Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fervent Camera Owners & Christians

While I haven’t read about a great deal of fervency in Christianity at large, I have seen it in the Photographic world. I spent time on the forums of three camera brands, Olympus, Pentax and Sigma. Each brand has its fanatic adherents known as “fanboys.” If someone announces he is abandoning his brand for another, he will be denounced as a traitor, if his brand is capable of being defended – as Olympus and Sigma have been in the past and Pentax is at present.
But Olympus and Sigma have serious problems. It is as though Harold Camping pronounced the end of their DSLR worlds. Olympus fanboys take pride in Olympus lenses and in the most recent “pro” camera the Olympus E-5, but Olympus seems to be planning to neglect or deemphasize the DSLR line and concentrate on their more profitable “micro-dslr,” which the real DSLR owners consider a bare step above a Point and Shoot camera. The end of the Olympus World may not be at hand, but Olympus DSLR owners have definitely entered a period of hard times. As an indication of how depressed the Olympus fanboys are, they readily tolerate those who decide to become the owners of two brands. Pentax may be preferable as a second brand, but even Canikon (a pejorative term applied to Canon and Nikon) cameras are now tolerated.
But sadder by far are the Sigma fanboys. Sigma made a name for itself by producing good-quality lenses for the major cameras. A few years back it broke into the camera market with a new sensor, the Faveon. Sensors in other brands have one layer, but Faveon’s sensors have three layers. Thus their SD-15 is described as having 15 megapixels, but these consist of three layers of 5-Megapixel sensors. Detractors claim that the SD-15 should be called a 5 megapixel camera, but Faveon claims that their system gets truer color from its three layers than single layer sensors do. Sigma claims that their cameras approach the quality of film-cameras.
The Sigma SD-15 has not received good reviews. Its image quality is good if the light is favorable, but it doesn’t match its competitors in low light. It isn’t very fast and its button arrangement strikes the reviewers as chaotic. Still, most photography is done in fairly good light; so I could understand the appeal. When I first began monitoring the Sigma forum, its fanboys were ecstatically describing the coming of the SD-1 much as Ahmadinejad describes the coming of the Mahdi. All the problems of the SD-15 would be corrected and the SD-1 would have its FORTY-SIX Faveon megapixels. Fanboys were buying Sigma lenses and saving up their money in anticipation of the coming of the SD-1. Some were selling their old SD-14s and SD-15s.
And then the earthquake hit from Japan. The SD-1 was to cost $9,700. Fanboy after Fanboy expressed his despair. How could Sigma do this to them? Who could afford $9,700? This was surely the worst business decision possible. Could Sigma even survive after such a bad decision? Many thought not.
The SD-1 still hasn’t reached the market, but already the $9,700 decision has been abandoned. BH Photo has it listed for $6,899. Some fanboys have said there are going to buy one, but the bulk think the price is still too high. They are hoping that it will be lowered yet again, but not feeling optimistic about it.
FURTHER COMMENT: I don’t know how many of these fanboys are also Christian, but I will venture to guess that if some of them are, their enthusiasm for their religion doesn’t match their enthusiasm for their cameras.
We in the West have become used to progressing secularization. It has gone hand in hand with unprecedented prosperity. We Christians can take some pride in this progress, for as Max Weber said, our prosperity, indeed our entire Western Civilization could not have developed were it not for our Christian Work Ethic. So surely there is nothing wrong with our benefiting materially from our hard work. Surely there is nothing wrong with owning a few cameras if we can afford them.
Marcel Gauchet after Weber wrote of The Disenchantment of the World, A Political History of Religion. Gauchet. While acknowledging Christianity’s role in the creation of the Western Civilization, he believes it is no longer necessary. Secularization can accomplish everything that Christianity did and do it better. But the world has not become “disenchanted.” Christian fervency may not be what it was, but fervency for what in the past was termed “superstition” is much on the increase. Also, while Christians may not be out proselytizing in French and Italian villages, Muslims apparently are. Those who thought that the abandonment of Christianity would be replaced by a sober reliance upon science were wrong.
Am I as depressed about the future of Christianity as the Sigma and Olympus fanboys are about the future of their cameras? I could be, but Christian history is replete with difficulties. Jaroslav Pelikan’s five-volume “The Christian Tradition” reads like an adventure series. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy hasn’t the successes and failures, heroes and villains that exist in Pelikan’s narration.
There are signs of the corrective that caused Tertullian to abandon orthodoxy and turn to Montanism. When the church becomes lax it inspires some to become more ascetic and self-sacrificing. The big news in the Christian World may be that Harold Camping has guessed wrong, but there is small news here and there. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that someone new had moved into the house behind me. I was in the back yard while he was setting up a dog run and we spoke over our common fence. He was tattooed and had the appearance of an East-LA gang-banger which in fact he had been. I gather he spent some time in jail but at some point he became converted. He has become involved in preaching to young kids to keep them out of gangs. He is getting a degree from the local college in some sort of social service. His wife is already working in that arena.
This largely-self-taught Christian is out doing this sort of thing with tremendous fervency – perhaps even as much as the fanboys express on the Olympus and Sigma camera forums.

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