nikon coolpix 775 part 1
So here it is, my first ever digital camera. Actually, that’s a teeny-weeny fib. I bought one from Maplin the day before which I owned for about 2 hours before taking it right back to the store. As it happened, 2 hours were all it took for the square block of Vivitar metallic ugliness to burn through 2 AA batteries. I guess it was the early days of consumer digital cameras, but what were they thinking? It had a 1.3 megapixel sensor I remember, with an always-on LCD. That was probably what killed the battery so quickly. I think I managed to take 2 photos with the thing and I recall being resoundingly disappointed with the outcome even back then.
So here it is, my first (unreturned) digital camera – the Nikon Coolpix 775. I remember doing all the research about this camera after purchasing it, which may sound pointless until after you've heard the story behind that.
Long time ago in an Argos store far, far away, I opted to buy a 1.3 megapixel camera with a RECHARGEABLE battery. The exact make and model of the camera escapes me completely now, but it had all the basic things I wanted. I placed the order in the normal way, got my ticket and earnestly awaited my product which I remember cost just over £150! (It was ok. It was only 30 rolls of film, so it would pay for itself in a couple of years or so. Plus instant gratification was mine, finally!). Anyhow when the product arrived, I noticed something wrong straight away. The picture of the camera on the case showed it to be silver, not black. I wanted a black camera. Secondly, it said ‘Nikon’ on it. That wasn't what I asked for. I immediately protested to the store staff, who said something like “well, that’s what we have on that ticket”. And for some reason “sorry, we can’t process a refund today as the machine doesn't work, and also because you paid by card, sir, we can’t this, we can’t that..”. And finally “look sir, you have an option to come back on Monday if you want to return it”. So I took it home.
This review by dpreview (which I honestly cant believe is still online) is one of the ones I read thoroughly. It tells you all you need to know about the camera.
I sat there starring at the box for a while, weighing my options. I could open it, play with it, but then I wouldn't be able to return it after that, or at least it would be more difficult. Ah what the heck! So I ripped into the cardboard.
It was love at first touch. The camera looked and felt good, and had that new-electronics smell. And – hold on – does it say ‘2’ megapixel on there? And, goodness me, it zooms?! And whoa! Macro mode! It was also about a tenth of the weight of the Vivitar metal brick. At this point, Argos wasn't going to take it back, which was ok, as I wasn't going to give it back either.
The rechargeable battery it came with appeared to be partially charged. In direct disobedience to the instruction manual’s advice to ‘make sure to charge the battery for at least yadi-yadi-yada hours blah blah’, I loaded the camera and dashed outdoors. Thankfully it came with an 8 mb Nikon branded CF card in the box. I recall the first shots I made were of dandelions out in the garden. Those photos are now lost in the great digital void of nothingness. In a way, in the early days of digital photography, the constraints imposed by the limited, expensive storage space actually mimicked film photography. I found I was achieving about 35-40 snaps, with the camera set to the highest photo quality, before running out of space. I could take a lot more photos with the quality and size reduced ‘for emailing’, but they were unprintable at 4x6 – and printing was all the rage back in the day you see. However that was all before I discovered the delete button, then all hell broke lose.
My first disappointment with digital was the terrible low light performance back then. This being a PAS, there was no ISO/ASA option, so I assume the camera does some kind of auto selection. In case anyone is in doubt about the difference between film 'grain' and digital 'noise', doubt ye not hence forth.
Despite the above eyesores, the camera was actually quite sharp in good afternoon sunlight. The autofocus I remember wasn't too shabby actually. Very capable in fact of freezing some good street and sports action and small enough to be completely unobtrusive. I was quite pleased with these shots I was able to get at my first ever visit to Wimbledon. Those Aussies were on what is now known as Murray Mount (sorry Tim Henman), and came to support their superstar Mark Philippoussis against some outside-chance guy from Switzerland - what was his name again? "Roger" something or the other.
It was a fun camera, yes. I only put it away during special occasions when I resorted to my trusty Boots 500AF. However I did enjoy the new aspects of photography it introduced me to such as macro photography (or macro lite shall we say), and panning. Because I had the thing on me almost all the time, I also caught some interesting moments with it.
Talking of panning, this picture below is probably what sparked my interest in street photography. It's not technically anything special, or particularly well composed, but when I took the shot and chimped moments later, I couldn't believe my eyes. The illusion of a shallow depth of field caused by panning the subject just blew my mind. I didn't understand how it happened at the time, but I did spend a lot of time trying to re-create it, which meant I practised a lot, picking up a lot of discoveries along the way and ultimately my love of street photography.