Canon EOS DCS 3c
Recently I was talking with a client about digital cameras and he asked me how long I have been shooting digital… I thought about it and my answer surprised even me – 16 years.
I was quite amazed that I have not used film for the past 16 years and I thought I would dig out my first digital camera and take a picture of it – it was the size of a brick and was a beast to use.
At the time I was working as a staff photographer for a national picture agency. It had a Kodak camera back on a Canon EOS-1 N camera body – and was called a Canon EOS DCS 3c. The c stood for it took colour images, there was a cheaper black and white version which had the letter m for monochrome.
Nowadays it seems so strange that back then you had to choose between colour & monochrome – it was the same with the first Mac I used in the field in 1993 a Powerbook Pro (the one with a trackball) to save on costs I used the version with a greyscale display.
I shot the 1998 Football World Cup in France on one of these beasts. You could only charge the camera as it did not have a changeable battery – the charge lasted about 40 minutes .. just enough if you were lucky for the first half and then a quick charge at half time in the press room before the 2nd half. I was at the very important match England – Argentina (the one when Beckham was sent off) it went to a penalty shoot out, just as the penalties started the battery died and I was left with a dead camera … I had a film camera back up but the agency photographers who had 2 of these cameras won the day and got their images back to the news desks long before anyone else.
The large digital cards used then were notoriously bad – commonly known as ‘Vipers’ they had a small hard drive that rotated inside – they actually had moving parts! the slightest knock on the card or camera and all the images were lost for ever – and that happened many times. The above picture shows a Viper together with today’s latest Flash Card.
Even though these first professional digital cameras were very unreliable the benefits in time saving were just amazing and for the very first time we photojournalists could transmit pictures directly from the pitch in real time rather than waiting to develop our films after the game.