Thursday, June 17, 2010

I know it's just a camera but...

My camera broke last week. The auto focus stopped working on all my lenses, but I could still manually focus and take photographs. I’ve been going through the 5 stages of grief from the moment the auto focus shut down.

Stage One: Denial

I played the “I can still use the camera, it’s just the auto focus, I’ll just manually focus when I take pictures. No biggie” like a mantra in my head.

I wasn’t ready to accept the fact the camera was broken. After a few days of manually focusing, I tried the auto focus and it still would not work. I tried another line of thought. Maybe the camera wasn’t really broken, maybe it just needed to be cleaned. After all, I was constantly changing lenses outside and it was possible that dirt, dust and pollen could have entered the camera body during one of those times. I knew Creve Coeur Camera and Video cleaned cameras for $50. That would be an acceptable option. I could afford $50 and a week without my camera.

The next 2 stages were kind of meshed together and they both hit on Tuesday when I went up to Creve Coeur Camera to see what the staff could do about my camera.

Stage Two: Bargaining

“Hi. The auto focus on my camera isn’t working for any of my lenses.” I said to a young salesman.

He took the camera, turned it on and tried the auto focus with both my 35 mm and telephoto lens. After about a minute of fiddling, he placed the camera on the counter and stated the obvious. “Yup. The body of the camera isn’t working.”

“Does it just need to be cleaned?” I asked hopefully.

“No. But I’m not sure what’s wrong with it.”

He proceeded to tell me a $250 deposit was required to fix the camera and it would be shipped to the manufacturer for repair. He mentioned the store sold used cameras for less than the price of the deposit to fix my broken camera. I wasn’t quite ready for the idea of buying a new camera, but I followed him to a glass case filled with cameras of every make and model. He pulled out a Canon Rebel G (my model) and another upgrade. I stared at the cameras, feeling sad as the reality of what I needed to do began to dawn on me.

I told the salesman I needed to call my husband. The cameras were well within our budget and I knew Dan didn’t really care one way or the other if I bought another camera, but I think I needed the reassurance and comfort. Reality was proving to be an ice cold slap in the face.

Stage Three: Anger

When I called my husband, the salesperson did not give me any privacy. The man did not move. When I moved 5 steps to the right, the salesman followed me and even leaned across the counter as I told my husband what he told me. I stared at the man expectantly but either he was oblivious to the significance of the stare, or he chose to ignore it. I did not have a favorable opinion of his intelligence or tact, so I’m thinking he was just an idiot.

When I got off the phone, the salesman showed me the Cannon upgrade and claimed that the lenses from my Canon G would fit on this newer camera. The telephoto lens did fit, but the 35mm lens did not. He said there was one 35mm lens that did not fit on this model and obviously I had that 35 mm lens. I also told him I had a macro lens and I was concerned that lens would not fit so I wanted to go home and bring the macro lens back at a later time.

“What kind of macro lens is it?” He asked.

Sensing the hungry wolf on the other side of the counter, I replied “I don’t know. That’s why I need to go home and look at it. It was given to me as a gift and I don’t use it very often.”

“I could look it up in the computer if it was bought here.”

The anger that was simmering just beneath the surface was coming to a rapid boil and threatened to spill out of my mouth with that “suggestion”. He was being pushy. I was nothing more than a commission check in his eyes. He didn’t review all the bells and whistles on the camera. If he cared about my satisfaction and loved photography, he would have pulled out all the stops on this camera. He had no idea what was on that camera and that was obvious when he was surprised that my 35mm lens didn’t fit on the very camera he was trying to sell me.

I politely thanked him, went to my car, called Dan back and just let it all spill out. While I was angry at the salesman, deep down I knew I was more upset about my broken camera. Dan suggested I take the camera to Schillers Camera on Manchester. He also mentioned he emailed me a thread on a forum on Rebel G’s and the problem I was having with the auto focus. Evidently this was a common problem and not an easy fix.

Stage Four: Depression

I didn’t want to read that article because it would have made my impending loss all the more concrete. But the visit to Creve Coeur Camera started the reality ball rolling and there’s really no stopping the facts once they get going.

So I had a broken camera. The camera that was an extension of my eyes, my soul, was broken. The camera that captured breathtaking sunrises, the vivid colors of landscapes through the seasons, recorded the countless birds, bugs, smiles and memories of good times with friends and family was dead. I knew it was just a camera, but it was so much more than just a tool. It gave my creativity, my memories, even my thoughts, physical form. This camera recorded my personal history, captured plants and invertebrate subjects in photographic form for me to examine later in a field guide. It also gave me the opportunity to share my love of birds and nature with other people.

So went the depression phase.

Stage Five: Acceptance

Last night I went to Schiller’s Camera with my precious, broken camera in tow. Dejectedly I went through the same dialogue with a different salesperson. But where the Creve Coeur salesperson was indifferent to his trade, the Schiller’s person was enthusiastic and although he did try to sell the more expensive used camera, he respected my budget constraints and went to town showing me all the options on a Canon 20D. He took photos in the store, showed me a few tricks and let me take some photos with the camera as well.

I left the store an hour later with the Canon 20D. I’m still sad and not 100% excited about my new-to-me used camera, but I imagine once I start playing with it, I’ll be won over. I’m going to test it out tonight.

As an aside note, I do plan to keep the Rebel G. It is still functional. If I go out to a place where I know I will use both my 35mm and telephoto lens, I may pop one lens on one camera and the other lens on the other camera. Logistically speaking, this will be cumbersome, but I know this practice is the norm with other photographers. I'll make it work.

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