By Mike Johnston
Naturally, I suppose, a whole bunch of people let me have it last week for my apparent
endorsement of a particular brand of camera, and I heard from a few folks who were
offended that I dared talk down the exciting Canon 300D.
But hey, Im only human. I have my preferences, just as you do.
And let me just make one wee small observation here I think we might all
profitably remind ourselves from time to time that this stuff is neither a jihad nor a
crusade. Even when were talking about digital ones, were still talking about
cameras. You remember, photography? Something we all have in common as a fun hobby,
creative art, or way to earn a living? The digital camera you buy today or tomorrow is not
going to define your worth as a human being, and, if you buy the wrong one, your dog will
still love you. So if anything I write enrages you, change the channel. Im just
having what I call fun.
Photograph by Philippe Lijour. Details below.
Back to the topic: Its true that the Digital Rebel breaks new ground for a
digital SLR. Thats one way to look at it. However, there are two ways to look at it.
The other way is that it doesnt offer much more than does the Dark Angel
(Sonys code-name for the F-828).
The Rebel has 6 mp. Okay, and the Sony has 8. No, pixel count isnt everything.
The Rebels low price includes the lens. Amazing, even if
low is a relative term. But the Sonys price includes a lens, too.
Canons camera has a CMOS sensor. Okay, but Sonys has its new four-color
sensor. You say po-tah-toe, I say po-tay-toe. Until production-model tests clearly show
that one is superior to the other assuming that happens Ill have to
reserve judgment on this one. Dissimilar routes to similar ends.
Canons sensor is bigger. Bigger sensors mean better image quality, usually. Point
Sonys LCD can be used as a finder. Canons, like that of all DSLRs, is
review only. Point to Sony.
About now, 300D partisans are screaming, What about the digital Rebels
interchangeable lenses! Hes ignoring the most important point!
Really? Remember that the digital Rebel is, er, a Rebel. Most film Rebels,
statistically, are sold with one zoom lens, and thats all their buyers ever buy. So
with the digital Rebel, its true, you are free to use your EF 15mm lens, your 90mm
tilt-shift, and your 300mm f/2.8 Ultrasonic...
...Assuming you can afford those lenses but cant, for some reason, afford the
extra $500 for the 10D? Riiiiight. Seems to me that a longer consumer-level tele
is the digital Rebels only likely augmentation, for most people. And
the Sony isnt subject to dust on the sensor, and the Sonys Zeiss lens is a lot
faster than the new lens for the 300D. This all may not be a wash, exactly, because it
depends on ones predilections and preferences. Interchangeable flexibility, or
all-in-on convenience? Long tele, or a faster lens? Slightly higher pixel count, or
(likely) lower noise at high ISOs? But it doesnt mean that Canon has solved the
digital problem for everyone, either...necessarily.
Of course the good thing is that both of these fascinating new cameras are likely to
take nice digisnaps, of a quality we could only dream about a decade ago, and for prices
that seemed impossible even more recently than that. And thats a good thing. So take
your choice, if youre lucky enough to have a choice to make, and have fun shooting.
If anyones interested in the data, I got 1500 e-mail messages in the twelve days
I was on vacation, only about a tenth of which were for me. But even that pales against
the new record: 145 spam messages in the space of about 15 hours. Apparently, modern,
computerized market research has urgently pinpointed me as someone a) who is in need of
another mortgage and a larger penis, b) who honestly believes that some Nigerian dude
needs my bank account to transfer $20 million, and c) who enjoys an endless stream of
dirty-talk about teens and (Im guessing here) male chickens. I plead
innocent of all these concerns or would, if I had any say in the matter.
Mazen Dana, R.I.P.
Tank 1, Photographer 0
The Pentagon last Sunday affirmed that a U.S. Army tank in Iraq engaged an
unarmed photojournalist named Mazen Dana. The tank won. The soundman who was with Dana at
the time, Nael Al-Shyoukhi, said that Dana walked three or four meters from
their car in plain view, and that we were noted and seen clearly. Apparently
the soldier who shot Dana in broad daylight thought his video camera might be an anti-tank
gun. Mazen Dana was a well-respected, well-liked, and award-winning cameraman with Reuters
News Agency. He leaves behind a new widow as well as four profoundly unlucky young
Used to be, it was the enemy that our photojournalists had to watch out for.
The Very Picture of a Rogue
Every now and then Im utterly astonished by a photograph. The one near the top of
this column was taken by a man named Philippe Lijour, from the tower of the supertanker Esso
Languedoc, off of Durban, in 1980. It is to date the only known photograph of a
so-called rogue wave, a term applied to occasional waves in a storm that can
tower above all others and, sometimes, come from a somewhat different direction.
Photographer Lijour estimated that the mean sea (i.e., average wave height) at
the time was about 15-30 feet. The only way to judge the height of the rogue wave in the
picture, which approached the ship from abaft the starboard beam and broke on the
foredeck, is to compare it to an object of known height. In this case, the top of the
short mast you see on the right-hand side of the picture is 82 feet above mean
Since the trough preceding a rogue wave can be abnormally deep, this means that, from
the ocean surface say, from the deck of a sailboat the wave in this picture
would have seemed as high as an eight-story building.
Until a surprisingly recent time, rogue waves were thought to be a
sailors superstition. Not as surprisingly, nautical experts now believe not only
that rogue waves exist, but that they are probably responsible for a large percentage of
ocean shipwrecks, including many in which boats or ships disappeared without a trace. The Esso
Languedoc in this case suffered only minor damage.
Keep your cameras at the ready if you can, even in bad weather.