Because I’m a geek and I get bored sometimes, like tonight, I’ve decided to write a blog entry about the cameras I’ve owned. Maybe it’s also because part of me wants to document this knowing that my memory is only bound to get worse as I get older.
I wasn’t actually interested in photography as a kid. I became interested in video when my parents bought their first Video8 Sony Handycam. I think I was maybe nine or ten at the time. I would run around with that as much as I could. My parents took me to Disney World at age 12, the year MGM Studios opened. [EDIT 2023-06-03 Disney MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios) first opened on May 1, 1989, I believe we took our first trip there around March of 1990. So I would have been 11. But I think we also went in 1991 and I think my buddy Tom went with us. Don’t quote me on that year or even if Tom went with us. /END EDIT] That’s when I became fascinated with filmmaking and animation. By the next year I was using the Handycam to shoot stop motion movies of G.I. JOE figures and clay models.
By the time I reached high school I was seriously interested in being a filmmaker when I grew up. I was making short movies with my friends all the time. But my high school didn’t offer a video club or class, only photography. So I took it, thinking it was close enough, but not realizing how valuable it would actually be. I enjoyed the photography but not the class assignments, so I failed. That was sophomore year.
To take that class I had to have an SLR camera. I had found my parent’s old Minolta XG9 they had bought in 1979 (the year I was born) at the top of their bedroom closet. I asked to borrow it. They said sure, but it was broke, that’s why they hadn’t used it in years. Turns out it just needed new batteries.
Even though I had failed my first photography class, I was still interested in photography itself, so I continued to use the camera over the course of the next year. Even spent $100 on a brand new Quantaray (Sigma) 28mm f2.8 lens to go along with the 50mm f1.8 the camera already had.
By senior year I asked the photography teacher if I could take her class again. I had to get her signature because I had failed the first time. She signed my paper, but told me the only reason she was doing so was because she didn’t want to teach English and needed more students for the class.
We had three levels of photography, beginner, intermediate and portfolio. It’s possible there was an advanced between intermediate and portfolio but I don’t remember. What I do remember is that I started as a beginner, within a week I was bumped to intermediate. By my second semester, I was portfolio. I still wasn’t fond of the assignments themselves but my skills had improved after a year or two of practice. Plus being a senior I think my teacher realized this was my last year, I needed to prepare a portfolio for college and I did my best work if she just let me do my own thing.
As a result of that I was the only student to win a national photography award in my entire school district, plus a local award for another photo and had several of my photos used in school publications. I had come all the way from behind to the top of the class in a matter of months. That second semester of photography my senior year was a great time in my life. I had also met my first true love in that class and we dated for four and a half years.
By the end of that school year, having graduated and gotten out, I became obsessed with autofocus cameras and wanted to get my hands on one. So I saved my money and I bought a Canon Elan II.
I believe I paid $500 for it and bought it from Beach Camera in NYC over the phone. It came with a 28-80 kit lens. Nothing special. But my choice was between the Canon and the Nikon F70. I actually kind of wanted the F70 more because it was a Nikon and was all black. I had a bit of a lust for Nikon back then. But I bought the Canon instead because it had more bells and whistles, the autofocus was faster, it was a little cheaper if I remember right and my girlfriend and friend agreed that it seemed like the better buy overall.
I don’t remember how long I owned the Elan II, but it was maybe only a year or two. I had a hard time with it. I had taken it with me to Europe for a couple weeks and when I got back I wasn’t thrilled with my photos. All the exteriors turned out decent, but none of the interiors did. I wasn’t used to a zoom lens with a slower aperture at the time. I had ventured into a whole new world of photography that was no longer about old 1970’s cameras and developing your own black & white film. As a result, I didn’t really understand photography as well as I thought. I still hadn’t become a gear geek by that time. I was mostly operating on intuition and luck. Apparently those two things were what got me through high school photography and winning a couple awards. But I didn’t realize that yet, I just though the Elan II wasn’t a very good camera. Plus I didn’t care for the silver color anymore and didn’t like the overly plastic feel of the thing. I was longing for the good old mechanical cameras again and had developed an obsession with getting the sharpest optics I could find in my price range. So at this point I made one of the stupidest choices I could have made. I traded my Elan II at a camera swap meet for a used Contax 167MT with a 50mm Zeiss. My Elan II was still in like-new shape and I think I even paid an extra $50 to make the swap.
It’s not that I was swindled on the deal. At the time I certainly didn’t feel that way. But looking back I wish I would have kept the Canon, learned how to really use it, and started buying other lenses for it. Still, the Contax was a beautiful camera and that Zeiss lens was the sex. At some point I also picked up a Tamron 28mm Yashica mount lens to go with it. To be honest I don’t even remember owning that lens until I dug out the picture above. So I probably didn’t use it too much. I think I owned the Contax for about a year or so, eventually realizing that I couldn’t afford any other Zeiss glass for it. At least that I was willing to afford. So I sold it and bought a Nikon FE with 50mm series E lens and eventually a couple cheap Quantaray zooms.
