I was hunting for something I needed urgently the other day and made the happy discovery of my old, dearly loved Olympus mju 2 camera. It's a splendid gizmo. It still has a film in it, and I haven't used it since - well it must be at least 12 years.
My first camera was an Agfa instamatic thingy that I got to take on a school trip. It was as basic as basic could be, but the photos were OK. You remember them. Square photos from a kind of boxy clunky thing. 126 film cartridges. Typical 1970s contraptions.
Next I remember spending £30 on a Zenit E. It was a wonderful thing with a most splendid lens, but so heavy it was like walking with a sack of spuds round your neck. After a couple of years of taking LOTS of photos and sending them for developing to cheap labs everywhere I sold my Zenit for what I paid for it and bought a Cosina CSM.
The Cosina CSM was an aperture priority slr camera with TTL metering! Very high tech. This was traded in for a second-hand Nikon, which then got swapped for a Canon Eos SLR, which I still have, and ought to sell.
Meanwhile I was more and more fed up with slr cameras. You took them to weddings, but you had this massive bag or a huge thing slung round your neck and it always seemed to get in the way. Not only that, but if you went for a walk into town and saw something worthy of a photo your camera was almost always at home in its bag.
So I looked for a decent compact. My first was a treasure that I still have, bought in about 1981 by mail order and delivered to the office at Honeywell - my Olympus Pen EE-3. It's a half frame camera with the same mechanism as the famous old Olympus Trip, but taking 72 or more photos on a roll of 36 film. Excellent for weddings, you snap and snap to your heart's content. But for everyday life by the time you finished a roll of film you forgot what was on the start, or even sometimes where or when you took it. And then it became harder and harder to find labs that would process half-frame.
Next came the Mju II. It's the best camera I have ever owned. It's fully automatic and you have just one rule - turn off the flash. Once you've done that, and mastered the self-timer mechanism, there's not much you can't do with it. Wonderful.
Digital photography promised the end of developing costs, so we hopped on the bandwagon.
Firstly a massive Olympus C2020. It was HUGE. I got it cheap from Morgan Computers, and it was a wonderful machine, though anything in dim lighting had LOTS of noise.
Then followed a small Olympus Stylus 2 compact that I hoped would be the digital answer to the mju 2. It was great, but sadly the lens wasn't as good, nor was the exposure programme.
A tiny Minolta followed. Shaped like a packet of cards, this took some excellent photos in around 2004 before it yielded up the spirit. Then a tiny Sony compact that served us well till it, too died.
Then followed the best period of digital photography so far - the time of the Lumix. I bought, again I think from Morgan Computers, a Panasonic Lumix FZ3. Wonderful! A splendid lens that zoomed without distortion and was fast right through the zoom. Pat still uses this camera, though it has a meagre 3 megapixels. It was succeeded by a TZ1, a smaller camera with again a wonderful zoom lens designed by Leica. I still use this camera with its luxurious and impressive 5 megapixels.
Then came camera phones. They say that the best camera is the one you have with you, and this is where camera phones win hands down. The Sony Ericsson i750 lasted for several years, followed by a Nokia N90. Then the iPhone 3GS, sheer luxury! Now a Samsung Android phone with Instagram, though I still would like to return to an iPhone one day.
I'd also still like to find the digital equivalent of the old Olympus mju 2.
What would it need?
No zoom, but a good quality, fast 35mm lens. F2 or faster, by preference.
A good sensor, but not necessarily a vast number of megapixels.
A good processing engine.
Robust construction, and small enough to slip into your jacket pocket.
A reasonable price.
If you hear that someone is making a digital equivalent of a Ricoh GR, Yashica T1 or Olympus mju 2, you know I'm waiting to hear about it!