25 years of DPReview: Our editors' first cameras

What was your first camera? This year is DPReview's 25th anniversary. Naturally, we've been thinking a lot about cameras from the past quarter century and even beyond. In that spirit, we thought it would be fun to update an article initially published a few years ago in which current and former DPReview editors share the cameras that gave them their start in photography. We asked each editor two questions: "What was your first camera?" and "What was your first digital camera?" (For some, even their first camera was digital.) Read on to see what they were. While we're at it, tell us about your first camera in the comments. With such a diverse group of readers, we know there will be some interesting answers! Richard Butler DPReview staff 2007-current Technically, my first camera was a Halina Flashmatic 110 Tele: a thin box-like camera with a teleconverter that tightened its 25mm (50mm equiv) angle of view down to a 43mm (86mm equiv) tele at the push of a slider. My Dad bought one for both me and my sister, but I was the one who really embraced it. And probably spent a fortune in getting terrible photos processed. Skip over a short-lived 35mm point-and-shoot that used to eat batteries to the first camera that made me fall in love with photography: the Pentax P30. Sold as the P3 in the US, it was an auto-exposure, manual focus SLR. I only ever had the little 35-50mm F3.5-4.5, but it served me well through my teenage years, darkroom experiments and up to shooting bands for the college magazine. The lens got broken when I let one of the other magazine writers use it, but the body itself still works. My first foray into digital cameras came some years later when I was working on an engineering magazine. I’d enjoyed using the office Olympus UZ on a couple of factory visits, so I decided to buy something similar. Days of research on a really in-depth website with a black background led me instead to the Fujifilm S5500, a 10x 'bridge' superzoom camera with a lens that started at 37mm equiv. I loved the ability to see the impact of my settings immediately, but quickly grew to hate how little control you got over depth-of-field and how low the IQ could be, despite lugging such a large camera around. I decided I was enjoying photography enough again to justify a DSLR like many of the people in the Flickr group I’d joined: back to DPReview to do some research. Pentax P3 photo by John Nuttall (Creative Commons license) Dale Baskin DPReview staff 2014-current I genuinely have no idea what my first camera was. When I go back and look at old family photos, even ones in which I’m barely a toddler, I always seem to have a camera in my hands, running the gamut from my Dad’s rangefinder to a free plastic camera someone chose over a toaster when opening a bank account. When I got serious about learning photography, however, there was one camera that appealed to me like no other: the Miranda Sensorex. Why? Probably for the same reasons that many people started photography with a particular camera: it was my Dad's, and it was available to me. I didn’t care that the camera was older than I was and heavier than a rock. It looked the way a camera was supposed to look, and it had the latest sensor technology. (That technology was called ‘film’, and my Dad taught me to use the Kodachrome and Ektachrome varieties). It was a great camera to learn on as there was no auto, program, or aperture priority mode to fall back on. I recall reading somewhere that the Sensorex was the first 35mm SLR with TTL metering, and to this day, I love the match-needle method of setting exposure. It may be a dinosaur by today’s standards, but it still works and will probably continue for decades. My first digital camera was the Canon PowerShot S300, a 2.1MP point-and-shoot. Back in 2001, that extra 0.1MP was important! I agonized for weeks over whether or not to spend hundreds of dollars more for a 3MP camera, but ultimately, I couldn’t justify doing so. I immediately fell in love with digital photography, especially the ability for easy sharing across social networks – a social network being defined as someone in your circle of friends to whom you could snail-mail a CD-ROM of photos they would never look at. As fun as digital was, it still didn’t give me the same quality as scanned slides, so I stuck with film for a few more years until the Canon EOS 20D came out, and the rest is history. Shaminder Dulai DPReview staff 2022-current A 110 Kodak wasn't my first film camera, but it was the first one I was consistently allowed to use and the camera that birthed my lifelong love of photography. I thought the camera was the bee's knees, so futuristic and compact, like a camera James Bond would use while sneaking about the Swiss Alps in pursuit of Blofeld. The interchangeable cartridges reminded me of Atari or Nintendo, and it felt so satisfying to quickly slap them in and get to work. It was my mom's camera, and she encouraged me to take it on school field tr

May 12, 2024 - 06:30
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25 years of DPReview: Our editors' first cameras

What was your first camera?

