Digital Slob


Do-overs come cheap
with a digital camera

Continuing this week, "Digital Slob" takes a look at a few gadgets that are relatively cheap yet useful enough to still be respected in the morning. This week, it's digital cameras.

In golf, it's called a mulligan. In movies, it's an outtake. In the Catholic Church, it's an annulment. In Tijuana, it's most often severe tequila blackouts. In Ancient Rome, it was vomitoriums. And for statutory rapist Roman Polanski, it's the Oscar for best director.

Throughout human history, every social system has come equipped with a handy trap-door feature that can make our more embarrassing misdeeds seemingly disappear, and thankfully the Digital Age also provides an ample supply of pre-installed whitewashing do-overs.

Digital cameras, for example, have preview screens that cut about 59 minutes and 58 seconds out of one-hour photo processing, letting you instantly gauge your index finger's artistry.

Whether your digital lens steals a moment from silhouetted young lovers as they peck away in the distance on a park bench, or it clicks several close-up crevices of your belly button that, due to the rules of physics, haven't been seen by human eyes in 35 years, the feedback is immediate. And in either example, if the shot's no good, you simply press "delete," put your shirt back on and it's like it never happened.

Like most everything else, Digital Slobs and Respectable People have vastly different takes on photography. For one thing, Respectable People like to pose for photos, while Digital Slobs often need to be propped up.

But however you display reality, this new breed of image collecting makes us much more trigger-happy. Since digital cameras don't use expensive, use-it-and-lose-it film, budget-conscious shutterbugs can now exercise the kind of anything-goes, devil-may-care creative freedom once afforded only to Michael Jackson's plastic surgeons.

My camera, the Kodak DX3600 (which can also shoot low-resolution video) costs $280. Its pictures-only little brother, the DX3500, is a mere $200, and both have a 2.2 megapixel image quality (that's techspeak for more than good enough, unless you're gunning for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts). The DX3600 seemed small a year ago (8 ounces), but new cameras (like the 3-ounce Casio EX-S1) make mine look like an Oldsmobile engine block with a polyester hand strap on the side. Hmmm, suddenly, my arm feels tired.

All this casual image capturing and instant culling, however, can be a slippery slope. If you succumb to too much compulsive "click and look, click and look" behavior, you can ruin the experience of any special occasion by trying to edit it at the same time.

And, with new cell phones that allow you to shoot and wirelessly e-mail photos, you can now pre-empt the post-vacation slideshow and bore relatives back home in real time.

Though some may be too polite to say it to your face, a relentless barrage of e-mailed Grand Canyon pictures taken five minutes ago can quickly generate the same gaping yawns as the 35mm prints taken a decade earlier from the exact same location that now sit in a shoebox in the closet. Therefore, as we all stand ready with our cameras that never blink, perhaps we should keep a certain Digital Age truth in mind for the sake of all our captive audiences: Instant tedium is still tedium.

Next week: Online DVD rentals.

Curt Brandao is the Star-Bulletin's
production editor. Reach him at

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