[EDIT 2023-06-03] I don’t know exactly when I sold the Contax 167MT, but I do have some pictures I shot of it on my Sony TRV900. The picture above is one of them. Those pictures were recorded on DV tape and file name for the tape says 2000-08-13. So on August 13th, 2000 I was at least taking the photos to go with the listing to sell the camera. Which I assume I must have sold on Ebay. Though it’s possible I just took the pictures for the heck of it. But based on all the images I took and way they are detailed, it looks more like I was going to use them for an Ebay listing. When I Nikon FE was purchased after that, I don’t know. I do not believe 9or remember) using the money from the sale of the 167MT to buy the Nikon. Again I could be wrong, it seems strange I wouldn’t, that I would leave myself without a camera for an extended period of time, but it wouldn’t the be the only time I’ve done that, and technically I believe I would have still had the Minolta. Can’t say that for sure either, because at some point I took that camera apart, but I don’t remember when. But my camera buying and selling during this period of my life was all over the place and not as well documented as I would like. So either sometime after the halfway point of August 2000 or in 2001 I picked up the Nikon FE. Wish I remember what I payed for it and even wear I got it. I think it was a camera swap meet but it could have been online. I also don’t remember if I bought my FE first or if my girlfriend Becky at the time had bought her FE2 first. Again, wish I had documented all of this better back then. [/END EDIT]
At some point in this period I also picked up a used twin lens Yashica medium format camera and shot a few rolls. Never went to far with that camera though.
I still own this Nikon FE. In fact it’s sitting on the desk in front of me as I type this. But the only lens left is the 50mm. I’ve now had it for eleven years or so. Out of all the cameras I’ve owned, this one I’ve owned the longest. Partly because it ended up suiting me best out of all the film cameras I tried. Partly because it’s a great camera that keeps ticking, partly because it’s the last film camera I ever bought and partly because once digital hit, the value became so low that it wasn’t worth it to sell. I figured that even if I never used it again, it would still look pretty on a shelf.
Every couple of years I run a roll of film through it, just to have that taste of film again. But ultimately it’s a decoration. Although I’ve had serious consideration running a roll of Velvia through it next week to get some fall colors. But when I consider what it’s going to cost me to buy the film, develop and scan it, I have second thoughts.
[EDIT 2023-06-03]I also bought a Nikon Series E 28mm f2.8 lens for it on 2016-03-20 off Ebay for $49.54. Which I still own and use on my GH4 occasionally, along with the Nikon 50mm. Still own the Nikon FE as well, though I haven’t shot on it since… (let me check) it looks like the trip to the beach on 2014-07-12. Wow! I didn’t realize it’s been that long. I was about to write that I think it’s been a few years, thinking maybe 2019 or 2018, but then looked it up and I don’t have any evidence (aka photos) of anything I’ve shot on it after that beach trip. Can’t believe it’s been that long since I’ve shot a roll of film. That is thirteen months shy of a decade. Again, wow! I guess it’s time to buy some film and run at least a roll through it to see if it still works. Seems like it does. But it has been sitting on my DVD shelf for a while.
Last point before I end this edit. I mentioned it the camera I’ve owned the longest. I want to believe that is true, but noted before I bought the S20 digital camera in march of 2001 and I don’t remember exactly when I bought this FE. It was after August 13th 2000 but it could have been as late as 2001 at some point. I believe I got it before the S20. Now I question that. Though I probably shouldn’t because I probably did get it before. It’s just a matter of when. I don’t know of any way I can figure that out at this point in time. Outside of asking my ex girlfriend, since she bought her FE2 around the same time I got my FE. I think she got her’s before I got mine but I don’t remember, I could have that backwards, and I doubt she would remember any of these details from over twenty years ago.
The Digital Era
My first digital camera was actually a video camera. A Sony TRV900 that I bought brand new from B&H in NYC for $2000. That was in 1999 (bought July 22nd, 1999 – [edit on 2023-06-03]) and I had bought it by saving my money from driving trucks around the country. I was 20 years old and still passionate about being a filmmaker.
The TRV900 had a PCMCIA slot on the back of it and came with a floppy disk drive that plugged into that slot. That was you could take 720×480 photos with it. About a third of a megapixel resolution. But because it was a 3CCD camera, the color wasn’t took bad at all. I had a blast shooting photos with it. Because it was right around the time we started to use the internet more and I learned HTML and started building my own web pages. So it was great to be able to share some digital photos and begin messing around with Photoshop for the first time.
On the night of March 16th 2001 (according to my Dpreview.com post called S20 Help) I bought a little Canon S20 point and shoot digital camera open box from Best Buy for $400. It didn’t come with any accessories, but had mostly been under glass the whole time and was in good shape. At the time the front facia around the lens was still there. It had previously been $600. It expanded my digital photography fun with its 3 megapixel quality and small size.
But I’m not going to get into all the point and shoot cameras I’ve had or even all the DV cameras I have owned over the years. I’ll save that for another post. Let’s just say that between digital video cameras and still photo cameras I spent way more money on DV cameras at this point in my life (1999-2003) than I did still cameras. Because my interest was still more with film/video. But I mention the TRV900 here because it really was my first real introduction to digital photography.
My first digital SLR camera was the Canon Digital Rebel (300D). I would have preferred a Nikon because I owned my FE and a couple other Nikon lenses. But the Nikon DSLR’s were still way out of my price range. The Canon 300D was the first affordable digital SLR and even then I bought it used about a year or two after it came out. [Edit 2022-07-21] I bought the 300D off eBay for $550 on 2005-07-24 without a lens. According to my journal entry I said the following. “I just bought a digital SLR. Hopefully I’ll have it by next weekend. I need to buy a lens for it now. I’ll have to wait till next weekend for that.”
“I bought if off ebay for $550. Comes with everything in original packaging. It just doesn’t have a lens.”
A day later I bought a $35 Nikon adapter for the Canon so I could use my Nikon lenses on it. Those were the first lenses I used before eventually getting EF mount lenses.
Owning the Digital Rebel was sort of like owning the Elan II again, because it was a Canon, it was plastic and it was silver colored. But by this point in my life I had warned up to Canon a little more having owned a Canon Video8 camera, a $3000 Canon XL1 DV camera, the Canon S20 point and shoot digital camera and realizing I had made a mistake selling the Elan II years before. Plus this was a digital SLR, the first time I really got to take quality digital photos with real control over depth of field.
