There’s a camera advert in the photo magazines for the new Nikon D600 DSLR (Before you start, this is not another of my Anti DSLR rants). The slogan was another of Nikon’s ‘I am ‘ slogans, in this case ‘I am a game changer.’ It started me thinking, which cameras were game changers for me. I’ll define what I mean by the term ‘Game changer.’ I take it to mean a camera that changed the way I take pictures, whether it’s a physical function or mode I use, or how I approach picture taking. You too might have a camera that changed your photography. In order to illustrate this I’ll have to go back to my first ever camera (Kodak 126 Instamatic) and go through the cameras I’ve owned

Way back in the 70’s I bought my first camera from my parents, the aforementioned Kodak. How I ended up having to buy it is a long story. My folks bought it for a wedding or some function, and as I was about 14 and I thought I knew it all. I put the flashbulb on the camera (is there anyone old enough to remember those square flashbulbs?), opened the back and flicked the shutter lever back to lock it. As there was no film in the camera it stood to reason the camera wouldn’t flash when I pressed the shutter and it would just make a clicking noise. I squeezed on the shutter button and ‘Ferr-la-shhh!’ Yes, you’ve guessed it, the bulb flashed. I can still remember the sound now, 34 or so years later. If you’ve seen those movies where they have the old cameras with the lamp in the half moon mirror dishes, it’s similar, and the used bulbs look like Perspex that’s had a lighter held to the inside of it. I thought the flashes were electric, but it turns out they were mechanical (it would be another 3 or 4 years before Konica brought out a camera with a built in flash). Anyway, not only was I made to buy a new flash bulb, I ended up buying the camera after the wedding.

I then bought a Prinzmatic 110 camera with built in flash from Dixons in the early 80’s as I really wanted one. I still have some of the pictures from it in a box. I can’t remember if it had a telephoto switch or not.  The flash eventually stopped working, but my abiding memory of the whining noise, like a high pitched whine, when the flash charged up. Both cameras were true point ‘n’ shoot models, and I lost a lot of heads in my learning curve. My big bugbear with film was developing. Several films (at £1.00 each) where never developed. I couldn’t be bothered going on a bus to town, paying £3.00 for developing and coming back a week later to find that only half of your 24 shots were in the envelope. And some of them hadn’t been cut properly by the machine, so you had a print with a bit of the next shot at the edge. We’ve all been there.

The switch to digital came in 2000 with a £20.00 0.3Mp polaroid fun 320 (320 x 240 pixels, no flash, screen or memory card slot, that took around 30 or so images in its internal memory. It was an ugly thing with a thin grey plastic wedge shape, powered by a 9 volt battery that fitted in so tightly you needed a knife to get it out and a flimsy battery cover. Showaddywaddy had more street cred than this monstrosity. It was pocketable, but amounted to little more than a toy. You couldn’t change a single setting; the 1cm LCD screen only had a 2 digit display. It saved files as Bitmap’s. All you could do was point and shoot. It didn’t change the way I took photos.

The second camera was a KB Gear Jam Cam and was very solidly built with a chunky rubber grip and a flash. It had two resolution settings with 640 x 480 pixels being its best setting. There was an MMC card slot (forerunner of SD cards, and the same size). Again it was purely point ‘n’ shoot with a 2cm information only LCD. It produced decent images. My next 7 cameras were all basic point ‘n’ shoot models with conventional screens: Konica KD100 (1.3Mp), Jenoptik JD2.1 LCD (2.1Mp), Canon Digital Ixus (2.1Mp 3X zoom), Fujifilm A300 (3.1Mp 3X zoom), HP Photosmart 420 (5.1Mp 3X zoom & 6x4 inch printer) Pentax Optio S70 (7Mp 3X Zoom manual focus). and a Kodak Easyshare C143 (12.1Mp 3X zoom).

My first manual camera (camera with manual settings) was a GE X5 (14.1Mp 15X zoom), followed by a Fujifilm HS30 EXR (16Mp 30X zoom), a Pentax K-M (10Mp DSLR) and a Canon Eos 600D (18Mp DSLR). That’s 13 cameras in 13 years. It averages a camera a year, though I had my Pentax S70 for 3 years, and between May 2011 and October 2012 bought 5 cameras (not counting the two Kodiaks I bought to re-sell that took me 18 months to get rid of).  