This year is DPReview's 25th anniversary. Naturally, we've been thinking a lot about cameras from the past quarter century and even beyond. In that spirit, we thought it would be fun to update an article initially published a few years ago in which current and former DPReview editors share the cameras that gave them their start in photography.

We asked each editor two questions: "What was your first camera?" and "What was your first digital camera?" (For some, even their first camera was digital.) Read on to see what they were.

While we're at it, tell us about your first camera in the comments. With such a diverse group of readers, we know there will be some interesting answers!

Richard Butler

DPReview staff 2007-current

Technically, my first camera was a Halina Flashmatic 110 Tele: a thin box-like camera with a teleconverter that tightened its 25mm (50mm equiv) angle of view down to a 43mm (86mm equiv) tele at the push of a slider. My Dad bought one for both me and my sister, but I was the one who really embraced it. And probably spent a fortune in getting terrible photos processed.

Skip over a short-lived 35mm point-and-shoot that used to eat batteries to the first camera that made me fall in love with photography: the Pentax P30. Sold as the P3 in the US, it was an auto-exposure, manual focus SLR. I only ever had the little 35-50mm F3.5-4.5, but it served me well through my teenage years, darkroom experiments and up to shooting bands for the college magazine. The lens got broken when I let one of the other magazine writers use it, but the body itself still works.

My first foray into digital cameras came some years later when I was working on an engineering magazine. I’d enjoyed using the office Olympus UZ on a couple of factory visits, so I decided to buy something similar. Days of research on a really in-depth website with a black background led me instead to the Fujifilm S5500, a 10x 'bridge' superzoom camera with a lens that started at 37mm equiv. I loved the ability to see the impact of my settings immediately, but quickly grew to hate how little control you got over depth-of-field and how low the IQ could be, despite lugging such a large camera around. I decided I was enjoying photography enough again to justify a DSLR like many of the people in the Flickr group I’d joined: back to DPReview to do some research.

Pentax P3 photo by John Nuttall (Creative Commons license)

Dale Baskin

DPReview staff 2014-current

I genuinely have no idea what my first camera was. When I go back and look at old family photos, even ones in which I’m barely a toddler, I always seem to have a camera in my hands, running the gamut from my Dad’s rangefinder to a free plastic camera someone chose over a toaster when opening a bank account. When I got serious about learning photography, however, there was one camera that appealed to me like no other: the Miranda Sensorex.

Why? Probably for the same reasons that many people started photography with a particular camera: it was my Dad's, and it was available to me. I didn’t care that the camera was older than I was and heavier than a rock. It looked the way a camera was supposed to look, and it had the latest sensor technology. (That technology was called ‘film’, and my Dad taught me to use the Kodachrome and Ektachrome varieties).

It was a great camera to learn on as there was no auto, program, or aperture priority mode to fall back on. I recall reading somewhere that the Sensorex was the first 35mm SLR with TTL metering, and to this day, I love the match-needle method of setting exposure. It may be a dinosaur by today’s standards, but it still works and will probably continue for decades.

My first digital camera was the Canon PowerShot S300, a 2.1MP point-and-shoot. Back in 2001, that extra 0.1MP was important! I agonized for weeks over whether or not to spend hundreds of dollars more for a 3MP camera, but ultimately, I couldn’t justify doing so. I immediately fell in love with digital photography, especially the ability for easy sharing across social networks – a social network being defined as someone in your circle of friends to whom you could snail-mail a CD-ROM of photos they would never look at.

As fun as digital was, it still didn’t give me the same quality as scanned slides, so I stuck with film for a few more years until the Canon EOS 20D came out, and the rest is history.

Shaminder Dulai

DPReview staff 2022-current

A 110 Kodak wasn't my first film camera, but it was the first one I was consistently allowed to use and the camera that birthed my lifelong love of photography. I thought the camera was the bee's knees, so futuristic and compact, like a camera James Bond would use while sneaking about the Swiss Alps in pursuit of Blofeld. The interchangeable cartridges reminded me of Atari or Nintendo, and it felt so satisfying to quickly slap them in and get to work.

It was my mom's camera, and she encouraged me to take it on school field trips, to family events and around the neighborhood, so long as I was well-behaved and waited for my parents to save up for a few months to buy film and have funds for developing.

