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The Incredible Shrinking Camera

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

The Incredible Shrinking Camera
Posted August 27 2008 04:56 PM by Edward A. Sanchez 
Filed under: Opinions, Trend Observations

Canon SD1000 and Nikon Coolpix 995

I'm sure all of us, in our younger days (and some of us still today) vowed we'd never shake our fists and grouch like old farts about "these kids today" or tell "back when I was your age" stories, or say "they don't make 'em like they used to" about some product we hold nostalgic memories of. I sure as heck never thought I would. But that was 11 years, 40 lbs. and countless fistfuls of hair down the shower drain (I have the hairline to prove it) ago.

Canon SD1000 and Nikon Coolpix 995 Top View

So without further ado, please indulge me as I tell my "grumpy old man" story. Mine's about digital cameras. Now, you might think it's odd that I'm going to tell a "back in my day" story about a digital camera, itself a relatively recent invention.

I am the proud owner of a Nikon Coolpix 995. By today's standards, it's a hopelessly clunky relic, a relatively huge hunk of plastic, metal, and microprocessors. At a resolution of 3.3 megapixels, there are now some cell phones that have a higher picture resolution. Yet I still soldier on with my old standby. Why, you may ask, when there are far smaller, sleeker and sharper models out now that cost a fraction of what my camera did when new? Because it's comfortable. And I'm not only talking about "comfortable" in the familiar, old pair of shoes, nostalgic sense, but literally comfortable from an ergonomic standpoint.

Nikon Coolpix 995 Rear Angle Handheld

In my previous job, I did a lot of step-by-step tech install stories. As published in the magazine (yes, I actually used to work for a print magazine) the photos appeared maybe about 2 inches square. At that size, the resolution of the camera was more than sufficient to give a fairly crisp and detailed photo. But my favorite feature of the camera was and still is its meaty hand grip, and pivoting lens and camera body. This made otherwise awkward under-car or overhead shots a breeze.

Canon SD1000 Rear Handheld

Unfortunately, neither Nikon, or any other camera manufacturer still offers this type of camera design. Almost all have gone to deck-of-cards-sized point and shoot designs made for easily fitting into pockets or designer purses. Ironically, these small, flat cameras are somewhat tricky to securely hold with one hand. My old twist-body Coolpix is literally a handful, but the meaty grip allows one-handed operation in almost any condition.

Canon SD100 and Nikon Coolpix 995 Screen Comparison

The one feature on these new fashion-forward cameras that has bucked the downsizing trend has been the screens. On many camera models, it literally takes up almost all the available real estate on the back of the camera. The screen on the old Coolpix is tiny, especially relative to the overall size of the camera. Yet it gets the job done, if not in panoramic, IMAX quality.  

Some people would say, "Quit whining and get a digital SLR." Already did. Yet when covering events in 100 degree heat, the bulk and weight of an SLR can get a little tiring. So too, I suppose, could the old-school Coolpix. But to me, it strikes the perfect balance between practicality, size, and function. If Nikon were to introduce a similarly-sized and styled model with say...8.0 megapixels and a slightly larger screen, I would buy it in a heartbeat. Nikon, are you listening? 

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