I started with a simple point and shoot camera, but soon bought a "real" camera. But the picture quality left something to be desired. The dynamic range was not great and digital noise was a real problem for any kind of low light shooting. Besides, I was young and very much into buying things and back then the first digital SLRs came on the market. There had been a few before, but in 2004 cameras and appropriate lenses were available (and affordable) from the big manufacturers. And it had 8(!) Megapixels. You might scoff when today’s cameras have 20, 30 or sometimes 100 Megapixels, but your fancy 4K television set has the same amount of pixels than this camera.
I chose the Canon EOS 20D. An upper midrange camera. I could have bought the cheaper consumer model (the 300D/350D) but elitist as I was, I needed to buy one step above my photography buddy at the time. And this camera was a dream. I owned and used this camera for longer than any other camera to date (7 years). It had the best control scheme, with three buttons on top and two dials front and back to control together six functions with just a finger press and a spin of the wheel. There was a small LCD on top to show all the relevant parameters (something that is again fashionable today). The camera started up instantly and the autofocus was incredibly fast and accurate.
But there was a major drawback. The thing weighed with the standard zoom lens almost a whole kilogram. Other things bothered me after a while too. Many of my pictures were askew, because the viewfinder had neither a level nor any kind of cross-hairs like my old Minolta A1. Nevertheless, with this camera I learned the most about photography (in a technical sense) and had a great time.
Again I wasted my student money on this frivolous purchase, so I only got the cheap EF-S 18-55 mm kit lens and was unable to afford a better lens for years to come. In retrospect, I should have bought the cheaper camera and maybe a better lens. Because the lens was really weak. The camera was much more capable than the lens. A lesson I learned much later.
I used the Canon EOS 20D and EF-S 18-55 mm lens from 2004 to 2008. I wasn't really careful with archiving so I can't say for sure how many photos I took with this particular lens. It must be in the hundreds at least.