I've been taking photos on bike rides since December 1980 when I bought an Olympus XA pocket camera. By no means was it the first pocket camera, but it was one of the first mass-produced, affordable, lightweight pocket cameras on the market. It took great photos.
No discussion of pocket cameras would be complete without mentioning the Rollei 35. Introduced in 1966, the German-made (later Singapore) camera was revolutionary in its day. It took superb photos, however it was dogged by a light-meter needle that broke. Later versions went to LED light meters, but they had their own problems.
I use a neck strap and put the camera in my jersey pocket, protected in a sandwich bag to keep out the sweat. These pocket cameras are so easy to handle, I can take photos while riding no-hands.
In the days before digital, I shot mostly Kodak 64 slides. A Kodak lab in Palo Alto processed slides quickly at a good price.
I've scanned many of my slides (shown on this website) using a Konica Minolta Dimage Scanner, no longer made.
Contax T disappoints
In 1985 I decided to upgrade, so I spent a whopping $400 on a ContaxT. It was supposed to be the best pocket camera in the universe. By any measure, it was a finely crafted camera, but I can't say it was worth the price. I got comparable results with the Olympus. Photos of my Europe trips were taken with the Contax T. You be the judge.
What was worse, my dream camera broke, not once but twice. I returned it and paid $135 each time for a repair, neither which lasted long. I would get back clear slides. The shutter must have been sticking.
My next camera was a Pentax IQ Zoom. It was bulky but it had a powerful zoom. I didn't use this camera long before I switched to digital. I also shot a lot of print film with it, mainly for family photos.
Around 2004, I switched to digital, starting with a Fuji Finepix a303. At 3 megapixels it was fine for the Web. The camera was easy to use and took great photos. It's still in service.
Longing for something with more pixels, I purchased a Pentax Optio S60. Pentax has long been my favorite camera maker, but I discovered a drawback. I had to compose the photo without a viewfinder. The LCD screen was large, but in bright light I couldn't see what I was shooting. That must be a problem unique to cameras of this era, around 2006.
Still, it is a fine camera and I used its panorama setting often. Software that comes with the camera lets you stitch together three photos.
A Digital Elph
Canon PowerShot SD850IS Digital Elph in late 2007. Finally, I had found the perfect camera. It's small, durable, has a viewfinder, panorama (4 photos!) and takes great photos. It's a sophisticated camera with a lot of adjustability. That's good and bad.
When you're out on a bike ride you typically don't want to fuss with settings. I shoot in manual mode on occasion, but I find myself using the Auto setting most of the time.
This camera also has excellent 640x480 video. However, don't forget that wind noise will ruin the audio and there's plenty of wind while riding.
It's amazing to see all the excellent pocket cameras. No matter which brand you choose, you can't go wrong. These magic boxes preserve memories, and that's about as close as I'll ever get to being young and strong again.
Purchased in September 2012, the Sony RX100 takes a huge leap forward in low-light shooting with a large sensor and 20 megapixels.
Many photos I take are in low light. With a fast lens I can capture movement without blur much better, something cyclists will appreciate.
The camera is slightly larger than the Canon SD850, but not enough to prevent it from fitting into a jersey pocket.
The menu and options take getting used to. There are so many options that you need to pick and choose the ones you use most often and set them in the Fn area for easy access.