Photography has been a hobby of mine for many years. My first camera was a Soviet-made Zenit-3M 35-mm rangefinder, one of the many Leica clones manufactured in the USSR. It was (and still is) a sturdy and precise camera that was perfect for learning the craft.Eventually I upgraded to a Zenit-E SLR. I must have shot a few thousand rolls with that camera. Mostly black-and-white Svema 64 film, also some 130 and 250, but those were more tricky to develop. And, yes, I did all my own development and printing with an old “Leningrad” photo enlarger.
Antiquated equipment aside, Soviet-made black-and-white film and paper were superb. Color was a different story, however. My experiments with color printing were expensive and more often than not ended in disaster. The biggest difficulty was getting my hands on the processing chemicals. Those were hard to come by, especially for color printing.
My next major “upgrade” was the ubiquitous Lubitel 166 twin-lens reflex, medium format camera manufactured by the famed LOMO in Leningrad. The camera was an odd combination of cheap plastic body and superb optics. The results were usually excellent. Unfortunately, my film processing and printing gear did not support medium format film, so there was the added expense of using a professional photo lab.
After moving to the states I played around with some soapbox cameras and enjoyed the instant gratification of the Polaroid, I picked up a Yashica TL-Electro. It wasn’t a bad camera, but, in my opinion, it fell short of the optical performance of my old Zenit-E. Tired of messing around with second-hand museum-grade photo equipment, I finally broke my piggy bank and bought the Canon Elan IIe.
The “e” cost me an extra hundred bucks and meant that the camera had an eye-controlled focal point selector. At the time I thought it was a gimmick, but decided to spend the extra cash anyway. It was a wise decision: that little feature was amazing. And so was the IR focus-assist light. I was shooting mostly color slide (Fujifilm Velvia and Kodak Kodachrome were my favorites). I have boxes and boxes of them. Enough to fill a small museum, if one is ever opened in my honor.
The rest of my gear is fairly unremarkable: an assortment of Canon and some Nikon dSLRs. My current favorite, however, is Canon G12. It finally allowed me to attend various parties and family events not looking like I just returned from a safari photo shoot.