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The Camera-less Blogger

The last photo taken with my Canon, Xietu Lu 2.30pm 
It’s been one hell of a week and already Wednesday, without a single word to show for myself. Chinese classes, sick children, overseas visitors, and to top it all off, camera troubles. I’m between cameras, you see, saddled with one that keeps breaking down but not committed to buying a new one. It’s an unpleasant state similar to realising your current boyfriend is gonna have to go, but you haven’t yet found a replacement for him. 
The trusty Canon and I have travelled some 100,000 km together in the last three years, across China several times, to Australia, France, Scotland and the Netherlands and back, and up and down just about every street and lane in Shanghai. 
A hard-working camera like that definitely deserves better treatment than I’ve dished out. I dropped it hard, twice, once on the Great Wall and once on Nanchang Lu, both falls resulting in a short stay at the Shanghai Canon hospital’s high dependency unit. Touch and go on the auto-focus. It’s never even had its own camera bag, it just rumbles around in my handbag along with a hundred pens, a few half-eaten biscuits and leaking bottles of water. I can see the real photographers cringing when I say that. 
And then it started to play up with little lapses of attention and weird lens behaviour. It couldn’t seem to   capture Chinese reds (lanternsfirecrackers, lucky underwear, and so on) as well as I wanted. When I called my photographer sister last week and asked her advice, she went through all the possibilities and finally said “You know what the problem is? You’ve outgrown your camera. Your technical skill is now beyond what the camera can offer you.”
What? My technical skills??! My technical skills have never outgrown anything, not the DVD remote control, not the self-assembly instructions from IKEA, nothing. Certainly not a highly complicated bit of kit like a digital SLR, surely?
I was gutted. I loved that Canon and could use it with my eyes closed. Or half-closed and kind-of-screwed-up. A new camera would just be a whole lot of hassle and I’d have to learn the buttons all over again, and I hate purchasing technical stuff. Really, really hate it.
Which leads to an embarrassing disclosure – my husband and I both hate purchasing whitegoods and electronic items so much, we outsource the purchase decisions to family members who seem to get some kind of perverse pleasure from drawing up spreadsheets with the pros and cons of various washing machines or DVD players. Based on their research and calculations, they tell us what we need and we go and buy it. 
And if there aren’t any available gadget-loving relatives around, we walk into the shop and get the shop guy to do the thinking for us.
“So, what are you looking for today?”
“A computer”
“Any idea what kind?”
“Which brand?”
“Don’t know”
“Screen size?”
“No idea”
“Memory capacity?”
“No. No idea. I haven’t done any research and I don’t have any preferences. How about I just tell you what I need it for and you tell me which one I should buy?”
“Can I interest you in a discussion about pentium processors?”
We’re dream customers. The guys in the electronic shops know our type, and basically just hand us a iBag filled with iGoods, take our credit card, and hand us an iReceipt and an extended iWarranty. They’re happy, and we’re happy because we haven’t spent hours and days wondering if we should have bought the iGizmo v 2.0 instead. We didn’t even know it existed.
So you can see why buying a new camera was, for me, an iNightmare. When I asked photography-loving friends what I should buy, they asked all sorts of tricky questions and then came up with four completely different solutions. When I asked Mr Google what I should buy, he came up with “It depends.”
There was nothing for it. I spent the last two wet rainy days researching sites like dpreview‘s great side-by-side camera comparison. I asked Mr Google a lot more questions, got sidetracked as various photographers biffed it out in online forums (photography buffs apparently love to fight over technical stuff like lenses and something called ‘bokeh’, not a Middle Eastern food).
I went to the Shanghai Photography Market today and on the way in, took a few last photos with my Canon. The autofocus gave up for good soon after, probably dying of a broken heart. I put it away in my handbag, where it had always lived, and walked out an hour later with a brand new Nikon (purchased entirely in Chinese! Chinese classes are paying off after all) in a padded, waterproof, sturdy-as-hell bag of its very own.
I believe it does all sorts of cool things the Canon couldn’t, although I can’t be sure because the instruction manual, as it turns out, is also entirely in Chinese. Mr Google and I are going to be having a very late night. 
What camera do you use, and what would you buy if money was no object?
First photo taken with my Nikon D700, Huating Lu 5pm.
The Shanghai Photography Market

