Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Rant

Some of you may have seen these pics on my Facebook page. I dug them out again as I was reflecting a few days ago, with the introduction of the iPad, on a comment that was made to me a few months ago. I was at accompanying a friend to a gaming convention in South Africa. You can imagine the scene: geeky guys and video games. I was walking around with my trusty Olympus cam with the 14-54 f2.8-3.5 attached, asking the models at the convention to pose for me (as any guy would). The lens, on the four thirds format, is equivalent to a 28 - 108mm on the 35 equivalent, a normal telephoto zoom that is quite typical for a portrait lens. I must admit, the semi professional set up did it's duty of appealing to the vanity of the subjects, and most of them willingly struck up poses. I even ended up with some email addresses and Facebook friends.

But that's another story for another day.

Now where was I before I got distracted by models... Hmm, yes, the geeky guys at the convention. As I was roaming around relatively unchecked (as one would in SA), I was approached by some geek wearing an 'Incredible Connection' shirt.

"Hi. Don't you want to upgrade your camera?"

I looked around in various directions and was quite sure that he was indeed addressing me.

"No, not really. I am quite satisfied with what this camera is doing. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, it's just that Canons and Nikons are much better cameras than Olympus."

I was in no mood to get into an in-depth argument with a teenager whose face was pink with pimples and wearing a shirt that generates as much hate amongst the SA techno community as a white kid driving a Ferrari through the middle of Harlem. I didn't want to get into that argument partly because I had better things to do, like running after models. It was also partly because I knew that he was right - that Canons and Nikons were much better cameras from a technical standpoint. Had I entered an argument with him, provided that he knew his marketing materials he would have put together a very convincing argument on why I should have switched. I suspect he would know because salesmen learn these things backwards and can quote specifications like waiters can tell me their chefs recommendations for the day with twenty synonyms of delicious scattered in their five dishes, I always wanted to a ask the waiters how they know the fish is delicious and juicy and all that good stuff, but I always managed to resist and keep my peace, because I am such a nice guy, and because I know that he will eventually bring me my order.

Now where was I before I got all distracted again? Oh yes. Had I entered an argument with him, I would in all likelihood have lost, even though the guy in all likelihood doesn't know f*ck about his preaching topic of cameras.

So why do I use an Olympus? Because it has soul.

I shall not take away from Canon and Nikon all their technical glory. For any tech junkie and the novice photographer, Canons and Nikons provide the most amazing, technically perfect photos. They offer significantly more preset functions and systems designed to assist the user with the various settings. Problem with these settings is that they take control away from the photographer so it becomes the cameras photo and not the photographers. Would you trust your plane to land in autopilot mode? They also offer the least noise when using high ISO sensitivity. Question is, should anyone be shooting at ISO 16000 in any case? If you're a professional, then you light things up with strobes and don't need high ISO. If you're not professional, then you shouldn't be too concerned with a little noise in your photos because honestly you will not be printing poster size prints to give a damn about noise. Just to prove a point, The photos above were taken at ISO 1600 using f3.5 @ 50mm. in very dim lights with no flash. Shutterspeed varied depending on lighting conditions but in general they were short enough to be done handheld with no visible shake - thanks to the in-body stabilizer - something that Canonites and Nikonians can only envy at. The noise is only really noticeable if you zoomed all the way in. And no, the weird colour is the first pic is not caused by the camera - Sony for some bizarre reason liked their stand lit up in gay orange...

To some extent, the professional camera marketing has become a bit like cellphones. They are packed with features that no one will ever use. Why would anyone use the MP3 player on their cells when all of them are already carrying iPods? What do I do with a camera on my phone that captures at 2mp? Do I really need a tip calculator or do I just not know how to add 10% to the bill?

If no one cares to use these features, why succumb to aggressive marketing?

So why Olympus? Once you go manual, you don't go back. And at manual, the cameras are driven down to the lowest common denominator, there really is not much to distinguish between the cameras. There is almost no difference in dynamic range between Canons, Nikons and Olympus. The graininess of the high sensitivity shots on an Olympus remind me that the camera is not perfect - and perfection usually reveal themselves in imperfection.

So it comes down to soul. Canons and Nikons do me no favours when I want to change simple settings when they force me to go through their menu systems. They just do not feel right.

A relationship with ones camera is like a real relationship. Some things just feel right, and some just don't. It's not always going to be the hottest girl that gets a guy's attention, although society does lead us to believe so. One can't explain it. It's just the way it is. (I can see some friends cracking up at this one - a single guy liking a relationship with a camera to a real one. Well, get over it.)

There is a reason why Leicas are the simplest of cameras with only two or three nobs and switches on them. Yet they are the chosen cameras for most professional photographers in the pre-digital age. It all comes down to soul.

Ultimately, the camera does not make the photographer. The photographer makes the photographer.

So what does the iPad have anything to do with cameras? Nothing. It just reminded me that there will be some sheep out there who will go where ever the sheep dog tell them to go. People will flock out to buy the iPad because it is "cool" but is not needed. There has to be some intelligence left within mankind that will eventually slow down the progression of vanity.

Just a thought...

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