My first camera was a really inexpensive 110 film camera. I have no idea what brand it was, or what happened to it. It was basically junk. My second film camera was a decent one, a Minolta Maxxum 5000i. It eventually broke, and I replaced it with my very first digital camera, in 2002.

The funny thing about digital cameras is that, unlike film cameras, old digital cameras are basically garbage today. My early digital cameras can still take photos, but I sure wouldn’t want to. The sensors are small, the software is terrible, and they are large and awkward. Old film cameras can still take great photos – provided they have a good lens – but old digital cameras are best sent to electronics recycling, or hoarded, like I appear to be doing.

On to my collection.

The Sony DCR-TRV25

My very first digital camera was a Sony video camera, purchased in the summer of 2002. It combined a digital video camera with a 1 megapixel digital camera. That’s right, ONE megapixel. Being Sony, the camera used a proprietary “Memory Stick” and not a Compact Flash or SD card.

NBEC 1859 in Bathurst, July 2002
NBEC 1859 in Bathurst, July 2002

For several years, this was my only camera. Looking back, I regret depending so much on that one camera, but we didn’t have a lot of money so that’s what had to do the job.

What I don’t regret is the hours and hours of video we took of our children when they were young. Those are treasures.

I have a little over 7000 images taken with this camera.

This camera had a lot of weaknesses, including a really “muddy” look to any low light photos. As a video camera, it was pretty good for the time, but as a still camera it was not great.

I think I still have the Sony here somewhere. I tried to find it but I think it might be in the crawlspace. Something in the tape feed mechanism broke, and after spending a hundred or so dollars on attempted repairs, I gave up.

The Sony MVC-FD100 Mavica

Sony FD Mavica camera

This early Sony digital camera wasn’t mine – it was my dad’s. He used it for real estate photography, but I occasionally borrowed it to take family photos. I only have about 50-60 photos from this camera.

Yes, that’s a floppy disc sticking out of the side of the camera. The Sony MVC-FD100 (FD for Floppy Disc I assume) had the ability to write to either a Sony Memory Stick or a floppy disc. It recorded 1.2 megapixel images (1280 x 960). As a Sony camera it had a decent lens on it, with 3X optical zoom.

The Kodak C340

Our workplace had a camera that I borrowed a few times, a Kodak EasyShare C340. This 5 megapixel digital camera did a decent job and I took 130 photos with it over the period of a few years.

In fact, one of my favourite photos of the NB Southern Railway was taken with that camera.

NB Southern Railway train in Saint John, NB

The Fuji FinePix A210

I was frustrated by the Sony camera’s quality, or lack thereof, so we spent some Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum points and bought a 3.2 megapixel Fuji FinePix. This fat silver camera was a good workhorse for train and vacation photography. The quality was half decent and it was easy to use.

The only real problem with the Fuji was the shutter delay. There was about a 3/4 second delay between when you mashed the shutter button and when it actually took a photo. I missed a bunch of shots at the start before I realized that. My technique was basically to anticipate when the train would arrive at the scene and press the button in advance and hope I got the timing right.

The shutter delay also meant that there was no burst mode. You couldn’t “spray and pray” at one photo every 3/4 seconds!

It had a 3X optical zoom, motor driven, which was extremely slow to zoom in and out. I found that I basically had to choose my zoom before shooting; there was no time to change zoom while the train was approaching.

It actually took video – with no sound – and I took advantage of that a few times, but with no sound it wasn’t very useful.

Trains in Amsterdam, October 2008
Trains in Amsterdam, October 2008

Over time I found the major limitations of that camera were the shutter delay, the very slow zoom, and the low pixel count. I took almost 7,000 images with this camera.

I wasn’t ready to commit to an SLR, so I ended up buying…

The Canon S3

The Canon S3 as a video camera
The Canon S3 as a video camera

I bought a Canon PowerShot S3 IS in the spring of 2006. I wrote about my first impressions of the S3 here. This was a big step up from the Fuji. It took 6 megapixel images, with a 12X optical zoom (the film equivalent of 36-432mm), it was capable of video (only 640×480) and it had a flip-out display.

This was a great camera, the first digital camera I had that could take decently sharp photos.

Checking clearances at Grand Bay
Checking clearances at Grand Bay

I used this camera for 12 years, with my last image taken on October 9, 2018. In the latter part of its life, I used the camera as a video camera.

I considered a few different replacement cameras, changed my mind, and eventually purchased…

The Canon T1i

My Canon T1i doing its job in Banff
My Canon T1i doing its job in Banff

I received my Canon T1i in early June 2010, and wrote about my first impressions.

This was my workhorse camera for many years. I took tens of thousands of train and family photos with it – 59,052 according to Lightroom – and I loved it. I could take really sharp photos, with the right lens, and it did everything I wanted it to.

Railroad tracks lit by the setting sun on the horizon

One of the reasons I purchased this particular camera was because it took HD video. It was head and shoulders above the DCR-TRV25 for video and by recording onto an SD card, it took away the step of transferring video from tape to disk. No more tape!

The T1i served me well for many years, but eventually I ran into a couple of limitations. Its low light performance was pretty abysmal by modern standards, and the power switch started getting a little wonky. It failed me one day in September 2017 during my 50th birthday tour of Alberta and British Columbia.

Eventually it became my video camera, and I moved on to my current camera…

The Canon 77D

The Canon EOS 77D is my current camera. I bought it just before Christmas in 2017 and I’ve taken almost 30,000 images with it since then.

