Personal Camera Timeline: From Film to Digital

Today’s post is brought to you by YesVideo’s VP of Engineering, Marty Franz. He looks back at his personal camera timeline – reflecting on all the cameras he has owned, and how their evolving features played a role in capturing his memories.

As a person working with home memories, it’s interesting to look back at all of the different memory capture devices I’ve owned over the years.  I’m an early adopter and gadget freak so the list is quite long. I thought it would be fun to write about some of the more interesting devices and how they impacted by life.

 First Camera – 35MM SLR



My first memory capture device was a Minolta SLR that I purchased from a friend. I had some mild interest in photography, and this seemed like the perfect starting point. It was one of those auto everything SLR models. This was perfect for me since I didn’t know and F stop from F bomb.

Set to auto mode it would focus, determine if a flash was needed, and take the perfect photo. Similar to a modern camera, except that you had to pay someone to develop the photos into something you could actually view and share. It seems pretty archaic now that I think about it.

My then-girlfriend-soon-to-be-wife Katy and I took a lot of photos with this camera.  It was big and heavy, but a workhorse of a camera. It served us well for many years.

Nickelodeon Photo Blaster

Nickelodeon Photo Blaster Camera

Nickelodeon Photo Blaster

My second memory capture device was a toy camera called the Nickelodeon Photo Blaster. This camera saved film by taking a photo on ¼ of the film at a time. So a typical 36 exposure roll of film would become a 144 exposure roll of film. Katy suggested that it would be fun to not have to worry about how much film we used. The idea of taking a lot of photos was attractive enough that we took the leap.

The camera was clearly a toy camera. It was colored in bright green, purple, and colors. It wasn’t the Minolta SLR by any stretch. It was fun taking more photos, but you still had that pesky develop the film process.

First Camcorder

Photos are fun and all that, but what I really wanted was a video recorder. I have no idea why I need one, but it seemed like a fun thing to try. I settled on a Sanyo video camera with a large 4” LCD screen that recorded on 8MM tapes.

That was both the beginning and the end of the Sanyo camcorder. The camcorder didn’t find a place in my life on any level. I know I recorded some memories with it, but I have no idea what. I had several tapes from this camera in a desk drawer, but along the way I lost them. I’m still convinced that I have them around the house somewhere, but I have no idea where.

First Digital Camera – DC280

Kodak DC280 Digital Camera

Kodak DC280 Digital Camera

My first experience with digital cameras was the DC280 in 1999. This was a consumer grade 2MP digital camera. I remember it being pretty darn expensive at the time.  My now-wife Katy introduced it into our lives as an easy to use point and shoot camera.

Wow. What a change being digital made! No more trips to photo shop to develop film rolls. Just us and camera. This camera worked a lot better than I was expecting. We took this camera everywhere. Much like the rest of the world, we discovered that digital was the way to go because it gave you instant gratification. You took the photo and immediately were able to share with friends and family.

Kodak MC3

Kodak MC3

Kodak MC3 _AA300_.jpg

Now that I was awake to the wonderful world of digital photography, I was watching for new digital gadgets to play with. Enter the Kodak MC3 in early 2001. This device was ahead of its time (and the market). It could take low res photos, play Mp3 music, and record low res videos. I’m not sure who the target audience was supposed to be, but it was perfect for me.

It was the smallest video/photo capture device I had seen. It was tiny. The quality left a lot to be desired, but the size meant it could do things many other devices couldn’t. Within 24 hours it was strapped to the front of an RC car to make a video. It also was easy to travel with due to its size.

Second Camcorder – Sony MiniDV Camcorder

Sony MiniDV Camera

Sony MiniDV Camera

My second camcorder was purchased immediately following the birth of my daughter in 2002. It was a Sony MinDV camcorder. This was a pretty advanced camcorder. It could record to MiniDV tape as well as capture JPG images and MPG videos to a memory stick.  The camera was about as advanced as they come.

This camcorder experience was significantly different than my first camcorder experience. I had a subject that I wanted to record. Every moment of.  I speak of course of my new daughter.  Hours and hours of recording of her barely moving. I was clearly a new Dad.

First Digital Camera Phone – Nokia 3650

Nokia 3650

Nokia 3650

My first camera phone experience was the Nokia rotary phone. This was a very poorly thought out device and an awful experience. The phone was nearly unusable because the keyboard was arranged in a cute circle pattern. The photos were low resolution, and the camera had strange bugs with how it named the photos. If this was the future then I’ll take the past! I have some precious photos of my daughter as a baby with this phone, but it was otherwise landfill material from the minute it arrived.

Sanyo HD1

Sanyo HD1 Video Camera

Sanyo HD1

Around 2006 I got it in my head that I wanted a true HD camera. The Sanyo HD1 seemed to fit the bill. My daughter was getting older and I wanted a better quality camera to capture the moments. My daughter was growing up in front of me. I wanted the best quality I could have to capture those precious moments. The Sanyo wasn’t as portable as I would have liked, but the quality was better than most other devices I had owned.

A camera phone that worked – iPhone

iPhone package

First iPhone

The first camera phone I saw that actually worked well was the iphone. My wife gets the early adopter prize for this one. The iPhone didn’t seem like a big deal to me when it first came out in 2007. I was happy with my Blackberry, doing my work emails while on the go. I soon noticed that she was having a lot more fun than I was. Emailing, web browsing, photos were far all superior to previous hybrid devices I had seen. The iPhone of course became wildly successful for all of these reasons.

First 3D Camera

Fuji W3 Camera

Fuji W3

As excitement around 3D movies began to grow, so did my interest in 3D photo/video technology. Enter the Fuji W3 camera in 2010. I thought this was an area that would slowly become the new normal as 3D movies grew more popular. Boy was I in for a surprise!


Personal WC3 Photo Sample

Personal WC3 Photo Sample. Have a 3D display? Click the photo for the MPO 3D file.

Taking 3D photos is nothing like taking a standard photo. You have to frame the shot in three dimensions. While it sounds easy, it takes work. People have to be more than 3 feet away from the camera or the photo wont look good in 3D. You also have to have some sort of a 3D display to show the photos. The Fuji camera has a glassless 3D screen on the back that makes sharing easy, but sharing to more than one person at a time generally requires showing the photo in 2D. My experiences in 3D photography were enough to convince me that normal people will not want to shoot 3D photos.  It remains fun as a hobby, but that’s about as far as it’s going to go.

Modern Day

The modern day answer to capturing memories is pretty simple. You need a smart phone with photo and video recording capabilities. Almost any will do. The quality of modern phones puts most of the devices I’ve written about to shame. The ability to share immediately with friends and family makes the experience even better.

iPhone 4s, Kodak Playsport, Nikon D5000

iPhone 4s, Kodak Playsport, Nikon D5000 (,,

My modern memory capture arsenal consists of three devices. An iPhone 4S for everyday photos and videos, a Kodak Play Sport for photos and videos at the beach, and a Nikon DSLR for those moments when I want the highest quality. All three serve a purpose.  All three complement each other.

Preserve those memories.


What favorite cameras do you have fond memories of? Tell us below!



  1. I always loved that first Polaroid Camera I received for a present, it was so cool to have your photos instantly! Digital these days are so much better quality but Polaroid was fun!