I’m a failed minimalist. The mind is willing, but the body is weak. My kryptonite? Cameras. Put simply, I own too many cameras and lenses, collected down the years. I could claim the chief reason was my profession as opposed to gear acquisition syndrome, but that wouldn’t be entirely honest.
Earlier this year though, I gathered strength to do the unthinkable: trim down the collection. After all, some of my cameras were going completely unused and taking up space in the house. And so, with my kit laid out on the floor, I went through a culling process.
Oh, my heart, how could I give any of them up? All the cameras and lenses had each played a part in my photography journey. Then my head – what’s a camera if it isn’t taking pictures? Someone else could be enjoying this kit.
After much deliberation, I decided to bid farewell to my Nikon D300, which is a DSLR camera from 2007 that features a 12MP APS-C sensor, plus three Nikkor lenses; the every day 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens, the portrait specialist 135mm f/2 DC, and a 30-year-old landscape photography manual focus 20mm f/2.8 AI-S.
This enthusiast-level camera – that's even older than TechRadar – saw me through the early stage of my professional career in photography; weddings, portraits, any job I could land, really.
The courier arrived to collect the boxed up kit but at the eleventh hour, pandemonium – I hadn’t properly checked the camera before boxing it up and there’s a memory card in there, I just know it.
Thankfully, I rescued the 16GB CompactFlash card while the courier waited patiently on the doorstep (this can’t have just happened to me), apologizing as I chaotically tore off the tape, reopened the D300 box – yes, I’m the kind of person that keeps the original packaging – to redo the whole boxing process.
And then my D300 was gone.
In the calm after that storm, a different kind of internal chaos grew. What have I done? Have I made a mistake?
The missing memories
You’d think I would’ve have rushed to look at what was on the memory card, but for one reason or another I didn’t do it right away, and then several months passed before I discovered it buried under a pile of paper on my desk. Remembering where it came from, I unearthed an otherwise redundant compatible card reader and excitedly connected the card to see what goodies were inside.
15.11GB space taken – that’s good, I had rescued a full card. 982 raw format 12MP photos, the first file dated 4 January 2014 and the most recent taken on 25 May 2014. Wow, had I really not used that camera in almost 10 years? What was I interested in making photos of back then?
Sunrise views, portraits of my first born son in his early months, small birds on or around a baited branch, closeups of insects on flowers, dreamy bluebells, a fox cub chewing on a rabbit leg, a tree-dappled sunset through a dirty window, a motion-blur abstract of a bird in flight.
The abstract bird in flight photo, which is the headline image, caught my eye the most (no offence to my son). I hadn’t thought much of this photo at the time. Now I loved it. I soaked in the photos; an unintentional digital time capsule of the world around me and the creative intent on display, made with my trusty D300.
And then a pang again for the camera and lenses that were my primary creative tools for years. I hadn’t used this DSLR for years but it was a decent bit of kit that I didn’t get a lot of money for, and now I wanted it back.
A window to my creative journey
Since the D300, I have acquired newer and technically better camera kit, but these 12MP photos show me that my 2007 camera would still be a highly capable tool in 2023. Add the best AI photo editors like Topaz Photo AI that can make up for dated camera gear by improving the sharpness and clarity of old photos, and there’s a place for cameras like these today.
You can see that my temptation is to hoard camera kit even though I don't need it, but I think it's also good to let go. The camera was merely a tool, but the captured memories, observations of the world around me, and the creative development that has formed part of who I am today, are always mine, and I want to get better at cataloging them so they don’t sit unnoticed for years at a time.
These 10-year-old photos act as a window to what interested me, the sort of styles that I leaned into, and when I contrast them to what I'm creating today, they show me how I have developed as a photographer, too. (I'm relieved that I'm a more accomplished photographer today than I was back then.)
If you don’t own a dedicated camera at all, I’d encourage you to grab one, even an inexpensive secondhand and dated model like mine. In 2023, you can get great deals on the best DSLR cameras. Make photos of the world around you and enjoy the creative benefits – cameras are great for your mental health.
As for me, I’ll need to let go of a camera again soon and I hope it will land in the hands of someone else who will really use it, and maybe it will become a special part of their creative journey, too. I’ll just check inside the memory card door first.
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Tim is the Cameras editor at TechRadar. He has enjoyed more than 15 years in the photo video industry with most of those in the world of tech journalism. During his time as Deputy Technical Editor with Amateur Photographer, as a freelancer and consequently editor at Tech Radar, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with cameras, educating others through news, reviews and features. He’s also worked in video production for Studio 44 with clients including Canon, and volunteers his spare time to consult a non-profit, diverse stories team based in Nairobi. Tim is curious, a keen creative, avid footballer and runner, and moderate flat white drinker who has lived in Kenya and believes we have much to enjoy and learn from each other.