Camera phones

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Noel and I got ourselves a couple new Tracfones this week.

All the phones anymore tout that they include a camera. My question is, when the picture looks as bad as this, what’s the point?

Cottey in snow

No it’s not supposed to be super high quality, but this is horrible!

Taking the fun out of it

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For several years I thought my cheap-o digital point and shoot did not offer any way to adjust the exposure. Then one day I stumbled across the option buried many menus deep.

And you know what? The camera instantly became less-fun. I kid you not. Now instead of just enjoying myself and snapping photos, the thought is constantly in the back of my mind, “should I add or take away some exposure here?”

I wish I’d never found it.

Recently I purchased my hunting and fishing license for the year and I was reminded of a similar experience.

Back when I picked up fishing again as an adult I spent a pretty decent sum on a fancy rod and reel from one of the big name outdoor stores.

And you know what? I spent more time untangling the fishing line than I did actually fishing. I am fully willing to admit the problem might have been more me than the rod, but it was a decidedly un-fun activity.

But one day, after about the bazillionth bird’s nest. I hopped in the car and went to Wal-Mart where I picked up a Zebco 202 spin casting rod and reel for about $10.

And I love it! I have not bought any other rod and reel since. I catch tons of fish. This photo was after fishing a little farm pond at a friend’s place.

If I wear it out, I buy a new one. But I don’t think I’ve worn one out yet. In fact, I tend to give them away. I like to share! And the price allows me to do that without a second thought.

Anyway, thinking about these memories has really re-enforced my idea that more complicated things make for less enjoyable times.

Not that there isn’t a time and place for complicated equipment, but when you’re just out trying to have some fun it really rather detracts from it.

Digicams

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I’ve been looking at getting myself a new pocket digicam and one thing has struck me.

It seems that folks really don’t like cameras which take AA batteries. While I on the other hand love them and cannot bring myself to consider any p&s that doesn’t operate on the common battery.

The reason is very simple. To purchase a spare Li-Ion battery you’re going to spend $40-50 each. But you can get four rechargeable double-As for $10 (four AAs being equal to two sets of spares since most cameras only need two).

Yes the cameras with proprietary batteries are smaller. So what? I don’t have large hands and most of those cameras are too small even for me to use comfortably. Yes, the Li-Ions last a little longer (which is debatable) but if you can’t afford a spare and your power runs out you’re just out of luck.

I was at a Best Buy several months ago looking at cameras, the salespeople really tried to steer me away from AA cameras. I can understand why though, lots more commission for them if I spend $100 on two spares instead of $10 for the same thing. But you’d think the average consumer would be a little smarter.

Pentax ZX-M

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Pentax ZX-M sporting the M 135mm f/3.5 lens

I’ve long joked that the greatest thing about digital photography is that it has pushed the price of old film gear way low. And it’s true, the Pentax PZ-1p I paid $700 for 10 years ago, can now be had in excellent condition for around $100.

Another case in point is this camera. A fellow PDML member found a lens he wanted to buy which came with this camera. The price was low enough he bought the entire package then asked the list “who wants this camera?” He got the lens he wanted and I got a neat older camera in perfect working order for the price of shipping.

While the other camera companies were adding buttons and dials like there was no tomorrow, Pentax simplified this system giving it a very retro look. I think the idea was outstanding, but I don’t think it ever really caught on. Most folks seem to like their bells and whistles, even when those bells and whistles detract from the actual experience of photography. Oh well.

Anyway, the ZX-M was the lowest model of this line. No autofocus. Center-weighted meter only. Mostly plastic body. It was aimed at the beginner/student photographer. It does offer autoexposure modes.

I’ve been shooting with it a bit and it seems like a decent enough camera, especially when you consider how much I paid for it. The viewfinder strikes me as not being as nice as my Program Plus, but that may just be a matter of acclimation. I haven’t sent in any of the film yet so I’ll have to wait for a final verdict.

In regards to my joke about digital photography things appear to be changing though. Prices for old film gear (especially lenses) have been on the rise the last several months. I think this is for several reasons.

First of all, a lot of folks who jumped on the digital bandwagon right off are now switching back to film for some or all of their work. Second, lots of younger folks who grew up in the digital era are discovering the joys of working analog.

And thirdly (and maybe most importantly), some enterprising manufacturer saw all those old, classic, vintage lenses being sold for nothing and invented adapters allowing you to mount just about any lens you find on any interchangeable lens digital camera. Damn it anyway.

Film vs digital photography: cost

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Most folks today run on the assumption that digital capture is less expensive than film photography.

And on a per-shot basis, they’re generally right.

The thing is it’s not that simple.

With digital you pay most of your costs when you purchase the camera, there’s relatively little to buy after that one major expenditure. Using film the costs are broken up into small payments over a long period of time.

What it comes down to is this: I cannot afford to plunk down $1,000 for a digital camera.

But I can afford to buy a $69 ME Super with $30 M-50mm f/2 lens one month. A couple months later I can splurge on a $50 M-135/3.5 lens, and I’ve been thinking maybe one of the 28mm lenses which run about $100 might be nice to have soon. All the while buying one or two Wal-Mart four packs of Fuji film a month at $6 a pop, get them developed at $3 a roll and scan them myself on my $125 Epson V500.

And I’m not even going to talk about how the $69 ME Super will probably be running strong long after the $1,000 dSLR has bit the dust (or worse, gets thrown away in perfect working order because it’s “obsolete”). Not going to go there. 😉

This is not to say that the only reason I shoot film is because I can’t afford to buy digital. I truly prefer film photography and will willingly continue to shell out ever-increasing amounts of money to continue working in this medium.

I’m just kind of tired hearing everyone spout off about film being so expensive all the time.

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