The digital rebel did more than just let me take great photos though, it really opened me up to learning photography even more. It was the first time I really experimented with going full manual with a camera. Up until this point I was mostly shooting aperture priority on my film SLR’s. I never got too risky because film was expensive. Although I did own a light meter and used it for 16mm movie film and super 8 film, I didn’t shoot either one of those formats more than a few times, so not enough to really practice manual exposure. But the rebel let me take SLR quality photos, see the results right away and manipulate them in photoshop. So I learned a lot quicker.
I owned the rebel for at least a good three years. But I hit a tight financial spot in my life around ’08-’09 and ended up pawning the rebel to get some money, my intention was to go and get it back after a couple weeks, but I actively made the choice at the time that I just couldn’t afford to. I don’t remember the details, but I’m sure if I had managed my money a little differently I probably could have easily gotten it out of the shop. but at that point I knew the camera was getting a little old and outdated and would realized what I had gotten from the pawn shop was probably about what I would get selling it to an individual so I just let it go.
On January 1st or 2nd of 2008 I ended up with a Lumix FX3 point and shoot camera. I had gotten it when my wife and I split up around then. I believe we (or one of us) had bought it in 2007. The earliest photos I have from it are from April 2007. It’s another camera I still own as of July 2022 that still works. Capable of 6 megapixel photos and 848×480 video at 30fps in motion jpeg with mono sound. It’s been a good little camera and the only camera outside of my iPhone that I owned during all of 2010. While I was between my Nikon D40 in 2009 and my Nikon D7000 and Lumix GH1 and first Canon 60D in the beginning of 2011. Sadly at some point the back screen got messed up, although it still partially works. There are some good memories shot on this camera. Glad I still have it and my Canon S20.
I went about 6 months to a year without a digital SLR after letting go of the digital rebel. My finances got a little better and I bought a used Nikon D40 body off someone on Craigslist.
I really liked the Nikon D40. Although it was the same resolution as the digital Rebel had been, it was an upgrade in overall design, with a larger screen on the back, an all black body which I prefer and that great Nikon feel to it. I shot a lot of nice photos with this camera, like I did with the the rebel. But just like the rebel, about a year later I hit financial hard times and decided to sell it along with that Quantaray 28-90 lens in the picture above. Which is why my Nikon FE only has the 50mm now. Strangely enough, the whole time I owned the Nikon D40 I never used the autofocus on it because I never owned an autofocus lens that would work on it. my 50mm is all manual and the Quantaray in the picture, while being an AF lens, is the older type of AF lens that requires the camera have an AF motor built into the body, which the D40 didn’t. Nikon sadly enough decided to reserve their in-body motors to only their more expensive cameras. I would have needed to buy a Nikon G style lens that has the motor built into the lens itself.
About another year or more passed without me owning a DSLR because of finances and desires to buy other things. But at this point 2009-2011 DSLR’s were changing big time. They were now shooting video! Something I had been waiting for and I had imagined would be coming eventually. Now my two worlds of photography and video were colliding into single cameras. On top of that they were producing video quality that was very cinematic looking and high definition.
In January of 2011 I came into a few thousand dollars. Legally of course, but unexpected money. My first thought was “camera” and I proceeded to purchase a brand new Nikon D7000 with kit lens, 35mm f1.8 lens and Nikon Speedlite. About $2000 total.
I keep the camera for about three weeks. Generally loved it, but realized that there were better DSLR’s out there for shooting video. Not to mention I felt really bad about having spent $2000 on a camera like that. I should have just kept it, my girlfriend told me I should keep it and remember thinking she is probably right, I should just keep it. Not only would be be a solid camera to own, but also an investment. But I didn’t keep it. I returned it. Then took the money and bought a bought a Panasonic GH1 kit brand new for $400, shipping included direct from Panasonic.
The GH1 had multiple things going for it. I realized when owning the Nikon D7000 that I wanted to shoot more video than photos. I wanted a flip out LCD screen because I had gotten used to them when shooting video with traditional video cameras. The GH1 was also hackable and highly regarded in the video community. Not to mention I was saving myself a ton of money and I could buy cheap adapters to use my Nikon 50mm and my Minolta lenses on it.
I still own the GH1. I’ve owned it for about a year and half now. It’s a great little camera. But I’ll be honest, when I first got it, I hated it. It felt little and cheap and I really wanted to keep that Nikon D7000, just not at the price or the lack of video functionality compared to the GH1. Eventually I got used to the GH1 and I adore it. That said, even though I’ve shot some great photos on the GH1 and have learned to use it really well, it’s not the best photo camera. It lacks the overall sharpness and the beautiful color that Canon and Nikon cameras have and I find myself desiring to pick up one of those brands just for photography alone. It’s a subtle thing, but enough that I see it.
I should also note that back in March of of 2011, after having returned the D7000 and buying a GH1, I also bought a Canon 60D. This was back when the GH1 was still new to me and I was still coping with the smaller size and not sure where I wanted to be in the camera world. The Canon 60D seemed to me like the best of breed between the Gh1 and the D7000. Bigger body and sensor, but still the flip out LCD screen. Better video than the D7000 but not quite as expensive, also not built quite as well though. I thought the 60D was great for photography. But at this point I already owned the GH1 and knew I wasn’t letting go of it because of how cheap it was to buy. The deciding factor was when I took both camera to my nieces wedding shower and shot video of it. The Canon proved to be more headache with bigger files sizes, record time limitations and no real autofocus during video recording. The GH1 was solid all the way though. At the time, my choice was based a lot on the idea that a buddy and I were going to start shooting wedding videos on the side to earn a little extra cash. That ended up fizzling out in a matter of months. So it was difficult to keep the 60D in light of that plan. I knew my money would be better spend on an audio recorder, some extra gear and possibly a second GH1. But by the time I went to go buy a second GH1 they had already sold out on that $400 deal and I had other bills I needed to use the money for.
