I still remember when my mom took me to meet Mr. Carman, and buy my first camera. I must have been about nine. Camera shops were different then. The store seemed vast (at least to my 9 year old eyes). Long and narrow, with beams of sunlight from the window-front streaming through the dusty air, the shop was an amazing, fascinating, wondrous, emporium filled with intriguing and magical curiosities!
As my mom chatted with Mr. Carman at the front, I walked along the long row of dusty glass display cases stretching to the back of the dimly-lit shop, peering in awe at the treasures they held: Nikon, Pentax, Canon, Yashica, Minolta, Rollei – all the big names I’d seen or heard of in magazines, and a bunch more I hadn’t. Camera bodies, lenses, flashes, straps, cases, filters and attachments and gear of every sort. Almost all the equipment was used – which made it all the more fascinating to me. Who had used this camera, I wondered? Or this one? Or this well used one with the worn strap and thread-bare bag? Maybe some famous pro. A National Geographic photographer? Maybe someone who had taken one of the images I was so captivated with, in one of the half-dozen photography magazines I’d thumbed through, time and time again.
A voice roused me from my daydreaming. “Your Mother tells me you have quite the interest in photography.” “Yes, sir” I managed, shyly. “Well, I can see it” he said, a warm, understanding smile spreading across his face. We spoke for a long time that day, him telling me about photography in general, the lifelong pursuit it becomes for some people, the rich legacy of photography and photographers, a bit of a history of some of the brands and equipment. His love for photography was not only obvious, but infectious. After a while he said “You know, I think I have just the camera for you.” I held my breath in anticipation as he walked around one of the cabinets, a walk that seemed to take forever, reached in, and brought it out: a silver and black Minolta Hi-Matic rangefinder – well used, well loved, and perfect in every way!
”It has a beautiful lens” he said, turning the camera over. “Well built. And she’ll take great photos, in the right hands. It’s an ideal camera to learn on, and grow with. What do you think?” he asked, already knowing the answer, as he passed the camera over to me. It was love at first sight!
I’d eventually trade that camera for a Nikon EM SLR, and that for a Canon Rebel, and that for another, and another, and another over the years. I’ve used a lot brands, and I don’t really prefer one over another as ‘better’. If anything, each has their own, unique ‘personality’. But I’ll always have a special place in my heart for my first love, my muse, my Minolta.