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« Rings and Fingers ... and Symbolism? | Main | Propaganda Misfire? »

April 27, 2008


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Shopping for cameras can be bliss, no? I spend far more time researching cameras than I do actually taking pictures. Camera store visits and cruises through sites like DPreview and Steve's Digicams strike me as valid entertainment options in their own right.

Question: What is it about shopping for a camera or a camcorder that the testosterone-addled can find so deeply satisfying? Although I've become a fairly well-informed camera shopper, I haven't in fact purchased a new camera in more than three years. I suppose that's partly because the next generation of cameras always seems sooooo much more appealing than what's currently in the stores. Yet the appeal must go deeper than that. Sifting and sorting technical details, comparing and contrasting features, and of course handling machines and imagining what brilliant uses one might put them to ... OK, I guess I may have found my explanation. This is just the kind of shit that boys really like.

Hey, where video is concerned: For years I was intimidated by the expert chitchat on various videocamera forums. How could one even consider picking up a videocamera without at least a PhD in electrical engeineering? Then I checked out what these tech wizards were actually putting their knowledge and machines to work shooting, and was able to relax a bit: footage of their kids, their dogs, and their vacations, mainly. Guys and machines, eh? I'm reminded of a charming joke in the film "Amelie." A voice-over introduces Amelie's father, telling us that his greatest pleasure was to spend time in his workshop -- not to build anything, mind you, but to clean and organize his tools.

My current favorite online camera-researching resource is CameraLabs, the creation of a British technology writer named Gordon Laing. He's clear, enthusiastic, and crisp; he's opinionated without being obnoxious about it; he's informed without succumbing to total geekiness. He's smart and helpful, in other words -- an ideal camera reviewer, in fact: one whose expertise never blinds him to how we Normals are likely to make use of and react to a machine. And Laing's video walkthroughs of the cameras he discusses are something too. They seem to me to be masterpieces (if hyper-minimalistic ones) of expository filmmaking. It's a pleasing bonus that Laing seems to live and work in Queenstown, N.Z. When Gordon Laing shows off sample photographs, in other words, he's showing pix of some of the prettiest landscapes in the world.

At the moment, I'm hesitating between four cameras: this one (great wide-angle lens but can't zoom while taking a video), this one (zooms during video, amazing telephoto lens, but bulkier than would be ideal), this one (fun, but how's the quality?), and this one (seems perfect but pricier than I'd like). Of course I could always put off a decision until next season's models come out ...



posted by Michael at April 27, 2008


You can't go wrong with any of those. The Panasonic will be a little heavier because of the superior Leica lens, but you'll get breathtaking images, too. A Chinese friend of mine always employs this scheme when he can't decide: buy all four and send back the three you don't like on one pretext or another. I don't say it's ethical, but it is effective.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on April 27, 2008 9:59 AM

Maybe it is a boy thing. I've spent a goodly amount of time over the years researching digital cameras, but it wasn't exactly what I'd call fun. Probably because I still haven't bought one.

None really meet my requirements without getting into the bulk and price of DSLRs. I get caught up in waiting for next season's models too.

CameraLabs sounds cool though, so I'll add it to my camera research list for the next time I look.

Posted by: claire on April 27, 2008 3:58 PM

Years ago there was a New Yorker cartoon showing a bunch of middle aged pot bellied tourists, each one with a camera slung from his neck sitting at belly level, with a big ol' lens sticking w-a-a-a-y out. So maybe that's what it's about for men.

Posted by: ricpic on April 27, 2008 9:31 PM

Michael, Testosterone-addled? I never got that sense from reading your blog. I like ricpic's theory.

Posted by: gunther on April 29, 2008 12:05 AM

I had a similar shopping as entertainment type experience when I was looking for an HD tv last summer. There was the DLP vs. LCD vs. Plasma dilemma, the 720 versus 1080p decision to be made, the brand to be selected, screen size, what is on sale this week, I almost missed the process when I finally bought the tv.

Posted by: Patrick on April 29, 2008 2:00 AM

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