Saturday, June 28, 2008

My other eyes

The first camera I played with was a tank.

And quite literally so too. Dad had this old 127 format Kodak which was gathering dust somewhere. It had a nice bulk, with black and grey plastic housing, and the usual protrusion for the lens.

For the 7-year old that I was then, that qualified as a tank. And it joined my green plastic infantry in all the key campaigns -- never lost a battle, I might add.

I was hoping to be able to find a picture of the camera so you'd have an idea what camera this is. But after an exhaustive search (all 6.5 minutes of it) in Google, I finally gave up for it being lost in the darkest recesses of my lo-res memory! But it might have looked something like this.

Fast-forward to an 11-year old boy who saved up enough of his angpow and weekly allowances to get himself a RM48 Fujica, fixed focus, 35mm point and shoot. That, in my mind then, was the coolest adult think I had ever gotten for myself!!

I'd have liked to say that I had a grand time with this precious little possession. I said I'd like to, but unfortunately what I had really ended up with were lots of under-exposed or whitewashed shots. Expensive photographic lessons that I hadn't quite learnt still.

Next hop -- a Samsung autofucus point and shoot in 1988. Had 4 good years of school shots with that. Was also able to somehow coax the camera into allowing me to make multiple-exposure shots. Good times!

But all of that ended when one day (and after a few accidental knocks), the camera decided it wanted to just fast-forward right to the end of every new roll of film I loaded -- before I even got to take the one shot!.

The next one was a major step forward. My first and and only 35mm SLR. That was a momentous event... holding up my Minolta Dinax 600si classic! Hmmm, I should probably dedicate a proper post on this camera one fine day. Had burnt through hundreds of rolls of film, experimenting with all sorts of stuff. Those among you who fell in love with photography would know how it felt during the early years -- going around shooting at just about anything that looked special to you!

But until I eventually get to writing that post, here's a really comprehensive review by Shubroto Bhattacharjee.

School ended and it was time to punch the card and earn my keep. So the SLR got mothballed in favour of something less demanding. I loved the feel of the SLR in the hand -- but just needed something with the simplicity of a point and shoot.

In a moment of desperation (a trip to Japan was around the corner), I found an uneasy compromise in the form of the Olympus iS-100. For want of a proper classification, I call it a fixed-lens, compact SLR.

Come to think of it, it was actually a pleasant camera to use -- lots of features (1.7 lens converter, infrared shutter release). It was a lot less bulky, but still had a decent, usable zoom range. The only bicker was the massive drain on the batteries. Yeah, the pair of 3V lithium batteries (CR 123A or DL 123A) it needed to run on was good for only about 3 - 5 rolls of film.

Another short time warp and Junior arrived via Mr. Stork. As this was *the event* of my life, I took out the SLR, gave it a fresh set of batteries, a spit polish and it was back in commission.

By then, we were already firmly in the digital age. The 3r prints still looked great, but I needed to preserve them so I could always go back and look at them. So at the next PC fair, I went and bought a Microtek digital and negative scanner.

I load up the scanner with pictures, click scan, and viola, instant digital copies, right?

BIG MISTAKE. After hunching over the darn thing for days, I only managed to scan a handfull of prints. Ouch, the back really hurt! The reality was that given the scanner technology back then, trying to get decent scans took lots of patience!

Come to think of it, it was probably a silly idea. Shoot on film, process the prints. Choose the ones I liked... scanned them... and admire them from the PC. Huh!?

So I dumped that idea, and started to seriously look for a digital camera...

<Next up: My digital eyes>

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