Cnr Luban Lu and Xietu Lu
Open daily 9am-6pm
  • Sally

    Congratulations on your new camera, Fiona! I hope you two will be very happy together. 🙂
    I've thought about upgrading to a fancy, schmancy real camera but seeing as I have no idea what I'm doing with photography and I hate reading instruction manuals, that would probably be a bad idea. So I think I'll be sticking with my point and shoot. Plus, I like having something small that I can pull out of my bag and snap photos of people without being too obvious.

  • angelaseeangelablog

    YAY! Nikon! I have a D3000. Anyway, long time reader, first comment. Love your blog, I grew up in Nanjing but moved here to Melbourne 9 years ago when I was 8, I always come on your blog when I'm feeling a tad home-food sick. haha

    Keep up the awesome work!

    New post "TOPSHOP Launch"

  • Fiona

    Sally, now I just happen to have a Canon going cheap, one lady owner, well-loved 😉
    You know I also take lots of snaps on my phone because, hey, that giant thing is not gonna fit in every handbag I own!

    And Angela! Great to meet you finally! Nanjing is a great and beautiful city, we planned our second trip there a few weeks ago but had to defer because of work. Hope to get back there soon and walk along the wall again.
    BTW your blog is great!

  • christa @ mental foodie

    I have canon. I know photographers who swear by canon, and others who swear by nikon. I only chose canon because that was what i started with (a film SLR!). To be honest, if money was no object, I'd spend more on the lens (because of good bokeh ha!) Actually now I am thinking of getting a good P&S because my cameras/lenses are too heavy to carry around… Didn't know your sister is a photographer!

  • Fiona

    It's like admitting you're Catholic in a room full of protestants, or vice versa – some photographers I've met have an almost religious commitment and zeal for one of the two big brands! I loved my Canon, but I just couldn't afford the lenses that would come with a Canon body upgrade. So Nikon it is! In many ways having a strict budget made the decision much easier.

  • The Muse of The Day

    Nikon vs. Canon … they both provide you with plenty of quality to produce whatever your creativity can dish out. Now … just incase Santa makes a pit stop in Shanghai this year I think you should write "Leica V-Lux 30" on your wish list. Like you, I tend to have a camera in my handbag at all times with me. It fits in the palm of my hand, has superb lens quality, and seems to always give me plenty of creative freedom. The Leica has become my only camera – this despite the fact that my husband is in the photography business and I have loads of "dream" equipment (Nikon) at my disposal. If Santa does bring the Leica to you, I doubt you will ever leave it behind. I have mine with me 24/7. Let me know if Santa does come by – even if it is not Christmas. Carolina

  • Fiona

    Have just been watching BBC doc The Genius of Photography on DVD (not bad quality for a Chinese pirated copy) and was interested to see so many luminaries of the photography world including war photographers with Leicas in their hands. Santa might have to deal with one more thing on the wishlist!

  • frances t

    Now I know where I get my abhorrence of technical must be an example of REVERSE genetics. I behave just like you and Matt when buying white goods. I can't be bothered with all the details either.

  • shaz

    Congratulations on the new camera! If money was no object, I'd get a digital SLR (of any kind). Right now I still have a point and shoot, fair enough it's the top of its range (Canon) but I still want lenses I can change. The husband won't let me because he keeps telling me the camera has the brain and heart of an SLR. (Can you tell he works in advertising?) 🙂

  • Fiona

    Shaz that gave me a good laugh! I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot whether he'd already have a big fat SLR and a bag full of lenses?? Finally getting used to the new camera and LOVING it!

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