Now and into the future
As I said, I still own the GH1 and the Nikon FE. Like the FE, the GH1 will probably stick around long term mostly because I paid so little for it and it’s value isn’t great enough for me to want to sell it. So it will probably end up being the digital SLR* I always have and can fall back on. But I have been getting the itch to buy a better photography camera. I can count on the GH1 for video work when I need it and to be honest, the way things are shaping up you really can’t count on one camera doing both equally well. There are newer large sensor video cameras on the market now that are far better suited for video/filmmaking, like the Black Magic Cinema camera and possibly the GH3.
I was kind of hoping the new Panasonic GH3 would have better photo quality while keeping the great video quality and hackability [EDIT 2023-06-03 should be hack-ability but I’m adding this edit rather than change it lol – unsure about adding the lol /] of the GH2. It’s not released yet to the public and the initial photos I’m seeing don’t look as fantastic as I would hope. But I don’t really know for sure yet. Still I don’t think it’s going to match what Canon and Nikon can do with stills. As I said above, best of both worlds in one camera is a little unrealistic. But I have been eyeing it as a possible upgrade option, even if just for video.
However I’ve also been considering picking up a Canon or Nikon for photography. But these days it’s a hard sell for me. I love photography but I’m not getting paid to use my own photo gear for client shoots and I don’t do as much photography as video. Most of my photographs are personal snapshots done on my iPhone where it’s easy to manipulate, upload and share with friends. So unless I’m shooting clients or going out for a dedicated photo walk, I’m hard pressed to pull out a big camera. Maybe it’s because I’m 33 now and not 20 anymore. I work full time. I do video work for a living with some photography scattered in there every so often. I use the companies gear for my pro work and my GH1 here and there if I desire a certain look. So when I get home I’m not itching to go do what I do at work. But part of me would still like to own a nice still photography camera. Something like the new Nikon D600 or Canon 6D and stockpile a nice primes to go with it.
I’ve been kicking myself for years for not keeping that Canon Elan II and learning how to use it and building up an arsenal of Canon glass over the last 15 years. If I would have stuck with that one system, focused on shooting more photography and buying more glass, I wouldn’t be writing this blog entry now and I would have been prepared for the DSLR video revolution by already having a Â stockpile of great lenses. But I had to be a gear geek and try out a whole bunch of cameras over the years.
Well as much as I can kick myself I can also say it was a good thing how I did it. I got to try out a bunch of stuff and see what I liked and why. I may be anemic on lenses right now considering I’ve rebooted every so many years, but that’s ok. I could argue that I’ve had my Nikon FE for over a decade and still only managed to keep one lens for it and never bought any others that were more than $100 a piece. So obviously I’ve never been a big spender on glass. The most expensive lens I ever bought for a still camera was a Tokina for my Digital Rebel for $350 and that was sold off as well. So why kick myself for what I should of or could have done, because obviously I didn’t.
Moving forward though, I can see the benefit in being more stable with my cameras. Now that stills and video cameras are using the same lenses, it’s a lot more of an incentive to for me latch onto a single system and build up a collection of lenses. It would probably be a good investment as well. You never know how things are going to go. Having a kit you can rely on for doing freelance work should something happen, is a good backup plan.
It’s late, this post has been droning on and I probably have a ton of spelling and grammar errors, not to mention want to add or edit some content here. So I do declare this post to be unfinished and fluid, count on it to change in time.
*Yeah I know it’s not technically an SLR, whatever. It works similarly.
EDIT (Update) June 25, 2013 – Panasonic GH2
I ended up losing my GH1. My van had broke down and I was borrowing a vehicle for a month that ended up getting repossessed while in the parking lot of my workplace. I’m not going to say whose vehicle it was because that wouldn’t be right, it was a messy situation. But my GH1 was in the vehicle at the time and I lost it along with a few lenses, memory cards, ND filters and my vintage camera strap with my photography award pin on it. Honestly the strap and award pin is what I feel the most loss over. I won’t get any of it back because they never got the vehicle back. So it’s long gone.
About two weeks later I picked up a used Panasonic GH2 from guy off Craigslist. Like-new condition and I’ve been shooting with it since. This all happened back in September 2012, So I’ve had the GH2 for a while now and I really like. I bought the Panasonic 14-45mm lens as well. I also still have a few old Minolta MD lenses that I had inherited from my friend Dan who got them from our friend Linda. Plus I still have my Nikon 50mm f1.8 and the nikon to micro four thirds mount adapter.
This setup is working for me. I had considered again selling it and investing in the Canon system. Especially with the new magic lantern raw video hack for the 5D mkIII out now. I also still had it in my head that the Canon cameras just shot better photos. Perhaps they do to some degree, but after looking through my photos shot on various cameras over the years (including Canon cameras) I came to realize that I’ve done my best work on my GH1 and GH2. The color, the focus, all of it better than the photos I had shot on any of my Canon cameras. The Nikon D7000 being the only exception, that work of mine was on par with the GH cameras. So I’ve just decided to stick with the GH line of cameras and eventually invest in a GH3 after getting some more glass. Blackmagic Design also announced their new pocket cinema camera ($995) which comes with a micro four thirds lens mount. Fully electronic. When that hits users hand in a month I’ll be keeping a close eye on it. Also really like the pictures I’m seeing from the (now older) Olympus E-M5 which is also dropping in price on the used market. So there seems to be some decent options in the land of micro four thirds.
