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Monday, March 26, 2007

The Cameras I Use

There are a lot of blogs out there where the writers post wonderful pictures they've taken. You might be able to guess that those are the kind I frequent most. Well, I see all those photos and I wonder what kind of equipment they used to create those images. What brand of camera, what size of lens, the speed of the film or if the camera is digital. All these things interest me greatly because I've been taking pictures for all of my adult life, and more. Looking at a beautiful image is nice, but I always want more. I mean, did they push the film to get such vibrant colors? Or did they hand hold a fairly long timed exposure? What about the lens; was it a telephoto or a zoom? I have too much time on my hands.
So, in case you're wondering these things about my photographs, (I know you are!) I thought that this would be a good opportunity to make you familiar with what I am using these days. But, before I tell you what camera I used to take the pictures on this post, we must go back.... way back.... so everybody hop on board the Wayback Machine and let's go to the beginning. A very good place to start.

At the ripe old age of 15, I acquired my first camera. My neighbor, Dan, gave me an old 35mm rangefinder camera that didn't work. Of course, I tinkered with everything in those days to see how it functioned, or in this case, why it didn't. In due course, I got it to working correctly. Here is what that camera looked like, although this isn't the same one. It's one I purchased within this last year because the original one finally gave up the ghost in the late 1970's and didn't work anymore:

Kodak 35

It was a Kodak 35 rangefinder, made in 1948. Recently, I discovered that there is a code in the number on the front of the lens that tells exactly which year it was made, as they manufactured this model from 1940 - 1951. The one in the above picture seems to have been made in 1948. So, I dug out my original Kodak 35 and, lo and behold, it was made the very same year! What are the odds of that happening? I ended up shooting many a roll of 100 ASA film through that camera. I was hooked on photography.
In the next few years, several other cameras joined my collection, mostly Kodak cameras - box cameras from the early 1900's, a Brownie Holiday, and over a half-dozen Brownie Hawkeyes, among others. I shot color film through those, and black and white, too, and learned a lot about taking pictures. This became a plus, for in 1977, when I was a junior in high school, I joined the yearbook staff as photographer. The school I went to had purchased a new Konica Autoreflex TC camera in 1976, so I inherited a nearly-new, state of the art piece of photography equipment. Several of my pictures made it into the 1978 yearbook, and I was smitten with this new technology. So much so, that I began to check into the latest cameras myself, with the thought of getting the best one out there for myself. You can bet I devoured a lot of photography magazines and read a lot of reviews.
In early 1978, the camera everybody seemed to be talking about was the new Minolta XD 11. It was revolutionary at the time because it was the first camera to offer not only aperture priority, but shutter priority and manual as well. This sounded to me exactly like what I needed. Then, I would have the best of both worlds, and manual exposure settings, too, so I could experiment to my little ol' heart's content. And, brother did I!

Minolta XD 11

When it was first released, it was only offered in black and chrome. But, I knew they were going to put out an all-black model, so I worked all summer, saved up my money and waited for it. It came out just after school started for my senior year, so I ordered one. Along with the black body, I got the dedicated flash unit for it, the power winder, (2 frames per second!) and the super standard normal lens they offered as an upgrade, a Rokkor X 50mm f/1.2. All for around $700. I was in electronic 35mm bliss!
My trusty and well-built Minolta became my main camera and I used it practically exclusively up until the late 1980's. Perhaps it was a virus or something, but then I began to experiment with other types of cameras again. I had all sorts of point and shoot cameras that I kept in the glovebox, 126 instamatics, 110 pocket flash cameras, etc. Throughout this period, though, my handy Minolta wasn't very far away for the important pictures. I even used it to photograph both of my weddings.
During the course of my second marriage and subsequent divorce, I got reenergized about taking serious photographs again. And it has been since the turn of the new millenium that I finally bought some extra lenses for my trusted old Minolta, ones I always wanted but never bought at the time. The picture of my XD 11 above shows one of those new lenses - a Minolta 70-210mm zoom lens. With it back in service, I felt I needed another camera to use so that I could shoot two types of film at the same time and have lenses that would interchange. From eBay, I bought a late-1970's release of a Minolta XG 1 - another truly well-made camera.

Minolta XG 1

This camera had the normal 45mm f/2 stock lens, so I added a 28-210mm Vivitar zoom lens to it. It's a great little camera, too, and comes in handy for just about any occasion.
Along about this time, the Digital Revolution was in full swing. And again, I started reading review after review, trying to see what was out there and would fit my needs. A chance Dell computer catalog fell into my hands and I came across a camera that seemed to have all the features I was looking for in a digital SLR. It turned out to be made by Konica Minolta, who had recently went into business together, so I knew, having used both brands of cameras before, that they made quality products. An order was duly phoned in for one Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D Digital SLR, (with the all-black body, of course!) and the standard 18-70mm zoom lens they offered from their own designers.

Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D Digital SLR

Just ask anyone who ever bought one what they think of it, and you'll hear resounding unanimous praise for this well-thought out jewel of a camera. It is well-made and has a lot of great features that I like, but sadly, they retired from the camera producing business after I purchased it. Where they were, hands down, one of the greatest innovators of cameras, they were slightly behind a lot of other manufactures when it came to the promotion end of things. This, more than anything, was what brought about their demise. I'm going to miss them.

Oh, and one last little side note: When I recently added another lens to my Minolta film camera stable, one online auction had included in the sale a classic Konica automatic rangefinder camera. As soon as I can locate a film door for the bottom of it, I fully intend to try it out, as I hear it takes great pictures! But, I wouldn't expect anything less, because Konica made some pretty good glass back in their days, too.

Konica C35 Automatic

And, after I've shot a roll or two through this little camera, you can be sure I'll be posting an article featuring some of it's pictures.

I'll end this post with a little levity that is probably applicable to 99.9% of all photographers out there. Even though I myself have worked freelance for a few newspapers, been a professional portrait photographer and shot a lot of weddings, my intense affair with cameras has hardly been able to support me in the manner that I've become accustomed to. Even though it probably never will, I'll keep snapping a shutter, trying to catch that perfect image.

Q. What's the difference between a large pepperoni pizza and an aspiring photographer?
A. A large pepperoni pizza can feed a family of four.

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