Saturday, 16 June 2007
A Dinosaur Displays His Digit!
On a quick trip to London I was determined to try out my magic new Pentax digital camera that I've just bought. It's as tiny as anything... though you also have to carry a card reader and battery charger and there are no fewer than five different cables for one thing and another that leave me totally confused.
It takes some great pictures, though the trouble is that there's no view finder. 'Viewfinders are obsolete,' said the man in Jessops where I bought it. Yes, but viewfiders actually work, even with a little paralax error, whereas these new fangled digital viewing screens simply don't. Even in moderate light when I look at the screen and try to compase a picture all I see is an old bloke in spectacles staring back at me, and the screen only shows a faint shadow of what I'm trying to shoot. The screen on my new camera is simply not bright enough to compose a picture in most light conditions. It's a complete and utter disaster!
Why have they scrapped old style viewfinders in favour of a fancy new idea that simply doesn't work?
In the precincts of The Royal Academy it was shady enough to frame a picture of three dinosaurs and to get some nice ones of the fountains in Trafalgar Square. In all other respects than the viewfinder, the camera is a triumph.
As a dinosaur, I should find London hard to handle, but on the contrary I loved it. The black cabs are still there and the big red buses still run to Penge, though they have subtly changed. Nonetheless, the more London changes, the more it stays the same. I remember the underground trains were always hot and crowded, but now they're very hot and crowded, almost intolerably so.
Waiting in the quue in a convenience store I found myself standing behind the recently resigned leader of one of the three major political parties, Charles Kennedy. The place certainly has a buzz and as I came out of the shop at the foot of Big Ben and the Mother of Parliaments, I was again in love with this greatest of all capital cities.
There has recently been an official attempt to define Britishness and to demand of immigrants that they accord with the essential standards of our society. Of course this is right... the only trouble is that the essence of Britishness is that it is indefinable. To try to put it in a bottle is to destroy it. Openness, tolerance, adaptability, responsiveness to change cannot be set in stone.
There are so many and different things that are valued in different parts of this very plural society. I for one now put my finger up and say that the abolition of viewfinders strikes at the very heart of our traditional picture-taking culture. It really bugs me, even though we now don't have to pay for films any more.