So to get back to my original question, which of my cameras would I describe as being ‘Game Changers?’ Well, as I stated earlier, they were the ones that ‘Changed the way I took Photos.’ Out of the 13 cameras I’ve owned, there were only three that changed the way I took photos. From my early days of photography it was simply a matter of looking through the viewfinder, snapping and often chopping off Auntie Theresa’s or Uncle Sammy’s head due to the Parallax Effect (see my Digital Dictionary). My first three DigiCams didn’t really change this for me; it was still ‘Look through the viewfinder and snap.’ Yes my Konica had a proper LCD screen you viewed images on, but you had to delve deep into the menu to turn it on, and the camera ate batteries when it was on. It didn’t even have a 4 way D-pad so its operation was immensely complex. How do you scroll up and down a menu or scroll left and right to change individual menu items without a D-pad?

The first camera to change the way I took photos was the Jenoptik. It had a mode dial on the top and a Macro switch on the side. It was still  a basic point ‘n’ shoot, but once I’d figured out the macro modes limitations I was able to take some great close ups. It started me taking close up photos, and its LCD screen gave me the ability to review shot’s and delete blurry macros. By contrast, the Konica’s menu setup meant enabling macro mode was such a pain it wasn’t worth doing. I honestly can’t remember taking a single sharp macro image with it. Every other camera I’ve since owned has had an easy to use macro mode, and I’ve used it for many great shots in the last 11 years (I bought the Jen in 2002 and loved it), something I’d never been able to achieve before.

The rest of my point ‘n’ shoots were optical zoom models, and although I utilised the ability to zoom in and out, there wasn’t any real change in the way I took my photo’s, not that you could attribute to the camera anyway. That is, until the last of my point ‘n’ shoots, the Kodak C143. Whilst the Optio before it had a manual focus option, there wasn’t really a need to use it. However, the Kodak was the first of my cameras to feature a Panorama Mode, and this was something I used a lot. I first used the camera on a trip to France in 2011, and upon discovering it, set about using it. I was now able to capture wide ranging images; equivalent to two or three shot’s stitched together. It altered my perception. I began looking to see if I could take panoramas whenever I could. I could have started thinking like this with previous cameras and stitching 3 photos together in an editor and cropping off the bits at the top and bottom that didn’t match, but I tried it once or twice and gave up at the complexity of it. Having a camera that could do it all for you effortlessly was a great boon. I still have that little Kodak today.  Ironically, I’d only bought it because it was cheap.

It was my next camera, the GE X5 bridge camera that was the real game changer for me. In fact, you wouldn’t be reading this if I hadn’t bought the X5. It was a bargain at only £45.00 (bartered down from £49.00) from my local Cash Convertors. It introduced me to Aperture, Shutter and Manual modes, and the 15X zoom really composition suddenly became important to me. It also made me think about which mode to use. It really got me thinking about my photography, I bought a tripod for it, which I’d never done before, and I used it. It re-ignited my photography bug. Previously, I’d got into the habit of only taking photographs on holiday or on a day trip.

Now I was snapping all kinds of things, using Bokeh to great effect, shooting fireworks handheld (fireworks mode doesn’t work handheld, and if you’re in a crowd at a display you can’t set a tripod up otherwise it’ll get knocked over) with manual mode, and taking even more panoramas. For the first time I was actually getting down on the ground and taking macro’s of flowers, much to Mrs Glovers annoyance as she had to wash the mud from my trouser knees. And being on a steep learning curve inspired me to set up this site, as there were virtually no other web sites for beginners.

Whilst the HS20 EXR had plenty of extra features like in camera blending of images to improve image quality, it hasn’t really changed the way I think about photography. Neither has my Canon DSLR. The way I approach my photography with these two cameras was learned on the X5. Perhaps, the Fuji introduced me to filters, but the real game changing was started with the X5. And whilst I’m getting used to changing lenses on the Canon, it’s lack of panorama mode has stopped me taking as many panoramic shot’s.

All this brings me round to you, dear reader. What have been your game changing cameras and why? It could be a film camera or a digital one. It could be because of one specific function or mode on the camera you continually use, or it could be a camera with many new features that you bought. Leave a comment on the form below. I’d love to hear your comments. I look forward to reading them.


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