It’s about time to say good-bye to an old friend. My first digital camera is as good as dead.
We rode riverboats, took road trips, visited family and friends, recorded births and end-of-life events and so many more things. But 11 years and tens of thousands of pictures wore the poor thing out.
I bought my Olympus E-510 a few days before Thanksgiving in 2007. It’s what you call a Four Thirds camera — a digital single-lens reflex camera with a small sensor. The sensor was obsolete a few weeks after I bought it, but that didn’t matter. What did matter was that we made pictures together in almost all kinds of weather. Some were good enough to sell. Some we shared on the internet.
A few years ago, I was sort of embarrassed to be around photographers who had real cameras — Nikons, Canons and the like — with huge lenses. Here I was with my toy camera, as I called it. Even if the pictures themselves were good, they weren’t good enough, I felt.
A couple of years ago my wife told me I had to buy another camera because I kept talking about how much I needed one. She gave me the money to get one. I did — a full-frame camera from a well-known manufacturer. I had researched various makes and models, after which I went to a camera store in Lexington, Kentucky, to see how the best one in my price range fit in my hands. The minute I held a display model in my hand and walked outside to see how the viewfinder worked, I was hooked.
My new camera — which by now is an outdated model, judging from comments by photographers addicted to the latest gear — works great in low light and other conditions that my old Olympus performed miserably in. Outdated or not, it excels at the use I bought it for — taking journalistic-style photos of people, places and events that I encounter or seek out.
I made the mistake of letting the Olympus sit unused for a few months. When I tried to use it after that long layoff, it would take one or two shots and then quit on me. A new battery didn’t help, so the problem must be in the camera itself. I could probably sell the camera for parts, and the two lenses might have some market value, but maybe not.
Technology moves on, but a good picture is a good picture no matter what camera is used to make it. The way the camera market is moving now, the gap between what an iPhone or an Android phone produces and what a digital camera with interchangeable lenses produces could very well narrow until the cameras are limited to expensive models doing what phones cannot. By then my new camera could be worn out and I’ll need a new one, whatever form it may be in.
For now, though, I can say some of my best work was done with that Olympus and I learned a lot from using it. It may be useless as a camera now, but it will live on in the photos we made.