This blog post started as a silly note on my phone. Less than a note really, just a list of every digital camera I’ve owned and used and loved and hated since 2003. Very quickly: I’m not a pro photographer but have supplemented my freelance career with photo gigs (weddings and headshots, y’all). Most of my photography is simply to document the people and places around me. I snap a lot of pics, I’ll say that.
So here’s the list in chronological order, with a little bit of why I put down one camera and picked up another…and repeat.
Canon Powershot A85
2003 to 2007 Ah the early years. This thing weighed a lot, burned through AA batteries, and was slow slow slow. But it took digital pictures! No more scanning. It also filled up 32mb CF cards rather quickly, I learned. I couldn’t afford anything else, so I made it work for longer than I would have liked. I was able to dig up a photo I took with it 12 years ago! 👇
2008 My first DSLR! It felt like a 35mm film camera and was almost as frustrating! It enabled me to get some quality shots but pixels started dying less than a year after buying it, and I never went beyond the (bad) kit lens. It also couldn’t shoot video.
2009 After 2 frustrating years with the Nikon I snagged the 7D. I actually bought the Canon Rebel but was so disappointed with it that I returned to Best Buy (yes, seriously, in Syracuse no less) to exchange it for the 7D. This camera was amazing, even though I again only shot with the kit lens. After 2 solid years with it I sold it for almost exactly what I paid for it.
2011 I wanted something smaller and I got it. This camera came with my first “pancake” lens, a 20mm (40mm equiv.) and began my love affair with the Micro 4/3″ sensor. Ultimately I needed more in low light than this was able to deliver. Ironically, this thing did great in bright light, but the lack of viewfinder made it hard to operate in bright light.
Back to Canon! The flip LCD on the back of this thing was amazing and I finally bought some basic prime lenses to go with it. This is the best APS-C sensor camera I’ve ever used. I’m still impressed by the image quality I was able to pull out of this camera. And the video was beautiful. I had no reason to switch from this to anything else. Again, I sold it for almost what I paid for it, but kept my lenses.
2011 I couldn’t resist this yellow brick. The autofocus was slow as death, there was no viewfinder, it was heavy, the video was rough, and I never found a better lens than the 40mm (60mm equiv.) pancake that came with it. But it was crazy cheap ($500). I did have fun with some old Pentax lenses (no autofocus, but fun)! Shooting with it was a blast, and the quality of the stills was great. here’s a photoset from 2014, three years after I bought it. It was so reliable that I never sold it. The next three cameras came and went but I would always pick up this Pentax. Behold, another mirror selfie (which is handy since it shows image quality, too) 👇
Canon 5D MKII
2012 And then weddings happened. A full frame camera (aka, big sensor) was a long time in the making, for me. I purchased this in 2012, 4 years after it had first been released. The autofocus was (still is) awful in low light, with a meager amount of points to focus with. But it was a beast, able to withstand anything, and reliably produce quality images. Ultimately I got sick of carrying several pounds of camera around with a bag and needed a break from the big camera scene.
2013 My first pocketable camera since 2005, look at that! The 1″ sensor on this thing sounded promising, but definitely came up short against the much cheaper micro 4/3″ cameras. This thing was great, but a little overpriced. You’re paying for portability, really. The optics were nice though, and the built in zoom was also handy. I only hung on to this thing for 3 months (a record for me).
2014 Another full frame! I found a deal for this thing and sold the Sony to buy it on a whim. I was not disappointed, this camera was superior to the 5D MKII. It was at this point however that I realized I didn’t want to take photos for a living, so I could downgrade. As I learned with almost all of my Canon camera bodies, I could sell it for almost what I paid for it. Wild.
2014 Back to the micro 4/3″. Nothing bad to say about this cheap (I bought it used for $150 with a lens) beauty except that the screen was hard to see in the daylight, and there was no in-body image stabilization. I still have this camera and bust it out from time to time. I give it to my kid if he’s going somewhere scenic. It’s great.
