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Gifts of Holidays Past: My first digital camera … and all the embarrassing photos that go with it

The Christmas of 2005 was mostly important to me for one reason: It was my last at home. I was absolutely itching to get the hell out of their parents’ house and into the relative freedom of a dorm room while also caught in this sort of pre-nostalgia about leaving my family and my room and my pets and all the other comforts of home.

So there were the typical “last Christmas” gifts. From my mom, a set of luggage (which I still think screams “it’s been real, now away with you”), from my sisters an embarrassing amount of framed photos of the three of us, from my dad a lifetime supply of pepper spray (a half-joking, half-“I really don’t want you to get assaulted” gift), and from Santa – yes, my family still does Santa presents, it’s fine, everybody be cool – a digital camera.

The Canon PowerShot A85, to be exact. A beauty, in its day, now a hilariously clunky piece of plastic. I was something of a darkroom, film photography nut at the time, and had never expressed even the slightest interest in digital cameras except to say they were “neat” and I’d probably get one “someday.” But my room was covered in film prints I’d taken with my analog, Minolta XG-M and developed myself.

Still, my parents – I’m sorry, “Santa” – had the foresight to bring me into the new age of photography before I went off the college.

Despite my skepticism, digital cameras stuck. I went on to take classes in college, and even won an award for my work at a university magazine. I’m something of a camera hoarder at this point, keeping all my ancient models and admiring how at one point I reveled at their 8 megapixel sensors and 6x optical zooms.

Now I usually rock my Canon Rebel XTI, but it all comes back to that first step into digital with the A85. If I may, a trip down specification memory lane. The A85 featured:

  • A 4 megapixel, 1/2.7 inch CCD sensor
  • A 3x optical zoom, 3.6x digital zoom for an 11x combined zoom
  • A “large” (according to the original listing) 1.8 inch, 118K pixel LCD display
  • A 9 point intelligent auto focus system
  • ISO range of 50-400

Now I just happened to enter college in the fall of 2005 – meaning I was one of the early inductees to Facebook and the days when it was college only. Thus many of my A85’s first outings were captured for eternity. So my gift to you is a trip through my embarrassing first attempts at digital photography. The photos are fuzzy, pixelated, shaky, full of orbs and shadows and other exposure and saturation flaws – but they are what they are. Happy holidays, and may we all treasure the massive sensors and ISO range our digital cameras offer today.