Revisiting Old Photos and Old Cameras

I've been working on a project to take all the photos that my wife and I have captured over the years and get them into my photography systems. That means collecting them, importing them into Lightroom, cataloging them, tagging them, and protecting them in my data backup system. It's a long and arduous process and I haven't even gotten to the film and smartphone photos yet!

One very cool thing about this project is getting to revisit old photos and, in many cases, doing some post-processing enhancement on them using modern tools. It brings back great memories and sometimes I discover some standouts that pop nicely with a bit of tweaking.

The photo above is from the 2012 season opening for my beloved Longhorns. Texas vs Wyoming. I remember the sunset that evening was terrific and I found myself getting distracted from the game photographing its progression.

The camera I used was an Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom, which was my first good digital camera. I loved that camera and used it for a long time (this photo was taken when it was already 9 years old). I still have the C-5060 and it still works great! Back in 2003 when I bought it, DSLRs were new and targeted at professionals. I didn't want to spend that kind of money. But because I'd used a nice 35mm film camera for many years, I still wanted full controls and better image quality than the typical digital compact. So I bought the C-5060 "premium compact" (a lamentably dying category nowadays) and it was perfect for my needs. That camera documented the early years of my marriage, my kids' infant, toddler, and early childhood years, our first two homes, and many vacations.

The C-5060 took great images for the time. It had a nice lens with a pretty ideal range (27-110mm full-frame equivalent) for my needs. It had the best build quality of any camera I've owned – it's an absolute tank! I could set it on auto for my wife who doesn't want to fool with anything other than the shutter button. But for my own shooting it had the necessary pro/enthusiast capabilities – manual and semi-auto exposure modes, manual focus, RAW files, exposure bracketing, AE/AF lock, continuous shooting, custom settings presets, histograms, etc.

Using the camera today, the downsides are really just a statement about the state of the technology in 2003. Obviously it has a noisy, low-resolution (5.1MP) sensor by today's standards. For web photos and prints 8x10 or smaller, it's absolutely fine, but you won't be making billboards with it. The autofocus, and card writing speeds are noticeably slow. In fact, card writing is downright painful when shooting RAW images, taking almost a full minute to write the file to the card, during which you can't shoot! So I only use RAW for photos like the one above where I'm prioritizing image quality. For normal family shooting, it's just impractical. The 10-bit RAW files don't have the detail I'm used to today with my Nikons. But they're still a lot more malleable than JPGs and I was able to tease out some nice color and shadow details in the photo without having to resort to any Photoshop fakery beyond simple exposure and tonal adjustments.

Operationally, the C-5060 is still completely satisfying. It has 95% of the controls you expect to have even on a modern camera, and a whole mess of them are accessible via dedicated buttons on the body of the camera. Sure, it's missing some modern focus modes and exposure metering features, but all of the basics and many of the advanced features are there (albeit maybe in a more primitive form). And it's just a fun camera to shoot with. The size, ergonomics, and controls work well and logically for the most part. 

I'm amazed at how well this camera holds up, physically, functionally, and operationally. I wish the selection of up-to-date equivalents was better, because I'd love to have one.