Late in the spring of 2004, the lens on my A20 zoomed its last. As I recall, it was stuck somewhere in the middle of its range. It still took pictures but the lack of zoom was irritating and the permanently protruding lens made it awkward to pocket. Besides, there had been three years of progress since my last camera purchase and I was ready to take advantage of it.
I had been quite happy with the A20 so I went for what was essentially the current model equivalent. But those three years had not only added about a million pixels, available manual controls, and video recording to the camera, they also shaved more than a hundred bucks off the price. The A20 had cost $384 in 2001. The A75, in June of 2004, was $276.
The lens was the same 35mm-105mm zoom and the recording media was still Compact Flash. More importantly, power still came from standard AA batteries. I owned several gadgets — GPS, voice recorder, FRS radios — that used AAs and I owned a couple fist fulls of rechargeables along with an AC/DC charger. Plus, in my mind, it was crucial to use standard batteries so I could grab fresh ones at any gas station if necessary. In my five years with the Powershots and seven years with an AA powered Garmin, I think I did that maybe twice with the cameras and once with the GPS. Of course, the GPS was usually powered directly from the car so one set of batteries was almost always being charged.
I guess it was this camera that got me to thinking that digital photography might actually have a future. Until now, I figured digital cameras were great for pictures to post on a website or email to friends and relatives but film was still needed for any kind of printing. The A75 couldn’t produce magazine cover images but a 3×5 or 4×6 print looked just fine.
My Gear — Chapter 6 — HP Pavilion ze4000
As I looked back over my travel gadget purchases, it was immediately obvious that many preceded a major trip. The idea of a long lived website, rather than a one trip experiment, started to form as I got serious about retracing a 1920 Florida trip my great-grandparents had made. Purchases were made during the summer of 2001 in anticipation of making the trip in late August. The first was a real upgrade in the camera department.
Some of the improvement over the Agfa came from a significant increase in price but a lot more came from two years of progress. Even with more than a hundred dollars off the $500 MSRP, the Canon PowerShot A20 cost over twice what I’d paid for the Agfa — $384 vs. $186 — but I now had a real camera. It had auto focus, 3X zoom, and 1.92 effective mega-pixels plus, apparently, 0.18 ineffective ones. This was good enough to convince me that I didn’t have to carry my film camera everywhere but not good enough to make me want to get rid of it. Digital was clearly the only way to feed a website but film was still the way to go for good sharp prints.
I believe it was about this time that a friend asked me to recommend a good digital camera and I answered that I couldn’t. There were some very good digital cameras being made but they cost thousands not hundreds of dollars. Nikon’s first digital SLR, the D1, came out in 1999. The 2.6 mega-pixel wonder retailed for $5580 — body only. The D1X came on the market in early 2001 at about the same time as the A20. With what is now a familiar characteristic of electronics, resolution, 5.4 megapixels, was up and price, $5350, was down. These were professional quality cameras with prices that could only be justified by professionals needing instant product. For an amatuer convinced he needed instant product to feed a website, even the few hundred dollar price of the little Canon wasn’t easy to justify. Of course, if financial justification was a real factor in any of this, there wouldn’t even be a website to feed.
My Gear – Chapter 3 — Garmin GPS III Plus
There has always been some hardware associated with my road trips. In order to update a website, I needed some sort of computer and, if I intended to include photos in those updates, I needed a digital camera. GPS has also been part of the mix from the beginning. A computer, a camera, and a GPS receiver have been my travel companions on every trip but they have changed at least as much as I have though in different directions. While I’ve gotten weaker and slower and balder, they’ve become more powerful, faster, and more loaded with features.
Noticing changes in electronic gear occurs fairly frequently. It’s unavoidable when something new enters my toolkit but I also think of it at random times like when I upload a decent sized picture in less time than it used to take to upload the tiniest of thumbnails. I thought about it in some detail in August of 2009. It had been exactly ten years since my first road trip post and I was on another one. I commemorated the first trip by posting a picture and some musings on each day’s tenth anniversary. I think the idea for something like this series of articles was born then though I didn’t quite realize it and I had no idea of the form it would take. The “series of articles” I’m talking about will be a set of blog posts talking about the various bits of gear I’ve used in maintaining DennyGibson.com. This is the first. Others will appear, in sequence but not consecutively, as space and time permit.
In July of 1999, I bought an Agfa ePhoto 780c from on online outfit called uBid for $185.99. What I got for that nearly two hundred dollars was a zone focus 350 kilopixel (Does that sound better than 0.35 megapixel?) camera that stored JPGs on an included 2 MB Smart Media card. The standard resolution was 320×240 but it also offered 640×480 and 1024×768. That last resolution was produced by extrapolating those 350 kilo-pixels into 0.786 mega-pixels and I’ve always assumed that is where the model number came from but don’t really know. Click on the picture above for one of those full resolution photos from 1999.
I also carried a Nikon 35mm pocket camera for “real” pictures but the Agfa did the job it was hired for giving me a way to post pictures on the same day they were taken. Back in the twentieth century that seemed pretty cool .
The camera came with Agfa’s Photowise software which allowed me to copy photos from the camera and edit them on my Toshiba Libretto (the subject of a future post). The interface was RS-232 serial and none too fast. I soon developed the habit of immediately firing up the copying when I checked into a motel then heading out to dinner while the photos flowed through the wire. On my return, I’d select and edit the photos, prepare the web page, and start the upload — assuming I could actually connect with my 10¢ a minute dial-up.
The journal of that first trip is here. It is the only trip where I truly relied on the Agfa. The ten year reminiscences begin here. Look to the right side of the page.