My first SLR was a Miranda Sensorex II, which I purchased with savings and Christmas money for the huge (to me) amount of $139 back in 1975. I used that camera intensely through junior high and high school, shooting mostly black and white (Tri-X was my tool of choice). For some reason, my interest waned in college and I gave the Miranda to my mother.
A couple of years after I graduated college I tripped over a screaming deal on a Nikon N4004 kit with a couple of zoom lenses. I took tons of travel photos with that camera, but I've not bothered to scan the negatives (however, one shot can be found here). I can still recall how slowly the autofocus on that camera worked. However, I got some great shots with it. Again, however, interest waned and I eventually sold the Nikon. After the Nikon, my wife and I shared a Canon EOS 630 until the digital bug bit me.
I started shooting digital shortly after moving to Denver. I started with an Olympus point-and-shoot in 1999 or so; I believe it was a 2.1MP camera. In December 2002 I traded up to a Canon G3 digital camera. The G3 was a "prosumer" level camera, meaning it has a lot of photographic controls, but does not have a super-high pixel count, nor is it an SLR. What's funny is that I know how to use a manual camera, but even though the G3 has full manual control if one needs it, I never use it. That's because today's digital cameras seem to overload every button with multiple modes. It's pretty overwhelming. I miss the days of a shutter speed dial, aperture ring and internal light meter, with optional auto-exposure. That was simple. Nowadays, it's auto-exposure by default, and to do things manually requires pressing this button while turning that wheel and looking at the LCD display while holding your mouth just right. Oh well, that's progress, I guess.
In June of 2006 I treated myself to a new digital SLR -- a Canon 30D combined with their 17-85mm zoom with image stabilizer. Image stabilization really works, although with that particular lens there was a trade-off in speed - at best the lens was an f4, but it spent most of its time being an f5.6 lens, which is ridiculously slow. Regardless, there was an instant jump in my shooting enjoyment, because the camera almost literally reads your mind and snaps well-focused, well-exposed shots as quickly as you can press the shutter. As time progressed, I traded the 17-85mm in for a 15-55 f/2.8, and added the excellent 70-200mm f/4 zoom and the 50mm f/1.4. I also invested in a nice Sigma 150mm macro.
I take a lot of photos, although most of them don't get published to my site, or even printed. I'm not a day-to-day photographer, the way some folks are, which is kind of a shame, because I really enjoy photography. I guess I don't take daily photos because I don't want to be weighed down with equipment (even a cell phone is too much, usually).
Do to my hang-up about carrying a lot of heavy gear, and my latent desire to have manual controls like in the old days, I invested in some used Leica gear in early 2010. I got an M8 off eBay, and a number of lenses off eBay and photo forums. The M8 with four lenses is so much lighter than a similar DSLR kit it's amazing. Of course, there's no such thing as a true zoom in the Leica world, so it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. Anyway, the Leica was a step up (or two) from the 30D, IQ-wise, and is my current tool of choice for artistic photography.
Tons of photos at flickr.com
All photos are: Copyright 1999-2006 Mike Thomas