Monday, January 7, 2019


When I was about 12 years old Santa gave me a brand spanking new Brownie Starlet Camera. It arrived in a very bright yellow little box complete with an instruction manual. The only bit of kit that later eclipsed this object for value and use in my eyes was the purchase of my first 7 foot yacht.

I remember the moment of unwrapping that little camera so well. It was something that I had explicitly asked Santa for. I remember examining carefully the glistening little body of the camera with its vivid red shutter button and reading carefully the instruction manual. I always put the camera carefully back in its little yellow box after use. The camera took 125 film with 12 shoots on each roll of film. I still have many of the little black and white images that I shot with this simple little camera. I learned a great deal about photography over the many years I used this simple little device. Unfortunately this first camera has disappeared, I think I threw it out when it finally stopped working. The three subsequent cameras I have purchased all still work and remain in my possession.

The second camera I owned was when I purchased this beautiful Canon FT-QL 35mm SLR camera in my late teens. I was able to buy it duty free on my first trip overseas when I sailed into the Pacific on my first blue water sailing experience. I would buy a roll of 400 ASA 35mm 36 shot colour, or black and white film / slides to shoot my photos on. The camera had a standard 50mm lens which was quite adequate for the level of photography that I was involved in, although I could have done with a wide angle lens for shooting on board when sailing.

The back of the old Canon is a lot different from modern cameras with their ubiquitous LCD screens.

I went through a long period of not taking any photographs. Then the digital age launched itself like a tsunami upon our culture and it was all PCs, laptops followed by tablets and cellphones. I purchased this, the first of my 'point and shoot' cameras when we were off overseas for a holiday. It seemed like a good choice at the time being small and light weight - a great little camera for taking holiday shots that make others yawn and look at their watches when you ask "would you like to see my holiday snaps?". 

I remember in these early days of the digital revolution hearing a lot of talk about the coming "convergence" which has indeed come to pass. A modern smart phone is also a camera (stills and video), internet browser and GPS. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if soon there will be a phone that also makes soup and mows the lawn.

This Lumix camera was the second of my 'point and shoot' camera purchases. I bought it because I required something waterproof for sailing photography, especially when the spray started flying.
According to the promotional blurbs this Panasonic camera is supposed to be water proof to 32 feet. But according to a number of reviews it is nothing of the sort and also has problems with corrosion, rubber seals and the misting up of the lens when these claims are put to the test.

But for my purposes it still remains a good little camera. I don't dive or swim with the camera. When I return from a day on the water I simply run it under fresh water to wash the salt off. To date I have had no problems.

I am now in the market for a new camera. Something along the lines of my old Canon FT-QL where I was able to control the shutter speed, ASA rating, depth of field etc. Modern cameras have a bucket load of controls that allow the photographer to use the camera in a dimension other than simply the narrative recording of passing events - this other use is something I would like to explore.

So the camera will probably be a compact mirrorless 35mm digital single lens camera - perhaps a full frame camera (which keeps the image size equivalence with my old Canon FT-QL), but only if the full frame camera is of a compact size. I would also like to have a few different lens, perhaps starting with a standard lens (50mm) and a wide angle lens - then adding other lens as required along the way.

Of course the perfect camera is similar to the perfect anything, that is, a contradiction in terms, but life is full of oxymorons.

Any recommendations and discussion is welcomed.


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

I cannot.. other than to comment that I will probably never buy another bespoke camera, because I find more and more that the camera on my phone (which I carry round with me anyway) is just as good... for sailing I now use the phone camera almost exclusively.... different matter for the enthusiast/hobbyist I suspect....

Alden Smith said...

Yes, a good point and one that other people have made to me; especially as the lenses on the latest smart phones are of a very high quality. Personally I don't now use a smart phone. I use a very basic, cheap cell phone that is useful for the odd phone call but mainly used to receive a netcode when I am doing online banking. I love being free of the whole culture of carrying about and the constant checking of a smartphone - but that's just a personal point of view and not a judgement on what other people choose to do.... and yes I guess I am looking at cameras from a hobbyist point of view.

Bursledon Blogger said...

My first birthday present camera was a Kodak instamatic, been a few since then, currently the Lumix with the zoom is my carry around all the time and a Fuji underwater camera like yours doesn't really get used that much, useful out sailing but only 5x zoon means it's a bit limited.

I used my phone camera a bit but the quality never seemed that good and now we've gone all Apple which is so much less flexible than Andriod/Windows, I generally don't bother.

Alden Smith said...

Max, your comment reminded me of zoom lens, an important bit of kit for a sailor. There are a range of cameras that have one fixed lens and its a zoom lens, usually a very big one. Sonys Coolpix P1000 with a 125X zoom lens is an example. The trouble is that the lens is really big and for many shots it would need to be mounted on a tripod. Also carting around a camera with a large lens can be a pain in the thwart.

The advantage of having a camera with interchangeable lens is that on board shots can be taken with a wide angle lens, boats in the distance with a zoom lens and various other shots with lens that suit, either fixed 'prime' lens or lens that cover a range e.g. 28mm - 50mm etc. I think this is what I am looking for, something that allows me some flexibility.

Of course for convenience nothing beats a small pocket sized camera that fits nicely into the palm of your hand - but the convenience competes with photo shooting flexibility - so it's all a bit of a compromise.