- Johnny Wilson
My first camera: Fuji Finepix A120
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
I first started to get into photography when I was 16/17. I was in college at the time, studying English Lang Lit and outside of college, hanging around with a big group of friends in the park and sometimes in supermarket car parks, getting drunk and eating cake... and because we hung around near a supermarket I used to buy Fuji disposable cameras and take pictures with them. Some of them we're pretty amusing, I might share them one day, but I wanted something better, something I could really play around with. So for my 17th birthday I decided I wanted a digital camera! (photo credit: Amazon.co.uk) I didn't know much about cameras to be honest. I didn't know what that little flower symbol meant. I had no idea what ISO stood for. All I wanted was a camera that took photos I could upload to my laptop. I was inspired alot at the time by photographers that shot the bands I listened to, the likes of Ryan Russell (who I still follow!) and Nick Stevens (I had one of your Jesse Lacey photos on my bedroom wall, Nick!) because they made the photos they took look like stills from movies, and that's still what I aim for today. I picked out the Finepix A120 from that same supermarket's photo section. There was a lot to choose from but I had a tight budget and Fuji was a name I recognized so I went with that. I think I liked how you had to slide the front open to turn it on, something about that just made it cooler to 17 year old me I guess?
I took it everywhere cos it was so small and portable and started to just photograph things that I liked or things that I thought were cool. I got into photographing graffiti alot and started taking photos around tunnels, underneath bridges e.t.c of the local tags and local art, something I still keep up now. Back then digital cameras were pretty new to the scene so it was pretty primitive, without researching it on wikipedia, I'm sure it was something like 3 megapixels, and the LCD screen on the back was so tiny, you had no idea if what you just shot looked any good or not, till you got it home and hooked it up to the computer. But the magic was there! Before the Finepix I just shot disposable cameras, and you had no idea what you got until you got the film developed. And it didn't matter if you dropped them cos it hadn't really cost anything. The A120 was different, I had a 12 month warranty with mine because I was sure I'd break it skateboarding or at a gig or something!
I didn't really know what I was doing at the time, I just pointed it at things I liked, and pressed the button and if it worked it worked, if it didn't then fair enough. But it was the roots for what I carried into photography in the future. I've always felt photography is 50% composition and 50% science. But with the A120 you didn't really have a lot to play with so it was pretty much just pure composition! Sometimes I stumbled on something cool or quirky and the A120 was there for me to photograph that and share it like I was trying to be artsy or something.
Ok, so I took some nice images with this little camera and it was fun to play with but it was primitive. Like I said, the technology was still fairly new (in the grand scheme of things; this was 2005) and nowadays there are entry level mobile phones with better cameras than this one. But it did it's thing. I remember it used to eat batteries and I used to carry around a spare pair of double A's if I knew I was shooting for more than a couple of hours. Whilst it did what it was built to do and I messed around with it a bit, I soon became cramped by it's limitations. Turning the camera on took a good 3 or 4 seconds for it to boot and load, so unless you kept it switched on and active all the time, which drained the batteries, chances are if you spotted a photo that needed a quick reaction, you would miss it. It also had no optical zoom to speak of, and the digital zoom was awful because of the size of the sensor, so zooming in was almost always out the question. Also because the tech was so primitive as I said, you were lucky if you got 50 odd photos on an SD card before the card was full.
I kept my A120 for a bunch of years but it was always nothing more than a point and shoot for me. But I guess that was important, it was my first dabblings in photography and I learnt composition in a tiny glass viewfinder and could afford to tinker and come back again, being digital, and look at where I had gone wrong and improve. It limitations and developments in technology meant it was quickly outclassed and outdated by newer cameras that were actually less money to buy than the money I paid for it. A couple of years later it was replaced by my Kodak Easyshare C613 which to this day is still one of the best cameras I've used (maybe more on that one day!). In the intervening period between selling my A120 and upgrading to a C613 I also bought my first and only bridge camera which was also a Fuji Finepix, a S5600, but I couldn't get along with the viewfinder and struggled to use it properly so I ended up selling that too. Nowadays the A120 would be pitiful in comparison to the 10-12 megapixel offerings you can get for half the price the A120 cost back in the day but it will always and forever be the first camera I picked up and played with and the camera I first cut my teeth as a photographer with. You can see a couple more of the images I shot with this camera in my Flickr gallery by clicking this little bit of highlighted text.