I just bought a new camera body.

That doesn't sound like it's worth a blog post, but this is a big deal for me: this is my first brand new SLR in a hobby that's spanned sixteen years. While I try to share the results of my efforts, I've never written about my history with the craft.

The first camera I used on a regular basis was older than me, a Canon AE-1, which packed futuristic features like an integrated electronic light meter, electronic shutter, and a shutter priority shooting mode. I began shooting in black and white, manual focus, manual exposure, manual winding, developing all the film myself—a roll every couple days during my first few years. My middle school had a photo lab, so I had a good hobby for very little money. Towards the end of high school, Renee found an old telephoto lens in the trash1 that I put to good use, and I started shooting in colour most of the time. Finally, during my second year in college, my camera, tripod, and lenses were stolen out of my car. I didn't have a replacement for two years.

That replacement threw me into a whole new world of camera technology. The 350D that I bought from Rushi was my first digital SLR, first standard zoom lens, first time shooting faster than ISO 400, my first camera with aperture priority; it felt like alien technology after years of shooting film on a camera a quarter-century its senior, and I was instantly hooked on photography once more. Ultimately, though, I felt drawn back to the 35mm format, usable manual focus, and the feel of metal in my hands.

Three years ago, I sold a well worn 350D and bought a 5D from Jim, and it has been a delight2. I'm back to shooting fully manual with a 50mm prime3 most of the time, and it's been a wonderful travel companion: 23 states, eight countries, and three continents just in the last year or so. Over the holidays, my parents gave me a new adapter plate4 so I could get focus confirmation from the body. Life is great.

The story should have ended there, but I didn't buy a new camera for no reason. I'm pretty sure the USB port was already broken when I bought the body, the AF confirmation lights stopped working shortly thereafter, and—due mostly to my own clumsiness—the case has started to come apart at the seams. Worst of all, the sensor is slow to wake up some mornings, so the first shot (or three) of the day tends to be seriously underexposed. I can still get my shots, but it takes a lot more care and familiarity than it used to. It's probably not worth selling in its current state5.

Meanwhile, camera technology has advanced at an astonishing rate, with a dizzying array of new and improved capabilities. Many of them are frivolous6 or excessive7 for my shooting style, but other components of today's technology would let me shoot confidently in situations that I've previously avoided entirely, or reduce the amount of time I spend in post8. My new phone has better low light performance than my SLR. Imaging technology has come to a point where I can see myself wearing out a new body before ever tiring of it.

Which is exactly what I intend to do. Happy shooting.

1 A FD100-200mm ƒ/5.6, which was a very unpopular lens. It was better than nothing, and the sliding hood was super cute.
2 Around the same time I bought the 5D, Joe gave me a 20D. I've since replaced the shutter (its third—it originally belonged to a photojournalist), and It's been a great secondary body, especially since it shares batteries and memory cards with the 5D.
3 A Nikkor 50mm ƒ/1.2 AI-s, so when I say fully manual that includes focus and aperture control.
4 Another Fotodiox, replacing a much simpler model.
5 Which makes the AE-1 all the more impressive to me—there was absolutely nothing wrong with it when it was stolen, and not for lack of trying. It was old enough to drink.
6 Who needs 61 AF points when you're focussing manually?
7 Having heard a 1D cycling at 10+fps, part of me is surprised that we're not using mechanical shutters for video capture.
8 Already something I try to keep to a minimum, despite my currently enormous backlog of photos from this summer.