canon eos 350d part 1

The world moved on. Film went out of fashion and affordable digital cameras rolled in. Film photo labs closed down all over the place. Consumer photography transitioned gradually from emulsion to silicon. Inevitably, I too stopped reaching for the film camera. One day, ten years or so ago, I placed my camera (with unfinished film) into a drawer, and simply forgot about it, till this year. There it laid, the boots 500AF, dormant, the battery slowly draining over the years, waiting for the day I'd pick it up again and snap it's positive battery contact.

I quickly grew frustrated with the Nikon Coolpix 775. The image quality appeared to deteriorate over time.  The apparent loss in quality was of course relative.  It's a digital camera. Zeros and ones then, are zeros and ones now. It was in fact other people's photos that had improved. Annoyingly enough, at some point there was a sudden spike in the quality of photos on Flickr (yes yes). It was as if Earth had been invaded by an advanced race of alien photographers.  I had to get to the bottom of it. I spent hours a day on Flickr looking at all these great photos, reading the comments, following the links. After a while a pattern emerged.  I started noticing a specific word - 'Rebel'. More digging ensued. 'Canon', I knew what that was. 'Nikon', NO! I knew what that was too, and I certainly didn't want it. After the Coolpix, I wanted to get as far away as possible from a Nikon. More internet research - mostly on Flickr - and dozens of hours of reading photography magazines, I arrived at a decision. It had the largest slice of the Flickr pie of cameras used to take photos uploaded to the site (these were pre-iPhone days you see), and the 5D was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of reach then. It was the Canon Digital Rebel XT, known here in Europe as the Canon EOS 350D.

My sister was about to get married in a couple of months. That provided the perfect justification for spending that much on a camera. I found a shop on London's legendary Tottenham Court Road that gave me a hundred quid's discount.  'Yes sir. I'll have one please. Thank you'. And there I was with my first (and so far only) digital single lens reflex camera!

Like any amateur photographer in their right mind, I went off to Cuba. Havana is basically photography heaven. I shot mostly in full auto mode in those days as I knew next to nothing about the creative controls.  Sure, I tried out shutter speed and aperture priority modes, but I mostly couldn't be bothered. The photos looked amazing to me. In hindsight, I can see where some creative input would have been handy.  Like when trying to shoot moving cars in overcast lighting conditions for example, I could have gone to shutter priority and raised the ISO.  I didn't, so I got blurry photos.  To be honest though, blurry photos still looked great to me at the time! I had been assimilated by the alien photographer invaders. Resistance was futile.

The canon quickly became the only camera I used. Needless to say, the Coolpix 775 was retired instantaneously, and joined the boots 500AF in the drawer tomb.  It was a great entry level DSLR.  It held it's own against other offerings from different manufacturers, especially it's main rival in the religious Canon vs Nikon war, which apparently rages on till this present day!  I stopped reading the forums a long time ago. 

After a year or so with the kit lens, I decided to get a 50mm prime lens.  Canon was offering a 'cheap' one, the 50mm f/1.8.  At the first shop where I tried to buy it, they didn't have it. 'Why do you want to buy that cr*p anyway' said the shop owner,  'It is rubbish'. 'It is the cheapest one I can afford', said I, 'and anyway, I'm just a hobbyist'. He then went on criticising my 350D, and tried to sell me a Minolta instead.  'It's a much better camera' he said. Of course it was - those were the lenses he had as well. Pure coincidence I'm sure. I smiled, and walked away.  

The next shop I walked into, the renowned West End Cameras, I spoke to a fantastic man with loads of good knowledge. I walked out with the lens I wanted. No more, no less. Not however before testing the lens on him.  For some reason, my camera was set to Sepia. I was astonished by the difference in quality of this lens compared to the kit zoom lens, especially for shots taken in low light. Looking at this photo now, I got a better deal on that Vivitar 28mm f2.8 lens eight years on - last week :)  


And so it was. That rebel of a camera replaced all others. I took it on every trip and it served me well, never once let me down.

I added the Sigma 70-300mm long zoom lens to the family, which came in handy during the London 2012 Olympics. I even spotted a namesake (even if blurry) :)

The Rebel XT is capable of shooting RAW, but I've never used that capability. I'm a JPEG guy. All my photos from this camera are pretty much straight out of camera, mainly because I can't be bothered to edit or post process. I don't know what that says about me. Anyhow, this camera probably made me lazy to be honest, as it produced beautiful JPEGs come rain or shine. Maybe for part 2, I will try shooting RAW, and post process in some free software as I don't have Lightroom or Aperture. We'll see.




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