A tale of three cameras and selling out

Gather round, dear friends. Draw near and hear a tale of a passion and pain, of love and loss.  This is my story.

My first love, at the age of fifteen, was a simple Samsung compact camera. She took a beautiful picture. While the world might have said she was inferior, cheap and nasty, I had eyes only for her. Together we were a team that made my art teacher go “Oh, that’s interesting.” But on one fateful day, while trekking across waterlogged wilds she disappeared, probably lost during a poorly thought out jump across a stream. To this day, I still mourn her loss as my first and favourite camera.

Months later my parents introduced me to a cheap and cheerful 7MP Medion, bought home from the small local supermarket. Yes, she did the job, but never as well. She never had the same charm. Photos with her lacked spark. As I got older I started to appreciate more and more what I was missing. She couldn’t even do aperture priority. I’m sure she wanted to, but it was never an option. Long story short, my interest in photography waned. The relationship never really ended, we just drifted apart. I do feel guilty that I never loved her more but now she just sits there hidden away, gathering dust and longing to once again feel needed.

Life went on and I got a job. Most my earnings disappeared into my living costs or savings, but over time a little cloud of extra cash started to accumulate. My long-dormant inner-photographer reared its head and sniffed the winds of opportunity. I knew I would never have enough to court a DSLR, but after lots of searching I discovered the bridge class, the haunt of models half way between compacts and DSLRs. After lots of research I found a big Fujifilm lass with 12x zoom and I knew she was the best I could hope for. She really inspired me to get back into photography with the full range of control and extremely versatile specs. One moment she’s in my face, looking deep into my eye and capturing its intricacy and the next she’s gazing off into the distance taking in some far-off complexity. There was a lot to love about her, but over time it became clear she wasn’t the quickest cheetah in the savannah. When the light dimmed, she got clumsy. With her poor performance and my shaky hands, I began spewing out slightly-to-massively blurry images. It was such a shame. There was so much to like about her.

I know I can still do better.

If I were to name three things that I really enjoyed, they would be tech, hiking and photography. My love of tech should be obvious from this blog. Hiking is just about the only way I can tolerate keeping fit (and while I would love to be able to free run, I’m far too lazy). Photography is the only art form that keeps me interested. I just have a habit of browsing the internet or a flicking through a magazine and seeing pictures and going gasping in awe. I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly good photographer myself. In fact most of my images are decidedly blah. I do occasionally see something with huge potential, but it’s frustrating not having the proper tools to capture the moment and do it justice. I know there is more to this art than just a fancy device, but there are times when I have definitely been held back by it.

I am now at the point where I can afford a DSLR. Whether I can justify it is another matter. But if my images are so blah, should I be working towards being a better photographer rather than having the best equipment? It is certainly possible to get good shots out of naff equipment – just ask pro ‘togs Carsten Schael and Hermann Lee, who recently participated in DigitalRevTV’s “Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera Challenge” and both got excellent results.

Speaking of DigitalRevTV, it’s a fantastic series of videos. I see it as a sort-of Top Gear of the camera world. It’s irreverent at times and has annoyed people by smashing up good photography equipment, but it’s usually quite funny and definitely informative. I like that they actually review stuff in the field rather than just presenting pages and pages of clinical stats and test results as many other review sites do. It’s interesting to see passionate people (well one passionate guy really) just trying his best to get the most out of the product. Even if I don’t buy myself a DSLR, I’ll happily keep watching the videos as they are so entertaining. If I do choose to buy one, DigitalRev.com, the site that spawned the YouTube channel, is an insanely cheap photography store than beats even the usually-reliable Amazon in price.

I’m currently leaning towards buying one. I’m not going to until September/October when I’ve guaranteed the student finance I’m going to get will be enough to get me by. I would love a Nikon D7000, an enthusiast’s model currently costing £830 body-only from DigitalRev. It’s a lot of money, yes, but there’s a lot of camera for that money. Critically, it’s supposed to be a beast in low light, the big problem area for me.

This desire of course comes after hours and hours of scouring the web. The oft-mentioned DigitalRev has been helpful, as has dpreview.com, the site I was thinking of when I mentioned “presenting pages and pages of clinical stats and test results.” It is useful to have a more technical (read: serious) review.

Beginning my selling-out in 3… 2… 1:

Another site that I was ecstatic to discover was snapsort.com. It allows direct side-by-side comparisons of a myriad of different cameras, highlighting what is particularly good or bad. It’s particularly helpful that the differences are explained – apparently an extra 1.3 bits of colour depth in the Nikon D7000 over the Canon 60D equates to 2.5x as many colours (how one can get a fraction of a bit – a fraction of a one or zero – is beyond me)! Obviously this has been useful in me learning about that various cameras I could invest in.

The values are typically taken directly from the spec sheets though, and no comment is ever made about the accuracy or quality of the different features so everything needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Price is of course one of the more fallible pieces of data they quote, since they only scour a few sites for the latest costs. For a while the prices were massively skewed as they included an incredibly dubious looking site called shutterphoto – this has now disappeared from the listings so maybe they clocked on to the fact that it was quite likely too good to be true.

They’ve also devised a scoring system to help the comparisons, but the system strikes me as a bit arbitrary. I’d be interested to know how the different weightings are calculated. It is also a bit annoying that the D7000 is rated as an entry-level DSLR so is compared very unfavourably in terms of size, weight and cost, and comes out easily on top for the more technical aspects. It’s by no means the end of the world and the site is flexible enough to allow me to compare across-categories, but I’m never sure if any of the scoring is affected by it being in the wrong category.

All in all though it is another useful tool in my arsenal for determining what I should buy, if anything at all.

It would be really neat if instead of me having to justify my purchase of a DSLR, one would just fall into my arms. And conveniently there is a small chance that might happen. The ulterior motive of this post, and the reason for all this selling out, is that snapsort is holding a competition where bloggers review their site and they randomly pick one of the review writers to win a Nikon D3100. While it’s not as good a camera as the D7000, it would still be sweet, and it would certainly solve my conundrum (and free up the 800-odd quid that was going to be spend on a camera to be spent on lenses instead – huzzah!). So snapsort, if you’re reading this, I know your competition is random but I hope my little sob story and these puppy-dog eyes I’m giving you now *puppy-dog stare* encourage you to fix the system in my favour.

And thus ends my selling out.

All things considered, the solution should really be for me just to be more inventive and learn to shoot better. I certainly don’t need a super-fancy camera. But with my aforementioned love of tech, boy do I want one.

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~ by Dominic on 3 April, 2011.

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