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The best camera I’ve ever owned…it might not be what you think.

This spring marked the start of my 6th year in business. Really? Harder yet to believe is the sheer fact that I have been shooting for 21 years. Wow! Time does fly when you are having fun and doing what you love.

So, as I created my new hybrid blog/website, I started to reflect on, well, life as a photographer and how I got to this point.

In short, it all really started in the summer of 1990. Friends of mine, Tom and Kelly Knarr suggested I do some stringing at The Sentinel in Lewistown over the summer while in college. Sounded good. Work on my composition and lighting (while making a few bucks); all the stuff that could help with courses I was taking for my degree at Kutztown University. Whelp, that first summer I fell in love with photojournalism and still photography almost immediately. After graduating in 1993, The Sentinel had an opening and I jumped right into my photography career.

So, now for the best camera I’ve ever owned. It wasn’t actually one of my old Nikon FM-2’s (I did love those tank-like bodies) or the newly released Nikon D-1’s we used in our digital conversion in Carlisle in 2001…or even the high meg Nikon digitals I use everyday currently (I must admit my current cameras are very important to my workflow though). The best camera didn’t have autofocus with 51 focus points. Didn’t take a card. Didn’t have even one single tiny mega-pixel. Didn’t really even need a battery for that matter. It was, in fact at the time, an almost 25-year-old Pentax Spotmatic SP.

Flash back to around 1967. My father, Jim Minick, was serving as a sergeant and MP in Vietnam. He purchased this Pentax Spotmatic camera to document his travels and fellow soldiers in a rough war. His images from then are truly amazing. He came home, used it a bit and retired it.

Summer of 1990 my dad dusted off that old camera and a few lenses, gave me some pointers and handed it all over to me. It was trial and error for me on a lot of shoots for the paper. I always managed to get usable shots but I also made notes about my camera settings and reviewed my negatives to improve and learn from the mistakes. There were many…but I was learning and loving it. It wasn’t instant either. Had to develop the film, dry it, click on the old light box and edit with a loop then make my prints (that timeless process is for another blog) Instead of the lens aimed at the good, the bad and ugly of what war can be, it was used to document life around Mifflin and Juniata Counties: carnivals, 4-H fairs, school events, fires, car crashes.

That 45-year-old Pentax now sits in my office, part of my collection of many vintage cameras. It was my dad’s and it was what started it all for me. The best camera.

Thanks Dad and Happy Father’s Day.



This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Yes, a real surprise! There was a Vietnam component in regards to my 2 favorite cameras. My oldest brother was serving in ‘Nam at the time and knew I’d gotten the photo bug. So he loaned me the money for a Minolta SRT-101 and bought it for me through the military PACEX store. PACEX pricing for serving military was less than half the going rate of the NY mail order firms at the time. Mail comes – we sign the customs forms and I was one jubilant 16 year old.

  2. 1970 Da Nang I bought the same camera, nice lens, extra 135, w2 power converter and bunch of filters, nice nice case. $156.00 from PACEX. At the time The most money I had ever spent on anything that was not a motorcycle. I still have most of it. Curse you digital age.

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