My father bought me an Instamatic camera for Christmas. I was either six or seven years old. That was the first camera that I ever used. He chose this type because it used film cartridge which was easy to load. Although I cannot recall which model it was, I could mount a flash cube (magicube) on my Instamatic camera.
I was only supplied with black and white films and allowed to use it on certain occasions like a school trip or a birthday party. Colour films as well as development and printing were still expensive in those days. Still butterflies were in my stomach every time I rushed to pick-up my prints at the camera shop.
Kodak Retina IIIC was my next camera. I was already a teenager by then, and it was something that I swiped from my father. He was not using it anyway. We were living in New York then. I smuggled this folding camera to the theatre when I went to see the Broadway musical “Beatlemania” with my friends. I also walked around my neighbourhood with my Retina and took many pictures before I came back to Japan. 30 years later when I revisited the neighbourhood, I found myself taking pictures at positions that I stood three decades ago on a winter’s afternoon.
I used this Retina in my high-school days but it was obvious in anyone’s eyes that I was using an outdated second-hand camera. However, I had no means to purchase and replace it with a new product. During my university days, I rarely used a camera.
When I started working at the national office of a Japanese union, a colleague approached me and asked me if I was interested in photography. He was a member of the union’s photo-journalists club. He said “last year, we organised a nude photography session”. As a single man in my twenties, it sounded like an opportunity that I should not miss. I joined the club and he took me to the Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku to buy my first SLR devise with my bonus. It was Canon T50. Hard to believe that the lens was still manual.
Six months later, I asked him when would the next nude session be. He replied brusquely. “No more. It was too expensive”. Still, he was someone who taught me the very basics of photography. He died last year after long illness but I remember well his words of advice when I take pictures. One assignment of the club members was to take photos of the union’s annual congress. One year, we went to Hiroshima on an excursion. There were quite a few serious photographers in the club and we made a several publications in those days but there was no space for me. Nor did I expect that to happen.
When I arrived in London, I soon realised that photo development and printing were very expensive, compared to Japan. It really put me off. For several years, I did not take any picture. At the same time, we had a digital Sony Mavica in our office. A floppy disk was used to record the pictures! I used it to at our 1998 congress in Delhi. I also took it to Esquipulas for a border recruitment project.
In the summer of 2001, I bought my first compact digital camera. It was a Fuji brand. I was back into photography again. Digital technology progressed rapidly and soon I bought my second camera as new functions looked really attractive. It was a Casio Exilim. This black EX-Z40 traveled with me all over the world and took hundreds of memorable pictures. It really lived out its life.
My first digital SLR camera was Nikon D50 that I bought in the autumn of 2005. I have used several other compact cameras since then but the whole world of photography is completely different once you touch an SLR and I just can’t fancy spending money on compact cameras anymore. Rather, I have invested in lenses. Increasingly my Blackberry supplements my SLR photography.
It was the March demonstration in 2006 by the Stop the War Coalition that I took pictures from the front line for the first time. Life has never been the same ever again.
In August 2010, I bought my second Nikon SLR – D300s. I felt that I have used the functions of D50 to its limits and could justify an intermediate model. In the meantime, my lens collection is growing and includes an ultra-wide-angel lens (Tamron 10mm – 24mm F/3.5-4.5), all-in-one zoom lens (Nikon 18mm – 200mm F/3.5-5.6) and a wide aperture lens (Nikon 35mm F1.8). These are all DX lenses. Currently, I have my eye on Tamron 200mm – 500mm lens but without any financial back-up!