To All the Cameras I’ve Loved Before

Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 L series IS lens

Over the years I’ve enjoyed owning a range of cameras that include the following:

  • Nikon Nikkormat FT-3
  • Pentax K1000
  • Kodak Handle (instant picture) camera
  • Canon AT-1
  • Nikon FE-2
  • Mamiya RB67
  • Polaroid 600SE
  • Rollei SL66
  • Hasselblad 500CM, 503ci, 903cw, X-PAN and X-PAN II
  • Leica M6, M7, M8 and M9
  • Leica R6.2 and R8
  • Canon 5D and Canon 5D Mark II
  • Panasonic Lumix
  • Nikon D800e
  • Sony A7Rii

I’ve also owned a 4”X5” large format (folding) field camera, though the brand name escapes me. It was a beautiful thing, all wood and brass with the lens attached to the camera via an accordion-like bellows. But it was frustrating to use and leaked light like the proverbial sieve. What’s more the lens I’d bought, second hand, to go with it broke down at critical stages, including a trip to Ladakh (Land of the Passes) in far northern India.

Reality Alert

So, nostalgia aside, reliability, stability and easy of use are essential considerations when buying equipment. This is a lesson I learned, the hard way, on several occasions during my formative years as a travel and documentary photographer. 

My first two DSLR cameras were Canon (5D and 5D Mark II) largely because, at that time, Canon were the only manufacturer to make full frame DSLR cameras. In fact I entered the DSLR market later than most photographers because I wanted a full frame camera at a particular price. When I made my purchase, in September 2005, Nikon had no full frame DSLR cameras and Sony didn’t exist on the DSLR market.

The Travel Photography Guru, Glenn Guy, emphasizing a point during a night photography class at Federation Square, Melbourne.

Unfortunately, when I made the move to digital the re-sale value on film cameras and lenses was very low. I lost a lot of money selling 3 Hasselblad bodies and 6 lenses as well as 2 Leica bodies and 4 lenses second hand. While relatively new and in excellent condition, the majority of the marketplace had well and truly turned to digital. What’s more I had to find extra money for a new Canon kit. And that’s in addition to probably $30,000 spent on computers and associated peripherals over the years. Moving to digital, at least in those earlier years, was very expensive indeed. 

Once I’d bought my Canon 5D I needed to purchase several lenses and flashes. Once you’ve bought into a system it’s expensive to change. So, despite significant technological advances from Nikon, I stayed with Canon when I upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark II. And, for the most part, I was happy with that decision.

But things change and, after many years, I came back to Nikon. My very first SLR camera was the Nikon Nikkormat FT-3 which I believe I purchased in 1979. I purchased a Nikon FE-2 a few years later, but it wasn't until mid-2012, with my purchase of a Nikon D800e and associated lenses that I, once again, joined the Nikon fold.

Enter Sony Mirrorless Cameras

In the later part of 2015 I entered the mirrorless camera market with a Sony A7Rii. I've added to that the excellent Sony/Zeiss FE 16-35mm f4 and Sony/Zeiss FE 24-70 f4 lenses. This is a wonderful though, quite complex, camera system. The improvements in handling, size, weight and highly programable functionality is staggering.

I'm very happy with Sony, although I did take a look at the new Leica SL camera the other day. It's simply stunning and, as I have 3 mint condition Leica M-series lenses it might be a purchase I consider down the road aways.

A Note on Bias

For me it's never been about bias. I'm neither a Canon nor a Nikon fan boy and, as I've just indicated, I'm not particularly banded to Sony (although it is a camera system I highly recommend). I'm only interested in what camera system provides me with the flexibility and quality I need for the work I'm producing at the time. However, after owning so many cameras over the years, I do have an innate understanding of the workings of so many camera systems, which has proven to be a huge asset when it comes to teaching folks how to use their own cameras

Hot Tip

It’s particularly important, when buying your first DSLR camera, to understand that you are also likely to be buying into a particular brand logic and system. All the more important to understand which camera logic best suits the way your own brain manages and navigates data. This is where actually spending time playing with a range of cameras, before you buy, is of such critical importance.

Remember that once you buy a few lenses and, maybe, a dedicated flash you’ll find it more difficult to change brands down the track.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru