Over the years I have had experience with quite a few cameras, but the ones below I loved:
1943 – Age 8 – A Brownie Box camera was my first personal camera, and my first picture was of my parents’ tummies. Their heads were cut off of the top of the picture, and now I wonder if it was a poor sighting view finder or rather that I was most interested in my parents’ middle portions, because at that age that’s where my eyes were pointed most of the time.
1944 – 48 – I took a few pictures with my dad’s Bolsy B-2, 35 mm camera.
I thought this was a great camera.
1949 – 52 – My grandfather had an Argus C3 which I got to use a few times.
I took a few family photos at Xmas parties, when he wanted to be in the picture.
1952 – Age 17 -With money I earned working in a drive-in theater I bought an Edinex 35mm camera. Which was a full function camera about the size of a Leica. It cost about $13, and may be considered a poor man’s Leica. It had all the controls – variable speed, variable aperture, full focus, a viewfinder and a quick shutter.
This is the Edinex, but with a much less impressive lens than a Leica. I took a picture of lightning near Antelope, Oregon, in July of 1953 which “accidentally” got mixed in the Santa Barbara Camera Club’s monthly photos by my father, who was a member at that time. And, totally unexpected by him, and totally unknown to me, won slide of the year. He had a giant trophy for a couple of months until it was discovered that he hadn’t taken the picture, and he had to give the trophy back.
1954 – I got a job in Anchorage, Alaska, that summer helping to construct housing at Elmendorf Air Force Base. With most of the money I earned I went off to enroll in Washington State College, but with some of it I bought an Exa.
I loved this heavy and rather clunky camera because you could see the exact edges of the image. With all of those previous cameras there was always some question as to where the picture ended – what was in, what was out. With color slides you want to know exactly where the edges of the picture are because that is exactly what is going to be projected on screen as there is no cropping after the picture is taken.
1957 – I went to New York city to attend the Ethical Culture Society’s Encampment for Citizenship, a wonderful, life enhancing experience. I had arrived a few days early, but for some reason didn’t have a camera with me, so I went down to Broadway and 42 Street to the world famous camera store and looked at a Minox. I didn’t have enough money to buy one so I went over to the Bellevue Hospital, and sold a pint of blood and came back and bought a pre-war stainless steel Minox-Riga. I lost it in the Berkeley Marina field in 1969, and now it is a priceless collectors treasure.
It was a bit heavy for its size but I liked it because it was so small and could make okay 4 x 5 black and white photos. These were good for record shots but not very good to show to anyone. It could make color slides returned from the processing in a little multi-sleeve viewer which seemed really clever. Everything about that camera was clever. It showed a thoughtful intelligence behind every detail. I remember sitting in the YMCA, the day I bought it, marveling over this little device and how a such little mechanical device could be so beautiful. The little tick of the shutter when it took a picture was so precise that it felt emotionally like a kind of tiny angelic musical note.
1959 – I went into the United States Air Force pilot training school and suddenly it seemed I had lots of money so I bought an Exacta.
It was a fine camera, and I had wanted one for years but being in flight school, which was very demanding of my total energies, I didn’t feel right about spending time taking pictures. The government was spending a lot of money on me, and a lot of people were trying really hard to make me into a good pilot. So, although I now had better photographic equipment than I had ever dreamed I would ever own, I didn’t feel I had the time or energy to do much with it. It turned out that I was a natural pilot, and did very well at that kind of activity, but through no fault of mine I ended up in B-47s with H-bombs strapped to my ass. Believe me – things and people were worse than in the movie Dr. Strangelove. Partly they were worse because the people involved appeared marginally saner than the movie versions, but they weren’t. And, they didn’t know it. I got out!
1962 – After a few adventures I was studying photography at San Francisco State College with Jack Welpot. The camera I liked at that time was the Calumet 4 x 5 which could be checked out for a couple of days at a time.
I liked the quality of the print images but to my eye they just didn’t compare to the 8 x 10 contact prints we saw at the Museums by Edward Weston or even the enlargements by Ansel Adams.
1966- I bought, where I got the money I don’t know, an 8 x 10 view camera from Burk and James.
I shot 8″ x 10″ color film with this camera traveling around California and Oregon one summer using some really old lenses which Welpot loaned me. Shooting at small apertures the quality of the lens isn’t so critical, and the antique lenses didn’t hurt the quality of the photos so far as I could tell. Some of these pictures traveled around the world in a show called Art In Embassies. I never saw them again nor received a penny for the single prints I had of each exposure. At that time I didn’t have enough money to make more than one big color print. My friend Fred Padula got me a job at Lick Observatory doing a Sloan Sky Survey printing job. Mostly it was routine work, in fact it was all routine work, but I got to print photos from some world famous negatives taken with the astronomical telescope-cameras.
Here is a nice shot of the telescopes buildings, on top of Mt. Hamilton, and above the clouds. The telescopes are really long focal length cameras. I lived and worked in 1967-68 at Lick Observatory and my dorm room is dead center in this photograph.
One memorable print I got to work with was the star-shot of the Orion Nebula which was in the inside cover of the book The Family Of Man which circulated world wide and was very popular.
