My first serious camera was a Konica Autoreflex T3 35 MM SLR that I purchased in the early 1970s and used for over 25 years. It cost around $300, but I spent well over $1000 on it including lenses, the most expensive being a $500 80-200 MM zoom lens. I have always been a big lens guy shooting mainly landscape and wildlife. I also had a 2X converter that gave me a maximum focal length of 400 MM. Of course, with the large aperture required at that zoom and the lack of any form of stabilization, I could really only use the combination with a tripod on a sunny day.
My daughter still has the Konica and it was her main camera till she got a digital SLR a year ago, but she still likes to shoot film occasionally.
I got my first digital camera in 1999, and again I went for the big zoom. The $1,500 Sony Mavica FD-91 was one impressive looking camera for it's time. The 14X zoom on the Mavica was huge, a 35 MM equivalent of 37-518 MM and with Sony's Steady Shot image stabilization system it could be hand held at the full zoom. The camera was unique in that it used 3.5 inch floppy disks for image storage and though it was under a megapixel it produced decent 8X10 prints, even though the experts claimed that was not possible. It was a large camera but I was used to the size and feel of an SLR and preferred it over smaller digital cameras.
The Mavica became my daughter's first digital camera when I upgraded.
By 2005 a sub megapixel camera was pretty well considered obsolete and after 5 years I decided it was time to upgrade again. By now digital cameras were becoming serious and digital SLRs were available. However one of the main reasons I went to a digital camera with a long zoom was to avoid the hassle of changing multiple lenses and the weight and bulk of carrying them hiking. So I decided on the Panasonic Lumix FZ20 with a 12X 36-432 MM stabilized zoom lens.
The FZ20, at a cost of about $1000 (with a bit more for an extra battery and memory cards), was a big improvement over the Mavica and takes great photos and I am sure it would do me well for many years to come.
However with all things electronic and digital the time comes when you have to decide whether it is worthwhile to upgrade to a newer improved model with more features. After 6 years it looks like it is about time to upgrade again. This time I am looking at the Panasonic Lumix FZ100.
The Lumix FZ100 is a 14 megapixel camera with a 25-600 MM 24X stabilized zoom with full HD video capability, rather than the crappy tiny Quicktime video of the FZ20. Shooting at 3 megapixels, the top of the zoom range is an effective 1200 MM lens - WOW. The awesome zoom and full HD video capability are the main features that made me decide that now is the time to upgrade, but the camera also has impressive burst shooting capabilities and a whole slew of improvements over the FZ20.
The cost has gone down as well to about $550, but an extra battery and SD cards might add an extra $200 or so. So it looks like that will be under the tree for me this Christmas.