Digital Photography – What First Attracted You?

So before we talked about what first attracted us to film photography.

This time, it’s the turn of digital photography. 

My first digital camera (phone) was a Motorola Razr V3i, though I don’t really recall making many photos with it, and don’t have any saved in my archives.

The first camera I remember using with the intention of capturing things I found beautiful and interesting, was a 3.2MP Sony Ericsson K800i camera phone.

Where the Motorola was well optimised for regular phone calls with its flip open design, it was ergonomically awful as a camera.

What I enjoyed about the Sony was it was designed to be turned sideways in landscape mode, with a proper shutter button with a half press to lock focus and everything.

In this mode, the phone felt like a camera, and you forgot it was a phone. Something it seems most brands lost sight of at least five years ago!

The Sony K800i was followed by the C902, then later the Elm j10i2, which both performed similarly well.

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Originally released in 2010, I found my Sony Elm in a shoebox in 2018 and it still brought a smile to my face and delivered very decent images.

Anyway, I think I was first attracted to digital photography with the original K800i in 2006, for two reasons. 

First, by this time I had a good archive of poetry, which in its latter form was mostly haiku.

I had the realisation one day that a haiku and a photograph are incredibly similar in that they capture the physical detail of a scene, plus the associated feelings experienced.

So making a photograph felt like a natural extension of writing a poem, something I’d done hundreds of times already.

Second, was the convenience.

I always had my phone with me, so naturally I always had a camera with me too, without having to make the conscious decision to take a separate camera with me on photowalks.

As I’ve written about numerous times here, just the presence of a camera (a phone camera or otherwise) somehow encourages you to look for – and see – details and compositions you don’t see usually.

The reasons I was attracted to digital photography are the same reasons I was drawn to photography overall.

It just happened that when I was ready to explore photography more, digital photography with a camera phone was the most appealing, accessible and convenient option available to me.

How about you? What first attracted you to digital photography? 

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).

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13 thoughts on “Digital Photography – What First Attracted You?”

  1. The cost and the convenience. Of course.
    I didn’t have a proper film camera before I went digital – all I had was an Olympus Stylus which was quite rugged and lasted a lot of years but didn’t take great pictures. The 3MP Kodak digital that I replaced it with in the early 2000s felt like an upgrade in image quality.
    I stay with digital because of cost and convenience, and I feel that the quality of sensors – both CCD and CMOS, in different ways – are quite ahead of what I could do with 35mm film. I think that when digital cameras reached 16MP we matched medium format quality as well – at least in practical use, and I’m talking medium format film without the aid of digital post processing – that is an entirely different subject but a lot of what you see now in the “I still shoot film” crowd is scanned film pictures that are post processed with added sharpness, contrast and all sorts of digital trickery. Which I believe has its own place and is a totally valid artistic expression, but not quite just “film photography”. It’s what I’d call a hybrid approach (and it has worked very well for Andreas Gurski hasn’t it? 😉 )
    But to be honest I’m still trying to find my own way and my own style in digital photography.

    1. Some very interesting points. Some who prefer film suggest a fine grain film is the equivalent of a very high MP camera, like 100MP or something. Interesting you found fairly low res digital cameras a match for 35mm film.

      As you know, I’m fond of the early Pentax DSLRs like the K100d and K-m and their CCD sensors (especially at native ISO) give a lovely film like look, with rich, warm colours, straight out of camera. I don’t care for pixel peeping, I just love their output.

      You’ve raised an excellent discussion point around many of those who shoot film now and share it online. What they share of course is a digital scan of film, itself probably significantly processed along the way.

      When film was the main medium, the only way to share a photograph was to hand (or send) someone a print. They saw exactly the same image you did. I haven’t made many prints myself but even from digital cameras, they look quite different to seeing an image on screen. Like you suggest, I don’t think you can claim to be a pure film photographer if you’re then tweaking everything digitally, and sharing a digital file at the end of it. It’s a hybrid film/digital photography, not film photography. Not to mention how everyone’s monitors and screens are calibrated slightly differently so the colours you arrive at in post processing won’t be identical to the eyes of others across the world viewing on an array of different machines and screens…

      1. When I talk about matching digital vs film, I’m talking about “pixel-peeping” color pictures. I think some color films like what we call the “drug store” films, or rebadges of the Fuji Color 200, are probably closer to 2-3 megapixels and then it’s all grain you see. Better film like Ektar or Portra is, to me, closer to 6MP. I’m sure very fine black and white film gets closer to 20MP, and some film like Velvia 60 might get close to 10MP. These are just uneducated observations of an everthinker 🙂
        But I’m not alone. Mike Johnston, another overthinker that I respect a lot (who basically introduced the name “bokeh” in photography) has said that 24MP met or exceeded medium format prints when printing large (quality of prints is always what he goes by, never what’s on a computer screen). I was pleasantly surprised when I found an old article by him (when I was overthinking and thinking about a Sony A900) that matched my own observations. I can try and find that article if you want… but it’s on his TheOnlinePhotographer blog somewhere.

      2. Hi Chris, I am enjoying reading your thoughts in the comments. When I switched from film to digital (Sony DSC-S70 Cyber-shot 3.2MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom), I didn’t notice the difference in quality when getting 4×6 and 5×7 prints. I still own that camera with working batteries and memory cards.

        Indeed, there can be snobbery to the film only crowd. I’ve met some in person, and I shamefully admit I was dismissive. But then last year I dusted off my Pentax P3 and put in a roll of 135mm film. But of course, I ruined the entire roll because I hadn’t adequately secured the back cover. Ugh! Film!!!!! But before that happened, I realised that I actually had fun shooting film.

        While I love using a modern digital camera, there is something fun about shooting film, or smartphone or even an old point-n-shoot from 1999. Heck if my old Motorola flip phone still worked, I would use it. I think I just love photography.

      3. Khürt, I think in some ways all cameras offer magical experiences, regardless of format, brand, cost and anything else!

      4. Chris I thought bokeh was a Japanese term? There are so many factors in between the canister of film you load in your camera and the final image you hold in your hands (or see on your screen), the variations are huge. I kind of like that digital (especially straight out of camera JPEGs) is a simpler, straighter route, with more consistency. Once you get a set up you like, you can just focus on composition, with little concern that results from shoot to shoot are going to vary too much.

  2. This one is easy. In 1999, every month, I was taking one or two rolls of film to be developed. My wife and I had our first child, and she went a bit snap happy. Many of the negatives and prints were blurry, and if we wanted a different size than 4″x6″ we had to pay for a second printing.

    Once I had a digital camera (same year, 1999) and a few memory cards, the cost of digital was zero. Sunk cost. I could delete all the blurry images. If I wanted a print, it was easy to select the specific digital file and get a photograph.

  3. I was starting my road-trip hobby and was shooting my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80. I soon figured out that a decent point-and-shoot digital would pay for itself inside five or six road trips, compared to the cost of film and developing. On a recommendation from Phillip Greenspun on his former photography pages, I bought a Kodak EasyShare Z730. It was a great first digital camera.

    1. So Jim did you go through a phase of shooting only digital? I thought you’d always had some film cameras and shot film, even if less frequently than more recently?

      1. Since returning to photography I have always shot some film. It was more digital in the early days because of cost and because my old road hobby was primary.

    1. That’s good to hear. There are definitely digital cameras that lack any kind of tactile appeal or pleasure. Like virtually all touchscreen camera phones. Something like my Ricoh GRD III or Pentax Q always bring a smile to my face when I pick them up, just from how they feel in my hand.

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