I’m Reuben Stanton. This is an intermittent blog of relatively random things: thoughts about technology, reflections on my life and work, and some historical stuff.

My ‘real’ website is here, and I tweet intermittently @absent

Category: cameras i own

Cameras I own: Lumix GF1


Part 6 in a series.

I think I’ve taken more photos with this camera than with any other I’ve ever owned. Why? A few reasons. Let’s see… it’s digital, it’s small, it has interchangeable lenses, it looks cool…


Otway State Forest


Magnolias at the Alhambra, Spain

But maybe, just maybe, the real reason is that it takes great photos. The GF1 is from the first generation of ‘micro four thirds’ cameras: a mirrorless, interchangeable lens system that allowed for very high quality fixed lenses on smallish digital camera bodies.  I bought the Lumix in an attempt to find a digital equivalent to the Hexar, and it ticked a lot of the boxes, most of all Panasonic’s excellent 1.7 20mm lens (which translates to about a 40mm full frame equivalent). Small, light, fast, and a slightly wide angle, just like the Hexar, though not quite as sharp. It was marketed as a kind of small camera for DLSR users, which meant that it had a bunch of semi or fully manual modes, and physical external controls (which I liked).


Popcorn at the Eiffel Tower


A stray dog in Madrid

The fast lens made the Lumix very versatile as a travel camera, as it meant that I could take good a photo in just about any lighting conditions. It’s a bit of a noisy camera (the shutter makes a very audible ‘clunk’), which makes it a little conspicuous for street photos, but not too conspicuous.


Paris, France


Zaragoza, Spain

These days, the Lumix tends to stay in the house and be used for documenting, be it food, gardening, tinkering, or the occasional family event. The Lumix has been to Spain, France, the UK and the USA with me, but the iPhone has really taken over in the travel photography department, just because it is always in my pocket.


Seagulls off Geelong Pier


Ronda, Spain

I’m actually pretty certain that this will be the last dedicated digital camera that I’ll buy. The way that camera technology is going, it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish between the photos from the Lumix and those from my iPhone: just like Craig Mod wrote in his excellent article about this camera/phone convergence, I looked very closely at the Sony RX 1, and even convinced my sister to buy one, but just couldn’t justify another camera that was so close to both the Lumix and my phone. 1

I’m not going to get rid of this camera though. I’ll keep using it, whenever I’m sure my phone just won’t do the job.

  1. I should not have looked back at that article while writing this post… that is what good writing on digital photography looks like. 

Cameras I own: Pentax K10 D

Part five in a series. Read parts four, three, two and one.

On top of the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

Climbing Mount Takao

This camera is a beast. I bought it because I wanted a real SLR again (my last film SLR, a Pentax MZ50, had been stolen years earlier). It was a big step in my move to digital photography, the other digital cameras that I’d owned up to that point were all travel cameras, point and shoot. This is a “prosumer” camera: interchangeable lenses, RAW, fully manual modes. It’s big. It’s noisy too. It wasn’t until I used a friend’s Canon a few months later that I realised just how loud the shutter on the Pentax was. And it was my companion.

Looking back through the photos, I can attach this camera to two major points in my life: the first is 6 months living in Tokyo, the other is a trip with my sister to India and Nepal in 2008.

* * * *

Hanami in Saitama

In a bar in Shibuya, Tokyo

While in Japan I carried this camera everywhere, despite it’s weight and bulk. Although I had my Hexar with me, and bought the Yashica while I was there, the Pentax was the camera I used to document my life. In the bars I frequented in Asagaya I became recognised as the strange foreigner with the camera (to the point that when I left Japan, one of the bartenders gave me a t-shirt with a camera on it as a going away gift).

One of the major selling points for the Pentax over Nikon or Canon (apart from the price) was the lens: a lovely, small, 50mm 1.4. It was perfect for shooting at night in the lights of Tokyo, and gave the camera a very low profile which made it great for street photography.

The Pentax was reasonably versatile (interchangeable lenses will do that). While in Japan I had two lenses (the aforementioned 50mm 1.4 auto, and a manual 28mm 2.8), once back in Australia I was lucky enough to win a photography competition with one of my Yashica photos and won a Tamron 18-250 lens that I took with me to India, along with the 50mm. My sister had a Pentax too, so we shared lenses, carrying one each.

* * * *

Gosaikunda pass, Nepal

Chamki, Nepal

Somewhere near the Taj Mahal

Although its been almost four years now, I’m yet to go through all my India and Nepal photos. I’ve printed a few of them, but I took thousands (part of the danger of digital photography). The camera has some fond memories attached to it: surviving the Mumbai bombings (we were stuck in a hotel across from the Mumbai hospital), being accosted by small children in Tirivunamulai (who all insisted that we take photos of them, their families, their houses), the frozen lakes and bright yellow hand-painted signs high up in the Himalayas, the Taj Mahal totally hidden by fog.

