Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Written 3 November, 2009


When I was 14 my parents gave me a cheap camera for Christmas. I had no budget for film and developing and it leaked light badly, but I loved it and still have the pictures I made with it. Here's a photo I took on a camping trip with friends. The light leak gives the photo an eerie quality, huh?

The cars are Corvairs, BTW. Remember Corvairs? Unsafe at any speed?

...I will post the photo when I plug in my external hard drive...

During my college years I, like almost everyone in the U.S., took snapshots with a Kodak Instamatic 110. It was easy to use, but the pictures were crappy because of the tiny film size.

When I was in grad school a friend came to stay with me, and he brought his Canon AE-1 35 mm SLR with him. My eyes were opened.

Single lens reflex 35mm cameras are a bit limited by their film size (about the biggest you can blow up an image from a film camera is 8' x 10' before it gets grainy), but they're delightful to use. You look though a viewfinder-- but unlike that Instamatic, you are looking through the lens, so you see exactly the shot you're going to get. When you take the picture, there's a satisfying click as a mirror flips up to expose the film and then back down.

I bought that AE-1 from my friend and merrily took photos until it broke. I was unable to find anyone in Europe or the US to fix it. Later, I bought a Minolta Maxxum 35 SLR. It had all sorts of bells and whistles, but I didn't use it as much. I missed the manual AE-1.

The 80s saw widespread sales of 35mm cameras with film auto advance and rewind, autofocus, and advanced electronic features.

Then came digital cameras. Crude in the 1990s, they have grown increasingly powerful and sophisticated in the 2000s. Almost everyone has one. Feedback is instant (just look on the viewfinder after snapping to see your shot), there's no need to send your negatives to the drugstore for processing, because there are no negatives-- and there are no negatives because there is no film. Film, after 150 years, has become nearly obsolete. Even our favorite, Kodachrome, has gone away. Yes, they took our Kodachrome away.

Early digital cameras, and the more inexpensive ones of today are fixed lens cameras-- but over the past six or seven years digital SLRs have proliferated.

I, along with almost everyone else around the world, bought a digital fixed lens camera, a Fujifilm FinePix 2600 with a 2 mb CCD. It served me in good stead, taking competent pictures once I figured out I couldn't use regular alkaline AA batteries.

I eventually sent that camera to my Second Life brother Mordecai Skaggs and purchased a 5 mp camera which I have used only infrequently.

Why infrequently? Because it just wasn't fun-- and because I was able to take stunning snapshots in Second Life. My artistic photography needs were met and I just wasn't interested in taking mundane snapshots in real life-- especially since I lived alone in RL and there was nothing in particular that needed documenting.

In the past year or so, however, digital SLR cameras have improved in quality and decreased in price to the point I couldn't ignore them. This past month I've been pricing them.

A number of companies make digital SLRS, and there are hundreds of models. The more expensive cost several thousand dollars, but the entry level ones had fallen to as little as $500 for a camera and basic lens.

Last month I spent a good while in the electronics stores near Times Square trying to get a good deal on a Canon Digital Rebel-- to no avail. I found better bargains online, but it was looking like I would have to spend at least $550, with tax and shipping, to buy the most basic Rebel or Nikon SLR.

I didn't want to spend that much, however, so I turned to my old friend eBay; immediately an early model Rebel turned up, and I bid and bought it.

The minute I opened the box, inserted the battery, and took a snapshot of the room, I knew I had found interest in RL photography again.

On Saturday, Sweetie and I took a short drive to see the fall colors. Instead of going to Harriman State Park, which is less than a mile from her apartment, we drove south, into the highlands in neighboring New Jersey, where I had blundered on Wednesday, while driving in a blinding rain.

Stay tuned for photos of fall foliage.

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