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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The Canon T1i
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.
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.
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
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.
One thing you might not think of as a camera is…
The DJI Mavic Air
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!
But wait, there’s…
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.
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.
What digital camera(s) have you used? What’s your favourite?