I barely use the Pentax anymore. It’s too big, heavy and noisy for the kind of photography that I find myself doing now. I do pull it out occasionally when I want to do some more “pro” photography than my Lumix GF-1 can handle.

* * * *

It’s funny how you attach memories to objects. I didn’t realise until I started writing this post just how many important memories are associated with this particular camera, how I remember the events through its lens.

Cameras I own: Konica Hexar AF

Part four in a series. Read parts three, two and one.

Somewhere in Western Australia, 2006

Now here is a camera that is truly close to my heart. When I’m asked the inevitable question (as a visitor looks up at my collection on top of our bookshelf) “which is your favourite?”, my answer is always “the Hexar”. I first became aware of the existence of the Hexar while taking photos at the Meredith music festival with my Canonet—I noticed another photographer with a few vintage cameras, and around his neck was an amazing looking one: like a Leica, but sleeker, more modern, with a neat little LCD showing the shot count on the top. I didn’t manage to speak to him, but my quest had begun.

I found my Hexar my first time in Japan, partly because I knew that I wanted to buy a camera in Japan, and partly because my good friend Pete (who was living there at the time) convinced me (after some single-malt scotch) that this was the one. He was right of course.

Akihabara, Tokyo, 2004

The Konica Hexar is a truly special 35mm rangefinder: it sports an incredibly sharp fixed 35mm f2.0 lens, aperture priority and program settings (or fully manual if you desire), fast and precise autofocus, solid construction. I have heard it called “the perfect street camera” because of it’s fast wide angle and extremely quite operation. Plus it just looks awesome with its sleek lines, sci-fi looking reflective autofocus array and LCD screen.

ACCA, Melbourne, 2006

I bought the later (1997) model “Silver” edition, which (apparently) comes minus the Hexar’s most lauded feature: Silent Mode. Silent Mode slows down the motorised film advance and autofocus to whisper quiet, and combined with the very quiet leaf shutter turns the Hexar into one of the quietest motorised film cameras around. Now, I said “apparently” because of a fact that was pointed out to me by Pete: the missing feature is just a software setting—it is actually possible to override it and restore Silent Mode to the camera by performing a complex sequence of button presses (which I managed to do, after a few aborted attempts). Pete explained this fact to a salesman at Map Camera, and it was listening to this conversation that I first learned about the existence of “Japanese” words that are strangely warped English words: “Onnu-offu” (on-off switch), “cunningu” (cheat, as in “cunning”).

Kyoto, 2004

But I digress. I continued to use this camera right up until I bought my Lumix GF-1, as none of my other digital cameras could do quite what the Hexar did (and the Lumix is still louder than the Hexar). There was something about the combination of size, speed and lens quality (I still think it has the best lens of any camera that I own) that made it, for me, perfect. The Hexar is retired now (the cost of film is sadly not worth it anymore), and I have managed to damage the hotshoe (now held in place with gaffer tape).

I took some of my favourite film shots with this camera over the years, and I am still a little sorry that it just sits gathering dust now. A note to all digital camera manufacturers: I’m still looking for a true digital replacement for the Hexar, so when you release one, I’ll happily be your first customer.

Cameras I own: Yashica MAT-124 G

Aka, ‘this aint no instagram, buddy’. Part 3 in a series. Read part two. Part one.

This camera stands out on the shelf, and for good reason: it’s big, it’s old, it looks like a machine. And that it is. The Yashica MAT-124 G is a camera I picked up (for much too much money) when I was living in Tokyo and became ever-so-slightly obsessed with street photography and old film cameras (the camera was made some time in the 1960s). It’s my only TLR (Twin-Lens-Reflex), and my only medium-format camera. In layman’s terms that means it takes big square photos, not small rectangular ones.

A fountain at Zenkoji temple, Nagano

The evolution of cameras as mechanical devices is interesting to experience for yourself: the twin-lens system (where you look through one lens, and the photo is taken with the other) was a very simple mechanical solution to the problem of how to see what the camera ‘sees’, and made for cameras with very few moving parts. The lack of a mirror reflex system (as required in an SLR) made for a very quiet shutter as well. Focussing was a genuine mechanical action of turning a knob and moving the lens mechanism backwards and forwards. I could understand how it worked. It was a box for capturing light.

Akihabara, Tokyo

And capture light it could! Like many of my older cameras, its light meter was long dead, but I bought a small mountable light-meter from Voigtlander, because I wasn’t willing to take the risk of relying on “sunny-16” or taking guesses with this one, partly because the film and developing was expensive, partly because I thought the camera deserved a little more respect. It was a worthwhile addition, particularly for taking shots in dark conditions. It took a while to line up a shot, focus, check the light meter reading and take the shot, but it was worth it: the quality, mood and depth of the images still beats any other camera that I own.

