Cameras

A good blog is made up of both writing and hopefully amazing pictures. So, some people might be interested in the cameras I’ve used to take all the pictures in this blog. This page highlights all those cameras, including the precursor of all of them.

Long before digital cameras were common, before I was born even, my mom had a fairly nice film camera, a Minolta SLR. This camera is still around, and I played around with it a bit to experiment with photography when I was starting out with my own cameras. If film weren’t on life support and critically endangered, it would be fun to play around every once in a while even today.

Minolta SR–T 200 (late 1970s):

Only from the mind... of Minolta
Only… from the mind… of Minolta

My first camera came shortly before a high school German class trip to Germany. The Minolta had always been reliable and good quality, so there was no hesitation in getting a Minolta point-and-shoot.

Minolta AF101R (1995):

Minolta AF101R (1995)

2 generations of Minoltas, side by side
2 generations of Minoltas, side by side

Five years later, however, I was getting ready my first trip to Perú. A simple camera as the one I had, as trusty as it had been, seemed woefully inadequate for the landscapes and panoramas and beauty of the Andes. So, I did some research and was intrigued by the new APS (Advanced Photo System) film format. As I’d been looking forward to HDTV for years since I’d read about it in the 80s or something (not that I’m a TV junkie, just into technology and high-quality graphics*), I particularly liked the HD 16:9 aspect ratio option. So, my local camera store helped me decide on a small Canon.

* {I am, however, slightly dismayed at the rush to “Ultra 4K HD”. Give us 20 years or so to settle down with HDTV already! SD lasted over 50 years. And most cable channels in the US are still SD anyway at standard prices. Please, broadcasters and TV manufacturers, give us everything in HD before you rush to a better format!}

Canon Elph 370Z (2000):

2000 Canon Elph 370Z APS point–and–shoot

ELPH = IXUS = IXY
ELPH = IXUS = IXY

It was great for a few years, and it was really nice to have zoom (3x). But… sigh… film. Processing. More film and more processing. $$$. And space! And digital cameras were beginning to be seen here and there, and after a few short years they became the dominant camera type! I was slightly jealous because of the burden of film and processing. But I still didn’t want one for a number of years, because they just weren’t good enough yet. Like I said, I’m into high-quality graphics. I tend to wait until a product type is mature and then buy something below top-of-the-line so that I’m pleased with it and it lasts many years. So, I waited until almost 2005. Christmas 2004, I got a new toy…

Konica Minolta Dimage G530 (late 2004):

Konica Minolta Dimage G530

Wow! A brave new world of photography! A screen to see the picture you just took! Pictures that don’t take up space and tons of money to process! 5 megapixels (MP)! Video! Tons of space for hundreds (!) of pictures on the 512 MB memory card! Instant startup and tiny shutter lag! Beautiful silver finish! So many awesome functions. And it was a Minolta. Okay “Konica Minolta”. But still, it felt good to continue the Minolta tradition with something so special.

Of course, it’s early 2013 now, and digital photography has evolved a lot in nine years. Notably, Konica Minolta stopped making cameras. 😦 So what path did I take next when the Dimage needed to be replaced? This blog is about coffee in Korea… did I stick with Japanese cameras? Did I get the urge to replace cameras more often? Did taking so many pictures of coffee burn out my cameras’ digital sensors? Stay tuned!

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Believe it or not, a few of the pictures on this blog come from two of the old film cameras listed above. My picture of Frappuccino bottles was with the Minolta AF101R. And the two pictures (1) (2) from Starbucks in Korea in 2003 were taken with the Canon Elph 370Z.

Okay! Now we are caught up to my time in Korea which started in 2010. And, I continued with my trusty Konica Minolta.

I also took my cell phone, a Nokia 6133, with the hope that it would work there as it was labeled a “world phone”. But, it couldn’t access Korean networks. So, a friend happened to have a spare phone that his friend was done with, so I was set! Of course, by now it had a camera too, as all cell phones did by the late 2000s, so I used it for some pictures in a pinch.

Sky Show cell phone (officially a Pantech IM-S380K) (early 2010):

cute graphics, and nice dual time feature, but hard to use
cute graphics, and nice dual time feature, but hard to use

Pantech IM-S380K (Sky Show) (first Korean cell phone)

This took fuzzy pictures, as most pre-2010 cell phone / smartphones did. But decent enough for a cell phone at the time.

And then, just a month into my stay in Korea, my Konica Minolta broke. Fortunately the friend’s friend lent me a camera for a few days, a Samsung S1070. It took nice quality pictures and I liked that I could return to 16:9 after a few years without it. And after those few days, the friend lent me a spare camera for a few months, a Canon Digital Ixus 55. It was an upgraded digital version of my Canon Elph (Ixus is the name in some countries) and a bit newer than the Konica Minolta, so it did the trick for a few months. Some of the picture on this blog were taken with those two replacement cameras.

Towards the end of the year, though, I received a great gift… a replacement cell phone! And the most amazing smartphone at the time, and still a fairly new concept in Korea…

Apple iPhone 4 (late 2010):

My new iPhone!

This changes everything..again
This changes everything..again

The iPhone 4 had a far superior camera to the Sky Show Pantech and to previous iPhone models. Now, I could take comfort in having a fully capable 5MP camera anywhere, even if my “real” camera was left at home. The HDR (High Dynamic Range) function was quite sweet too, and a great new concept. This was only the second iPhone model introduced in Korea (after the 3GS), so having such an awesome smartphone was still on the vanguard of technology. Well, for a few months. By the end of 2011, Korea was a world leader in smartphone saturation! But anyway, many of the pictures on this blog were taken with my iPhone.

