PHOTO TECHNO CRISIS

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I was playing with a camera this morning, trying to capture flowers in the morning light. In the middle of this artistic endeavor, I had a minor, yet memorable techno-crisis. It is a classic example of the kind of problems that beset us because of the technology on which we depend.

I’ve been taking pictures for more than 40 years. I know my way around a camera.

My first cameras were mechanical. Film. I took a lot of rolls of black and white because I could develop black and white film. A lot cheaper than sending it out to a lab. I also did my own printing, mounting, and framing, though I’ve completely forgotten how.

Olympus PEN PL-5

The only electronic part of those film cameras might be the light meter. My first half-dozen cameras didn’t have built-in light meters, so I used a Weston Master V. It was a standard part of my equipment for years. If I forgot it, the piece of paper that came with Kodak film was a pretty good substitute. We affectionately called it “the paper light meter.”

A while back, I bought a handheld meter almost exactly like the one I used for so many years — and realized I had no idea what to do with it. It has been a long time.

Pentax Q7 plus lenses camera

Cameras might break and need repair, cleaning, or adjustment, but basically, there wasn’t much to go wrong. As long as you didn’t drop it, soak it in salt water, or spill coffee in it, it could last forever. To prove my point, there are a surprising number of these old film cameras still in use.

There weren’t many moving parts: shutter, film winding mechanism. You set film speed (ISO), shutter speed, f-stop. Aim, frame, focus, press the shutter. Voila. Photograph.

Today, my camera wakes me in the morning and starts the coffee. If I ask nicely, it will do the grocery shopping, though it draws the line at laundry. Not really. But close enough.

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If something goes wrong, it’s crazy time.

This morning, I removed the lens cap and turned the camera on. I unlocked the lens. The menu came on, but no picture appeared. Flashing on the screen was something I’d never seen before. Without a clue what it meant, I double-checked to make sure I really had removed the lens cap. I had.

So I did what I do with my computer. I rebooted. I turned it off, waited, then turned it back on.

More flashing. No picture.

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I removed the battery and the memory card, counted to twenty. Put them back. Still flashing. Still no picture.

By now, I was in full panic mode. My camera wasn’t working. Fear gripped me. Eventually, it occurred to me to check whether or not the lens was properly seated.

Click. The flashing stopped. A picture appeared. The lens had been loose. I must have accidentally pressed the lens release button, so it wasn’t quite locked. Ergo ipso, the camera wouldn’t work.

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With all the ridiculous, useless functions built into modern cameras, how come they don’t have anything that alerts you that the lens is loose? Or for that matter, that your battery is about to die? The next time someone is adding bells and whistles to the software, please consider adding something useful. If necessary, remove one of the many pointless menu options and add something we might use.

I felt like a moron. Then, I took some pictures.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

70 thoughts on “PHOTO TECHNO CRISIS”

    1. Not so less complex. But that line of cameras mostly comes set up the way most people will use them. Under the hood, there are dozens of weird setting I don’t understand and obviously don’t need.

      Garry periodically thinks his camera is broken because he pushed the button and the picture isn’t where he wants it (he’s a viewfinder kind of guy). I merely forget to remove the lens cap.

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        1. I’m not sure anyone has figured them all out. I’m told there are YouTube tutorials that are very good but I’ve never watched one … nor has Garry or my son … and all of us own one or another version of the same camera (Garry has the 60, I have the 200, my son has the 70). Anyone who wants to know how anything works skips all that dull learning stuff and comes to me, hands me the camera and says “I can’t get it to …” and I figure it out. I always suggest — delicately, lest I start a ruckus — that they could possibly try to figure it out for themselves, but no one seems to even hear me when I say it.

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          1. It is all about playing with it really and just finding out what it can do. Most of the time, I only need clear shots, so as long as I can shoot in RAW and jpeg when I choose, I’m happy.

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              1. Until I can afford to invest the time, money and energy to a good DSLR, this one is about the best I’ve had, though I still think the picture quality was richer on the model down from this.

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                1. It was. That’s the one Garry has. The lens isn’t as long, but it’s a Leica and the 70 is an unnamed Chinese production. The 200 that I’ve got has the leica lens, but it too is the shorter reach — but it has RAW and Jpg and turns out an amazingly high quality image – even in just jpg.

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                  1. Yep. Unfortunately, the lens got badly scratched so a replacement was cheaper than a repair… even so, it took incredible images for its price. This one, even though not quite as rich, is well and truly offset by the zoom range.

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      1. One of my favorite cameras is a little Canon PowerShot A590. It was the 2nd digi cam I bought. $150, 8MP, nothing special except it has an optical viewfinder and it takes really good photos. I say “it takes” because I have little to do with it. It’s the true iteration of “Point & Shoot”. It doesn’t get any pointier, or shootier, than this thing. Coupled with the OVF makes it a true pocket wonder, anytime shooter.

        That being said; I was on vacation in Tampa and was shooting some seaside stuff on a dock when I spotted a big crane like bird (Egret?) and started to shoot before it decided to fly off. Of course I used the OVF as it was bright sun that day which had never failed me. Later when I went to view the shots I was dismayed to find that some of the body parts of the bird were cut off and I swore I’d centered the subject well within the frame. Again, WTF? It hasn’t happened since and all other Photos that day using the OVF were true to frame. So whaaa happened?

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  1. Wow! that’s amazing. The same thing happened to me yesterday as I was fitting my 45mm 1.8 prime to the Oly P3. Camera turned on, No picture. Removed the lens mounted and remounted several times.., still no picture. Then mounted it on the EM10, works fine, put it back on the P3 and it worked WTF.., I still don’t know why it didn’t work before but guess, like your problem, it wasn’t seated correctly? Maybe it wasn’t making contact with the little gold pins in the camera body even though it felt tightly connected? This digital thing can be a pain.., pure optical was easier. If light came through the lens you saw a picture in the finder.., plain and simple.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and I have never updated any of the firmware inANY of my cameras. Never. I’m afraid of firmware. It is entirely possible it needs an update. OY VAY IS MIR! I tried once, when the camera was new, and got a gazillion error message and never tried again.

