Playing with Retro Goodness

Three Cyclists - Austin, Texas

Three Cyclists – Austin, Texas

A couple of days ago, I featured a photo from a mystery camera. It was part of my blog post “The Silliness of Most Camera Reviews”, where I took camera reviewers to task. A friend guessed that I used an E-P1, which is Olympus’ first mirrorless camera from 2009. Good guess, but he didn’t go back far enough. I used an E-300 from 2004. It’s Olympus’ second DSLR after the E-1, which was the world’s first purpose-built digital SLR.

Recently, a couple of bloggers that I follow have featured worthwhile retro digital cameras. Here in Austin, Kirk Tuck has nice things to say about his Nikon D700. Over in Asia, Robin Wong did a review of the original Canon 5D.

Both the Nikon D700 (from 2008) and the Canon 5D (from 2005) are more capable than my Olympus D-300 (from 2004), but this Olympus has a noteworthy feature. Unlike those other cameras that sport a modern CMOS sensor, this one has a CCD sensor. One designed by Kodak, to boot. Some say the old Kodak CCD sensors have a more analog, almost film-like appearance. I’m not sure about that. But I do feel there is a mellow-ness to CCD that looks different from the clinical looking CMOS.

Playing with old digital cameras can be fun and they can be surprisingly good. More importantly, the old technology forces you to work a bit harder for your image. Like film, limitations imposed on you make you a better photographer. Modern cameras are so capable, there’s not much sport in making a technically strong image.

You probably have an old digital lying around. Or, like me, you can buy classic digitals for pennies on the dollar. People rightly think I’m crazy for owning over fifty cameras, but most are very inexpensive film and digitals. I bought the Olympus E-300 three years ago for about $60 – $70, as I recall. It’s even less now.

I shot today’s photo back in 2015 and I really like the color rendered by Olympus E-300. The battery is all charged up and the 14-year-old camera is ready to go. Perhaps a photowalk with a classic 50mm equivalent might be a welcome change from the uber, do everything cameras of today.


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5 thoughts on “Playing with Retro Goodness

  1. I started my digital photography experience with the E-300, and when I moved on, I gave it to my younger daughter, who has it still. Coming from film (Nikon and Olympus), I was amazed at what it could accomplish; most of the time I shot either Kodachrome 64 or Ektachrome 100, only shooting B&W for prints. The fact that I could go up to an equivalent of ASA 400 or 800 for color was something of a minor miracle. Now I’m spoiled for choices. But you’ve done an outstanding job with both subject, composition and then processing. And the comment you made that the E-300 made you work a little harder for a quality image might be true, but nothing compared to film and paper printing. When I left film for digital, I haven’t looked back.

    And by the way, I still have Kirk’s E-1 he sent my way. And it still works.

    1. Thank you, Bill. Perhaps you can borrow your old E-300 from your daughter (temporarily) and see how it feels, after all these years.

      It’s primitive yes, bit still satisfying in its own way.

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