Edit (Update) August 7th, 2016 – Canon 60D (again)
Despite what I said about keeping the GH2 and maybe buying a GH3, I ended up trading my Panasonic GH2 with 14-45mm lens, adapters and batteries for a Canon 60D with two lenses (50mm f1.8 and 18-55 f3.5-5.6) a couple batteries and the box in July of 2013. Nice even trade. Some guy who found my ad on Craigslist who is interested in video.
I’ve now had this camera for over three years. I think it’s the longest I’ve kept a DSLR. It’s hard to remember how long I had my original Canon Digital Rebel (300D), maybe a couple years. I also think I had my GH1 for a couple of years. If that’s the case, this is longest I’ve owned a single DSLR. My Nikon FE still takes the throne for the camera I’ve had the longest. But that’s a film camera.
I’ve been generally pretty happy with the 60D. I’m still using the same two lenses I got with it. I haven’t bought any more yet. My plan is to pick up a 24-105L f4 but that’s been my plan for about a year or so now and I still haven’t pulled the trigger. I may end up with a 55-250 STM before then. I could really use a telephoto. There has been a few times I’ve found myself in a pinch without one. Plus it’s a cheaper investment than a 24-105, especially if I get a refurb from Canon.
I told myself when I made the trade that I would stick with Canon from here on out. That I would stop jumping systems. I’ve been tempted. The GH4 and some of the Sony cameras and the new Fujifilm X-T2 are all pretty nice looking. The fact that Canon has been so slow to add 4K video recording to the DLSRs is also disheartening. Other than that I can’t complain.
In the spring of 2015 I helped my employer pick out a new video camera for a big shoot we had coming. It had been since 2008 they bought a new video camera (Canon XHA1). I decided on the Canon C100mkII. Although only a 1080p HD camera, that HD image is generated from a 4K sensor in it. The image is nice. Sharper than my 60D for sure but can use the same lenses and has most of the bells and whistles of a proper video camera. So I can only imagine that once Canon gets to 4K (UHD) in the rest of the DSLR line (1D C and 1D X mkII only have it now) that it will have a similar look tot he C100 but with a 4K image size that will be handy for cropping in post if needed.
So while the other cameras are temping, I know it’s eventually coming to Canon’s lower end DSLRs. It’s just a matter of when. On the whole though I’ve been happy with my 60D, it shoots great stills and the video quality is more cinematic looking that I got out the GH1 or GH2 even if it resolves less detail and wraps that in a 1080p file. I just like that Canon color science. Plus it has been dependable. Solid built camera.
I realized I’ve been using Canon cameras on and off since the late 1990s starting with my first brand new SLR, the Canon Elan II. The camera I should have just kept and bought more lenses for and learned how to use better. But also the Canon XL1 video camera I owned back in the early 2000s and a friend’s XL1 we used to shoot my first feature film. I also look back fondly on some of my first DSLR photos of my son which were on the Canon 300D Digital Rebel I used to own. I’ve had pretty solid results with Canon cameras over the years. But I’ve tended to reject them after a time because I’ve suffered from the grass is greener on the other side of the fence syndrome.Â But it’s only greener for a while. Eventually you realize that what you had was pretty good. Maybe even the best for you. So I made a logical choice instead. I looked around at the entire ecosystem and I realized Canon was my best bet for me long term. If their DSLRs don’t satisfy my video needs their Cinema cameras can. Both of which can share the same lenses. Among their DSLRs I can shoot APS-C or jump to full frame. Panasonic doesn’t offer the same options. The Gh4 is the highest you can go with their micro four thirds lenses. Then you have to buy into PL mount glass for their more expensive video cameras. Nikon doesn’t have a pro video line of cameras to jump up to. Neither does Fujifilm. The only other company that comes close to what Canon offers is Sony. Sony is a little more cutting edge with 4K video, but I don’t like their ergonomics or their lens selection as much. So I decided to stick with Canon for the foreseeable future as I have been for the last few years. Hopefully we’ll get some good quality 4K APS-C DSLRs in the next year or so and the same with the full frame 5D mkIV. Until then I focus on new lenses for the camera I have and keep shooting. The truth is, I’ve overanalyzed this stuff for too many years. The priority should never be the gear, just the images. As fun as the gear can be. All of these cameras shoot perfectly acceptable images these days. So why keep jumping around?
Edit (Update) August 15th, 2020 – Panasonic GH4 & Canon C100s
Sadly, just twenty days after my last Edit (Update) I pretty much lost my Canon 60D to a rain storm. The date was August 27th, 2016 and I was at the Renaissance Festival with my girlfriend and son. I had my 60D around my neck and we were in the back of the festival, probably a good mile and a half to two mile walk from our parking spot. It just started pouring rain. Surprisingly there was barely any shelter available we could get under and the rain just didn’t seem to be letting up so we decided to just walk to the car.
I covered the camera which was around my neck with my t-shirt, but that didn’t help. It was just a thin cotton t-shirt that was itself soaked. For all I know it made it worse. But I don’t know.
I had hoped the camera would be fine, but I later discovered it wasn’t working properly. After wiping it down and once safely back home and letting it dry for a while longer I realized it was sometimes turning on and sometimes not. It also wasn’t communicating with the lens at all.
Surprisingly the camera continued to work up until the end of July the next year but only if I used my old mechanical Nikon lenses on it. I couldn’t use any Canon or other autofocus electronic lenses on it at all. Eventually the camera died entirely and would no longer turn on. Not sure why. I’m assuming some kind of corrosion on the circuit board inside the camera from the moisture. It’s just shocking that it mostly worked for nearly an entire year later. A good eleven months.
