Megapixels? But all I want to do is take pictures

November 03, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

Until recently, my family was the last one on the face of the earth to not own a digital camera.

This was in keeping with a certain lifestyle trend, since we were also the last family on earth to not own a VCR, a DVD player, a TV with a screen larger than 28 inches and a cell phone.

Don't even talk to us about an iPod or BlackBerry or something like that. That's like bringing up a time-travel machine in my house.

Anyway, in lieu of a digital camera, we made do for years with our Canon Sure Shot 35 mm, and all that thing could do was consistently take clear, bright pictures with terrific color that were easy and inexpensive to develop.

So why hang onto a relic like that?

No, it was time to join the new millennium and the squealing hordes toting sleek cameras the size of credit cards with full-color LCD screens that take fabulous pictures of handsome family members engaged in important activities, gorgeous sunsets, breathtaking mountain vistas, etc.

So my wife and I went shopping for a digital camera.

On our first visit to one of the vast, soulless electronics superstores, a young sales guy in a blue polo shirt said the No. 1 thing to look for in a digital camera is megapixels.

"Mega-what-els?" I said.

"Megapixels," he repeated. "Dots. It's all about picture resolution."

At the second vast, soulless electronics superstore we visited, a young saleswoman in a red polo shirt said that, as far as she was concerned, battery life was the key to a good digital camera.

"Does it take a lithium-ion battery or the regular double-A's?" she said. "I wouldn't buy one with regular batteries."

At our third stop, a chain camera store in a vast, soulless mall, the man behind the counter said: "Two words: zoom capability. You can't have too much zoom in a digital camera."

At our fourth stop, a department store that anchors a new town-square-like outdoor mall trying not to look like a vast, soulless indoor mall, the sales guy asked us what we planned to use the camera for.

"We just want to take pictures," I said.

This seemed to confuse him, and he stared blankly at us for several seconds.

Then he excused himself and went off to find the manager.

When he found him, we watched as the two of them discussed the situation, shooting worried glances our way from time to time.

Finally, the manager came over and said: "Brad is upset. You have to be more specific. Will you be shooting landscapes? Beach scenes? Kids playing sports? Family barbecues?"

"All of the above," I said.

"We're looking for a camera," my wife said, "that does all the things our little Canon Sure Shot 35 mm at home does."

"That Sure Shot works like a charm," I added. "It's never let us down. So naturally we need to replace it."

All in all, we looked at dozens of digital cameras at the places we visited, and came away more confused than ever about which one to buy.

Finally, a nice sales guy at yet another camera store asked us how comfortable we were with modern technology and using new gizmos.

When I said I could barely work a Venetian blind, he said: "Then you want a Kodak."

Kodak digital cameras, he said, are so easy to use a chimpanzee can work one.

"I don't know," I said. "Some of those chimps are pretty sharp. I saw a chimp on Letterman sit at a computer and do math problems and play alphabet games."

"Trust me," he said. "You can work a Kodak."

So we ended up buying a Kodak that wasn't too pricey - until we actually started for the cash registers, at which point it was "strongly suggested" we also buy extra memory for the camera, extra batteries, a camera case and the extended warranty, all of which pushed it into the price range of a new Cadillac Escalade.

I got the extended warranty because the sales clerk made it sound like the camera was as fragile as bone china and that if anything broke, my life would become a living hell of mailing the camera back to the manufacturer, dealing with the Kodak reps, waiting endlessly for the camera to be repaired only to discover it was a shoddy repair job, and ultimately getting shafted - which would lead to disappointment, depression, divorce and probably a drinking problem for one of us.

Who wouldn't pay a few bucks to avoid all that?

Anyway, so far we like our new digital camera just fine.

Oh, it's no Canon Sure Shot - did I mention ours still takes outstanding photos?

With wonderful clarity and rich, vibrant colors?

But how long can you put up with that?

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