Breaking in a new camera

... from Argus, to Leica, to Nikon and Canon, you gotta keep up ...

from Don Norris

I get razzed at every Sringers' meeting, about my collection of cameras. True, I do buy a new camera about every other year, but then I really need to keep up on the latest technology. After all, the Melrose Mirror goes world-wide, and photos overcome the difficulty of a zillion different languages.

I Do have a collection, however, mostly of digital cameras. The hobby began about 1954, the year Lorry and I got married, went into the Marine Corps, started raising a family. One really needs a decent camera to record that history.

The first one was an Argus C3, which produced realy good pix -- if your light-meter reading was accurate. I bet I bought at least a half-dozen light meters during those early years of 35-millimeter cameras.

Of course, one had to focus the camera by turning the lens, then set the aperture AND the speed of the shutter before attempting to manually focus. And of course, one had to cock the shutter -- nothing automatic here!

My brother (Dr. Douglas Norris) got me into the more sophisticated equipment, and soon I was sporting that ultimate camera, a Leica. Man, that was sharp, but you still had to take a meter reading, cock the shutter, set the aperture and speed -- before pushing the little button. I really don't know if that Leica was any better -- for my use -- than the old Argus C3. But it was lot more expensive, for sure.

In the late sixties, I toyed with a square-format Haselblad, which was really big bucks. By this time I was using a huge four-by-five press camera as a reporter for the Melrose free Press. And by this time, I was getting really good with just about any camera. I remember covering the Melrose hockey game, in the playoffs, at Boston Garden. Heck, I found the Boston Globe's electronic flash hookup, right there beside the ice -- and nobody with a camera there but me. So I plugged my Speed Graphic into the Globe lighting system and came up with beautiful action shots. While Melrose lost the game, I discovered electronic flash, which lead to the purchase on a very expensive electronic flashgun.

I did all the developing and printing of the Free Press photos, which gave me a new lesson in photography. Not long after, the news-shooters switched to 35 millimeter, and I got the boss -- Mr. Schueler -- to put up enough dough for a completely new way to news photography.

The switch to Nikon was concurrent with Hunt Drug of Malden opening a huge new photographic store down by Pine Banks Park. From that point on, I bought a new camera every two years. No trade-in, I gave my slightly used models to my kids. Free.

The forty year span of 35mm cameras was great fun, but the industry metered its continuing development of new cameras to a two-year cycle, so that camera-crazy guys like me would provide a continuing market.

But then MIT approached a bunch of seniors in Melrose to produce a new electronic newspaper that would be read around the world -- on the thing called the internet. Along with their proposition came new computers and a new digital camera that required no film at all. The pictures were recorded on a little square gadget -- there was no film cost, no developing the film cost, and no printing cost because all our pictures were spread around the world electronically.

Since that time -- around 1996 -- I have bought a new digital camera every two years, writing the cost off as, well, necessary. I gave my extensive darkroom machinery away, for free. In its place I bought a brand new computer -- around two grand back then. And then up-graded every two years. These things are fun, as long as one keeps up his physical well-being with exercise -- one can spend an awfully long time editing both stories and digital photos -- taken with the latest Nikon or Canon cameras. I have both.

I'm good at what I do. Writing is good, and the photographing is more of a fun hobby than it is a job. But it is big bucks to keep up with the Joneses, electronically. There seems to be no end to improvements to the equipment we use -- professionally or as amateurs.

Hey, that's life. It's expensive. And it's fun.

June 6, 2014

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