Monday, April 9, 2012

A New Dog on the Block

I've been meaning to get a new camera for some time now. My old dog of a Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot treated me well, but even early on it had it problems, the first being a cranky lens cover that had to pried open with fingers after someone (Echosquirrel?) spilled a bottle of kombucha on it in her purse.

But even that was a step up for me whose only other camera (if one didn't include two or three disposable cameras I purchased on trips in Japan and India) had been a hand-me-down manual film camera from my sister which languished for ages in the bottom of a drawer which itself has long been cleared out.

What exactly was my bias against photography? Well, first of all, I was a writer and that meant using words to tell a story or paint a picture, one tinged with emotion or imbued with a depth of personal or local history that a click of a machine just couldn't capture. For me photographs had a suspicious way of superimposing themselves over memory; and instead of augmenting or jostling it, they had a queer way of intruding upon it and freezing it, not letting the poor captured soul change or evolve.

I must confess too that I'm enamored with simplicity and elegance — especially when it comes to gadgets — and my eyes start glazing over when I'm presented with technical specifications. Shutter speeds, apertures, and white balances are like a foreign language to me.

So when Echosquirrel suggested we head down to the mall and get a new camera for me for my birthday, I agreed as long as I didn't have to do any research or be barraged with the minutiae of why camera X was superior to Y or Z.

Armed with a short list of three cameras, we made the short trip to DeoDeo where, after much handling and clicking and scrolling through Japanese menus and changing them to English, I settled on a Nikon Coolpix S8200 which just happened to be on sale as the good company had decided that the newer model just had to be equipped with GPS. The only problem was the store only had white left — or, if I wanted a little further discount — the black floor model.

Now for the most part, prices in Japan are fixed. One would never think of asking for a lower price in most situations, but in electronics stores that rule goes out the window. So, in my broken-ass Japanese I got the clerk to discount it even further, noting the finger smudges on its screen (Echosquirrel and I had put them there ourselves in our handling of it) as well as the hypothetical possibility that something we couldn't see had been damaged or weakened.

Sorry to bore you with these preliminaries — we're getting to the good part! This morning, ignoring Echosquirel's advice that I spend some time learning the camera's functions before actually using it, I went out for a test run to see if the CoolPix really delivered what its name so uncooly proclaimed.

I was not disappointed. The new camera in its shiny fake leather case (which I snipped all advertising from with sewing scissors) made me venture to a new place, a strange corner of a strange dump of a littered beach where I enjoyed a coffee and an egg and bacon breakfast bread sitting on top of a half-buried busted wooden box with fish jumping out of the water in front of me in the brackish estuary.

When I had finished the delicious lukewarm coffee and bread, I started snapping away, picking my way past smashed fiberglass hulls and driftwood.

And then, after not more than a hundred paces, at the far end of the little ragged beach, I came upon this strange scene:
Was it supposed to be playful? ironic? serious? I wanted it to be one of the former, but its shrine-like aspect with the fake flowers and plastic beads and creepy alien Buddha-like creature seemed to be the devotion of someone serious and maybe just a little off.
Or maybe it was just a memorial to someone's pet buried beneath or lost at sea?
I don't know. Some mysteries are better alone.

I am happy with my new camera though. I like the sharpness of the color even in such harsh light.

But I'll have to look into how to use it better. I might even learn some of the technical jargon.

What do you think dog?


  1. The dog is smiling, so ...

    I'm happy with your new camera, too, despite the fact that I'm a Canon fan. ^^ I'd love to see more photos of your island, provided (NB) the stories don't stop.

    PS: When I went on a cherry blossom excursion over the weekend, I put my camera away after a while. I wanted to focus on the real flowers, not the perfect shot. I'm glad I did that.

  2. Yeah, it's good to let all of your senses enjoy the cherry blossom season.

    I was looking at the Canons too but I wasn't that familiar with the menus or controls. The Nikon seemed simpler to me.

    Will definitely post more pics of this place. It's an island, but quite sizable, made up of four prefectures, so I'm not sure if a comprehensive picture will emerge...