Olympus OMD E M5
2015 I found another deal on a used Olympus and built up an army of prime 4/3″ lenses. The 60mm Olympus macro is incredibly capable. As is the 25mm f/1.8. These are inexpensive lenses, relatively speaking, but the image quality was amazing. I still have this camera too, and shoot nature stuff with it (with a telephoto zoom). It’s small, even with a viewfinder, and great for travel. This is the best all around camera I’ve ever used. The only reason I really stopped using it was because I broke the back LCD screen (while traveling). You can view photos from that trip on this page. It still takes amazing photos though, you just have to use the viewfinder for everything, including menu/playback. My wife (a pro photographer) was so impressed by this camera that she picked up the second model of it. Here’s a gallery of her photos taken with the MKII.
Fuji X E1
2015 I thought I’d give Fuji a try and I never found a sweet spot with this camera. This isn’t their best model, and again I used the kit lens exclusively. But it just never felt quick and the image quality seemed worse than cameras with smaller sensors. It wasn’t bad, but just seemed like a new system that I’d have to invest money in to benefit from. I used this fuji for 5 months. I have played with more recent Fuji cameras that are awesome, however.
Canon Powershot(!) G1X
2016 So then I took a weird path and bought a used Powershot! This one had come a long way since my first digital camera (see above). The sensor was 1.5″ and had a relatively quick built in zoom lens (no option to change that!). It was 4 years old when I bought it, used (like new, really) for $244. I loved shooting with this thing. It was just small enough to fit in big-ish pockets. It was so travel friendly that I didn’t think much of it getting rained on while hiking a mountain in the Adirondacks. RIP Powershot #2. If this camera was half the price I would buy the third iteration of this camera (released in 2017). Here’s a sample pic of the storm that moments later destroyed the camera. 😭
2018 – Now So then I shot with my Olympus for a few years, only upgrading to this Sony in 2018. It was not hard to find a new A7 MKI (yes, the first version) for $650 so I said why not. You can still get one new for $650, which is nuts. It might be the least expensive full frame camera available. It’s what I shoot with now and while it has some flaws (slow focus) I enjoy it immensely. The only lens I’ve used on it is a sub $200 Sony 50mm that works fine. Every photo in this set is from the A7 with the 50mm. Here’s a recent shot I took with it 👇
For under $300 you can get photos with amazing quality and range. I don’t think you need to consider yourself a photographer to justify spending that cash on a solid camera. I’m glad that I took photos of things I really wanted to preserve with a larger sensor instead of my iPhone. Only using one lens is fine, sometimes better. A viewfinder is necessary, and when used leads to photos that I’m happier with. GPS on a camera is not necessary. A smaller camera will always feel more fun to me than a big one. Wi-Fi in a camera body is amazing in that I’m able to send favorites to my phone and edit them there (which is super fun).
That’s about it. I’ve been posting some photos to Unsplash if you’re interested in seeing how different cameras stack up (lots of good exif data there). If I could only use one of the cameras above it would easily be the Olympus. The “industry” will tell you that the consumer/prosumer market is dying, but I don’t think so. The prices certainly don’t reflect that. And if it is dying, then I’m having a blast playing with all of these unique cameras before The End.
*June 2020 Update!
Since posting this I sold the Sony A7 and switched to a Sigma SD Quattro. It was without a doubt the strangest camera I’ve ever owned. That isn’t a bad thing, as it only cost $700 with a beautiful lens and took the nicest APS-C sensor photos I’ve ever made. That said, it was the trickiest camera (slow) I’ve ever used, with some unforgivable qualities (autofocus, and the viewfinder “resolution”). I could write a whole blog post about it, as the ergonomics and body design are wonderfully different/beautiful. I used it for about 5 months before switching this month to a Fujifilm XF10, a pocketable fixed lens APS-C mirrorless (with no viewfinder). Bought new for $370 on Ebay, and so far, so good 👍