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Digital Experiments in Motomachi, Yokohama

v_Motom06.tif (107782 bytes)These days, a lot of people are wondering, "What about digital cameras? Should I buy one?".
The answer is, as usual with expensive purchases, "Maybe.  Maybe not."

I've owned one for about one and a half years, a Casio QV-100. There are much better ones available now, but at the time, this was the best value. 

When I got mine, I took it for a test drive on Motomachi, a famous shopping street in Yokohama, Japan.

Motomachi is a crowded, expensive, trendy shopping area.  Kind of the Beverly Hills of Yokohama. Most of the stores are filled with purses, shoes, and expensive clothes.v_Motom12.tif (90374 bytes)

It's a great place for people watching, but it's usually too crowded for photography.

I had always had the urge to take my camera and walk down the street, randomly shooting away, to create a 'paparazzi' type of feel to my photos. I felt  that style would capture the feel of Motomachi, bustling with the frenzied fever of shopping.

v_Motom01.tif (102982 bytes)That type of shooting, though, is pretty pricey, especially with slide film. 

So, when I bought my digital camera, Motomachi seemed like a great proving ground.

There is no incremental cost to digital photos, so I could fire away at will.

The Casio has a pivoting lens, so I could turn up the body and hold it at my waist.  Then I watched the screen, and took my pictures.

The camera holds 60 pictures, so every hour or so, I would go over to the corner, sit down and check out the pictures, and edit out the worthless ones. Then I could start again.v_Motom05.tif (65158 bytes)

The success rate was pretty low. I would edit out almost 70% every time.  Most pictures turned out blurry, or someone would walk into the viewfinder, or the shot would be badly exposed, or I would take a picture of my thumb. No problem, though. I would just delete and continue. Try that with film!

I have to say, it's quite a buzz, walking along, hammering away at the shutter, with no concern as to the cost. I can try different angles. I can shoot into the light. I can break all the rules!

The other advantage is that the camera is relatively invisible to people. I don't have to hold it up to my face and announce, "Hey there, I'm trying to take your picture."

v_Motom07.tif (98182 bytes)Of course, it's still a camera, and some people, like the clerk here, did notice it.   That was okay, though, because the result was still unposed and natural.

So what's wrong with digital cameras?

Well, the quality is still not as good as negatives or slides, though it gets closer every day.
And, of course, you need a computer, cables, and software. But once you have those, you can share the photos with your friends and family via email or the web, so that's not really a negative point.v_Motom03.tif (90374 bytes)
The biggest negative is probably the printing process. You'll need to buy a 'photo quality' printer, the paper and ink are pretty expensive, and the process is time consuming.

But you still ask, "Should I buy one?".

-If you're a serious photographer, you should have one. It's another tool for the toolbox. Just using this one for a month allowed me to experiment (and fail) in ways I hadn't done since my high school classes. I've applied a lot of those lessons to my 'real' photography.

v_Motom09.tif (109582 bytes)-If you have kids, and they always want to use your camera, you should have one. They can take hundreds of photos, and it won't cost you a dime. You can always save the pictures to VCR, if you don't have a computer.

-It's tempting to say you should have one if you do a web page, but I don't think it's true. A scanner is the same price or less.

-If you're considering buying a new video camera, you should buy a digital video camera.  It will do the same duty as a digital camera, as well as shoot video, AND give you CD quality digital sound. 
Since I bought my digital video camera, I rarely use my digital still camera.v_Motom02.tif (102470 bytes)

-The best bet is to get your company to buy one. Then you can borrow it for an important project.....
If your boss goes for it, get a scanner next, then a digital video camera. If your company still has money, then they can hire me for an outrageous sum as a technical consultant. I'll help them find ways to spend the extra money.

The bottom line is that digital cameras are a tool for capturing images. I use them to get images that I would not have gotten otherwise.
In that sense, for me, it's a useful tool.

v_Motom16.tif (72366 bytes)So, if your current camera allows you to get all the images you want, and use them the way you want to, you don't need a digital camera.

If, however, you're missing images, and you need a way to capture them, a digital camera may help you.

Of course, if you just need some boots or a purse, you should follow these girls to Motomachi. They'll take you to the right place.