Cameras capture memories to last a lifetime

Sony’s RX100 pocket camera takes great pics with plenty of megapixels.


In the age of digital everything, progress doesn’t stand still and that applies to pocket cameras. For the past seven years I’ve been using a Sony RX100. In camera years, that’s about a century.

The camera works flawlessly and at 20 megapixels it’s all I need for resolution. What came before the Sony is a series of cameras dating back to December 1980. Here’s the history.

Previous to the Sony, I used a Canon PowerShot SD850 starting in 2007, which at the time offered everything I could ask for. At 8 megapixels it could take photos large enough for my needs. However, it suffered in low light.

Canon SD850is, my go-to camera before the Sony RX100


It was small, durable, had a viewfinder, panorama mode, and took great photos. It was a sophisticated camera with a lot of adjustability in its day. 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 had excellent 640×480 video. However, don’t forget that wind noise will ruin the audio, and there’s plenty of wind while riding.

Days of Film
I’m going to turn back the time machine to the days of film. Remember film? I started taking photos on bike rides in 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.

Olympus XA2 was a fantastic value and one of the best film pocket cameras ever made.


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. 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 transparencies. 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 was worth the price. I got comparable results with the Olympus. Photos of my Europe trips were taken with the Contax T.

Contax T promised the world in film but didn’t deliver. A fine camera, but prone to breaking.


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.

Enter the digital world
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.

Fuji Finepix was my first digital camera. A great workhorse that delivered fine pics.


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.

Pentax OptioS60 was good, but not great as a digital camera.


Still, it was a fine camera and I used its special panorama setting often. Software that came with the camera could stitch together three photos.

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.

Today’s best cameras
I recommend two cameras: the Sony RX100 Model III and the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II. I think Sony overreached with its latest RX100 Model VI. It sacrifices low-light performance for zoom. Canon’s G9 Mark II is easily the best value. Both cameras are the smallest on the market.

Finally, a word on smartphone cameras. They’re great, but I sometimes like to preserve an image in RAW format. RAW has huge advantages over jpeg for preserving image quality. Some phones will capture in RAW, so check it out if you don’t want a dedicated camera.

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