Monday, October 22, 2012

Loves Old & New

As a photographer, I remember my first true love; my good friend Godfrey took me to Adorama Camera where I deliberated, haggled, and eventually purchased a used Canon A-1.  There were others to be sure, like many boys my age I was no stranger to a Pentax K1000, though even she wasn't my first--those cherished, awkward, summer memories when an eleven year old was seduced by a much older Argus C3. Through the years I also have had brief flings with a Minolta (I swear I was only interested in her auto-focus!) and an exotic Зени́т ЕТ, but my first true love was that A-1.
Three of my favorite old school SLR cameras:
Canon A-1, Зени́т ЕТ, and Argus C3

To my mind, a good, fun camera allows one to focus on the important elements of a photograph with the option of leaving other choices up to the camera's programming or full manual control. This was the main thing the Canon A-1 offered over her competitors.  Debuting in 1978, the A-1 was a middle sister to Canon's AE-1 (1976) and AE-1 Program (1981). All three cameras allow full manual control though only the AE-1 Program is a true point-and-shoot camera; the A-1, however, offered a brace of features I simply could not resist: aperture priority and shutter priority. Aperture control is essential for managing depth of field whereas shutter control regulates exposure time. Controlling one or the other is a nice convenience in many common photographic scenarios.

Alas, such things are not meant to endure, even true love couldn't stand against the Digital Revolution. By the millennial change, I was busily commuting to NYC dot-coms and my photographical  pursuits had waned, only to be fiercely rekindled when I purchased a Canon EOS D30. Ah, such freedom! No longer was I chained to rolls of exposures evenly divisible by twelve. I began hoarding compact-flash cards and started shooting everywhere and anything. My sometime hobby began to resemble an obsession. My skill increased dramatically, and before long I was being asked to shoot specific persons, places, and things by those who had come to know me as a serious shutterbug. I would eventually do some professional work, including product shots for Condé Nast's Teen Vogue, but I will always consider the best of my D30 years as those I spent "guerrilla shooting" in the parties and streets of NYC.

I knew a 3.5 megapixels affair could never last, early digital SLR models all suffered sundry issues, and even the economic downturn only delayed the inevitable; in 2006 I decided I had enough and purchased an 8.0-megapixel Rebel XT. Whereas earlier DSLR models often seemed the red-headed stepchildren of the prosumer market, Canon's Digital Rebel series seemed to welcome them back to the fold. Sadly, theses digital cameras only partly achieved the existential sense of fun and wonder I recall of my A-1, perhaps a pointed illustration of H. L. Mencken's quip: "A man always remembers his first love with special tenderness, but after that he begins to bunch them."

Earlier this year I took another look at Canon's Rebel line; I noticed that significant improvements had been made over my aging XT, though in recent models development seemed to be oddly focused on video features. I read through specifications and reviews, eventually deciding the best balance of photographical improvement and price seemed the Rebel T2i, a 17.9-megapixel DSLR with nine point autofocus, and a spacious three inch LCD. I quietly drooled over this thing whilst my lovely wife conspired with family members to ensure I had it for my forty-second birthday.

Now that I've had a chance to spend some quality time, up close and personal with my new Rebel, I am happy to report that this camera is more fun than I expected, I daresay it compares more than favorably with my beloved A-1. I'm still learning all the nifty things it can do that my XT can't, but it's already clear that the Rebel T2i is a very fun camera.

When I told my sister Lynn that I had been researching cameras and determined my best available choice, she noted that my niece had recently purchased her first DSLR; to my proud astonishment, Elisa also chose a Rebel T2i. I hope she will remember it as fondly as I recall my true loves.