Everyone has to start somewhere. In my case, at the age of 12, it was with a Kodak Instamatic 25, bought with vouchers off the back of a cereal packet. Even as a beginner, I knew that this camera was rubbish. It had a very stiff shutter button and it was impossible to obtain sharp pictures. So, a year later, I upgraded to an Instamatic 33, also bought with the help of cereal packets.
The Instamtics used 126 cartridge film, had a fixed focus plastic lens, fixed aperture and fixed shutter speed. I wasn’t going to learn a lot about exposure from them but I did learn to how to frame images and, because the background was always in focus, picked up a few tricks that I still use today.
This was the only camera I owned until after I graduated from university, when I bought a Yashica FR1 and a 35mm Hoya lens. Later I added a Tamron 80-210 zoom to the kit. The Yashica was built like a tank, and didn’t weigh much less. It even survived being dropped off the top of Hay Tor on Dartmoor by my then girlfriend, now my wife. The lens didn’t survive, though, and was replaced by the better quality Tamron SP 70-210.
That combination survived until the 90s, when I upgraded to an Olympus OM2 with an f1.8 Zuiko lens. The difference in weight was amazing. I kept the Tamron because it had an interchangeable mount. The Olympus died 10 years later, when I was on holiday in Portugal. I found a Canon EOS300 film camera with a pair of kit lenses in a supermarket and it became my workhorse until I felt that digital SLRs had overtaken it in the quality of pictures they produced (in the mid – late noughties).
My first digital camera was an EOS 400D. In 2014 I upgraded to an EOS 70D and in 2016 I bought my first L-series lens (a Canon 100-400 zoom), secondhand, retiring my Tamron 28-300 zoom that I’ve owned since 2007. The 70D produces great pictures in good light but struggles in the poor light often encountered by wildlife photographers, so in 2017 I upgraded to my first full frame sensor camera (an EOS 5D MkIV) and my photography lept up to another level.