Memories to Last a Lifetime – November 12, 2008

canon_sd850is1I’ve been taking photos on bike rides since December 1980 when I bought an Olympus XA pocket camera. By no means was it the first pocket camera, but it was one of the first mass-produced, affordable, lightweight pocket cameras on the market. It took great photos

No discussion of pocket cameras would be complete without mentioning the Rollei 35. Introduced in 1966, the German-made (later Singapore) camera was revolutionary in its day for its size. It took superb photos, however it was dogged by a light meter needle that broke. Later versions went to LED light meters, but they had their own problems.

I use a long neck strap and put the camera in my jersey pocket, protected in a sandwich bag to keep out the sweat. These pocket cameras are so easy to handle I can take photos while riding no-hands.

In the days before digital, I shot mostly Kodak 64 color slides. We had a Kodak lab in Palo Alto that could give a quick turn-around at a good price. I’ve scanned many of my slides using a Konica Minolta Dimage Scanner, no longer made.

Contax T disappoints

In 1985 I decided to upgrade, so I spent a whopping $400 on a ContaxT. It was supposed to be the best pocket camera in the universe. By any measure, it was a finely crafted pocket camera, but I can’t say it took great photos. I got consistently better results with the Olympus.

What was worse, my dream camera broke, not once but twice. I returned it and paid $135 each time for a repair, neither which lasted long. I would get back clear slides. The shutter must have been sticking.

My next camera was a Pentax IQ Zoom. It was bulky but it had a powerful zoom. I didn’t use this camera long before I switched to digital. I also shot a lot of print film with it, for some odd reason.

Around 2004 I switched to digital, starting with a Fuji Finepix a303. At 3 megapixels it was fine for the Web. The camera was easy to use and took great photos. It’s still in service.

Longing for something with more pixels, I purchased a Pentax Optio S60. Pentax has long been my favorite camera maker, but I discovered a drawback. I had to compose the photo without a viewfinder. The LCD screen was large, but in bright light I couldn’t see what I was shooting. Still, it is a fine camera and I use its special panorama setting often. Software that comes with the camera lets you stitch together three photos.

A Digital Elph

That brings me to my current camera, purchased in 2007, the Canon PowerShot SD850IS Digital Elph. Finally, I had found the perfect camera. It’s small, durable, has an optical viewfinder, panorama (4 photos!) and takes great photos. It’s a sophisticated camera with a lot of adjustability. That’s good and bad. When you’re out on a bike ride you typically don’t want to fuss with settings. I shoot in manual mode on occasion, but I find myself using the Auto setting most of the time.

This camera also has excellent 640×480 video. However, don’t forget that wind noise will ruin the audio and there’s plenty of wind while riding.

It’s amazing to see all the excellent pocket cameras on the market. No matter which brand you choose, you can’t go wrong.  These magic boxes preserve memories and that’s about as close as we’ll ever get to being young and strong again.

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