I think I still have it. Buried in a box somewhere. Although we did move last year so it’s possibly I tossed it as well. I hope not. I would like to try it again. Maybe after sitting in a box for over a year it might magically turn on again. I doubt it. But at the very least it would make a nice nostalgic shelf piece for my bookshelf. I had shot with that camera for four years total before it completely died. The longest interchangeable lens digital camera I owned at that point.Â Which has just recently been superseded by my GH4.
After my Canon 60D initially stopped working with the native lenses in August of 2016, I was heartbroken and wasn’t sure what to do. Although it ould continued to go on working for another yer with Nikon lenses I could never trust it again. Plus at the time I had no idea it would keep working with my Nikon lenses for another year. It was nearing the fall of 2016 and I needed a new dependable camera. From now on though, I was going to buy weather sealed cameras. Although Canon had the new 80D on the market released in February of 2016, it was a a little pricey for what I wanted to spend at the time. It was also still only an HD shooting camera. And while I had been fine with that on my 60D. That’s only because I had my 60D since 2013 when there really were only HD cameras on the market still. At least in the affordable range. So spending that much money on a brand new 80D that only shot HD didn’t make a lot of sense to me, although overall I really liked the camera. Likewise the slightly older Canon 70D which fell in the range between my 60D and the new 80D wasn’t much cheaper either new or used and also only offer the same old HD shooting resolution. Which I was generally fine with, but if I was going to buy a new camera, I felt like maybe it was time to upgrade to 4K.
Enter the Panasonic GH4.
An older but well liked camera among the video crowd, the newer GH5 had already been announced and would be release in a matter of months (March of 2017) but at twice the price of what I found a refurbished GH4 for on Amazon (roughly $1000). So I picked up with GH4. It was cheaper than the Canon 80D, weather sealed and shot 4K. I also picked up a used 14-140 zoom lens (the original version) for two or three hundred dollars and off I went.
This was a tough choice. I had told myself I would stick to Canon from then on out in the last Edit (Update) I made here. And I believed I would. But life forced me to make a different choice and the GH4 was the best bang for my buck at the time I had to make that choice.
While I had owned the GH1 and GH2 previously, and had my likes and dislikes with both, the GH4 is a different beast. A bigger weather sealed body for starters. Still smaller than my 60D, but not by much. While I would prefer the slightly bigger body of the 60D, I actually really like the GH4 in my hand. No complaints. The 4K video quality has also been very solid and even the still image quality is very acceptable. On July 2nd this year I bought the Newer flash I off Amazon. It was on sale and I got it for $25.43 all said and done (with tax). I couldn’t pass it up, The last and only real time I owned a flash was for my Nikon D7000 and only for twelve days or less.
It’s kind of strange that I’m just now getting to an update on this post. I’m nearly at the four year mark with my GH4. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but I looked at all my files on my hard drives and wrote down a list from the first image I shot to the last I used the camera. Which may not be entirely accurate, but is still a very good indicator of of how long I owned each camera.
DSLR (& ILC mirrorless) Camera Ownership:
Canon 300D (Digital Rebel) (used) – August 9th, 2005 to March 13th, 2008 (2 years & 8.5 months)
Nikon D40 (used) – January 31st 2009 to August 1st, 2009 (6 months)
Nikon D7000 (new) – January 13th, 2011 to January 25th, 2011 (12 Days)
Canon 60D (new) – March 11th, 2011 to March 20th, 2011 (9 Days roughly)
Panasonic GH1 (new) – February 5th 2011 to October 7th, 2012 (1 Year & 9 months or 21 months)
Canon 60D (again) (used) – July 14th 2013 to July 29th, 2017 (4 years) (Water damaged on August 27th, 2016)
GH4 (refurbished) – September 1st, 2016 – Current (3 years & 11 months as of this writing)
Canon C100s (two of them) (used) – March 15th, 2019 – Current (1 year & 5 months exactly as of this writing)
I bought two Canon C100 video cameras one year and five months ago. I got a good deal on both of them used. Then went and bought a couple of used lenses for them. A Canon 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 Nano USM lens and a Canon 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS II. Plus I still had my old 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 and 50mm f1.8 Canon lenses that I had used with my 60D. They still worked fine. So four lenses altogether for the two Canon C100s.
I’m not sure these two cameras should even be on this list considering they are dedicated video cameras. They don’t shoot still photos. This is not a history of all the video cameras I’ve ever owned. Which probably should be a blog post in and of itself and I’m not sure why I don’t have one of those. I should make one. I should probably also make a list of all the smart phone cameras I’ve owned as well. But I think the reason the C100s are getting a mention here is two fold. The first is that it was a big purchase for me, despite getting a good deal. Secondly and more importantly, this is the first time in a decade that my video and photography cameras have diverged again into two different camera types. Not to mention the first time I’ve personally bought a new dedicated video camera since the early 2000s when I bought my JVC DV camera. Though I did inherit my dad’s Panasonic DV camera (which I still own and it still works – I use it mostly for importing DV tapes now) and I had used many of my previous employers DV and HDV cameras. Not to mention their C100 mkII later on before buying my own set of C100 mkI cameras. But this does mark a turning point. By owning these two video cameras for video work, I don’t need to focus so much on my photo camera doubling as a good video camera.
In a way this frees me up. I could in theory go and buy an older full frame still photo camera and just use that for photos. Maybe something like a Canon 5D mkII or mkIII. Except that the only full frame Canon lens I own is my 50mm F1.8 and it’s not the greatest of lenses. Although I could just adapt my older Nikon F mount lenses (28mm, 50mm, 35-70mm) to it. Lenses I use on my old Nikon FE film camera. Although only the 35-70 is an autofocus lens and it’s the older autofocus type, which means it only works with the cameras that support the older AF lenses. But the Canon wouldn’t autofocus any of them, so that doesn’t matter. They would only work all manual and mechanical, the way they do on my Nikon FE. Then I could still use my Canon EOS 50mm lens as well if I wanted autofocus or pick up additional Canon AF lenses.
