I should have seen it coming. Come to think of it, I did.

Differences between camera brands are usually trivial. Differences between camera types can be more-profound. The jobs done by Leicas are generally different from those performed by 8x10 view cameras. No doubt 8x10 shooters often long for the fluid easy handling of Leica, while some Leica shooters wish they could dependably make 12-foot prints. A tool for the task.

So too digicams, and when I got my G1 its character immediately became plain. It lends itself to shooting static, oversaturated and motionless scenes, framed in the LCD. The twisting screen lets you shoot overhead and underfoot, providing some interesting angles without ladders or back strain. It's cheap to operate. The autofocus is dominant, hard to control save to let it do its standard thing. The lens is a zoom and the bias is toward telephoto, not wide angle. The wide end is distorted and not very useful. The camera is light, easy to carry. It's also slow between shots and before shots. G1 or G5, the character is much the same. Looking right or left to cameras like the Nikon or Olympus doesn't vary the path much.

So immediately it was obvious what sorts of photos such a digicam would excel at: still lifes, posed family snaps, anything that didn't move a lot and that worked best in color. I figured an aesthetic would grow around those characteristics, as it would about the different sorts of shots one might make holding the camera at arm's length staring at a 2" rectangle versus the sort one might make holding it to your eye.

As I spent time with it I cam to realize just how many picture I could not make with it, and started migrating back to 35mm. The digicam still lingers on, but it didn't replace the 35's.

What's happened across the net, however, is that the shots that are easiest on a digicam — the most pastcardish and predictable — are exactly the shots that get lauded the most. I would expect this from the camera club crowd, but I've been surprised to see it increasingly from people whose works were the antithesis of this.

The internet, I've come to realize, fuels ignorance through its very success.

June 16, 2003



  Wire Service


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