Zenith E

Zenith E Russian 35mm SLR (Single Lens Reflex Camera).

My first serious camera as a school boy. Bought second hand for £35 at Kamera in St.Helens. Some months later the other camera shop in town were selling these new for the same price so I did not get a bargain. This camera was my doorway into discovering photography, like all my early film cameras this was all manual, even the lightmeter did not need a battery. It was very loud when the shutter was pressed as the mirror slapped out of the way of the film plane and the cloth shutter opened and closed. Taking candid images in school classrooms with this camera was an exercise in danger, glad I took the risk.

Kiev 4A

Kiev 4A Russian 35mm Rangefinder camera with 50mm f2 lens.

I bought my Russian Kiev 4A camera sometime toward the end of the 1970s. This rangefinder camera was a copy of a pre war Contax camera that was itself a copy of a Leica. This camera was much cheaper than a Leica at approx £40.
Film was loaded through the bottom with a detachable base plate. It was a rangefinder camera so focus was achieved by merging a split image in the centre of the viewfinder. It was smaller and quieter to use than a 35mm SLR like my Zenith E or Pentax K1000 so this was the camera of choice in the early 1980s for my documentary projects, most notably the Nightlife project set in pubs and clubs in Nottingham

Lubitel 2

Lubitel 2.TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) camera. Uses rolls of 120 film.

My first medium format camera. This 6×6 cm twin lens reflex camera took 12 pictures on a roll of 120 film. I mainly used mine to shoot black and White film (mainly FP4) but also shot some rolls of colour negative and a few rolls of transparency film.

These cameras were made in Russia and were cheap, I have a receipt for one that came to £11.75. The lens had 3 elements and was sharp when stopped down, at wide apertures (well f3.5!) it was sharp in the centre and soft in the corners and edges.

Voigtländer Brillant

Voigtländer Brillant TLR (Twin Lens Reflex). Uses rolls of 120 film.

 

The Russians copied the design of this camera when they developed the Lubitel II. This early model is pre war and although a twin lens camera it did not have focusing through the viewfinder.

Wide open at f4.5 this lens has a adds a wonderful sharp/soft feel to images. One of my favourite cameras for Pictorial type photograhy.

Canon EOS-1 film camera

Canon EOS-1 film camera

One of the last film cameras I ever bought. The EOS-1 was the flagship Canon SLR at about the time I rejoined Tony Stone Images to help setup and run the new Electronic Imaging Department in 1990/1991.

This camera (unlike any other I had before it) had auto focusing and a built in motor drive to wind the film on. Its top plate had an LCD to allow visual feedback of the controls and many buttons to manage ISO, shutter speed and aperture. For all intents and purposes this was the same as the digital Canon 1Ds which came much later. The only clue it was not digital was the holder to put the end of the cardboard film box to remind you of what film was loaded instead of a playback screen.

This camera was purchased on 29th December 1992.

Mamiya 7

 

Mamiya 7, 6×7 rangefinder film camera.

I think my favorite camera to use. Not much bigger but much lighter than my Canon 35mm SLR. The image quality out of this camera was better than anything else I owned (perhaps the Mamiya RB67 matched it but it was much bulkier). Focusing was by rangefinder through the bright optical viewfinder, a much better focusing experience than the old Russian 35mm Kiev 4a camera.

This camera was purchased on the 25th July 1995.

Canon 1Ds Digital Camera

Canon 1Ds 11mp Digital Camera

The beginning of the end for my film use. My first “proper” digital camera. The quality requirements for stock images at Tony Stone Images were quite high and I knew the affordable 5 and 6 megapixel cameras of the time were insufficient. I was alerted to this camera by the photographer Steve Bloom who sent me a layered Photoshop file containing a 35mm film scan, a 6×7 film scan and a 1Ds digital image of the same scene. When I saw that this camera out resolved the 6×7 image I knew this was the watershed camera that meant the future was digital. The files from it still needed interpolating from 11 megapixels to the required A3 @300dpi requirement (approx 16 megapixels) but with a little sharpening the files looked fine.

By this stage I was having to pay the heating bills on a large Victorian property facing the North Sea in North Norfolk so its price was a little out of my reach, thankfully I manage to sell the source code to a program that injected metadata ingested from a spreadsheet into whole folders of image files. I had always wanted to write a larger scale Windows program and a client offered me the opportunity to do this (and thence to buy the camera!).

My film and processing bills fell sharply shortly after purchase. What I lost is some character of film and grain that is not immediately present in digital images. I have retained all my digital images from my first digital camera (a Kodak DC120 1 megapixel camera I bought in 1998) but  it needs active effort to ensure image files are retained on multiple media and hard drives, easier and cheaper to store film in an archive folder and kept warm and dry.

This camera was purchased on 1st November 2003.

Pentax K1000

 

Pentax K1000 without lens attached

My first Japanese camera was bought second hand from a police woman in St.Helens. It was a Pentax SV from the 1960s. It had a really lovely lens and was a pleasure to use. Unfortunately the shutter developed a fault, I think I had it repaired but then sold it and I bought a new Pentax K1000 camera with my staff discount from the Saturday job at Fishwicks in Haydock.

An all manual camera like before, it did take a button cell battery but that was just used to power the built in lightmeter.

It was the camera I took and used on the 3 year photo course at Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham and my day to day camera when I moved to London in 1984. It was used to shoot my early conceptual stock images including the “Hand and Lightning” image sold through Tony Stone Images  and allowed me to go full time with my photography.

My original K1000 was loaned to the framing department at Tony Stone Photolibrary to record submissions from photographers that were then contact printed and each frame cut out and stuck in the ledger books that recorded the sales and rights uses of the submitted images. By now the camera was getting on a bit and after some months stopped working and was not economically repairable. Fortunately Pentax still made this model and a new one given back to me (the one above).