Out of the seven days I spent in Rome last week, it rained on three. This was a blessing in disguise, and not even very well disguised. I stayed with a friend outside of Rome, and when I ventured into town for the first time three days into my little vacation, rain had cleaned the air so diligently that the dust, dirt and fumes that Rome is notorious for were nowhere to be seen or smelled. It was a pleasure just strolling around and being impressed.
It was an equal pleasure snapping pictures because, even though the rain had disappeared, the clouds were only slow to follow. I enjoyed most marvelous sky and light. And I was painfully aware what an inadequate tool a little digi-cam is for taking serious pictures.
Two years ago I spend about $300 for a small Canon, an amazing little gadget, great for taking tons of snapshots and good for an occasional photograph as well. But it is not satisfying as a main camera because:
- It does not have a viewfinder that deserves its name. You have to hold it at arm's lenght and squint at the LCD screen to shoot. Consequently, the orientation of your image is somewhat aleatory, and a horizon at a five-degree angle is already good.
- The camera is fairly light and sways in the wind like twigs of an aspen tree, especially if you hold it at arm's length. Forget about sharp photos at one-over-focal-length seconds.
- Forget about sharp photos anyway because the little lens wasn't made for that. Hell, the entire toy weighs less than a serious lens alone.
- While your photos won't be crisp as they should be you can't take portraits with a blurry background either because the pathetic little joke of a lens can't be opened far enough.
The N8008 and two prime lenses, a 28mm and a 50mm, that I used to own (before I sold it when I couldn't carry it out of the US because my bags were too full already) combined into a system that left little to be desired. The 50mm lens in particular amazed me every time I used it. I would look at something and think, hey, this would make for a nice picture, and as if by magic, my lens would capture it just right. It really improves your pictures when you don't dig around with a zoom.
Now that I'm deprived of a good thing, I'm pathologically salivating every time I read a report about digital SLRs. Today was such a day. Philip Greenspun has published an article on how to build a digital SLR system on photo.net. $1200 get you into the game, but you'll probably need twice as much if you want to add a wide-angle lens and a tripod.
The problem is, if I actually break down and buy something useful, I'd have no excuse for taking shitty pictures. And I'd have to go to places where it rains to find the right light.