When I had my first car, a Vauxhall Nova, I had my life up to at least the age of 30 carefully mapped out by which cars I would own.
The rather feeble 1.2 litre engine of my little Nova would be upgraded to the sportier 1.3 SR, then the 1.6 GTE, through three VW Golfs – a Mk1 GTi, a Mk2 GTi 16v, a Mk3 VR6, and finally resting on a BMW M3 in my late 20s, 30 at the latest.
Back then it seemed the car I owned was a useful way of measuring my progress in life.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
I got the Nova SR and Golf GTi Mk1, and later a fantastic Honda CRX SiR, but since then my vehicles have been far more practical and family oriented – my current having been taken off the road for four months and me commuting on my ebike, as we try to make being a one car family work.
I wonder now why the car I drove seemed such an important marker of where I was back then.
I needn’t look far, my dad was involved with cars all of his life, either selling them, fixing them or driving them (he once owned a taxi fleet, and in another era a couple of Jaguars and a chauffeur business), and talked about them extensively.
It was then, to me, a way that adults measured their progress – how many cars they owned, and which ones.
This hasn’t entirely left me, but in an inverse way.
It still baffles me why some people need to have a new car every year, or spend £40k on a 4×4 just to take kids to school a mile away. It all seems so indulgent, so impractical, so expensive.
Anyway, what’s any of this got to do with cameras and photography?
I came to thinking about how in the last 15 years I’ve had a similar progression through different cameras.
The aspirational side has disappeared though – and with cameras it was never there.
Whereas I guess I felt driving a BMW M3 would not only be exciting, but make a statement to the world about who I was and how “successful” I’d become, with cameras I have zero interest in owning any camera for the purpose of making such silent proclamations to the outside world.
Since I rarely photograph when there are other people around anyway, it would be rather silly on that basis alone.
Whilst it’s well documented here that I’ve owned hundreds of cameras and lenses, my evolution can be summed up far more succinctly –
Phase 1 – Cameraphones. Mostly Sony Cyber-shots.
Phase 2 – Advanced digital compact, a Nikon Coolpix P300.
Phase 3 – Holga 120N.
Phase 4 – 35mm film, starting with modifying the Holga to use 35mm film when 120 film got too expensive, then with a Smena 8M.
Phase 5 – 35mm film SLRs. Praktica, Konica, Minolta, but my favourites becoming Asahi/Pentax, and Contax.
Phase 6 – A Pentax K-x DSLR, with vintage lenses.
Phase 7 – Mirrorless bodies, with vintage lenses. Mostly a Sony NEX 3N, later a Panasonic Lumix GF1 Micro Four Thirds camera.
Phase 8 – DSLRs again, Sony, then back to Pentax – K10D, K100D, K-m, Samsung GX-1S.
Phase 9 – Digital Compacts. A whole range but those that have lasted the course are a Ricoh GRD III, Ricoh GX100, Pentax Q, Panasonic Lumix LX3.
Now these weren’t mutually exclusive phases, aside from those blissfully ignorant first few years with cameraphones.
Since then, at two or three of the phases have overlapped at any one time. And Phase 1 has never stopped.
These days, I gently oscillate between phases 8 and 9, mostly influenced my the season.
Colour photography in the spring and summer with the Pentax DLSRs, back to mono in the late autumn and winter with the digital compacts.
I’m not sure how, or even if, this will change in the future.
Both set ups work well, and I enjoy them each greatly in slightly different ways.
The whole mirrorless world sounds good to me on paper, but just hasn’t really worked in practice, falling awkwardly between the comfort and immersion of a DSLR and the portability and simplicity of compacts.
I didn’t really plan this adventure, and if you had shown me this future 15 years back, when I was just using 3.2 and 5MP cameraphones, I’d have probably asked two questions –
1. Why buy so many different cameras?
2. Why not just stick with a decent cameraphone, which you always have with you anyway?
I know the answers to both (that’s for another post or two), and am more than happy with my set up.
Nevertheless I am always open to new paths, even if they may now only be subtle diversions rather than radical steps like when I tried a Holga or an SLR or a vintage lens on a NEX for the first time.
How about you? What has your life story in cameras looked like so far? Where do you think it will head next?
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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