We didn't have any extra money; we were a family that didn't eat out, go to movies or take vacations, but I think my parents saw how much I enjoyed photography and didn't want to discourage me. Every few months, I'd ask if I could use the camera, and my parents would see if we had film, take it off the top shelf of the linen closet and let me have at it. Each frame was precious, so I had to be very methodical, trying to stretch that roll for weeks or months. Then, I'd keep an eye out for the drugstore coupons for development. It taught me to be grateful and patient, to observe and be thoughtful and deliberate in which frames I captured.

I wish I could remember exactly which model it was; it's not the one in the picture. All I can recall is that it had a clamshell cover, built-in flash and yellow trim around the shutter button. Maybe one of you can help me sort it out?

Kodak Instamatic 192 photo by Joost J. Bakker (Creative Commons license)

My first digital camera was born the same year as DPReview. The EOS D2000 was a Canon/Kodak mashup from the early days of professional digital photography. The camera was a rebadged Kodak Pro DCS 520, a model created by Kodak engineers trying to produce digital cameras in the 1990s for the professional market. At the time, Kodak was experimenting with early digital sensors, some as digital backs for film cameras. One of the designs they landed on paired a Canon EOS-1N with a CCD sensor.

While it was released in 1998, I was using it in 2004 as my daily camera for photojournalism assignments at university and for freelance. It was pretty beat up when I got it as a loaner from the school equipment library. I couldn't tell you how many shutter acquisitions it had, but I have to imagine it was in the hundreds of thousands as it was used by staffers at the San Jose Mercury News for over half a decade.

I was happy to have it. I was still shooting film and couldn't afford a digital camera on my own, and by 2004, the writing was already on the wall: if I was going to make a go at photojournalism as a profession, I needed to go digital and quick. By this time, the Canon EOS-1D Mark II N and, to a lesser extent, the Nikon D2X were the standard cameras for most newsrooms, so my gear was severely outdated. The camera was a pain: it used dual PCMCIA slots, was limited to 3.5fps and the file format was no longer supported without special drivers on anything past Mac OS 9. But it did help me learn and get work. It was also a great conversation starter: an AP photographer gave me grief for using the relic but it also helped me get him to review my work and share some honest feedback.

This camera was also the one that helped me discover DPReview. I needed to learn how to get the most out of the D2000, and this site came through again and again. Fast-forward, and I'm now in the building writing for DPReview. What a trip!

Jeff Keller

DPReview staff 2013-2021

Unlike most of my colleagues, I wasn't a huge film photographer. I recall owning one of those flat 110 cameras, followed by a standard-issue clamshell compact, which was promptly stolen by someone in the baggage department at London's Heathrow airport. I ended up running to Harrods to pick up something similar. I probably paid way too much.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on digital cameras really early – like 1996 early. After toying around with early Kodak, Casio and Apple cameras, I finally bit the bullet and dropped $900 on the Olympus D-300L, also known as the Camedia C-800L. This powerhouse had an F2.8, 36mm-equivalent lens and a sensor with XGA resolution.

My real pride and joy was the Olympus D-600L (Camedia C-1400L), which cost me $1300 in 1997. It had an unusual design, large-ish 2/3" 1.4MP sensor, and a 36-110mm equivalent F2.8-3.9 lens. Its optical viewfinder had 95% coverage and was supplemented by a 1.8" LCD. I don't know what I did with it, but I wish I still had the D-600L in my possession!

Olympus C-800L photo by Erkaha

Allison Johnson

DPReview staff 2013-2020

I’m counting my first camera as one that I used early on, and am now entrusted with, but isn’t strictly mine. I had some kind of point-and-shoot film camera of my own when I was young, and shared a Game Boy Camera with my sister, but Dad’s Nikkormat FT3 was the first 'real camera' I shot with. Let me tell you, that camera is built for the ages. It’s heavy and indestructible and as far as I can tell, still works like the day it was born. I take it out with me nowadays when I know I’ll be able to slow down and think about what I’m doing, and when I know I won’t be devastated if I screw it all up and come back with nothing. I haven’t been disappointed yet.

The very first digital camera I bought is slightly embarrassing: a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700. It was one of the super-slim Cyber-shots of the late 2000s that was all touchscreen. What can I say? I was taken in by its sleek looks and pocketability. It started up when you slid the front panel down to reveal the lens, and there was a real risk of the whole camera flying out of your hands every time you did that. It also had the world’s tiniest zoom lever in one corner on the top, which was pretty annoying to operate. The photos were fine in daylight, though I was just taking casual snapshots and didn’t exactly stress test it. I can confidently say my smartphone now does a fine job of everything that I was using this camera for. Therein lies the whole compact camera market, I guess.

