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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Going Digital

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The bug started in the sales last Christmas. In the window of Jessops was a bright red poster advertising a Panasonic Lumix FZ20, for just £199. At first, I just walked past, dismissing Panasonic as one of those electronics giants simply piggy-backing on the digital photography revolution, not in the same league as Nikon or Canon. Or Leica? Curiosity getting the better of me, I did some research, and I discovered that this was actually an award-winning camera, with a lens produced by one of the finest manufacturers. Armed with this knowledge, I ran to Jessops, only to discover that they had sold out nationwide within 24 hours of the sale.

And so it began. I have always maintained that the majority of great images can be captured by almost any camera, in most circumstances. As I said in a previous post, it is the eye that sees over a prolonged period rather than the camera that snaps in a few milliseconds that is primarily responsible for a good shot. With that disclaimer, however, physical equipment is still an important factor, and I was I was beginning to feel limited by mine. Framing landscapes on my film compact was difficult, because of the parallax, whilst my little digital could not quite achieve the resolution needed for anything more than macro or portrait work. Having got a new tripod, night shots on my film produced reasonable results (as in my image of Gateshead), but they were clearly nowhere near professional quality with options to control shutter speed. There have been several occasions when I have wished for some way to control depth of field, as well as focus. I like to keep post-processing to a minimum, but without decent exposure controls on my camera, it was inevitable that the curves and levels tools were going to receive heavy use in GIMP.

So for the six months following Christmas, I scoured E-bay for bargains, and read the reviews on DP Review; I signed up for Jessops’ bargains bulletin, and kept an eye on the used equipment window of my local camera shop. One day a Canon EOS 300Da appeared in the latter, and although it had been sold by the next day when I had had time to read the reviews, I was convinced I needed to raise my sights past a Superzoom compact (the category into which the Lumix falls) and go all out for a DSLR, with its near-infinite potential for expansion.

Finally, I settled on a Nikon D50, and today, armed with three or four lower priced quotes, I marched into Jessops and demanded a good price. Although I managed to get only £15 off, the price for what was last year the top entry-level DSLR was a great deal. It may only be 6.1 megapixels, unlike this year’s comparable models, but these will still blow up to a couple of metres square at 200 d.p.i. should I need it (which I won’t). Resolution may sell cameras to the naive, but it is the body and lens which matter, and with its chunky feel and a feature set that matches that of its bigger brother the D70, this camera had the edge (and the price margin) over its closest rival, the Canon EOS 350D. I will post a more detailed review of the camera on this blog in a few weeks once I have fully explored its features, and I will keep track of how my skills and photography change (hopefully for the better) in the photos section.

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Posted by Alistair at 9:26 am


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