Sunday, 21 October 2012

Camera breakdown

Once Scatts (mate, are you with us?) outlined a clear distinction between photography andsnapping. He identifies the former with high-flying art of documenting the surrounding world and the latter as thoughtless, quantity-oriented pressing buttons of cameras. For months I’d been trying to assign myself to one of the two categories and probably should wind up as one of those who Scatts scornfully calls ‘snappers’. On one hand I adore and can appreciate good quality photography, take pleasure in watching magnificent photos and like taking photos, but on the other I have too many features of an ordinary snapper. I’m slightly fond of photography, but it would be an understatement if I told photography is my hobby. Firstly, because I spend too far little time and money for it and secondly because I don’t possess professional equipment a photography freak must have*.

My equipment is typical for an amateur who needs to take shots on holiday, during social events and in other odd occasions that need to be documented. I have a compact Canon (PowerShot A460), bought in July 2007. The camera had served me quite well for over five years and despite its age and low-end characteristics, it generally would meet my needs. It could have done with a better optical zoom (4 times often doesn’t magnify as much as I would like to), picture stabiliser and could shoot films in higher resolution, but all in all I was satisfied with what my small (a big advantage, especially when you can slip it into an inside pocket of your jacket) Canon offered me. When describing my camera I had to switch to the past forms, because the camera doesn’t serve me any more…

I took the last normal snap with it on 23 August at 18:21, just upon leaving the office, to document heavy, as for holiday period and late rush hour, traffic on ul. Towarowa, jammed in both ways (to the right).

Two days later I drove to Łódź for a friend’s wedding ceremony. Before arriving at southern part of Łódź I stopped over near the centre to walk and photograph some of the buildings in town. For no apparent reason all photos were overexposed. On my way back home I took a shot of A2 motorway at night (to the right). The quality of the picture is more than satisfactory, given poor lighting, lack of picture stabilising function and the fact I drove 130 kmph and focused more on driving than on photographing. I actually deserve being reproached over using camera behind wheel when the car was in motion… If you enlarge the picture you should notice horizontal stripes on it…

Over the next weeks there were very few moments when I needed to use the camera. In September I didn’t bother to turn it on at all, despite carrying it around. I do keep it in my briefcase, but usually when I run across something worth documenting I don’t bother to take it out. And even if I take the trouble, the resulting photos land on my hard disk and then end up archived on a CD.

In early October I wanted to immortalise thick morning fog, took out the camera, took photos, but all were overexposed. I tried out the camera in daylight, in the darker environment, tapped symptoms of the breakdown into google and soon had the diagnosis – shutter flex ribbon packed up…
Two weeks ago I left it in one of Warsaw’s best known camera repair centres to get the repair cost estimation and, if the cost was acceptable (below 100 PLN), to have it fixed. After a week a technician from the centre sent a valuation report, with costs totalling to 220 PLN (therein 40 PLN for the flex ribbon and 180 PLN for labour charges), so more than a working camera’s market value. Tomorrow I’m picking it up from the centre (one positive thing is that cost estimations free of charge are standard on the market) and my plan is to contact four other repair centres in Warsaw. If each offers to fix it for 100 PLN or more, the camera will be put up in Allegro and sold for as much as the most willing bidder will be ready to pay. Oddly enough, I found in the internet such repairs in provincial Poland cost around 70 PLN, but if I don’t go by chance there in business and don’t stay at least three days, a journey Tomaszów Lubelski only to have the camera mended doesn’t seem cost-effective.

The other option is to buy a new camera. It will be again a compact one, from the upper band of the low end, with all functions and enhancements my old Canon lacks. My candidate is currently Canon PowerShot SX 130, which given my needs offers an excellent trade-off between price (mere 399 PLN) and quality (12 times optical zoom, optical picture stabiliser, HD filming), but I’m holding off on the purchase until the issue of the old camera is sorted out.

I must say over the last days I did miss the possibility to take out the camera to immortalise the beauty of sunny and warm Polish autumn. On Friday I cycled to Las Kabacki and I could only use my out-of-ark (almost five years old, but always reliable – has never let me down) Nokia 3110 Classic, whose built-in camera is crappy (example to the right, snapped while moving at some 20 kmph) and I wished I could use a decent equipment. Yesterday morning I walked to the swimming pool in Piaseczno and back and again could not immortalise magnificently beautiful, sun-lit morning thick fog. Today I drove to the countryside to visit my great grandparents’ grave and again missed a camera which could document golden Polish autumn in full charm.

Over the last days I needed a camera to document the beauty of the nature, which shows after many weeks I am again sensitive to it. And I began to discern it again, I’m on the mend!

A propos my musings from before two weeks. What’s been happening with me is not just the example of defence mechanisms turning on. These have been also coping strategies harnessed to tackle adversities. How I changed over last months might also be the illustration of the process of psychological resilience taking place. Worth reading about this. Theory of economics says markets have self-stabilising mechanisms that bring them into equilibrium. It is fascinating to observe how psychology resembles economics. Both sciences explain mechanisms of self-regulation and both take note of their imperfections. Just as not all markets allocate resources in the most productive way, not all humans’ psyches find ways to cope with stress and to emerge stronger after facing adversities…

Before deciding to study at SGH I wanted to get in to faculty of psychology. I changed my mind in September 2005, eight months before leaving high school and don’t regret, but now it’s a great time to foster my interest in psychology.

* There is an alternative approach, saying quality of photography depends mostly on the photographer’s skills, as expressed by the Polish adage Na nic sprzętu kupa, jak fotograf d*pa.


DC said...

Have you seen the Sony RX100? Too bad your old camera didn't last another year or so. Right now the RX100 is expensive with minimal zoom, but I'm hoping to see a cheaper response from the competition with large sensor size in a compact body. I have a Panasonic megazoom, but the lens is slow and does poorly in low light. The RX100 seems to overcome that and the reviews of the resultant pictures seem to be quite good. I'm in Scatts' second category: if it doesn't fit in my pocket, I never seem to use it.

Scatts said...

Did I really say that? Must pay more attention to my own posts.

Hope you're well and "keep snapping"!