I’ve bought and sold a lot of photography gear over the years, between system switches and jumping into mirrorless. Some cameras I remember quite fondly and others not so much (it wasn’t me, Canon 7D Mark II, it was definitely you). What about cameras I loved though. Were they good, or am I looking through rose-tinted glasses?
Sometimes I wish I could shoot with certain cameras again. I had that wish granted when I found myself shooting with my old 2011-era Panasonic GF3 (the distant ancestor to a Panasonic GX85, from the now defunct GF line) on an impromptu trip to the Museum of Natural History with my son. It was his first time seeing dinosaur bones. I really loved that camera – it went on almost every trip with me and I carried it everywhere for years. Now, I just don’t get why.
I took that GF3 everywhere. My brother borrowed it to take photos at our wedding. It went to the Dominican Republic, Disney World, and countless trips into New York City as my daily driver. I’d even occasionally take it out for journalism assignments, covering everything from Hurricane Sandy to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter protests. Its svelte profile meant that it often wasn’t noticed by my subjects. It was even great to sneak into concerts since no one pegged it for having a larger sensor.
I think I figured out what changed my perspective: Having kids. While the dinosaur bones are relatively cooperative subjects, my son moves fast. I notched up the ISO to 1600. Then 3200. When I came home and looked at the files, I remembered that this was a first generation Micro 4/3 sensor, and anything above 800 was a crap shoot. That, and there was no way the autofocus system was going to keep up with a squirrely kid. This is not unlike my old Nikon D2H, actually, so I may have saved myself the trip down memory lane by just using this camera.
I realize now that my love affair with the camera was based on the experiences I had with it. It was never really a great camera, but it’s what I did with it that made it great. I retired it back to the cabinet after the museum. It only saw the light of day because my other cameras happened to be out of town.
Parting with Gear Is Such Sweet Sorrow
There are many ways to look at offloading a beloved camera. Sometimes, it’s a mix of joy and sadness. My wallet gets full, but my heart is empty. I’m usually comforted by the knowledge that the camera had served its purpose and is going to a new home. I got four years of use out of my Canon 5D Mark II and it helped launch my career, and while I was sad to see it go, I’m happy to know it’s shooting a friend’s child (and some journalism) today.
Other times, I’d sooner set the camera on fire than to ever use it again. I felt like this both times with the 7D series of cameras. Perhaps it was a case of being spoiled by full-frame image quality, but that still couldn’t explain the struggle of fighting with their autofocus systems. I still feel like I may have gotten bad copies.
And then there were the times the sale was met with immediate regret. My Nikon D700 was the one that got away. I sold it when I started working at a place where it probably wasn’t wise to shoot Nikon. It’s a 10-year-old camera that still holds up with the best of them today. I can say that definitively without nostalgia coloring my opinion; after changing jobs, I bought another one and still use it on almost every shoot. The D700 has been with me for countless weddings, journalism assignments, sports shoots, portraits and more. Aside from the 5D Mark II, it’s been the camera that’s been with me along for the ride.
Sometimes when I sell something, I’m just not sure. I owned the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G lens and traded it for a 200-500mm lens. I use the 200-500mm lens for sports photography all of the time, much more than the 58mm, but I can’t help the feeling I gave up some “magic” in my portraits. That, or it could be everyone just telling me it’s magic. Sometimes falling into a hole reading about a lens creates false memories, because as much as I used that portrait lens, I could never truly tell how I felt about it. Maybe I should have made more memories with it.
What's Your One That Got Away?
Photography is about experiences and, the camera is just there to capture it all. Do you have gear you really miss? What did you experience with that gear that makes you miss it so much? Tell us your story in the comments below.