Caught Red-Handed in the Camera Shop


Last week I went with my buddy Jim to buy a camera. Jim already has a camera – several actually – and more lenses than he can remember. But he is the kind of guy who absolutely positively must have the latest, coolest and most innovative. Needless to say, a company like Apple with its iMacs, iPods and iPhones keeps up its stock price and Steve Job’s bonus thanks to customers like Jim.
So, what did Jim think was the new camera thing to have? The new Micro Four-Thirds camera LUMIX G1 from Panasonic. Why? Because it is so different. Jim, being a photographer, is also different.

Once in the camera shop, it was as interesting to listen to Jim and the vendor as it is to listen to two people speaking ancient Latin (is there any other kind of Latin?). It made me think about that old TV sketch from Not the Nine O’Clock News where some poor guy is buying a new gramophone and he has no clue about any technical details. When asked how many Watts he wants for output, he is so intimidated by the superior and smug vendors that he shouts “3… 2000… 500… 30…” while the vendors laugh before stopping him once he has guessed near enough a realistic answer. In the camera shop, that poor guy was me. Luckily, I did not have to answer how many megapixels I wanted.

Jim on the other hand went about with all kinds of technical stuff – or so I think. What would I know? And then he got to put his hands on the LUMIX G1. And yeah, it does look cool. And it comes in red. How difficult could it have been to do a system camera that is not black? Just like for computers, it seemed to have been really difficult – until Apple came along and put colours on things. And now that there is a non-black system camera, it sort of looked like the iMac or iPod of the camera world.

Jim being a gadget freak, he obviously bought an extra lens and then he went to try out his new toy. Jim is an ex-army sniper and he still has an attitude where he does not want to draw attention to himself. At the same time, he likes street photography. Shooting people is in his blood.
Whereas one may have thought that a red camera would draw all the attention in the world, it seemed to be the opposite. No one took a small red camera seriously, something that would probably not have been the case with a big fat black one. That would have looked so much more professional. And suspicious to the paranoid. And even more so to the evervigilant anti-terrorist police. But a red one, well it seems this is the perfect spy camera. It looks cool while being inconspicuous. James Bond better watch out! Now others have a license to shoot people while being cool! Let’s hope that this means more vodka martinis and women as well. The new thing with the LUMIX G1 – except that it can be had in different colours – is that unlike other system cameras it does not have a mirror and a pentaprism/pentamirror viewfinder. Consequently, the camera can be smaller. Or so I am told by Jim who somehow felt he needed to explain why he bought yet another camera. How many cameras can a photographer have? As many as he may.

While studying Jim using his new camera, I realized that his new baby actually takes photos too. He went around testing all kinds of camera setting while moving about in a manner resembling a child with a new kite; suddenly he looks up and then he looks down and then he moves quickly and then looks up again and then looks somewhere else and then he stops. As for me, I was wondering if blue might have been a better choice than red for the camera colour.

Incidentally, I am told that red does actually have many connotations within photography. A red filter increases contrasts. Red light is used in the dark room (if anyone still uses that). And red is the colour of my photographer friends faces when I ask too many questions. Enter the red LUMIX G1, and the world of photography has really become merry cherry.

Or so I think. What would I know? But red is indeed more colourful than black.

This article originally appeared in the Jan 2010 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: better photography, Gabriel Fuchs, different strokes, jan 2010, how to buy a new camera, in the camera shop, LUMIX G1, How many cameras can a photographer have?, red LUMIX G1