Shibuya, Tokyo

Its size meant that it also got all sorts of strange looks from passers-by, but because it’s a top-down viewfinder (you look down in the top of the camera to focus), it looks like you are fiddling with your camera rather than lining up a shot, which made it great for candid shots on the crowded streets of Tokyo.

I pretty much stopped using the camera when I returned from Japan (I think I shot maybe only one or two rolls of film in Australia). It wasn’t just that the novelty had worn off (fun as it was, it sure was cumbersome). I really couldn’t justify the expense, and had been overtaken by the digital camera mindset of “take hundreds of photos and edit like crazy”. Instagram on my iPhone is fulfilling my ‘old looking square photos’ needs for the moment, but I’m sure one day I’ll want to go back to the slow photography of the TLR.

Cameras I own: Ricoh GR-D

Part two in a series. See part one here.

This was the first digital camera that I actually liked using. I think in a lot of ways it was because of the look, which was largely based on the original late 90’s Ricoh GR1, only slightly smaller, and (of course) digital. I bought it because I was about to go on a long overseas trip, and decided it was finally time to make the leap from film (I really didn’t want to carry enough film with me to last 3 months). It was 2007.

Its small size and wide-angle lens made it great for street photography

When I bought the GR-D I was still in a ‘film’ frame of mind though, and couldn’t quite cope with not having a viewfinder. I shelled out for an add-on optical viewfinder that sat on the hotshoe (that’s the funny lump on the top). It was clear and bright, but it only gave you framing, no other feedback.

I liked the GR-D for its constraints, which reminded my of my film-based rangefinders. It has a fixed lens and a large amount of manual control. It was the first digital camera that made me think that maybe manufacturers are starting to ‘get it’: there are photographers out there that want a good-quality point and shoot that reflects the quality and characteristics (including controls) of good, small, film cameras. Unfortunately this ‘getting it’ hasn’t really panned out in the subsequent years, with the notable exceptions of the Panasonic Lumix GF1 (which I own and love), and the prohibitively expensive Fuji X100 (which I don’t). The GR-D never really lived up to this standard anyway in terms of speed or quality, but it was fun to pretend that the digital camera industry was getting somewhere.

Somewhere outside Reykjavik

Somewhere outside Reykjavik. Damn rocks!

My GR-D didn’t actually get very much use in the end. One month in to my travels, I managed to drop it on a rock in Iceland and damage the lens mechanism. My next camera-shop-stop was in London, and I couldn’t afford a replacement with the Australian dollar being what it was back then. I ended up shooting the rest of my trip with a Canon IXUS, which is a fine pocket camera, but comparatively boring.

You don’t get a sense from my illustration, but it was very small, light, sturdily built and quiet. A true pocket camera. My iPhone has effectively taken over my needs in that regard now, so I don’t really miss the GR-D. Plus the look of it fits right in on the shelf next to my various vintage film cameras.

Cameras I own: Canon Canonet QL 17

One of the first things that visitors to our apartment notice when they walk in to our lounge room is our camera collection on top of a bookshelf. There are 10 cameras up there: 9 of mine and one of Kate’s (a cute plastic Holga). There was a time when I actually used them all, or, at least, they have all seen a fair amount of use over the years. The 10 cameras aren’t even all of our cameras, the ones we still use tend to float around the house. I guess you could call it more of a ‘museum’ than a collection.

Somewhere in Tokyo, 2004

The Canonet is my ‘oldest’ camera up on that shelf (in terms of use, not vintage). It wasn’t my first rangefinder, but it’s the oldest rangefinder that I still have. My first was a lovely Ricoh 500G that I picked up at a second hand store when my very first film camera (a Pentax MZ50) was stolen. The Ricoh lasted well until I dropped it while moving house and snapped the lens clean off, and I found the Canonet on ebay to serve as its replacement. The Canonet became a faithful companion on my first overseas trip to Japan. I don’t think I’ve used it for at least 5 years: I opened up the back before I drew this picture and was surprised to see a half-used roll of film in there (now partially exposed to the light). I’ve no idea what’s on it.

SJ in Melbourne

The light-meter died within about a month of use and I took to setting the aperture wide-open (1:1.7 – it was fast too!) and guessing the shutter speed. This technique was hit and miss, but when I got it right, man this camera could nail the shot. The 40mm glass lens was a wonder to behold.

While obviously based on the design of the Lieca M3, the smaller, cuter dimensions and the angled rangefinder window gave this camera a look which has pretty much defined ‘camera’ in my mind for all of my life: it really is the classic camera design.