The ordeal of buying used via eBay is certainly one to cherish, feel the tension wrack the mind and nerves as you buy into the hype of the sellers monologue about condition and reasons for giving you the chance to own their soon-to-be discarded. The list of cut and pasted facts that were from the brochure… the list goes on.
Tick. Then it comes down to the wire.
Tock. A second passes. Moments of decision are wresting on an internal struggle of do I really need this.
Tick. 2 minutes remaining. Bids are still low. You tell yourself “that’s okay, this is an incredible bargain. I’ll be getting something that was once worth thousands, for the price of a couple of cheap takeaways”.
Tock. 1 minute. Is it really worth it? Wait, have I considered how much all the additional parts will cost to get it working, heck even checked out to see if the sellers selling snake oil? Did I do enough research, really think this through.
Tick. It’s time to cup the dice, think of a number. 4 seconds left.
Return. Does the seller accept returns?
It’s won. Mine. And now the ecstasy of patience as you wait for the package to arrive.
It’s exhausting and for me all consuming.
Old Bargains in Digital Times
So, I’ve bought an old ‘professional’ DSLR Nikon. This camera is a tiny 4 MP marvel, the D2H. It’s battered, not 100% working, but it seems to take pictures, the menu works and with a new battery possibly has life to spare (a mere 115,459 shutter actuation…).
I’ve also obtained a super cheap Nikon AF-G 28-80 3.3-5.6 zoom to pair to this super sized, yet humble kit. And what is the goal? I’m curious, I wonder what can be achieved with a camera I don’t have to care as much about, it’s already been abused and clearly taken many images, but it’s weather proof with the right lens (and probably a refresh of the seals) and got a tiny number of pixels to it’s otherwise large sensor.
For me it’s all about that quirky and unique sensor that’s not seen the light beyond it’s series. Like the Foveon sensors, I want to see more than what’s established, more than the normally accepted tastes and appearance in visuals. Vintage lenses have been a gateway drug, like sugar and caffeine. Foveon was the first taste of the photographic LSD, expanding beyond the horizon of what’s expected through the images.
Once the mind’s been awakened to these possibilities there’s a desire to close the door and step further along this peculiar and high contrast path.
Champion A Modern Underdog
Like most of these pieces of equipment, they are not easily replaced. Some were in low supply to begin, some were unloved models, and some were intended to be used without cherish or feelings of humanism imposed into the object of art.
And this is where I find myself with my little collection of digital cameras, an explorer wishing to learn about my needs of expression and how the tech and statistics that orchestrate desires and purchases simply. Don’t. Matter.
Truthfully, I don’t know it it’s been worth it. I want my instincts to be right and this bargain to lead me to create new images with a distinct feel and stretch my understanding of this art. But I simply don’t know yet. It took a long week of bad used batteries, an expedition of some 100-mile round trip to collect a charger (overpriced, yet instantaneous in my hands…it’s a chemical problem and obsessive thoughts) before I was able to test if the camera powered up as advertised (Tip: want an old D series Nikon? Buy a complete kit- by the time you track all the pieces of the puzzle it comes out about the same).
Was it all worth it? I feel it has been, for my intended use, and useful in further confirmation bias that megapixel counts really don’t matter most of the time. I’ve even had some prints made from this camera, my Sigma DP1 and my Pentax KS-1, all at the same size just to see how the resolution compared (entirely unscientific!) and was astonished how similar they all were at 10 x 8- I know, I know… I would likely see the difference at A3 or greater, but honestly, I mostly show my images on the net. Really, size doesn’t matter for most of us.
Scars Healed By A Magic Touch
Taking stock of the faults: The up direction on the circular thumb stick only works when held in a very specific manner with force; the white balance button doesn’t respond; the first shot always produces an error message (a common issue I’ve learnt with this model, but one that’s not a particular hindrance- all photographs after turn out clean) and sadly, the whole vertical grip fails to respond after much gentle attempts to press the shutter and checking the on/off switch.
I learned a valuable lesson with this camera. Never give up completely until you’ve really tested all methods and techniques exhaustively and enthusiastically. Turns out I have a friend who’s got a magic touch and has whirred the vertical grip on the big D2H back to life! Only one button still doesn’t respond (ahhh white balance, there’s no place to hide… menus are everywhere!)
What a joy the vertical grip is to use, I honestly just thought it would be some gimmick to justify price and size (if it wasn’t a built in feature…) But nope, this physical link to scenes from Full Metal Jacket and snapping away like a professional journo has won me over, and all it does is let me hold the camera more naturally…oh and have a better shutter orientation when on a tripod- seems it’s easier to avoid movement triggering the shutter horizontally!
So what greatness have I created since having this hardcore professional camera? Just some fun snaps. I’m still learning the controls and process, and using the cheap AF lens I got to check working is a challenge to my manual obsessed hands and mind, but I do love the high contrast and vivid colours this sensor produces- it’s certainly a sunny day vibe.
Thanks for taking the time to read. Hopefully this review may make some of you out there take a chance on something a bit different.