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

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