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    2. Isn’t that bizarre? It’s like when your car decides a door isn’t properly closed and you run around like a moron opening and slamming everything and FINALLY the car decides, oh right it’s closed. I suspect a dirty or misaligned contact is the real culprit.

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      1. … and I forgot to mention that my engineering background kicked in for a second and I wiped the camera contacts a bit with my finger before the final re-mount. Not very scientific as I failed to note this step. So maybe the contacts on the P3 were slightly dirty.., which doesn’t make a lot of sense since they are gold plated and looked really shiny??? 🙂

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        1. I think it takes a mere speck … probably invisible to our eyes (especially my eyes which ain’t all that sharp these days). This is one of the reasons I hate changing lenses in the field. It’s SO easy to get crud into the camera and not even see it. A stray piece of pollen or dust is all it takes.

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    1. You’ve probably got some weird setting activated. I’ve had that and it made me crazy. I eventually got it to stop, but I don’t know what I did or what IT was doing in the first place. A manual might help. Just a little thought.

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        1. I would not count on that being such a big help. The quality of these manuals isn’t what it ought to be. It’s probably not that something is wrong with it. More likely it’s just set up weirdly.

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  2. That is the worse feeling, especially after you’ve done the turn on, off reboot to no results. Glad this was an easy fix- but you’re right- if they have managed to have all these bells and whistles they can’t give you a heads up when the battery is low? Grrrrr

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        1. The manuals they include are just generated data. Useless for learning anything. Go into Amazon BOOKS and see if they have a “Nikon XXX for Dummies” for your camera or one very similar to it. The dummies books are really well written and if you can find one for your camera, it will change your world. That’s how I learned to use my first Olympus and since they, they’ve all been very similar, so that first Olympus PL-1 for Dummies has gone a LONG way. Second, check YouTube. A lot of people put together teaching videos for various cameras. I don’t know what’s available, but there might be more than you think. Give it a try.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes I get a bit sloppy and just toss the used battery into my bag. And forget it needs charging. And then, there I am, and it all just goes dark. It would have been a great picture … if the battery weren’t dead that is.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Now THAT is a funny idea. You try to take one thing, but the camera decides something else is a better picture. Changes your focus, too. Decides it want’s the foreground in focus no matter what YOU say. Oh, wait, it already does that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There are a lot of computers in digital cameras. There’s also firmware that tell the camera what lens you have attached. If you don’t regularly upgrade your firmware and buy a new fangled lens it won’t work. I’ve run into this many time with my Fuji X-E1 because it was a totally new camera system with lots of new lenses, each had to match that firmware. Cameras are wonderful tools but require initial work setting them up and then praying you don’t bump something that gets them out of whack. I’ve had my camera lock up so many times I know what to look for now. Even that loose lens issue has happened to me a few time. I empathize with your woes.

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      1. Because I’ve done it so often and helped those that bought the same camera with their setup I go quickly through the process now. I have no need for additional lenses.

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        1. Olympus is having a big sale … which no doubt means another generation of lenses is about to come out. I wouldn’t mind getting that sweet 25mm 1.8 … but I can’t convince myself I need it. I do long for it, though.

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          1. Gear lust is tough to resist. I fought off the urge for a 3rd camera the other day. I have two changeable lens mirrorless cameras with 5 great lenses.I don’t need a 3rd.

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            1. I have 4, but three I got for remarkably little money — and one of them, I am selling for almost the same as I paid for it. I like keeping each camera with a different lens. Easier to change cameras quickly than lenses.

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    1. I’ve had it happen in cars, though thank goodness not recently. I’ve had cars just stop. Engine dies, nothing works. Some kind of computer failure or electrical snafu. The most dependable car we have is our 2002 Pontiac which has nothing automatic in it, not even the doors or windows.

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  4. I shudder at the thought. I can’t afford to let anything happen to my camera as I don’t have many cameras like you. Just an olympus SLR, Nikon DSLR and Sony point and shoot. I don’t like to click with my iphone 6. My son is very happy with it and now a days he uses the phone as it is easy to carry it but I want him to work on DSLR as he is so good in photography.

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    1. Most people don’t have as many cameras as I do, but I’ve been very lucky and gotten most of them on sale for much less than normal price … and I’ve had many of them for quite a few years. It sometimes surprises me how long I’ve had my older cameras. It seems like I bought them yesterday. I don’t know what the markets are like there. I mostly use online sellers and I put in price alerts, so when the price of something I want drops below the number I set, if I have the money I grab it. Sometimes, I can’t … and sometimes, stuff comes up that I wasn’t looking for but is just what I wanted. You need to have a little loose change and a LOT of luck.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A scary moment. I have flashing lights in my car if a door isn’t shut properly, or I am not wearing my seat belt, so it should be relatively easy to have a warning in our modern cameras. Frustrating.

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      1. Me neither. I get scared when something goes wrong – my camera just froze once and I really panicked. Luckily the battery had died with absolutely no warning and froze the lens out in zoom.

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                  1. That was the scary part for me when the lens was frozen. It makes you wonder what you did wrong when all it was, was the dead battery. I am getting a spare battery with my new camera. Have learnt my lesson.

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                    1. I have quite a few spare batteries. At least two for each camera. Because none of the batteries have a terribly long life and if you use a lot of autofocus and/or telephoto, you can burn through a battery in 15 minutes, no problem.

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