Alternatively I could just leave my Canon gear for video only and pick up an older full frame Nikon digital camera. Use it with my older F mount lenses and pick up any newer F mount autofocus lenses if I wanted them.
Part of me likes this idea because I did like both of the Nikon DSLRs I owned. Brief as they were. I feel like I got some of my best images out of those two cameras. If I could find an older used full frame Nikon DSLR that shot at least 16 megapixels (to match what my current GH4 can do) for around $500, that would be an idea. But then I’m dealing with two different lens systems. Canon for my videos and Nikon for my photos. Ideally I want to unify my lens system. But that’s never really going to happen. I don’t plan on selling my old Nikon lenses. At this point, along with my Nikon FE, they are grandfathered into my retirement goals. As in, a camera and lenses I plan to own until I’m gone. If for no other reason than the fact that I’ve owned that Nikon FE and 50mm lens for twenty years now or close to it. Since MY early twenties. So there is some nostalgia there.
They are in fact the most compatible lenses I own. I can use them on my old FE film camera and adapt them to my Canon C100s (1.5x crop) and my GH4 (2x crop). So you would think my safest and smartest bet would be to just buy more of those. And I do enjoy them. But at some point I also enjoy autofocus for still photography. Plus I basically never shoot film anymore, so making sure my new lenses work with my old FE is not a priority at all. Which is why I’m fine not buying any more mechanical F mount lenses. Then again, you never know what kind of ideas I may have in the future.
An alternative idea to the full frame Canon might be to pick up a Canon 80D or even a newer 90D. These are APS-C cameras so they would work with all of my Canon lenses, plus my Nikon mechanical lenses via adapter. I really liked my Canon 60D, so getting a newer more weather sealed version might be great. The downside is that I would like to move to full frame for still photography. APS-C was always a compromise do to both price and performance features for video. For example the full articulating screen the Canon 60D has versus the fixed screens of the 5D and 1D full frame series of Canon cameras.
The most ideal solution would probably be something like a Canon EOS R system camera. Maybe an EOS R or cheaper EOS RP. The R5 and R6 are a bit out of my price range at the moment for a dedicated stills camera. Even the EOS R and RP are as well. At least at the moment. It’s hard for me to justify spending $1000 or more on a camera I will use mostly just for still photography. Although I could always tell myself it’s a backup video camera for use on a smaller gimbal. I don’t own a gimbal so I would need to buy one for those as well lol. Which could have some justification. But I would still barely use it for that kind of thing. I would also need to make sure its good at video as well. Which the RP isn’t as great as compared to the EOS R.Â Â Though I do like the bigger size of the R compared to the RP even for stills. So that would be a good justification for getting that one over the RP.
These would be a great solution because they are full frame, with fully articulating screens, but could also work with my Canon APS-C EF-S lenses that I use on my C100s. Granted only for shooting in a cropped mode, but still not bad, especially for video. The camera would also work full frame with my old Nikon lenses. Although I would need an adapter for those as well. So an all-around good solution if money wasn’t an issue.
The easiest solution is just to keep my GH4 and use that. Which is what I currently do. The reality is I probably will keep my GH4 no matter what. Assuming it keeps working and nothing happens to it. It still works great right now. In fact I just shot this photo with it tonight.
It’s the easy solution because I already own it. So there is no money out of pocket. It’s also at a point right now where I just don’t feel like it would be worth selling it. What I would get for it wouldn’t be worth it’s value to me keeping it. It’s a solid 4K video camera in good light conditions. It’s also a solid 16 megapixel photo camera. Plenty of resolution, even for larger prints. My only two complaints is that it’s a micro four thirds camera when I really want to be shooting full frame for stills. And also that it uses yet another entirely different lens mount. Which means any lenses I buy for it are not compatible with my Canon C100s. Granted I only own the 14-140mm for it right now. But it’s hard to justify buying any other lenses for it. I bought and used it mostly as a video camera over the last four years. It’s still my only 4K shooting video camera, aside from my iPhone. But now that I have the C10s, it’s mostly been relegated to a photo camera. Outside of a few vlogs I shot with it. But even then I switched to my C100s and now my iPhone to save file space for those. So the GH4 is really just a photo camera now and a 4K if I absolutely need it(aka if a client requests it) camera. And well, it’s not the photo camera I really want, despite it doing a good enough job at it. Like I said, I want full frame. That’s where I want to be.
So I have some choices to make going forward.
Right now. The goal is still (just as it was four years ago with my last update) to unify under the Canon system. Keeping my Nikon and likely my GH4 as well, but off to the side as one-off cameras with their own lens(es). Probably at some point buying a full frame Canon camera. Be it a used 5D camera of some type or the EOS R or RP with adapter.
Of course things have gotten more complicated with the introduction of the EOS R system. The new mirrorless RF lenses are not at all compatible with my C100s. Which means that my best bet is to continue to invest in EF and EF-S lenses going forward and just use an adapter should I end up with an R system camera. Which is best anyway since they have a variable ND filter adapter which is nice.
I don’t know exactly what I will do. But for right now my setup is a couple C100s for video work and my my GH4 for photography. Honorable mention to my iPhone 8+ which I use all the time. To be fair, it is my go-to camera and video camera now for home video and vlogging use. It’s quick and easy and the file sizes are manageable. it’s also super potable and weather sealed. In fact the two pictures of my GH4 above along with the picture of the hot pink sticky note were shot on my iPhone 8+.
