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Cameras

This page takes an nostalgic look back at the cameras in my life. Most of them still reside in my garage or my closet.

Click on the links for more pictures and camera specs. Click on any image to view full-resolution version, then use the back button on your browser to return.


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In 1963, before I left for my exchange student year in Germany, I took a few Kodachrome color slides with my dad's old Kodak 35 (rarely used after he bought a Leica M3 in 1956, see below). I think they were the first photographs I ever took. I carried the slides and the camera with me to Germany and took a few more slides (not nearly enough!). The Kodak did not have a built-in light meter. I had a hand-held meter, but exposure is tricky; many of my German photos were significantly underexposed, especially in wintery gray Berlin in December 1963, just weeks after the Kennedy assassination.

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During my year abroad I bought a Minox B, a subminiature "spy camera" like James Bond used. A camera that fits in your pocket, what a concept! I used it on the boat trip back to the US in June 1964 and in Minneapolis that summer, but since then it seldom has seen the light of day. The Minox Wikipedia page says Minox film is now available again, hmm...

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I did not take photographs while I was an undergraduate. During my grad student years, I used an old Praktica IV 35mm SLR given to me by my brother. Its optics (Zeiss Jena) were splendid but it had some problems, I think because its heavy mirror produced a tiny tremor as it folded up when the shutter released. I bought bulk b+w film and spent a little time in a darkroom. Eventually I took a nasty tumble down a steep hill while hiking, luckily not injuring myself too badly but denting the Praktica's 50mm lens, rendering the lens unusable.

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While I worked at the Festival Cinema in Palo Alto, my infatuation with cinema inspired me to buy a Bolex H16 16mm movie camera and an RCA 36016A 16mm sound projector. I used the projector a lot, as the Festival had 16mm prints sitting around. We used the Bolex to make a couple 16mm trailers for the theater. But I soon discovered how complicated and expensive movie making is, even with 16mm, so I've used the Bolex very little since then.

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My next still camera was an Olympus XA, simple but really a splendid little 35mm camera, very portable and convenient, more or less point and shoot, manual focus. At first I took slides with it, but after Bari and I married and we had children I switched to color prints.

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When my dad died in 1987, I inherited his classic Leica M3 and all of his slides. I've digitized the slides, but the Leica just gathers dust in my closet. I might use it now and then if it weren't so heavy: the beaten-up leather camera case my dad carried all around the world weighs almost 15 pounds (camera, multiple lenses, tripod...), and just the camera with one lens and leather case weighs 3 1/2 pounds. The Olympus XA was much more convenient to carry around, so I didn't switch to the Leica.

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In late 1998 my son Alexander received a Toshiba PDR-5 as a gift from his aunt. It was the first digital camera in our family, and I borrowed it occasionally in 1999. All of my digital photos from that time to the present have been preserved.

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We gave our son Devin a camera when he graduated from high school in 2003. I initially quibbled with his choice, an Olympus C740 UZ, but after I played with it a few times I was hooked, especially by the 10x optical zoom, considerably ahead of its time. When Devin left for college that fall, I bought the same camera for myself and starting taking a lot of pictures. I keep this old webpage from 2003 around to remind myself that dealing with digital images was less straightforward back then.

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Digital imaging technology improved quickly, so in December 2007 I upgraded to a Canon S5 IS, mostly to move up from the 2048x1536 max resolution of the Olympus to 3264x2448 for the Canon. Ten years later, I'm still using it without too many complaints.

Of course I often use my iPhone5 camera, since it's always at hand, though the Canon generally produces much better results.


See also (more pictures):