This is the Orion Nebula gotten from the web but this isn’t the same one which was used in the Family Of Man. In doing a Google images search it is amazing to see just how a single thing, unchanging on a human scale, can be viewed in so many different ways.
1964 – The Leica M-2 became my bosom buddy, literally; I carried it in my left breast pocket of my leather bomber jacket for several years. It had a 50mm Summicron lens which was always set at 13 feet and f-11 and the speed at 1/100. Then, long before taking the camera out, with my right hand inside of my jacket, and my hand positioned on the camera I would anticipate behavior, compose the picture arranging all of the details, foreground relative to background, lighting variations, edges of the frame, and wait for the moment before the image was to become the meaningful photo-worthy content. Then I would quietly turn slightly away take the camera out low to my waist, remove the lens cap with my left hand, and bring the camera to my eye and take the picture, and put back down, put the lens cap back on and maybe return it to its pocket. This was practiced many times and I could do it smoothly, and usually unnoticed by the people I photographed.
This was a wonderful camera! I later got an M3, but ultimately I think the M2 was a better camera for what I was doing because it was a bit more pocket-able. At the time lots of people smoked, and it wasn’t so strange for people to be bringing things up to their face, from a pocket, for a few moments.
I had some shows about that time, but it was a disaster for me, because although people liked what I was doing enough to steal my photos right off of the gallery walls I rarely got paid for them, and never came close to covering my expenses. Of course I only had single prints so the loss was irreplaceable as I didn’t know what happened to them. Then, while I was living on a boat in the Berkeley Marina, some kids burned up the garage where my negatives were stored. This was the take away message: the world was destroying my photographs so I should do something else. Which I did for many years, and only recently, with the advent of digital cameras, have I gotten back into photography. Not in a serious way, and not to please the public, they can find their own pleasures. I am into whatever photography that I do for my personal satisfaction. That’s it! If I don’t enjoy doing it right now; I quit doing it – right now.
Presently, I have a Casio EX-Z1000 which I carry with me all the time. It isn’t as good as the M2 for taking live people pictures because it is slower to aim, compose, and to trigger the shots, and worst of all it is obvious when you hold the thing up, and notify everyone for miles around that you are taking a picture and so everyone goes into some sort of weird behavior mode.
But, this is a great little camera because it does what you expect it to do. Changing between the various functions is easily accomplished, and they work just the way you expect them to work. The Flickr Camera Finder shows popularity of the various cameras that are in current use here in the US. This doesn’t list the Casios in the top favorites list which means that they aren’t being marketed very well. I spent a lot of money on a Nikon two years ago and hated the damn thing it was so complicated to operate. It was always double-thinking me, and doing something on its own which I didn’t tell it to do, and which didn’t want it to do. I will never buy a Nikon again! Some of the SLR cameras have some solid features, but at the disadvantage of a much bigger camera, and much higher price. You can take some kinds of pictures better with an 8 x 10 studio camera but who wants to lug it around all the time and the same goes for the SLRs.
The Casio has one of the biggest viewing screens of any digital camera, including all of the SLRs, which allows accurate composing of the shots, but the Casio doesn’t have a good UV filter on the viewing screen, and so when any daylight is falling on the screen the image degrades more than it should. An easy fix is to make a hinged awning with an narrow piece of adhesive tape a hinging a credit card across the top of the screen. With 10.1 mega-pixels this Casio has one of the sharpest images of any current digital camera. Some of those salesmen will tell you that pixels don’t count for much and that the other features are valuable. Well of course other features are valuable, but this camera generally has them too and generally better, and it is so small you can carry it in a shirt pocket. I generally carry it in the slip case in a jacket pocket with my homemade finger loop protruding from the holster. Generally, I can draw and shoot in a couple of seconds, which isn’t near as fast as with the Leica M2, but it is much cheaper; so, I take lots more pictures.
There is a down side to really high resolution – when you have a really sharp picture the camera-motion becomes more apparent. That’s because you can make a much bigger print, and therefore get up a lot closer to the final picture and the camera motion becomes easier to see. There was an old rule of thumb, the minimum shutter speed is the reciprocal of the lens length in millimeters, but with automatic shutter speed you have press the shutter half way to check that the speed is okay when making the picture. My general advice is to hold the camera perfectly still until the image reappears on the viewing screen! The camera will carry a film speed of 200 with modest artifacts, 400 with noticeable artifacts and 3200 with gross artifacts. I would like the order of options to be re-arrangeable because I change the film speed a lot, and would prefer it to be the first option available, but instead I must scroll down to the speed menu. Another help for camera motion is to leave the camera set on wide angle, 35mm equivalent, as the default and only zoom out, to 105mm equivalent, when needed. That way you are more aware of the telephoto camera motion and are reminded to take appropriate action.
Digital Cameras are getting better and cheaper, and including more features, and in the case of Casio these features are easy to access and have obvious uses.
Pixels per dollar of digital cameras are getting cheaper logarithmically, it’s called Hendys Law (an obvious, but meaningful, knock-off on Moore’s Law). The current Casio is 12 mega-pixels but I haven’t used one of those yet. But, if Hendys is correct and the trend continues they should have a 15 mega-pixels camera soon, and that much more resolution can’t be ignored.