The Best Camera I’ve Owned

I love photography. Lots and lots. With photography, enthusiasm is not the problem, because I have loads more of that than I have actual photographic skills, or technique, or an eye for composition etc. etc. But perhaps even more than photography, I love cameras.

It used to be worse. My first camera was neat little 110 than weighted next to nothing, and slipped neatly into a pocket. Focus and aperture were fixed, film and disposable flashes were expensive, but I savoured the moments when I felt I could justify the expense of depressing the shutter release. I liked that camera so much, that when I had some pocket money of my own, I bought loads more. I scoured the sunday morning car boot sale. I bought indiscriminately: if the shutter worked, I was content. 35mm with manual focus rings, aperture controls, even one with a built in exposure meter. The lenses were soft, some even had light leaks. I didn’t care. I even bought a Brownie for which I had no hope of getting any film. I made my Dad bring his old enlarger down from the loft and converted the bathroom into a dark room. The enlarger had mould on the lens. The prints were fuzzy and indistinct.

At sixth-form college I learned to focus on the photography. In properly equipped dark rooms, I learned about using the equipment to get the best contrast levels, and correct exposure. I was exposed to some great photographs myself. I still bought cameras: but this time with a little more discernment and a lot more purpose. I bought Canan SLRs with FD lenses (an AE1 and a T70 and various lenses I could swap between them – while one was loaded with colour film and the other with black and white). I loved the control I was getting with these decent, affordable, manual lenses.

A decade later, the revelation of autofocus was the result of a gift from a friend of an old Nikon F401. Speed and quality from the same camera. I started again with a new system… But this was the dawn of digital and the SLR kept getting left alone in favour of a 3MP compact (the Minolta Dimage X, since you ask) because it gave me unlimited shooting, instand feedback, and the many other benefits of bypassing film processing altogether. So, making a pact with a similarly enthusiastic (but considerably more talented) friend, we both bought Nikon D40s and went digital. And it’s been by far the best camera I’ve owned. That was over five years ago, I’ve taken loads and loads of pictures with it, and I even think my photography may have improved…

I think the D40 cured me of my camera habit. I’ve had all that fun without buying any new equipment; the kit lens has been such a pleasure I’ve not rushed to buy additional lenses. (I have bought one lens: a second 18-55mm lens to replace the original after I bashed it on a rock shooting a sunset on Marloes Sands…) So now, I’m just about ready, and I think I’m justified, in buying myself a decent Nikkor telephoto zoom for it…

But. But.

A couple of things: Just as the digital compact lured me away from the f401, so I noted last year the inferior iPhone camera has been luring me away from D40 with its lovely large screen and touch focusing. And my friend +David Harrison pointed me to this article, in which Trey Ratcliffe boldly declares he will no longer buy new DSLR kit and pronounces that the future is mirrorless, and the 3rd generation has dawned. So, I wondered, should I buy a lens for a DLSR, if DSLRs are dying…? So, I made a decision.

To be continued

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See for more...

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