All right, I’ll admit it: I take most of my pictures using a cellphone. Granted, in today’s world, nobody would consider that unusual. But bear in mind that I was one of those Einsteins that sneered, “Who needs a cellphone with a built-in camera anyway?”
I’m also the same person who has been through a succession of cameras, starting with a Kodak Instamatic 104, which hit the market only marginally after the camera obscura. Having worked my way through a succession of SLRs and point-and-shoots, I have grudgingly settled on the smartphone as my workhorse camera. It’s probably a source of unending pain to my photographer father that, despite his best efforts, I ended up being nothing more than a glorified happy snapper.
This lack of photographic enterprise may or may not have had anything to do with an incident in my youth. As a freelance snapper, while on the goal-line covering a big soccer derby for the local paper, I briefly lost track of play through the viewfinder. The next thing I knew, a vicious but ill-directed shot had knocked me… er… tip over kettle in front of 20 000 spectators.
Nevertheless, in the interests of science I accepted an invitation to fondle some of Canon’s new picture-taking equipment. Of course, it helped that the fondling was to be accompanied by lunch.
For the record, I was particularly intrigued, as were fellow guests, by the PowerShot N. For a start, it looks different thanks to its unusual square design. Pick it up for a… um… fondle, and the casing, made of what feels like die-cast metal, takes you nostalgically back to the world of Dinky and Meccano. Its touchscreen tilts, allowing you to view your subject any which way – most seemed to like holding it down at navel level like those old twin-lens reflex jobs. Besides all that, it’s packed with gadgetry such as the new Creative Shot mode: an automatically generated array of morphed pictures for every shot. Naturally, this Wi-Fi capable device is also fully equipped for the social networking image-sharing smartphone-linked generation – you can even share full HD videos in real time.
The tricky part about the PowerShot N is trying to work out how to take a picture. This is particularly true for those with an aversion to reading manuals. I managed to set it off accidentally several times. But it was only after a good 20 minutes of fiddling that I realised that you had to nudge the focusing ring to trigger the shutter release. Regrettably, this activity meant that I missed most of the presentation.
However, I can tell you that Canon dominates the local SLR market, selling around half of the total. This little nugget of information led me in a quite unexpected direction when I asked perfectly innocently who was still buying SLRs in a smartphone/point-and-shoot world. What I was trying to find out was the buyer profile – whether they are pros or amateurs.
The answer: two out of every three entry-level SLR cameras are bought by women. I don’t know why I found that surprising, but I did. Unkind people might say it suggests that an eye for a good picture is gender-dependent. In other words, women are better at it. Frankly, I’m in no position to judge.