It does everything I want it to, and I have no intentions of replacing it any time soon. So far, I’ve taken almost 30,000 photos with it.

Train at sunrise

I imagine that my “next” camera, whenever that is, will be a mirrorless camera but I haven’t spent any time looking at specs.

I have purchased a few other cameras since the acquisition of the 77D, though, like the…

The Akaso EK7000

The Akaso EK7000 ready for video
The Akaso EK7000 ready for video

I bought a little GoPro clone, the Akasa EK7000. This is a very simple little boxy camera capable of 4K video. It’s a pretty decent camera for the price.

I’ve used it mostly for video like this. As a still camera it’s very simple, and gives you a nice wide angle look.

CN train at Lorette

One thing you might not think of as a camera is…

The DJI Mavic Air

Black drone hovering near a grain elevator
My drone at Elie

Nothing has changed my photography as much as my drone. A drone gives you a whole new perspective and I’ve tried to take full advantage of it.

I mostly use it for video. Since it takes 4K video, you can get some decent frame grabs and use those for photos.

It is a great flying still camera, though. I use it for the big wide open shots, and for aerial photos of grain elevators. It is a really nice camera… never mind that it’s fun to fly!

Ste. Agathe Viterra grain elevator

But wait, there’s…

The Phones

Nowadays you definitely think of phones as cameras – more talk about them as cameras then as devices to talk on – but before the iPhone, phones didn’t have great cameras.

Nevertheless, I have used a few phones as cameras.

  • Blackberry – 370 images
  • iPhone 6 – 7,500 images
  • iPhone 8 Plus – 10,000 images

I didn’t take a lot of train photos with the 5 megapixel Blackberry, but here’s one of BNSF Manitoba’s locomotive at Waverley Street in January 2012.

Blackberry photo of BNSF 2968 in Winnipeg
Blackberry photo of BNSF 2968 in Winnipeg

Many of my photos in the last two years of blog posts were taken with the iPhone 8 Plus. It takes great photos in good light conditions, and often I will use the 77D with a longer lens for the approach shots, then switch to the phone for closer photos and rolling stock photos.

Your Turn

What digital camera(s) have you used? What’s your favourite?

9 thoughts on “MOAR PIXELS”

  1. Great post, and while I could answer here, I think that’s worthy of a post all its own on my blog. I have had a variety of SLR’s from Pentax (Film and digital) and currently use a K-3II, but my first few digital cameras were various Panasonic Lumix and I use an older Canon point and shoot for my videos. Buying either a proper video camera or a newer higher quality camera for video is on my to do list someday.

      • I took one train shot with my first digital camera and knew it wasn’t going to cut it. Since then I have had a series of Canon point and shoot cameras with the last being an SX270 which was well suited to my needs of railway, nature and scuba diving photography. I’m currently using an Olympus TG6. I need to get out to do more railfanning with it.

        • That SX270 looks like a good railfan camera – 12 megapixels and a 20X optical zoom.

          I see why you have the TG6, since you do scuba diving photography!

  2. I have had many many cameras over the years. Some of the more memorable ones….

    Pentax Spotmatic 1000 was my first “quality “camera. Many many thousands of pics taken.

    Next up was my first digital camera, the Canon Powershot G11. I liked that camera. But it had many limitations.

    The next camera and the one I currently use is my Nikon D7000. Wonderful camera and I love the way it feels in my hands. The quality of photos it takes are simply fantastic. I’m sure I’ve only used 20% of it’s potential.

    However………. my go to camera is hands down my iPhone X with dual 12-megapixel cameras on the rear. How can something so small take such wonderful photos?
    The convenience of having a 12 megapixel camera with you 24/7 cannot be understated. I don’t have to pack a camera case/bag to load up my Nikon D7000 and lenses. In fact I’ll bet it’s been over 6 months since I took the D7000 out to do any shooting.

    The technology for camera phones just keeps getting better and better with each passing year. Rumour has it that iPhone 14 will come with 48 megapixel lens!! And iPhone 15 will have periscope lens for significantly increased optical zoom.

    I mean at this rate, who needs a full featured digital SLR anymore, when a better more convenient camera resides within your everyday phone.

    I do love my iPhone. Just wondering if I should get the iPhone 14 or wait till the iPhone 15 is released?

    • Hi Glen, thanks for sharing your own camera history. Phones have marvelous cameras in them now. I only know iPhones but I’m sure Samsung and others have great cameras too. At some point it’s more about the lens than the number of megapixels, but Apple seems to be addressing that by adding more and more lenses!

  3. Steve: Funny the way what we think is great at the time soon sucks when the next lastest greatest “Thang” comes along. Several months ago my company decided to supply its drivers with company phones, oddly enough I had mixed feelings as it meant I could eliminate one phone contract saving “ME” money, But the trade-off was I gave my almost new Motorola to my daughter which has a 48 megapixel camera, She loves that more than the phone.
    The first picture she took was of our cat, he looked more real on the phone than in person- jeez!
    Now when we are out chasing trains she takes the photos 🙂 haha
    My son also has the same phone so they compare shots, oddly enough they babble on and on about each other’s shots, and compare images and techniques. I never would have thought a camera/phone and trains would bring them closer in the brother/sister world.
    A lesson somewhere on parenting I think!

    • Hi Steve, that’s cool that photography has brought your children closer together. For mine it is Pokemon…

      I think the parenting lesson is to pay attention, provide opportunities, and encourage whatever hobby sparks their interest.

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