Just Above Sunset
December 25, 2005 - The Ginza Ninja

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Our Man in Paris is Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis. For Christmas he got himself a fancy digital camera. We can relate. See the illustration below.

Glazed Ginza Ninja


PARIS - Friday, December 23 – Although it is nearly Christmas it is just a coincidence that I have been saving money for months and months in order to get a new camera for myself for Christmas. I am not a registered Christian, so it is not actually a Christmas present. I need a new camera! I was slowly getting near enough and then EDF demanded I pay a bill and France Telecom is never far behind. Last month I thought I'd make it but no.


For some reason my fairy godmother who has a different notion of 'modest' sent me a pile of money so I wouldn't beg for any crumbs. I called my secretive bank on Wednesday and they said it was here - they usually take 10 days to send a note; holding on to it as long and quietly as possible - and I went off hop-skip-and-jump to Photo Muller and lent him my plastic. Lucky too, because he had exactly one camera and was not getting any more until the new year. Yeah yeah, you other suckers gotta wait!


We were a bit doubtful that the software will work with Mac OS 9 so Mr. Muller phoned Olympus and they said, si si, no worries. As I left he asked me to tell him how it comes out because he's never tried it and wants to know in case somebody else tries to buy one. But before next year he wants to hear about no troubles. He is going to celebrate on the profit from the memory card, the sod.


The DVD called 'Extensive User's Guide' did not work because my old Mac does not have a DVD player. The two CDs did not work either because they are for Windows and Mac OS 10, exclusively. All I could get off one of them was a 220-page PDF file. Nothing they have online is for Mac OS 9, and an email to Olympus USA produced 'nope' as a response today.


Luckily I have a cheapo USB card reader. I tried it once before when Nigel was here and we stuck his card in it to see the photos he'd taken. We didn't see anything because it stopped the Mac stone dead and fried its system to cinders. It took some doing to get out of that one, like tearing Matt away from his Yahoo Finance to come over here with a system disk. Matt hasn't seemed like he's in a good mood lately, ever since he got the new scooter. But, so, I was a bit worried because this camera has the same kind of card that went blooey.


You probably think I can hook up the camera to the computer with a USB cable, and in theory you are right, but without the software there's no way for the two stupid machines to exchange greetings. It also means there's no way to register online; so Monsieur Muller and his paper guarantee cards will have to do the trick. He specializes in Praktika and other obscure east European brands; from countries where the abacus is still king. If you are missing a piece of a 30-year old Russian camera he probably has it.


This new one is not a beautiful camera. It seems to be made entirely of extremely black plastic, in China no less, with chopsticks. It looks like that Ninja guy in Star Wars with the ventilated Nazi helmet. Beggars can't be choosers they say, but most other cameras these days look like they were made with chopsticks in China - except for the Olympus camera that I did not get. It was made of sexy magnesium in Tokyo's red-light district, by a blind guy who graduated in designing shoeboxes for flip-flops.


The camera has a '50s type speed dial on top with 'A' on it. When you turn on the 'On' switch and look through a little window and push the shitter button a little while this 'A' is selected, it will try to focus and take a photo when you push it all the way - a 100th of a millimetre further. I thought I took 8 photos this afternoon but I only found 2 inside. It was shitting me. There are 10 other choices on the speed dial so all it not lost yet. It has 'P' for parking, another 'A' for absconding, 'S' for speeding and 'M' for mother; then five others in Chinese and one in Greek.


I have tried reading the user guide PDF file. Quite right of you if you think this will not be handy while trying to take photos of pickpockets at the marché or while mean kids are burning Twingos in the suburbs. Other than the guide being unwieldy, it seems to be written back to front - was it written in China? How to turn off the 'beep' is on page 133 while the camera's control buttons are explained on page 190.


But that's nothing! How the hell can I 'format the card' on page 26 before I learn which buttons do what on page 190? I guess I am button challenged. The old camera only had 10 buttons, including the shitter release. Six of them I never used and have no idea why they were on there. I mean, other than the 'On' button and the shitter, the only other button I used was to turn off the full picture autofocus. It was constantly out of focus for three years until I learned the trick of the spot.


On a 35mm reflex camera there used to be 5 variables. They were film speed, shutter speed, f-thingees, the lens and the shutter button.  Strictly speaking there were only 4 variables unless you had two lenses. I still read the soothing user manual for my old Nikon-F in bed at night occasionally. Later models had light meters in them, so that was another variable, but a convenient one. Does anyone remember focussing by hand? Does anybody remember how sexy those lenses used to be? Turn a bit, twist, and those big old titties popped right into focus!  The next step ahead for mankind was the zoom lenses. They gave new life to boobs. What a kick that was!


Well those were the good old days. Today I tried 'A' on the new camera and it shorted me 6 photos. Now I guess I have to work backwards and go through the entire PDF turning things off one by one until I get down to flat bedrock. But before getting completely back to nature - a Mr. Natural state instead of this Ginza Ninja - I think I'll play with the zoom for a while.


My old Olympus had a zoom lever. Push for zoom-in and pull for zoom wide. Hey! The only thing that resembles it is the 'On' and 'Off' switch. It just sets off the supersonic wave filter and turns on the circus lights window. Zoom, zoom, where's the motor zoom?


There's another turny-type dial on top that is marked with... what do those things mean? Where's that PDF? What the hell is a supersonic wave filter anyway? Cripes! Is this what they do to people who won't get portable phones?


At this rate I'll find the zoom by next Christmas. I intended to read that PDF file and turn everything off tonight so I could start from scratch tomorrow. Christmas Eve has the most chance of some light.  Afterwards there's nothing but clouds and freezing gloom forecast.


Just like when I got a bike for Christmas.

Ric Erickson - "the" digital camera -

Text and Illustration, Copyright © 2005 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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