The recent sad news that Kodak will discontinue making (and processing) Kodachrome, arguably the finest of all colour transparency (slide) films, has caused serious trauma to thousands of amateur and professional outdoors photographers.
This is just more of that typical modern marketing scam where magnificent products are rendered obsolete when essential parts-components become impossible to obtain, forcing us all to buy new, generally inferior products.
Tried to buy a 5 ¼” floppy disk lately for that great old computer-word-processor you still use? Sure double-edge safety razor blades are still available — barely — but I urge you to tell me about it if you find a source of new safety razors to put them in.
Only an amazing consumer revolt reversed the Bernardin decision a few years ago to discontinue producing lids for their Mason home canning jars, thus preventing millions of the jars from becoming landfill.
I expect that before long no camera film of any kind will be available, turning trillions of film cameras worldwide into antiques at best and junk at worst.
Recently a dealer told me my many quality film cameras and lenses that cost upwards of $25,000 are now worthless.
All of the above is mere preamble to the worst part: having to go shopping for yet another point and shoot because Herself had decided it was probably time to give in and go digital.
I had perhaps the perfect outdoors person’s point-and-shoot digital as backup for my Canon Rebel SLR digital, the waterproof Pentax W40, but I sold it because it had no optical viewfinder and the LCD screen was simply inadequate to framing good shots in either bright or low light, i.e. most outdoors conditions.
I replaced the Pentax with an inexpensive, five megapixel, 3X optical zoom Canon A460 with optical viewfinder with which I frequently take publishable pictures and thought I might just get one for Herself. Ha! That model has long been discontinued in the race for ever more megapixels, bigger LCD screens, and a gazillion other bells and tin whistles that do nothing but frustrate and enrage the small minority majority of users who even try to use them.
This time I did due diligence with camera company and the independent review websites, but mainly with the annual and definitive report on digital cameras in the July Consumer Reports.
Then I set off to one of Alberta’s larger independent camera chains to buy a compact digital point and shoot camera highly recommended in CR: the 4X optical zoom, 10 megapixel Canon Powershot A1000 IS, one of a few models left in the Canon line with optical viewfinders.
At the store I was summarily and surprisingly advised “that camera has been discontinued.”
“Funny,” I replied, “it is highly recommended in the current Consumer Reports, even pictured on the cover,” and huffed off elsewhere and quickly found and bought the camera.
I have discussed with Pentax how the lack of an optical viewfinder prevents their W40 from being the perfect outdoorspersons’ digital point-and-shoot. Yet the new W60 still does not have one.
I was beginning to think I was out of step until the current CR noted that a viewfinder is an important attribute you might have to hunt for, “because camera makers are either phasing them out, or generally don’t offer them.”
“In our subscriber survey,” CR goes on, “72 per cent of those who had (an optical viewfinder) found it useful. And about half of point-and-shoot owners said it was very important that their next model have one. Without it you must use the LCD to compose shots, an obvious drawback of the 68 percent of point-and-shoot owners who found it hard to view images on their LCD in bright light.
Yet this desire flies in the face of an industrial trend of reducing the number of models with a viewfinder, presumably to accommodate larger LCD screens.”
A couple of digital print processors I know can go on at great length about the gazillions of bad digital pictures they see caused by camera users who can’t hold a camera steady out there at arm’s length while they peer at an LCD screen on which they can see nothing in either bright or low light.
Yet we will probably endure fewer optical viewfinders, bigger LCD screens, evermore megapixels and increasingly complex features paid for, but seldom used by camera owners who simply want reliably to take good, sharp digital images, maybe even a simple computer connection system to “share” those images with friends or print processors.
That may take awhile, considering the industry tendency to ignore consumer wishes in favour of the competitive engineering arms race. After all, only in the failing days of film did Olympus come up with the best $100 film point-and-shoot in the world, the Stylus Epic, waterproof, with ultra fast and sharp lens and a very few, simple controls all to the simple end of producing what the user wants – good pictures.
Bob Scammell is an outdoors writer and retired lawyer.