Sunday, July 7, 2013

Camera, Part 2: Olympus Camedia

Nine years ago, my husband bought a digital camera: an Olympus Camedia C-740 Ultra Zoom. At first, I wanted to have nothing to do with it. I was still using my Pentax K1000, and I wasn’t interested in switching from film to digital. For one thing, I was still skeptical that a bunch of dots would ever produce the kind of sharpness that is possible with film. And second, I knew how the Pentax worked. The digital camera, a point-and-shoot model, was unknown territory.

Finally I did pick up the new camera and begin to use it, but I still also used film for my “real” photos. After my daughter was born and it was time to send out birth announcements, I loaded film into the Pentax and photographed her when she was just short of two months old. But all the pictures of her before that—including her very first photos taken in the hospital—were shot with the Olympus, and I had to admit that the quality was excellent.
And slowly, over time, something happened. I began to use the Olympus constantly. A day came when I no longer loaded film into the Pentax. It went back into the camera bag and stayed there. The Olympus was simply too convenient: I took it everywhere without worrying about buying, reloading, or developing film; I could email the pictures to family and friends; I could buy prints online. Gradually, the Olympus became my camera. My husband relinquished it, and now he uses it only when I place it in his hands and tell him to photograph something.

I’ve taken thousands of photos with the Olympus. Both of my children’s first photos were taken with it. My life in Nebraska—Lincoln, Sidney, then Omaha—and then my life in Connecticut have been documented by it. It has traveled with me to California, Montana, New Mexico, Maine, South Dakota, and other places in between. Nearly every photo I have ever posted online has been shot with that little camera.
I admit that I’ve grown fond of it. But now, as I find myself wanting more control over camera settings, more lens options, and higher resolution images, as I become a student of photography, as I place the image at the center of my attention—not as an afterthought snapshot but as a composition in its own right, integral to my project of seeing and documenting the world—I understand that I have outgrown the camera. Reluctantly, I am putting it away. Reluctantly, I am moving on.

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