Camera timeline & nostalgia trip

A colleague of mine, Edmond Terakopian, put a post on a Facebook groups a few days ago talking about the Nikon FM2 cameras that he has owned for many years. From there lots of people agreed with what he had written and a few others moved the conversation on to some of the kit that they’ve owned through their careers.

Most of the comments were about how good and how reliable the earlier kit was and how bodies and lenses from the 70s, 80s and into the 90s are still working and still able to run out quality pictures. Lots of nostalgia for the way things used to be!

Personally speaking I wouldn’t want to go back the shooting and processing film – even if that meant you could get a complete professional kit (two FM2s, two motor drives, 24mm, 35mm, 85mm and 180mm lenses and two flashes) for under £2,500. I was never as big a fan of the FM2 as so many of my colleagues were. The much more expensive and robust F3P/MD4 combination was my favourite of all of the manual focus film cameras but the arrival of the EOS1N made me realise that auto-focus was the way to go.

That got me thinking about just how much equipment I’ve been through in the forty or so years since I first picked up a camera. I’ve also been thinking about exactly how to approach the monumental task of listing everything and I reckon that the list is actually too long to be of any interest to anyone so I’m going to go for a few bullet-pointed highlights starting with the first SLR that I owned through to the bodies that I still use.

  • 1981 – I bought a Zenit E with a 135mm M42 screw fit lens before adding 35mm and 50mm cheap lenses soon afterwards
  • 1982 – For my 18th birthday I got an Olympus OM10 with a standard 50mm lens. Over the following three years I added all sorts of accessories and lenses before getting some OM1 and OM1n bodies
  • 1985 – After owning Leica M4-2 and CL bodies I finally got an M6 with a 50mm lens. I still had the CL with 28 and 40mm lenses
  • 1987 – I sold all of my Olympus equipment and for the commercial work I was doing I bought a ten year old Hasselblad 500C with 50mm and 120mm lenses
  • 1988 – Realising that I needed a range of 35mm kit I bought a couple of old Nikon FM bodies with 24, 35 and 85 mm lenses as well as a Tokina 80-200 lens. Those FMs were replaced by FM2 bodies and I bought more genuine Nikon prime lenses as the work picked up
  • 1989 – I swapped the Hasselblad for a Mamiya RB67 kit and bought two motor-driven Nikon F3P bodies which I loved
  • 1992 – I made the awful mistake of selling the F3P bodies and replacing them with F4Es and replaced my FM2s with F801s
  • 1995 – With the budget afforded to me with a staff job I swapped from Nikon to Canon getting two EOS1N bodies and a range of lenses including 28-70 and 70-200 f2.8 zooms. I had the ability to request new kit every once in a while and accumulated a lot of Canon EOS bodies and EF lenses
  • 1998 – Two Kodak DCS520 bodies and a 14mm lens arrived marking the switch to digital
  • 2002 – The Canon EOS1D came out and I got two of those bought by my employer which were replaced by the EOS1D MkIIs when they came out
  • 2008 – After going freelance again I bought two EOS5D MkII bodies as soon as they came out. They were replaced by EOS5D MkIIIs in 2013 and then by EOS5D MkIVs when they became available

Those are just the key highlights. Sometimes I kept the cameras and they overlapped and sometimes I sold one to buy another. Of course there were dozens of lenses and almost as many flash units coming and going. I have made a list and I reckon that between 1981 and 2021 I have had 38 professional camera bodies, 14 compact cameras and at least seventy lenses. I’ve rented and borrowed many more cameras and I have even done paid reviews of a few too. At one stage I found myself genuinely shocked by the regularity with which I used to swap gear around but the shock was tempered by the memory of just how relatively cheap gear was in the pre-digital days and by remembering how plentiful and reliable secondhand equipment was.

I’ve been trying to add up how much money has been spent on kit and my rough calculation is around £130,000. I wish that I’d been able to afford to keep everything but that was never an option. From the list above I only have four of the older cameras (Zenit E, Leica M6 and two EOS1Ns) and I have less kit now than at almost any point in my career.

My absolute favourite camera of all of them? That absolutely has to be the Canon EOS5D MkIV. I may change my mind if I ever swap to the EOS R5 or R3 or whatever comes out next but the quality of the pictures and the ease of use of the MkIV makes it the current champion.

4 comments

  1. Great read Neil. Interesting you settled on the 1D mk 1v as a favourite. I loved my one too. It got traded in against a 5D4. The weight, solidness, shutter sound and the files very very nice out of that 1D4. Loved to have held onto it…

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    1. Actually you picked up a typo – I meant to write 5D MkIV and have now corrected it. I never had a 1D MkIV – I had 1D MkIIs and then a 1DX and 1DX MKII. All long gone now.

      Like

  2. And I have one of your Canon 5D MkIIIs, i still have all the cameras i’ve ever bought except for my canon 350D which I gave to my cousin and a second hand 5D i gave to a student.
    Praktica BX20 was my first, followed by a secondhand Canon T90.
    hope all is good?
    Andy Pearsall

    Like

    1. Good to hear that one of those cameras is having another life! Not too bad here but it’s been a tough year without the normal work patterns. Let’s catch up.

      Liked by 1 person

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