Photographic Gear:  A Brief Personal History

I'm inclined to think that more is made of this subject than is warranted, but a lot of people seem to care, so...

After using an assortment of Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid cameras as a kid, I received my first 35mm film-based SLR at the age of about 15.  It was an Olympus OM-10 (a "semi-automatic"--meaning aperture priority) camera which I continued to use sporadically for about 20 years.  I very briefly owned a low-end Minolta SLR (complete with a "do it all" 28-200mm zoom lens) until I realized, as I became truly serious about photography for the first time, that this camera didn't have several features which were important given what I wanted to do.  The problem was not with the Minolta brand--it was the fact that this was a beginner's SLR, in effect, and I wanted to move beyond that point.

When I moved to replace it, I chose a Nikon N80--a kind of mid-level film SLR, something that had every feature that was important to me (except mirror lockup) at a relatively affordable price.  I was insistent on a camera that had a built-in spot meter--almost all of my shooting is done in full manual exposure mode--which left out the comparable Canon SLR (the Elan 7).  Had I been willing to move up a class in camera--the Nikon F100 or the Canon EOS 3) I might well have ended up buying into the Canon line, but I didn't want to spend the extra cash.  That's the reason I entered the Nikon world and I became more deeply embedded as I invested in lenses.  I've stuck with Nikon because of this investment, but I'm sure that I would have been at least as satisfied if I'd ended up going the Canon route.

I shot with the N80 for a couple of years and purchased a film scanner so that I could work with my images in the "digital darkroom."  The purchase of Adobe Photoshop--and the associated learning curve--followed shortly thereafter.

By late 2002, I was seriously researching medium format camera options, but I had the opportunity to see images that were being produced with Canon's original 1Ds and decided that fixed-back medium format cameras--at least non-specialty varieties like 617 panoramic formats--probably wouldn't be a good investment.  It appeared to me that high quality digital SLRs were already here and would continue to improve with time.

In the late summer of 2003 I purchased a used Nikon D100 and took it with me on a photo trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula in early October.  That experience forever (presumably) moved me to digital capture.  I loved the experience of being freed from what I perceived as the limits of film.

In early 2006, I upgraded the D100 by purchasing the D200.  In late 2008, I moved up to the full-frame D700.  Finally, in July of 2012, I took possession of the 36 MP D800E.  Finally, in the spring of 2021, after 2 1/2 years of hemming and hawing, I moved to a mirrorless system, based on the Nikon Z7ii.  I have two Z7ii camera bodies, and 24-120/4, 14-30/4 and 100-400/4.5-5.6 Z-mount lenses.   I also have a Z-mount 105 mm micro for closeup work.  I also still own, and sometimes use (with the FTZ adapter) the Nikkor 200mm Micro and a Sigma 24-35/2.  I ordinarily carry both camera bodies and the four Z-mount lenses when in the field.  I also have access to a Sigma 70-200/2.8 and a Sigma 300mm/2.8, with 1.4 and 2X teleconverters, but don't routinely carry either Sigma telephoto lens.  My gear is hauled around in one of a pair of Tamrac Extreme photo backpacks that I possess.  I own a Gitzo 2228 carbon fiber tripod--which is used for all landscape and close-up photographs and most wildlife images--and use a Kirk BH-3 ballhead with an Acratech leveling head to assist with taking panoramic images.

I've been doing all my own photo printing for more than 15 years now, first with a series of 13-inch-wide Epson pigment-based printers (the 2000P and, the 2200).  In the fall of 2010 the printhead on my 2200 bit the dust and I moved up to the Epson 3880, a 17" wide printer sporting the K3 inkset.  In addition to vibrant color prints, the 3880 is designed to produce neutral black and white output and that it does.  This has greatly simplified the process of producing black & white prints.