The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Friday, February 2, 2001

Nikon Man

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: At my favorite camera store, Adolph Gasser on 2nd Street in San Francisco, I was looking through the glass at the Nikon camera bodies. There were a lot of them — used camera bodies, some were pretty beat-up, like they'd been on the front lines. Photojournalists tend to go either Nikon or Canon; the lenses aren't interchangeable. I'm sure Canon cameras have their merits, but as far as I'm concerned, if you're serious about taking photographs, a Nikon camera and one or two Nikon lenses are the tools you need. I've been taking photographs since I was a very little kid. By the time I was 12 years old, I was trying to sell black-and-white photos I took of rock bands at concerts. I had some good ones of Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. When I was 15, I got to take some portraits of Jerry Garcia, which I thought was a pretty cool thing to do at the time. There's a lot of technical stuff that you're supposed to learn if you want to be a good photographer. You're supposed to understand the "zone" system, and how depth of field relates to aperture, and that kind of stuff. I always had trouble learning the technical side, though I tried. But if you don't have an eye for a good photo, all the technical skill in the world won't help you. One of the things I like about Adolph Gasser is that it's a big store, with three floors. If you need film or printing paper or chemicals, you've got to go down a couple of flights of stairs to this basement area. There are always some professional photographers down there picking up many rolls of film, along with the serious, slightly arty college students. And you can ask the most basic question and nobody treats you like you're an idiot. Just the opposite — they're real helpful. It's reassuring to hang around a pro shop such as Adolph Gasser, and I think that's because these days everyone fancies himself or herself a photographer, just like everyone's got a Web site. Only most Web sites suck, and nearly everyone who owns a camera isn't a photographer, and most of the pictures they take suck, or are simply bad documents of a moment. They're pictures, not photographs. There's more to it than pointing and clicking. And that's why it's reassuring to be at Adolph Gasser — everyone there takes photography seriously. It's not the kind of place you go if you want a camera for taking snapshots (although they probably have some of those too). They probably also carry some digital cameras, though I didn't notice any when I was there the other day. Digital cameras can be great, and I've got a couple that I've taken a lot of pictures with for posting on Web sites. But there are problems, especially resolution. If you want to make 11 x 14 prints, or even 8 x 10 prints, you're in trouble — you can spend a grand on a digital camera and not be able to make an 11 x 14 print comparable to what you can do with a Nikon and some 35mm film. Also, digital cameras use a lot of juice, which means you're lugging around battery packs or lots of extra batteries. And they don't take interchangeable high-quality lenses. I say give it another three or four years, and digital cameras will be ready for prime time. Downstairs at Adolph Gasser, where they're got the film and the paper, a young guy with long hair was buying some chemicals. "Are you a student?" asked the man behind the counter. If the answer was "yes," he was going to be able to give the guy a discount. With a bittersweet smile, the longhaired dude said, "I'm a student of life." See what I mean?

Datastream: New Order's next album is "a lot more guitarry" than previous releases, drummer Stephen Morris told England's New Musical Express. The as-yet-untitled album, which they expect to release in the fall, will be the group's first in eight years; their last collection of new material was 1993's Republic. Morris said they've given the Chemical Brothers a track to work on. "We've sent them a track and they're doing what they do.... It's virtually finished but let's see what they do." He said one new song is titled "60mph" and another is called "Crystal." ... Sparklehorse's third album, tentatively titled King of Nails, will feature appearances by Tom Waits, PJ Harvey and the Cardigans' Nina Persson, according to Harvey sings and plays piano on "Eye Pennies." Producing the album is David Fridmann, who has worked with Flaming Lips and Mogwai.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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