Thursday, March 01, 2007

How Ken Rockwell made me buy a new camera, and why it matters to all wives

Chod Hedinger is a shrewd man.

So shrewd, in fact, that he was able to buy a fancy Canon digital single lens reflex camera with two interchangeable lenses, several expensive filters and a custom bag to hold it all, and have his wife blame it on me.

My genuine assertion of innocence was met with evil snickers from Chod and snide insinuations from my wife—and downright hostility from his—leading me to question his motives when he first asked for advice on photographic equipment. His tactic, a classic male maneuver guaranteed to outflank the enemy (his wife) and to redirect hostile fire (to someone else, in this case me), worked flawlessly. He got off with a minimum of hard feelings, and the camera, and I am no longer allowed within ten miles of his house.

It was a brilliant move, one I’m still smarting over. In fact, I’m so stung by it that I’ve decided to come clean, to let wives in on the secret, even though I realize it may leave husbands all but defenseless the next time they think they need a new shotgun, truck, fishing rod, widescreen TV, or, yes, camera.

It goes something like this. He mentions his interest in a better camera and suggests a brand and model. I give him what I know and direct him to various Web sites for further information. He then begins prepping his wife by dropping hints of how outdated his camera is, how it limits his creativity, how technology has drastically improved, and each hint, each mournful lament, is sprinkled with a subtle, “Tom says.” And his wife, who like all wives never fully hears what he has to say but filters conversation through a special audio frequency which measures financial costs as well as levels of desperation, dutifully understands this as an interest in spending unholy amounts of cash on something he already has, and accepts this invitation to the marital jitterbug with the requisite riposte, “What’s wrong with what you have?” But like some virus or worm infecting the body from the inside out, the inclusion of my name triggers an attack response that slightly blunts the damage and focuses her ire elsewhere.

My feelings would have been hurt if not for Ken Rockwell.

It just so happens that I had been interested in a better camera long before Chod was. Or to put it another way, I had been frustrated by my camera for a long time, and was sure to make known the level of my frustration to the person who most mattered: my wife. Partly this was the prepping stage, but mostly it was the immersion stage, in which a husband inwardly flogs himself for craving a new and improved model, flails at the ghastly price associated thereof, and begins the convoluted process of convincing not only himself but his significant other that true happiness and contentment can only be attained through the object of his desire.

Concurrent with this is the laying of blame. Chod blamed me. I blamed Ken Rockwell.

Now, Ken seems like a nice enough fellow. His Web site,, is an amazing resource for all things photographic, especially camera and lens reviews but with a wealth of technical information and lessons in technique. He’s fair, he’s balanced, he smiles a lot, he has what looks like a very nice house in the California suburbs, and in all fairness to Ken he did his best to talk me out of a new camera.

His essay, “Why your camera does not matter,” was a revivalist tent meeting that had me convinced to keep the faith with my old point-and-shoot model. “Never blame a camera for not knowing everything or making a wrong exposure or fuzzy image,” he wrote, and I shouted “Amen!”

“Buying newer cameras will ensure you get the same results you always have,” brought peals of hosannas.

“Everyone knows that the brand of typewriter has nothing to do with the ability to compose a compelling novel,” garnered uplifted hands and dancing in the aisles.

But for all his pontification and sermonizing Ken Rockwell is still a man, and men have developed an evolutionary response to a woman’s filtering audio capabilities. This lower-octave frequency cuts through the yak and blather to the cohesive core that can best be described as “Tell me what I want to hear.” And Ken Rockwell said, “You need a new camera.”

Needless to say, this caused a rollercoaster ride of angst and emotion. One minute I’m caught up in the Spirit and the next I’m lured to the Dark Side through such sermons as “Why your wife wants you to buy a fancy new camera” and “Classes of digital cameras.”

It’s a one-two punch guaranteed to convert the vilest reprobate. The former laid the groundwork for getting the camera of my dreams, and the latter, as if anticipating any doubts or arguments, thoroughly and systematically trashed the camera I owned. By the closing paragraph I felt completely shattered, the plans I’d tied to my camera burned to ashes. “Don't waste $1,000 on a point and shoot unless you really want to trade off ease of use, speed and image quality for a little size and weight,” he summarized, as if reading my soul as well as my financial records, for that, in effect, was exactly what I’d done.

Translation: “You need a new camera.” So I did what any married man would do. At supper I casually mentioned how much digital noise had been in the last photos I’d taken, how difficult it was to remove, and how the new Nikon D80 had no such problem. “That’s what Ken says,” I confided, as if we were old buddies.

It took two months of this for me to get that new camera.

But with it comes a caveat: while this method is almost guaranteed of success, occasionally there are surprising glitches. In this case, Chod’s wife still blames me, my wife blames me, and Ken Rockwell is safe in California. How he escaped Lori’s wrath puzzles me. Obviously I didn’t say “Ken Rockwell says” enough.

I need to work on my technique.


Anonymous said...

Ken's advice works well with me too :D

Anonymous said...

His site is very informative and it serves me a guide in choosing a right camera. Go Ken!!!

Anonymous said...

I bought a Nikon D40 basic kit on Ken's advice, and I'm happy with it. I didn't have to sell it to my wife, as we gave our PS camera to my father-in-law. However I needed a bigger lens :-) So I intentionally gave the camera to my wife a few times to shoot pictures of our son. And one day she says: "This lens is a bit small, there's not enough zoom". There we go! :-) The new 55-200 mm lens is on the way now :-)