Nikkormat FT3 photo by BastienM

Barney Britton

DPReview staff 2009-2022

My first camera was a Pentax MX, inherited from my Dad (who is still very much alive), along with a 50mm F1.7 prime and a couple of Tamron Adaptall-2 zooms. It was the camera I learned photography with, and the only camera I took on a round-Europe rail trip when I was 18. I sold it when I went to university to fund a Canon EOS-3, and always regretted it. I found an MX in a junk shop last year, and I’m not going to sell this one.

My first digital camera was the Canon EOS 10D. I saved up for an entire year, working in a hotel restaurant during university holidays to pay for it (a story told in part, here) and it was my main camera for a couple of years.

The EOS 10D was the first ‘affordable’ DSLR that really stacked up against high-end film models in terms of build quality and functionality. Although its AF system was primitive compared to the EOS 3, it was extremely well-built, and very reliable. At the time, the 10D also offered the best image quality of any enthusiast DSLR (and arguably, the best image quality of any DSLR, period). Noise levels were low across its standard ISO range, and an extension setting of ISO 3200 offered filmlike grain, which looked great in black and white. I still see 10Ds 'in the wild' occasionally, and for a long time, we used an EOS 10D as our main studio camera at DPReview.

The EOS 10D had a magnesium-alloy body.

I shot my first published work on the EOS 10D, which felt like quite an achievement given how poorly its autofocus system performed in low light. If I’d never become a professional performance photographer, I might still have it. After the 10D I upgraded to an EOS-1D Mark II, when I started getting more serious about theatre and music photography.

Pentax MX photo by Alf Sigaro

Carey Rose

DPReview staff 2015-2021

The first camera I have any sort of memory of actually using (besides disposable cameras and my Grandpa's Canon EOS 650 film camera, which was so cool) was a PowerShot A75. It was a hand-me-down from my dad, and the perfect 'first digital camera' for a socially awkward high-schooler. It was fairly small (though that didn’t stop me from wanting a camera phone as soon as such things became practical and available), ran on easy-to-find AA batteries, and the photo quality was great for the time.

It was also called 'PowerShot,' a brand name that, to this day, sounds way cooler than competing models like such as FinePix, Easyshare and Coolpix, all of which should have died out along with animated backgrounds and auto-play music on your favorite Geocities ‘links’ page. It even survived a tumble onto concrete for a while, though eventually it succumbed to the dreaded ‘lens error’ where the lens wouldn’t properly extend or contract.

It was superseded by a Samsung NV10, a camera which looked cooler, was a lot smaller and had a lot more megapixels (plus a funky Smart Touch control system with soft keys surrounding two sides of the display,) but I ended up preferring the overall ‘look’ of the PowerShot images I used to get. So when I left the NV10 on a train while traveling across Europe, I replaced it with another PowerShot, the S3 IS, and never looked back.

Sam Spencer

DPReview staff 2014-2017

The first camera I used was probably the same as anyone born before 1990-something: a disposable point and shoot. Being six years old, I had no idea about focus, flash, or anything of the sort and tried to take a macro picture of a spider at less than six inches away….

A couple years later my father proudly came home one evening with a Ricoh RDC-2. I wasn’t allowed to get my prepubescent mitts on it until later when computer monitors grew to 1,024 pixels on the long side, making the VGA Ricoh obsolete. I remember using the AC adaptor for it almost exclusively since it ate through AA’s almost as often as its now-diminutive memory filled. I also seem to remember using its OVF more often than the (optional) flip-up screen on top. I mostly used it to try and capture various members of my remote control car collection airborne after launching off jumps I made out of tape and cardboard. Remember, I was about 8 or 9.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S75 had a 3MP CCD, 34-102mm equiv. lens, a rear LCD info display and plenty of manual controls. Its lens, labeled 'Carl Zeiss,' could be found on numerous other cameras under different names (e.g. Canon, Epson).

That camera was replaced with a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S75, which was the first time I had ever seen or heard the name ‘Zeiss’. That camera offered a bit more manual control (like focus!) than the Ricoh, was what got me truly enthusiastic about photography in Junior High, leading to signing up for darkroom photography my freshman year. Then I was handed a ‘real’ camera, a Minolta SRT200, which worked well until Nikon released the D50, a DSLR affordable enough to convince my generous father to help me purchase (he definitely paid for the majority).

