In the year 2000 (somehow, living in it never felt as futuristic and cool as saying it), I enrolled as a first-year undergraduate student1 at the University of Durham. For many among the student body, the most exciting thing that happened that year was the use by Warner Brothers of parts of the Cathedral grounds and cloisters for filming 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'.
But while my fellow undergraduates occupied themselves with daily games of 'Where's Alan Rickman Getting Coffee Today?'2 I was trying to work out how to become a photographer. Back then, the most expensive component of photography was materials. Film, chemicals, paper and of course the associated hardware. An enlarger with a decent lens, tanks, trays and the physical space required to set it up. I didn't have a darkroom at home, so I made full use of the facilities both at my college and later, when studying abroad in France.
Over the course of my first year at Durham I took thousands of photographs, experimenting with different styles, different film stocks, and different ways of processing and creating images. Serious digital imaging was still out of reach to all but the wealthiest of enthusiasts at that point, but our student-run website bought a Canon Digital IXUS V in 2001 which I shot with a lot. Although it only offered 2 million pixels, had a crappy battery life and barely any zoom, after a long, smelly day in the darkroom, the IXUS V gave me a refreshing taste of the convenience – and potential – of digital imaging.
That potential had come a little bit closer to being realized late the previous year, when Canon released the EOS D30.
The D30 was a groundbreaking camera for a number of reasons. Not only was it Canon's first properly home-grown DSLR (previous efforts had been collaborations with Kodak, and were priced for the pro market), it was the first DSLR with an APS-C format CMOS sensor, and the first to come in at (just) under $3000, body only.
I read early previews and reviews of the D30 voraciously. The sheer potential of the thing was incredible. Along with many other photography nerds at the time I had a whole new language to learn. Raw files. JPEGs. A few terms, like 'unsharp mask' I was familiar with from the darkroom, but others like 'white balance' and 'color space' were alien.
It was image quality that really sold the D30. God knows it wasn't the 3-point autofocus system or the pokey, dark viewfinder. For someone used to shooting with a high-end Canon film SLR, the D30's core photographic specification must have looked alarmingly primitive (pity the first generation of press photographers who had to use them coming from EOS 1N and EOS 3 bodies) but those files...
Images from the D30 were amazingly clean and detailed, and up to ISO 1600 there was almost no grain - or, as I was learning to call it - noise.
It's easy to forget that for 35mm film photographers, shooting above ISO 400 was considered a bit risky. There were some decent general-purpose 800 ISO color emulsions, but film (color film at any rate) was never really great for low-light handheld shooting. As such, the ability to shoot good, clean, contrasty, colorful and virtually grain-free images above ISO 400 on the D30 was a revelation. The late Michael Reichmann took a lot of flak from purists back then for saying that images from the D30 were essentially better than film, but I thought he was right when he published that article, and I still do.
When we shot our first Field Test video in 2014, I took my D30 along to record some 'behind the scenes' shots of the (then) brand-new Canon EOS 7D II being put through its paces.
Such was the demand for the D30 when it was finally released that they were pretty scarce. Only once do I remember seeing a non-professional with one. He was a guest in the restaurant I waited in3 during my university holidays and he had it out on the table (of course he did). The restaurant was one of those rural boutique hotel restaurants with Michelin Star aspirations and prices to match, but too many covers (and too much corner-cutting) to ever be awarded one. At the time it used to attract a lot of what the head waiter dismissively termed 'BDGs', which stood for 'builders4 done good'. Lots of money, but lacking in taste. The kind of people who would order a soufflé and then ask for ketchup.5 D30 man was a BDG.
As a 19 year-old student it pained me to see him flashing around a $3000 camera which was fabulously beyond my means, and that he clearly didn't know how to use. But it delighted me when, towards the end of the meal, he drunkenly spilled red wine all over it.6
Another three years would pass before I owned my own DSLR, an EOS 10D. It took a whole year of working in that same restaurant to pay for it, and I never looked (or went) back. But it was another six years before I finally got my hands on an EOS D30. In 2009, not long before I joined DPReview I found one on Ebay, boxed and in immaculate condition.7 I didn't need it, but I wanted it. There's something very special about encountering things that you once lusted over - it's like a kind of magic. The attraction never quite wears off. I won the bid (a very reasonable £100, if I remember correctly) and fell in love all over again. I still have my D30. I still shoot with it from time to time. And it's still great.
1. English Literature & Philosophy, in case you were curious. Which, sixteen years on, means you can basically ask me anything about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
2. Vennels, and the Café on the Green mostly I think.
3. For the benefit of our American readers, waited in = served in. I wasn't just lurking in a restaurant.
4. Also for the benefit of our American readers, builder = construction worker.
5. I actually saw that happen once, but I was never able to confirm the story of another BDG returning his gazpacho soup because it was cold.
6. Schadenfreude, like gazpacho soup, is best served chilled.
7. Listed by a certain Ray Davies, of Birmingham England. Presumably not that Ray Davies.
We were in Japan earlier this month for the annual CP+ show in Yokohama, where we sat down with senior executives from several camera and lens manufacturers, among them Nikon.
Sony has released firmware version 5.0 for its flagship mirrorless camera, the a9. The update brings AI-driven autofocus modes, an improved menu structure and other updates.
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The Auschwitz Museum has asked visitors to be more respectful after an upsurge of pictures posted on social media showing people posing on the train tracks that lead to the main gate.
This week Chris and Jordan take the new Leica Q2 for a spin, and while most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are welcoming spring, they head even farther north than usual to visit ice castles. Because #Canada.
Harvard is facing a lawsuit over profiting from 19th century daguerreotypes that captured the portrait of a slave and his daughter on a South Carolina plantation.
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DJI has confirmed its drones won't be affected by the GPS 2019 week rollover.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has teamed up with Kodak to release a beer that's capable of doubling as a film developer.
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GauGAN as it's known, can create photorealistic images from basic drawings using the power of artificial intelligence.
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Montana judge Dana L. Christensen has ruled the Republican National Committee did not infringe upon the copyright of photographer Erika Peterman after they took a photo from a Democratic candidate's Facebook page without permission and altered it to use in a derogatory promotional mailer.
Nikon has launched updates for three of its programs to address various bugs and glitches that could cause crashes and unwanted results.
LEE Filters has launched the LEE100, its next-generation filter holder that improves the design and looks in all the right places.
With the arrival of some much-needed sunshine and final production firmware for the Panasonic S1, we've been able to get outside and really start putting the camera through its paces.
Importing, culling and tagging photos is about to get a whole lot faster and look a whole lot better with the impending arrival of Photo Mechanic 6.
On its own, the FTZ adapter retails for $250 and when bundled it dropped the cost to just $150. Now, Nikon is offering it for free with all Z6, Z7 purchases in the United States.
Profoto said it spoke with Godox back at Photokina 2018 and continues to contact Godox in an effort to stop it from marketing its V1 light.
Product renders in Italian publication Notebook Italia show an unusual design that conceals all cameras with the help of a slider mechanism.
Canon says its new EF 400mm F2.8L IS III and EF 600mm F4L IS III lenses can suffer from an intermittent flickering when shooting video in M or Av modes with certain cameras.
Leica recently announced the Q2, a digital rangefinder with a fixed 28mm F1.7 lens. It's a heck of a lot of fun to shoot with, but is it right for you? Based on our time with the camera, and its specifications, we've examined how well-suited it is for common photography use-cases.
Now that our Panasonic Lumix S1R has final firmware, we couldn't wait to get out shooting with it - and we also tried the high-res mode, which combines files to get 187 megapixel images. Because sometimes, 47 megapixels just isn't enough.