Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Why are we so?

Last weekend was beautiful, sunny and cool with not a cloud in sight. So, we decided to go for a drive through all the port cities west of Seattle. The first city we visited was Port Gamble. It is a cute little port city with a nice small downtown and its own house-converted-family-owned restaurants and shops. We were strolling through the main street of the city and one of the houses had a garage sale. Garage sale suckers that we are, we stopped by to check the loot. The main reason we went in was that the sign said everything was $1 each. That was enough motivation for us to peek in. To my surprise I saw an old SLR with a few lenses lying around on a table. I quickly snatched them all up, and to my amazement, I had found myself a Minolta SR-T101 with a 58mm prime and a 200mm prime. Along with them was a 2X and a 3X teleconverter. Boy, was I lucky. I think the lady hosting the sale must have been real unhappy with her husband, and was getting rid of everything of his, and I bagged the whole kit for $2! I was not even thinking of bargaining (who wants to bargain in a dollar store?), and she just said, 'give me $2 for all of it'. I wasn't in a mood to argue with her.

I came home grinning ear to ear, and got out my lens cleaning kits, a dozen ear buds, rubbing alcohol and some tissues, and got to work. I painstakingly cleaned each element of the camera. I rubbed out all the gunk on the body with alcohol, and I cleaned each external element of the lenses with lens cleaning tissue, and brought the camera back to almost mint condition. The whole procedure took me over an hour.

Now, it was calibration time! I took out my good old Canon Elan with its 28-105mm zoom lens and attached it to a tripod. Adjusted the focal length to 58mm and focused it onto a brightly lit object. Then, I mounted the "new" Minolta onto another tripod and focused it on the same scene and started the calibration process at different f-stops.

This is when it struck me that I had not cleaned my $1000+ electronic camera (and accessories) for over 2 years, and I had just spent more than an hour cleaning a $2 camera! What is it that made me clean this Minolta so pain-stakingly, while ignoring my old faithful? At this point I didn't even know if this camera was in good condition. Of course, the shutter cocked and fired well. The lenses had working aperture. Apart from this, I didn't know if the camera leaked light. I didn't know if the shutter had a hole in it. I didn't know if the meter worked right. I didn't know if the shutter was calibrated. So, what was it that made me take such good care of this new entity?

Maybe it is the glamour that new things bring. Maybe it was because I always dreamed of owning a fully manual SLR, and here I was holding this heavy metallic manual camera built like a tank. Or, maybe it was the value of the camera. Even though this is an inexpensive camera, it has great value for me. I paid $2 for something which someone else may be paying more than $200. It is the value it brings for the money I have paid. Or, maybe it is the feel of the mechanical marvel. Being a mechanical engineer, everything that is made up of complex mechanisms always excites me. It was joy to my ears to hear the heavy metallic click of the shutter. Maybe, it was because I now had a new toy to play with.

We will never know. That is the way some things are. You just have to leave them that way and go with the flow.

Maybe, this weekend, I will clean my Canon.