Simon Joinson

The Fujica ST605N was an M42 screw-mount SLR made in the 70's and 80's. Photo by Alf Sigaro.

DPReview staff 2004-2017

I have my father to blame for my lifelong love affair with photography. Not because he was a particularly accomplished or prolific photographer (based on the wallets of photos I have from my childhood I’d characterize his technique as a bit hit and miss, with a lot more ‘miss’ than ‘hit’), but because he gave me my first camera at age 12 or 13. I got this hand-me-down because he was replacing his camera – a Fujica ST 605N – with something a lot fancier (a Minolta X500, chosen after an excruciating amount of research including, much to my mother’s consternation, two visits to a camera show from which he returned with a roll full of pictures of semi-naked models on motorbikes).

Anyway, I didn’t care because I now had my own real camera, complete with 35mm, 55mm and 135mm lenses packed into an ancient gadget bag that released a heady aroma of moldy old leather and film every time I creaked open its lid, and whose numerous pockets were home to a fascinating collection of dusty accessories and starburst filters. It was the most amazing thing I had ever owned.

The Fujica ST605N was one of dozens of similar no-frills M42 screw mount SLRs made during the 70s and early 80s (although it appears that the mere fact you could see the currently selected shutter speed in the viewfinder was quite the selling point in 1978), but it was compact, nicely made and had a decent focus screen and a fast (at the time) silicon exposure meter.

And I loved it. And, like all photographers who started with a fully manual camera and a small selection of prime lenses that took about 10 minutes to change (thanks to the screw mount), I quickly learned the basics of photography (specifically apertures and shutter speeds), partly by reading but mostly through trial and error.

I can still remember the first roll of I put through it, at the local zoo, and the thrill of getting the prints back only 5 days and 2 weeks' worth of allowance later (on this point my father made it clear I would need to reign in my enthusiasm and that a 36-exposure roll normally lasted him for at least a few months).

After many years of enjoying his Fujica, Simon moved on to the Nikon F-301, known as the N2000 in the United States. Photo by John Nuttall.

I kept - and used - the Fujica all my teen years, adding an old flashgun that took 5 minutes of high-pitched wheezing to charge up, a slightly moldy 70-200mm Vivitar zoom I found in a junk shop, and a sizeable collection of blower brushes and cap-keepers that came free on the covers of photography magazines. My time with her only ended when I went to college – all students were required to arrive on the first day with a Nikon SLR, so I had to trade-in my trusty old ST605N for a Nikon F301 (aka N2000), which seemed like something out of Knight Rider by comparison. But that’s another story…

The Casio QV-10, with its low resolution CCD and rotating lens, was one of the world's first consumer digital cameras.

My first digital camera? Well, the first I used was a Casio QV10, but since I started writing about digital cameras in 1995, I never really had to buy one (we had a house full of them), and I just borrowed what I wanted when I wasn’t shooting for work. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I didn’t actually buy a digital camera for myself until 2011 (funnily enough it too was a Fuji – a first generation X100).

Dan Bracaglia

DPReview staff 2014-2021

My first real digital camera (ignoring the Game Boy Camera of my youth) was a Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D). I bought it midway through my first year of college. Before that I had shot on film all through middle and high school mostly on a Canon AE-1 Program. Truth be told, up until college, I believed digital to be the devil.

My first time using a digital camera was also my first assignment for my college newspaper, The Daily Targum. I think I shot that assignment with a Nikon D100. Anyhow, I had no idea what white balance was at the time, so when I submitted the images to my editor, he patiently explained to me why everything had a blue tint.

After picking up a few more assignments for the paper, I decided I wanted a digital camera of my own and saved up for said Rebel XTi. Though borrowing gear from the paper tempted me to buy a Nikon, my allegiance was still with Canon as a result of my time with the AE-1.

However, within a year of owning the XTi, I knew I wanted/needed more camera (I was also studying photojournalism at the time). I set my sights on the just-announced Nikon D300 and began saving.

So while the Canon Rebel XTi was my first digital camera, the Nikon D300 was the first digital camera I owned that I actually liked. I still have it today (the XTi has long since been sold).


So what was your first camera (film or digital – both are fair game)? Let us know in the comments below!