A photographer's old cameras keep fond memories alive

Every photographer has one.

A corner of the desk. A bookcase shelf or two. Every photographer I know has a place where their old and/or broken cameras spend retirement.

I’m pretty sentimental. I have too many fond memories of these chunks of metal and plastic to ever throw them away.

I thought it would be interesting to take a trip down memory lane and show some of the cameras that I’ve used during my time as a hobbyist and as a professional.

Canon A-1



This is the camera that started it all. Actually, my first camera I ever used was a Kodak Brownie Starflash.

Anyway, the A-1 was the first camera I bought with my own money I earned from picking pumpkins and slinging fruit at a fruit stand in suburban Milwaukee. This was probably in 1982.

I poured over camera brochures for months. I created a chart comparing features of the latest models from Nikon, Minolta and Pentax.

What won me over to Canon was the shutter-priority mode. I deduced that since I was going to become a Sports Illustrated photographer, having control over my shutter speed was very important. The camera also came in black and everyone knows all the professionals used black cameras.

Leica IIIf



My dad handed me a box with this camera in it. The box also contained a collapsible 50 mm, a 90 mm and a 135mm. There were a few other odds and ends in the box as well. A whole Leica system. I was puzzled as to where it came from and why he was giving it to me. One of my dad’s co-workers wanted me to have the camera and everything else and get some use out of it. It turns out that my dad would talk about how talented of a photographer I had become to his co-worker. I was humbled and honored to have been given such a nice gift. It’s the first camera I was ever given.

I still love hearing the sound of the shutter at 1/25th of a second. Sounds like a ball bearing bouncing.

Canon T90



This manual focus camera was revolutionary for its time. It has much of the DNA of the current EOS cameras. Digital displays. Built-in motor drive at 4.5 frames per second (I swear I could get a full five fps when I was using the, then new, lithium AA batteries.) A main dial, where your right index finger can actuate it, was the primary input device of the camera. Shutter speeds and apertures were adjusted using the little wheel. The camera was Canon’s first with TTL flash metering. All in a compact, lightweight package. The camera was powered by just four AA batteries, not the 12 AAs that were required in my tank of an F-1 with a motor. I could have two over each shoulder and not require chiropractic adjustment by the end of the week or go broke feeding them batteries.

Nikon F3



As a devout Canon photographer, this is the only Nikon I have lusted after. Even though there is a resurgence of film photography, I was able to get a deal on this one. I looked in envy at photojournalists from the Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Sentinel who covered assignments with two or maybe three of these tough workhorses over their shoulders. If a camera can be considered a work of art, I think this one gets serious consideration. It was designed by Italian automobile designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, the same guy who designed the DeLorean.

Graflex Speed Graphic

I acquired it from the darkroom in high school. I just thought it looked cool. That was about 33 years ago. I wouldn’t put a sheet of film through it until the mid-2000s when I rediscovered the joys of 4x5.

My collection is full of “users.” Monetarily, they’re not worth much if anything at all. But, they’re fun to handle them, listen to the distinctive click of their shutters and reminisce.