In 2005 I bought the first digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera that cost less than US$1,000. The Nikon D70 was then only the second such "cheap" digital SLR camera on the market. It was a huge investment, but worth every cent.
Not only did it rekindle my love of photography, but it opened up the world of digital. I would fill gigabytes of memory with pictures as I rediscovered the joys of having a professional camera again; and I was able to frame decent shots and snap the pic at exactly the moment I wanted to.
I had started my career as both a writer and photographer but was told by an early boss I could focus on only one, because negative-based photography was so time-consuming. However, digital changed everything.
What made SLR cameras so remarkable was that you could look through the actual lens, using a complicated mirror mechanism. So you could actually see what would be captured — unlike some other models, which had a small viewing window above the actual lens.
On the film-based cameras, after you framed the picture and clicked the shutter button, it flipped the mirror up and burnt the image onto the negative. That shutter movement produced the characteristic click that has defined professional photography and given the paparazzi its unique soundtrack.
The digital SLR didn’t have a strip of negative to expose but it retained the body of a pro SLR — in part because the manufacturers needed to protect their investment in the camera systems. These include, in no small part, the lenses you attach to the cameras. And that characteristic "click" sound of the shutter was artificially included in the DSLR to keep photographers happy.
These days I don’t even own a DSLR (though I’d appreciate it if whoever I lent both my Nikon and Canon to would return them). Instead, like everyone else, I take all my pictures using my smartphone.
I recently upgraded to the iPhone 7 Plus, which has two lenses (one wide-angle, the other a zoom). This lets it replicate that classic photographer’s trick of using a telephoto lens to take portraits with the subject in focus and the background blurred.
Its other camera upgrades and usability tweaks make it arguably the best smartphone camera.
The latest camera phone I’ve tested is from reinvigorated Motorola, the skinny Moto Z. It differentiates itself from the rest of the Android pack with clever modifications that you can attach to the back using strong magnets. One of these, the Hasselblad attachment, takes amazing images. I tested the 10-times zoom with a ship in Cape Town’s harbour at sunset. The wide view was glorious, and the zoomed-in view lost none of its rich colours nor its definition.
A lot has changed in the 11 years since my first DSLR. But it shows how companies, from Apple to Moto to Hasselblad, have had to reinvent themselves. They’re doing a fine job.
• Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff magazine.