I thought the best way to kick off Jankuary would be to start at the beginning of my photography journey…well, not quite the absolute beginning, otherwise I’d be busting out a disposable camera, but the first time I had intention of shooting something more than family snaps.
Once Upon a Time…
In 2004 I bought my first “serious” camera. I use that word in quotes because even by the standards of the time it was an amateur camera. The camera in question was the Fujifilm FinePix S3100. I didn’t have the knowledge (or money) to dish out hundreds (or thousands) for a DSLR. The only thing I knew for sure was that I needed a camera with optical zoom not digital.
Digital cameras were just becoming all the rage, and while I don’t remember how I came across the S3100, I decided this was the camera for me. Being able to take a photo and see it instantly was amazing, and I could practice as much as I wanted without any additional investment.
I also learned very quickly that a camera strap could be a problem as much as a solution. One evening when I was getting ready to practice, it snagged on a drawer handle, flew out of my hand and crashed to the floor. With no lens hood, I distinctly remember having to palm the lens back into place with a snap, and the battery door had a chip. For the remainder of its life, the battery door was loose and needed finagling to close properly. I had it for less than a week.
I repurchased it a few years back for nostalgia’s sake and it’s a lot smaller than I remember.
This is a 4-megapixel camera with a 6x optical zoom. It has a popup flash, but no hot shoe, an AF assist lamp, tripod socket and EVF. There isn’t much else going for it.
There’s a manual mode, if you can call it that, with some things you can change via the menu, like exposure value from -2.1 to +1.5 in .3 stop increments. There are a standard set of white balance choices and you can adjust the aperture value but only have the choice between f2.8, f5, or f8. There’s also a sharpness setting, which I assume is useless. Last but not least is a flash compensation.
Portrait, Landscape, Sport and Night are offered up for presets through the menu as well. There’s a full auto, and you can even shoot video at a whopping 320 pixels wide.
The S3100 takes the now defunct xD cards, which topped out at 2GB and there was my first issue…I didn’t have a reader for them. The USB end to plug the camera is was also something I no longer owned. I had to buy an xD card reader just for this review! The camera does take 4 AA batteries though, which is nice because a 20 year old lithium ion battery is likely going to be a spicy pillow by now.
Still, I’m old enough to remember this camera fondly, and from what I hear the Gen Z group has been reviving these early digital wonders, so it got me thinking: can I make anything of value with a 20-year-old digital camera? Especially this bridge model?!
One of my new years resolutions is to put serious restrictions on my photography in order to break out of the monotony. I’ve discussed this before regarding my choice to only shoot one kind of film this year, as well as saying goodbye to medium format, but what I also decided in the last few days is avoiding my default: grabbing the camera and taking a walk…unless under certain conditions. 1. It’s night photography, 2. The weather is really bad…like a storm or dense fog, and 3. If I’m in another city.
So while I do have one outdoor shot the others are not and truth be told they’re a little boring. As I acclimate to my self imposed restrictions it’ll take me a minute to find a new groove. I also had a deadline to deal with. Let’s be honest here too, I’m not going to hire a model in order to produce 4 megapixel results.
I know, I’m really jazzing you up for some junk.
What is strange to me is at a glance, it’s hard to believe this is a twenty year old, mid range digital camera. To be fair I’m not challenging it here with low light or anything crazy.
The on-camera flash was surprisingly good, considering its size and age.
The macro setting was pretty impressive.
I tried doing something a little funky here with a light bulb. My thought process was it’s hard to age a camera if the photo is an abstract.
While the Fujifilm FinePix S3100 may not be your first choice for buying a vintage digital camera is really does show that we are now entering an era where you can definitely go back two decades and grab something competent. You can find them on eBay anywhere between $15-$75 dollars.
Stay tuned on Fridays for the rest of January where I’ll be looking at old and crappy cameras!
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