You want the very best?
Unfortunately we can’t have it all.
So we have to dream sometimes.
We all like our toys, and I’m no different.
I’ve owned a lot of cameras in my lifetime.
So after revealing my dream cameras, I’m going to list every single camera I’ve ever owned.
Every last one.
Maybe that will redeem the horrible photos I show of my early hikes, like on the Appalachian Trail!
No, nevermind. Nothing can redeem those. They’re just bad pictures.
Using cameras has been a personal journey of a different kind. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and a lot of time coming to the conclusions I have today. The opportunity to publish the process makes it all a little more worthwhile.
Before we continue, I should state that most of the links here go to Amazon.com, where I buy all my cameras. When you go through them and buy something within 24 hours, I get a small commission. Thank you! Every bit helps and I really appreciate it.
What is My Current Weapon of Choice?
The Nikon D5600. Even if I had all the money in the world, this would likely still be my top choice for a backpacking camera. Why? Because it’s super light! Any backpacker worth his salt knows that ounces count. Besides, I’ve been using Nikons for so long that they’ve become second nature to me. Muscle memory.
I wrote all about the D5600 here.
So now without further ado…
My Five Wishes in 2017
Here’s what I’d check out if I had the money to explore beyond my Nikon D5600.
#1. A fine, sexy, mirrorless camera… the FugiFilm XT-2
Mirrorless cameras are all the talk nowadays. “The future is mirrorless!” they say. I have yet to get my dirty paws on one, and the Fujifilm XT-2 seems to be the best one out there. I heard all about this camera for many months before it was released!
#2. A full tank of a DSLR… full framed, baby… the Nikon D810
Wow… just… wow.
We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!
Hell, I’d be giddy just for a D610 … but don’t expect me to take these monsters out backpacking!
#3. Best Little Pocket Camera on the Market… the Sony RX100
This little guy is reasonably priced at less than $400, so it isn’t so much of a “dream” camera as one I’d love to try out. I’ve seen great results from this lineup that seem to match what you’d expect out of a DSLR.
The latest version, the RX100 V, looks a lot more dreamy, especially once you see it’s available with an underwater housing! Quality waterproof cameras are hard (impossible) to find, and this may just be the solution. I list the old version first because image quality among the two is reportedly the same, and the new version reportedly has less battery life.
#4. Go full-on-hipster with the FujiFilm X100T
The only big problem is the fixed lens (No zoom!). However I imagine if I were a true hipster-artist-photographer then I wouldn’t even bat an eye at this minor inconvenience. I’d welcome it as a means to simplify my art and challenge my skills. Unfortunately with a price tag of $1,300 I’ll have to keep dreaming.
#5. Still curious about mirrorless… I’ll try a Sony a6500 please…
The Alpha a6500 is their latest and greatest.
Okay, time to come down from La La Land.
Let’s look at all the cameras I’ve used over the years.
My Old Toys
Here’s a simple list of all the cameras I’ve owned and ultimately tossed. More details are in the chronology below. With the exception of prehistoric times, the list spans from 2006 into 2017.
Kodak Disposable cameras (prehistoric)
Nikon Coolpix L4
Nikon Coolpix L3
Nikon Coolpix L12
Nikon D40 DSLR
Nikon D60 DSLR
Nikon D5000 DSLR
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS
Nikon D3100 DSLR
Nikon D5100 DSLR
Nikon D7100 DSLR
Nikon D5300 DSLR
Canon SL1 DSLR
Nikon D5500 DSLR
Olympus Tough TG-4
Nikon D5600 DSLR
Now before you have a heart attack, let me to explain.
3 of these cameras I only owned for a week. I didn’t like them and got a full refund.
All the rest were usually in poor shape by the time I was through. With that in mind I couldn’t “sell” them in good conscience. Fortunately Adorama and Amazon have trade-in programs that have allowed me to get some money back over the years.
Now for more details:
Ancient History (the 1990’s)
I’ve been taking pictures since I was in high school, in the late 1990’s. I used what I figured everyone used – the Kodak Disposable cameras.
It was just a couple years later when I went on my first big adventure and hiked the Appalachian Trail. I did it in two chunks, in 2001 and 2002. I used the old disposable cameras both times.
On Vermont’s Long Trail I used a Nikon Coolpix L12. This was still just a pocket camera, but I began to take my “photography” more seriously. I predominately used “sunset mode” to bring out the fall foliage.
I got my first DSLR before taking my first seasonal job at the Grand Canyon!
This was all a very big deal. Bigger than Ron Burgundy.
Oh my beloved Nikon D40, where had you been all my life???
After the new year I thought I’d try something a little lighter and more compact. I’m a backpacker at heart, usually seeking to “go lighter.” A little research led me to the Canon G10 . I used it for one hike, didn’t like it, and sold it.
Instead I picked up a refurbished Nikon D60, an upgrade from the D40. The resolution was better but I’d become attached to the D40. The Nikon D60 got plenty of use, but I reverted to the tried-and-true D40 for the John Muir Trail.
In 2010 Nikon introduced a new series of DSLR’s – the D3000’s, the D5000’s, and the D7000’s. That roll-out is still ongoing today as Nikon puts out new releases in 2017. I picked up a D5000 for the Colorado Trail.
From this point into the next year I’d occasionally use a Canon PowerShot SX260 HS pocket camera. I still didn’t own a smart phone, so this served me well when the need for something smaller and lighter arose.
I traded my D5000 for the newer and lighter D3100. I also started using a polarizing filter for the first time, and wow! I wish I’d been using one all along.
The D3100 saw me through me all of 2012 and into 2013, when I went back to the 5000 series with the Nikon D5100.
2014 saw me ready to get even more serious about photography. That meant an even more serious camera, right? Right. The natural progression led me to the Nikon D7100. It was a “better” camera, but too heavy for my purposes (Backpacking!). I returned it and opted for the Nikon D5300 instead.
In 2015 I didn’t buy any new cameras. Shocking!
In early 2016 I got my first phone with a quality camera, the iPhone 6s+ – an excellent pocket camera!
I was due for a new camera once again, and I hadn’t done any research in over two years! I looked into some mirrorless cameras but didn’t take the leap. The Nikon line seemed to have grown stale, and I turned to Canon.
I also had another Grand Canyon whitewater rafting trip coming coming up in December. I wanted a waterproof camera to supplement my DSLR for the trip, and remembered the Olympus “Tough” line of cameras as solid and of good quality.
My girlfriend and I each got a brand new Olympus Tough TG-4, and they both died in only a matter of days!
As I understand it, the earlier cameras in the series were better – TG-1, TG-2, etc. Next time I’ll just pick up a GoPro.
That brings us into 2017…
What’s on your wish list?