabilities?
Check. The maximum aperture of f/1.8 and the 0.03m macro focus take care of that.
Great pictures straight out of camera?
Check. The P300’s high contrast mono scene mode was the first of its kind I discovered in a camera, and was the reason I fell in love with contrasty black and white photos. I’d not even heard of LightRoom when I was using the Coolpix, and thought “post processing” was something they did at the local Royal Mail sorting office.
In the months that followed I recall shooting over 1000 pictures a month with the little Nikon.
Then in June 2012 I was given a Holga 120N for my birthday, and as I began to explore film more and more, the Nikon was used less.
But I still must have taken 10000 photos in my first year with the P300, and perhaps over 20000 now overall.
Which means I know the camera very well.
It feels like an old comrade, one who’s been alongside me through many a frosty winter morning and balmy summer sunset, and who’s seen and captured thousands of crumbling gravestones and frosted leaves.
Yes, the zoom sometimes sticks and needs carefully teasing to and fro to work again, and the rear thumb grip has been superglued back on more than once.
Yes, the lens and screen have been scratched, but still deliver lovely images, especially (and almost exclusively) in that high contrast b/w mode.
Even if I’ve not used the P300 for a few weeks, I can still pick it up and start using it in seconds, knowing what its strengths are, and exactly how to change anything I need to change on the fly.
Ironically, despite setting myself up so well with the Nikon, the next few years from 2012 onwards saw me plunge into film photograph, buying and experimenting with dozens of cameras a year.
There isn’t a single film camera I have made anything like as many pictures with as the Coolpix, so I never felt quite the same instinctive connection and history.
Since then, there are a few digital cameras I’ve shot thousands of images with, but perhaps none yet over 10000, like like Coolpix.
My Pentax DSLRs – the K100d and K-m – saw heavy use this summer gone, and in the previous two years I used my Gang of Four extensively – Ricoh GX100, Ricoh GRD III, Panasonic Lumix LX3, and Pentax Q.
But still the good old Nikon – my first “proper” camera – remains the one that’s blinked its shutter open more than any other.
It’s also and the one that laid down a formula for how to choose the right camera and then use it exclusively to get to know it inside out, that I spectacularly failed to follow in the subsequent five years or so.
As I’ve returned this year to rediscovering that kind of camera monogamy – one month at a time at least – with my One Month One Camera project, my history with the little Coolpix has reminded me that 10000 pictures with just one camera might just be the ultimate route to photography happiness.
Which camera have you used most in your photography life?
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