Last year when my son and I went to our local renaissance festival, that’s all I took with me was my iPhone 8+. I had taken my GH4 the three years prior (2016, 2017 & 2018) but for the 2019 season I wanted to travel light and just didn’t see the need to lug around my big (by comparison) GH4. I took great photos and video with my iPhone 8+. If I were going this year (which I’m not) I may have done the same. Which further complicates the whole spending money on a photo camera thing when I don’t do photography professionally, just video. So it’s really just a hobby for me at this point. And I’m not even taking the GH4 I already own to a lot of personal trips and events, so why spend more money on a full frame camera and lenses? That’s a very good question and probably the answer to my long winded rambling here.
I guess we’ll see what the future brings.
(Side note: I have been using my Apple brand saddle brown leather case on my iPhone 8+ but just bought a clear plastic case for it from the dollar store today. It lets me see the gold color of it better. Though I still prefer the leather case and will probably switch back.)
Edit (Update) February 21st, 2021 â€“ Panasonic GH4 for Vlogging
Just. a quick update to say that since the last update August 2020, I figured out that my best vlogging solution wasn’t my iPhone 8+ or C100s after all. Instead I switched my GH4 to AVCHD 1080p 25Mbps mode (which saves a ton of space over shooting 4K 100Mbps) and have been using that in combination with a cheap $12 lav mic I bought off Amazon. The mic plugs directly into the mic port on the GH4 and it has a sixteen foot long cable, making it easy to use for getting audio and picture all in one go. No need to do synch sound later. My mic can also plug into my iPhone 8+ for vlogging that way as well, but my lightning connecting on my iPhone has been loose and acting up for months, so it often doesn’t make a connection. It’s just easier to use the GH4, which delivers better video quality anyway, even at 1080p.
My typical setup is to mount the GH4 on the little tripod I had bought for the iPhone and put it on the dashboard of my car. I use my Nikon 28mm f2.8 series E lens. Usually at f2.8, but lately I’ve been stopping it down to f4 or f5.6 for the better sharpness. Sometimes higher if it’s really sunny. I like the quality of that lens. It’s sharp but has a quality to it that looks better than my 14-140mm Lumix lens. This setup has been working well for me for months now. Although I occasionally use the iPhone 8+ or one of my C100s for a vlog entry. Just for fun. If nothing more than just to remind myself how much easier and better the GH4 is for this task. So I guess in this way, the GH4 has been given new life in the last six months outside of the every once in a while photography usage. But there is a big part of me that still wants to get a Canon for photo and vlogging use. Despite the fact that I’m going to hold onto the GH4 as long as I can. Even though I don’t plan to ever buy any other lenses for it or other micro four thirds cameras to go along with it. I have it as it is, it works, has worked for four and half years now and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to ever get rid of it. Especially now that it’s been with me so long.
In December I picked up a couple HDMI to USB input adapters from Amazon for a client’s live streaming project. I gave one to the client after the project and kept one for myself. It gives me a way to monitor and record HDMI footage on my computer off my C100 or GH4 if I want. Haven’t used it much though. It’s not the best, but it wasn’t expensive and does a decent enough job for monitoring. I also picked up a couple twenty-five foot HDMI cables with it. But considering the effort it takes to set all of that up just to vlog with the C100, it is way easier to use the GH4 setup above. Also more private since I can use it in my car. There is no way my C100s would fit on my dashboard. lol
Side note: I’m considering adding all my previous video cameras to this list. It seems at this point it only makes sense. There has only been a handful of them since the 1980s, before my video and photo cameras merged and then diverged again with the C100s. Plus I already mentioned in the second paragraph of this post (back in 2012) the first Sony Video8mm camcorder that my parents bought back in the late 1980s. A camera I eventually took over and sort of inherited by default at some point in the 1990s.
Might as well throw in the couple of digital point and shoot cameras I own as well that I used for a number of years. At one point I had been using one of them for home videos as well. Maybe I’ll even throw the smartphones in here since I’ve already mentioned the iPhone 8+, my current phone. Plus I shoot the lion’s share of my photos and videos on those.Â So look for those updates at some point. Not sure if I’ll just tack them on the end as an update or weave them into this post chronologically.
Later that night…
For right now let me at least list the video cameras as best I can. For the first couple, I can’t remember their model numbers.
2. Canon Video8mm (Canon ES870 – 99.9% sure after looking at the focal range printed on the front compared to ES970 pictures) with stereo sound (bought open box from a Meijer in 1998 I think) unique because it recorded stereo sound despite NOT being a Hi8 camcorder, just regular Video8.
3. Sony TRV900 my first DV camera (bought new from B&H Photo in 1999 – or was it 2000) Bought for $2000.
4. Canon XL1 (bought used off ebay for $3000 and received it on June 5th, 2001. Sold it for the same price on December 11th, 2001 (shipped December 22nd, 2001))
5. Sony PD100 (like the TRV900 but more pro with DVCAM recording, an XLR adapter and wide angle lens – bought used off ebay for $1300 + $50 for shipping on December 14th, 2001 (although I didn’t get it until the 31st) and sold on May 11th, 2002 for $1400)
6. JVC GR-DVM75 (bought open box from Best Buy) I still have it but it hasn’t worked for a while. I took it apart last year to get a tape out and broke it and the tape in the process. Now it’s a shelf ornament.
7. Panasonic PV-GS180 – My dad bought this new for work and then traded it to me for my JVC, which he then never bothered to use and I somehow ended up with both. This camera still works and it’s what I use to import my DV tapes into my computer. It’s been a solid little 3CCD camcorder. In fact now that the JVC is broken, this is my oldest working video camera.