Thursday, January 12, 2006

Low Fidelity

I am a high fidelity junkie. Not in music, but in photography. I can't get enough sharpness, tones, and texture.
Which is lovely, but it is healthy to once in a while remember that this has little to do with the value or impact of art. Witness: This guy, Michal Daniel, uses an organizer, of all things, to make art photos, mostly street photography. And his pictures are just amazing. He really owns the low quality of the tiny camera he has sitting on his Visor organizer, and uses it to make wonderful pictures.

... Reflecting on it, I don't think the pictures would be less wonderful if they had better sharpness and tones. Possibly even better. I think the value of the Lo-fi system is the freedom you get from it. It is much less serious to use.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A dream camera 2006, and updated 2015

Just in case I have some people from camera companies reading this blog (heck, you never know, you'd be surprised at the kind of people who write to me), I thought I'd just mention the camera I want for next Christmas. (Hey, I'll even pay for it.)

There are many wonderful digital cameras now. The pictures quality is surpassing film already. And prices dropping year over year. But there is one camera we don't quite have yet: the super-quality street- or travel-camera. I want something with the mechanical quality of the Zeiss Ikon or the Leica M, or the Contax T2.
I want something with compromise-free mechanical quality. Something for lovers of excellent tools. I want it to be compact and leightweight like the original Ur-Leica seventy years ago, or Olympus OM-2, or maybe even Rollei 35. ... OK, so maybe making is as small as the last one would compromise the professional usability of it. Well, let's say I am talking about two different cameras then, a very compact and a super compact. :)

Unlike the Zeiss Ikon or the new Epson digital rangefinder camera, I want it to be modern. This means autofocus and no manual winder. These things should be obvious, but are not to all lovers of such cameras. They are stuck in the sixties. :)
I want it to be really fast. Top speed and reliability of the autofocus.
An excellent imaging chip, of course. And a great lens. It does not even have to be exchangable or a zoom lens. Just a really good one. And wideangle.

And a high-resolution LCD-screen, which flips out. I have found that a flip-out screen is heaven for street photography and many other applications. You can hold the camera over your head, by your hip, or at ground level, and still compose your pictures precisely.

We have cameras with all these things already, so we know it is possible. Somebody just needs to put it all in one camera. (I'll admit it won't be easy.) Anybody, please? I don't care who makes it, I was never the big brand-loyal guy. I just buy the best.

Update 2015: took about four years, but cameras like this finally started appearing. Chips good good enough that autofocus good speedy in compact cameras, especially in Micro Four Thirds cameras. My first top favorite there was the Olympus E-PL5, which is still a good choice, though the E-PL7 is the top dog now. (And the lenses can be used with bigger cameras in the same system, like the amazing current Olympus E-M5 II.)
[Panasonic also have good cameras in the M4/3 system, but the Olympus ones have stabilization built into the camera itself, a huge advantage.]

The current fan favorite, amazingly for a few years now, in the pocket-able category is the Sony RX100. It's amazing, has a much bigger sensor than was usual for compacts, and of course a great lens. It has been updated until now three times, but I still prefer version II, because in the next ones they limited the zoom to 70mm, a really bone-headed move in my taste. To me, 100 or 120mm is the minimum for it to function like a tele-lens, even a short one.

Fuji made a big splash with the X100. I had it, but it turned out that I was wrong when I wrote that it did not have to have a zoom, for me. After getting used to zooms, it just feels horribly limiting to be stuck with one focal length. (Two bodies with two different non-zooms may do it, I haven't really tried it yet.)

MacWorld Keynote, Steve Jobs

A big percentage of my friends, my readers, and the generally kool, kooky and fun people around are Mac fans and iPod fans. If you have never seen a Steve Jobs keynote speech before, now is a good time to start. I always watch one when there is a new one. Steve is an amazing guy, who has a huge enthusiasm for creating technology which makes life easier, more fun, and more creative for all of us (instead of a tiny minority who has the time to learn complex computing).

As it happens usually at MacWorld events, Apple Computer has just announced a slew of exciting new products and services. Easy and exciting new ways of sharing your photos and so on, new machines, etc. I honestly think that not only are Apple's products and attitude the best in the world, but they also set a gold standard that others are working hard to live up to, in terms of excellence, fun, ease of use, and setting the customer first and uppermost. Without them, it would be a much greyer and more boring world running on DOS 9.1. Well done, Steve and Apple.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I have a lovely friend who is working in the orchestra of a major metropolitan opera house. It is very prestigious.
The pay is pretty good.
... Until you consider the cost of living in the big city. And the fact that they work six days a week, rehearse in the morning and play in the evening. So they have one day a week off only.
My friend is very creative, so she is suffering under this job. Playing the same thing every day in a big orchestra is not exactly a creative outlet. But most (classic) musicians are probably more like craftsmen than artists. So many suffer it gladly, more or less. It is a highly sought-after position, after all, one that millions of musicians covet.
It makes me think: how important prestige is for us humans. People will work long, long hours for their whole life, without any prospect of advancement, for half-decent pay, just for the pleasure of being able to say to new people they meet (if they ever have time to meet any): "I play at ___ Opera House."
Wow, it's amazing.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Paper books

Gen commented:
"On E-books: a practical and useful instrument for a quick read. But I prefer to hold an (ancient) book in my hands, smell it (!) and file through the pages filled with photographs and other pieces of art."

Indeed many feel this way, justifiably.
On the other hand, as Scott McCloud says: "If you take away the ideas held in the books, what do you have but dead trees?"
In other words, our emotional experience of any medium is colored heavily by the experience of the ideas which we experience through that medium. Sure, some paper books are beautiful objects. But I have read wonderful books in cheap paperbacks also. and I am sure that within ten years there will be premium e-book readers which will also be very beautiful objects, and which will be the new objects on which readers
will transfer their emotional experience of the ideas they read on them.