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.


Anonymous said...

Hello Andrew

I enjoy your blogs very much. I have read Thai Girl which is a fine read.

Several compact cameras have an optical viewfinder plus the LCD Screen
One that I can recommend is the Nikon Coolpix P5000. This has a 10 Megapixel sensor and a 3.5 times zoom lens. The optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens to show the picture frame. I completely agree with you about the sun on a LCD display. It must be even more of a problem in the tropics.

I am sure that there are other similar compact cameras. If you punch compact digital camera - optical viewfinder into Google you will be surprised at the choice. If you wanted to go to an SLR digital the choice is endless. All these view, as the name indicates, through the lens. The LCD is purely for viewing the picture after it has been taken. The viewing mirror flips up for the exposure, as per your old Pentax. They also take a huge variety of lens, again like your old Pentax.

Kind regards

John Lord

Anonymous said...

Hi again Andrew

As you already know, many photographs are marred by camera shake. It is almost impossible to hold a small camera at reading distance, away from ones eyes, steadily. A further consideration is that when light levels drop and you can view the LCD picture, the camera automatically selects a slower shutter speed, and the result is more camera shake.

Jessops still offer a take back service I think, of one month, if you still have the original packaging.

The Canon Ixus 850 has an optical viewfinder, and is ultra compact. If you have large hands however, I should avoid a very small camera. As you seem to carry a packpack on your trips mostly, the slightly larger Nikon shouldn't be a problem.

I have a large bungalow near the Lam Nang Rong Dam, not too far from your house, but I live mostly in the UK.

Kind regards

John Lord

Thai Girl said...

Thanks, John for all your excellent advice on cameras which I can bear in mind for the future.

On my last day in Petersfield, noting that Jessops do a 'no questions asked' returns policy, (one of the reasons I bought it,)I took the Pentax back with a view to exchanging it for something else. "How do you know you can't see the screen?' they asked, 'Because I've tried using it once and it was a disaster.'
'Well,' they say, 'if you've used it, you can't return it.'
The wording of their terms is that you can get your money back if you return it in 'unused condition'. The Petersfield staff interpret this as meaning you can't return it if you've used it, which I thought was pretty poor as the camera was in unused condition, even though briefly used. If you can't use it to assess it, what's the use of a 'no questions asked' returns policy!
Thanks for your nice comments about "Thai Girl" and next time you're around Nang Rong (which features in Chapter 22!), do get in touch.

Best wishes for Wimbledon and all else English,