Just a little bit later, I got my own replacement to my broken camera. So here, I finally considered a Korean product. The Samsung that I had used for a few days as well as another I had seen someone else use had both impressed me. I looked up current reviews and found the Samsung HZ35W, a camera that had GPS built in! How cool was that? For an avid traveler like me, to be able to see where exactly in the world I had taken a picture, that was genius and a must-have for my next camera. (Actually, the year before I had read a review for and drooled at the Samsung CL65 too). But soon, another review stole my heart.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V (2010):

Sony DSC-HX5V

This camera blew me away. What a step up from before! Not just megapixels, which don’t really matter. But the huge image sensor led to truly amazing low light pictures… pictures that could see things my eyes couldn’t! And it had 10x zoom. And it had GPS like the Samsung. And it could take full HD video. And it happened to be one of the first Sony’s to actually take standard SD cards instead of only proprietary Memory Sticks. And it included a great Panorama mode. By now it’s been replaced with an updated model, but I’ll be very happy with mine for many years to come.

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November 2016 update

And now, time to move things forward again! I should have posted this update years ago, but this isn’t the main focus of the blog anyway, so I hope that’s okay.

Actually, I still am using the Sony camera from time to time, but not for daily usage, since life in Korea is not so much about traveling and being in a new country anymore.  But it still gets its fair amount of usage. Just not much for cafés and coffee pictures.

My iPhone 4, however… well, I still have it! I still use it as an alarm clock, sometimes as an mp3 player, and occasionally I still use other apps too. And it’s still fun to hold and use. But even though I was hoping to get 5 years good use out of it, it slowly started to wear out. The home button was having difficulty registering presses, while the camera which I had gushed so much about somehow accumulated a lot of what I call micro-dust. Its pictures became grainy and lost a lot of their former quality by late 2013. And, of course, it just slowed down in general as a smartphone. Apps became more complicated, the mobile Internet became more elaborate (though with simpler interfaces), and the Apple A4 chip inside couldn’t keep up well. The slowness didn’t bother me so much, but the camera and home button issues were very frustrating. So, as I tend to keep my eye on technology news, I’d been on the lookout for a new smartphone throughout late 2013. And the phone that most caught my eye in late 2013 was the Google Nexus 5.

Google Nexus 5 (early 2014):

cell-phone-google-nexus-5-angled
it’s a Google Nexus, but it’s also an LG, to many Koreans’ surprise

Living in Korea, I’ve of course always been surrounded by people with Samsung Galaxy S models and LG… well, not as many LGs. iPhones and Galaxy S’s seem to capture the attention of most people. Anyway, two teachers at my school entered the new world of smartphones with a Samsung Galaxy S in September 2010. It was my first experience with Android, and it was… kinda wonky, actually, and a little confusing. Why were there apps in two different places, some hidden behind an apps button? Android’s early interfaces definitely were not as clean or as pretty as iOS was, especially with Samsung and LG overlaying their own concepts (or skins) on top of pure Android. So when I entered the new world of smartphones with my iPhone 4 two months later, I decided  and realized that iOS was the way to go, for simplicity and aesthetic appeal.

But over the years, Android got better and better. Improved interfaces, improved functions, and slicker-looking overall. iOS improved with iOS 5… but then it had a little stumble with iOS 6 and the terrible Apple Maps. Because of that, I never updated my phone past iOS5. Then around that time, the anti- skeuomorphism movement began, which I understood because of some of the silly interfaces in iOS. But when iOS 7 came out in 2013, I just didn’t like the new look of it. So when it came time to think about replacing my iPhone 4, and I looked at the current iPhones, I was like well… but that ugly iOS 7. So I started looking at Android as a serious alternative. And Android was about to debut a new version called KitKat, which finally seemed to smooth out the wonkiness and ugliness of previous Android versions. And I’ve always liked KitKat bars! ^^ To go along with this new version of Android, Google was introducing the Nexus 5, made by LG. (Google had partnered with a variety of manufacturers for each model of Nexus). The Nexus 5 would have the pure Android KitKat experience, unencumbered by manufacturer skins or cell phone carrier apps and junk. Basically, it would be like the iPhone of Android devices! So I was really interested and followed its development and reviews. And when it came out, it appeared to be a winner, and at an excellent price! It had a fast processor, a beautiful 1080p screen, and an elegant black design with no physical home button. The camera would be an 8 megapixel Sony sensor with a basic version of optical image stabilization. Now, reviews highlighted issues with the camera among the otherwise excellent package, but the main issue was the autofocus. I figured I could deal with that. The camera on the Nexus 5 with KitKat also had something called HDR+. Similar to the iPhone’s HDR, but better? Pretty much. Once I started using my Nexus 5 and its camera, I learned to master its use in most cases. You need a steady hand, and you should try to have a good eye for framing pictures, and if you do these two things, you can certainly take excellent pictures, despite what the detractors say. Even to this day, 3 years after the Nexus 5 came out, some of my friends with newer phones are still impressed with my pictures compared to theirs whenever we take the same shot. I’ve certainly been happy with the Nexus 5 overall, as well as its camera. Battery life is kind of iffy, even though I turned off 4G from the start since I have an unlimited 3G plan (I actually get something called “H” on the Nexus 5, apparently it’s like 3.5G). And since I’ve taken so many thousands of pictures in nearly 3 years, I’m always constantly running out of space, and have to find time to delete, delete, delete. But the camera does take really nice pictures under the right conditions, and an update added a nice lens blur feature that simulates shallow depth of field. This has been excellent for coffee and food pictures! Once I catch up on my chronology in this blog, you’ll see more of these Nexus 5 pictures. For now, just enjoy what you see, and know that more and prettier content is coming.

Here are a few more pictures of the Nexus 5:

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Until my next camera!

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