Our first experiences can often be special, and tend to set our expectations and aims for the experiences that follow.
Here are a few questions about first cameras I thought it might be interesting to answer. I hope you might find them worth pondering too.
Which was the first camera…
…you remember seeing in the flesh?
For me this would be one of my nan’s flip body Kodaks. Something like an Ektralite 500.
I’m not sure I ever used it, but I remember it being ever present at birthdays, days out and other family events, and I would guess of perhaps just a few dozen photos left of my childhood, 90% were made with one of my nan’s Kodaks.
I also remember her routine when a film was finished, taking it into the camera shop (Crawley Cameras was her nearest) to be developed and prints made, in one hour, complete with a free new roll of film.
Incidentally, it wasn’t until decades later when I started shooting 35mm film, that I realised the negatives were the very same film that was in the camera, just cut into strips.
I thought the magicians in the camera labs took the film and somehow created negatives from them, then discarded whatever the original film looked like.
…you remember being impressed by?
This was my uncle’s Minolta SLR, almost definitely an X-700 as I distinctly remember it was all black, with the golden rising sun logo on the case.
I can’t actually remember him using it, just seeing it on a shelf and it looking sleek and sophisticated, a “proper” pro camera compared with my nan’s basic old plastic point and shoot Kodaks.
I also recall occasions where we went round for an evening of slides from a recent holiday, so he obviously shot a fair bit of slide film.
…you remember making intentional photographs with, rather than holiday or family snaps?
My first camera I went out on photowalks with, intending to capture images of things I found beautiful, was a Sony Ericsson K800i camera phone. At that point (2006), phones were still painfully slow at almost anything other than phone calls and text messages, but at least they’d started to have decent cameras on board.
With the K800i, its now humble sounding 3.2MP camera was plenty for my needs back then, and combined with some thoughtful design touches (so when used on its side, the phone handled like a compact camera, with a proper shutter button with half press to lock focus), served me very well.
…you thought you would never sell (and haven’t)?
This wasn’t my first Pentax by a long stretch, but the first I felt was close to perfect and beautiful to use, was an Asahi Spotmatic F.
I came across the camera on eBay advertised at a very ambitious price, but it looked very clean, with original S-M-C Takumar 55/1.8 lens, and was local, so I contacted the seller to ask if I could see it in person and make an offer.
She was selling off her late husband’s camera gear, and he was obviously a photographer who not only had good taste in gear, but looked after it incredibly well.
The Spotmatic was in lovely condition, and after holding it, winding on the shutter, and focusing the Takumar lens, I knew I had to have it. I made her an offer of £50 and she accepted.
I’d seen the same camera for far less, but given its condition and that I could test it before buying, I was more than happy to pay a little more.
Also in his collection – and now for sale – was a near mint Pentax Super-A and couple of lenses. I asked if I could do some research on price and get back to her, which I did, and again made an offer higher than I’d seen on eBay, but with the reassurance of the superb condition and being able to test the camera in person. We negotiated a little and settled on £30 I recall.
This leads me on to…
…you remember regretting selling?
There are a handful of cameras I’ve bought more than once, after selling or donating them in a purge of my collection, then weeks or months later missing them enough to seek out another example.
The first I remember regretting selling is probably the original Pentax ME Super I had, as I subsequently bought at least 10 different M variations, including the MV, MG and later incarnation as mentioned above, the Super A.
This was a prime example of me finding an excellent camera early on, then in an effort to find something even better, going through a dozen others (non-Pentax) that weren’t as good or as enjoyable, and going back to the one I started with.
How about you? What was your first camera for each of the questions above?
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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