on new cameras and promise

My new camera! It is here. After not many days at all of waiting (but after a great deal of deliberation about wants vs. needs, eating vs. starving and so on) I ordered a Fujifilm X100s . Ken Rockwell, that master of hyperbole and audience-directed sabre-rattling (seriously, the guy can't write three lines without flashing his cutlass), called it the world's best digital camera. While that's almost certainly not true, it's a hell of a machine. The rings and dials cry out to be fiddled with. The optical viewfinder features framing lines and parallax-corrected autofocus. My god, this thing has an actual optical viewfinder.

So far I've taken a lot of pictures of my cat?

Excuse the laundry and the half-dead jade plant trying and failing to expire with dignity.

Cute, yes? In five seconds he's about to look up in contemplation and start licking his butthole.

Not so bad. They're certainly very clear pictures of a cat. The camera lacks an optical low-pass filter (OLPF) or anti-aliasing filter over the sensor, so fine details and textures become much more visible. More importantly, the fixed lens, a 35mm equivalent, performs extremely well. It won't give you paper-thin depth of field that produces super-sharp eyelashes and blurry eyeballs, but it has enough bokeh for my liking, and anyway, screw that stuff. Ultra-shallow DOF is purty and romantic and good for certain effects, but at this point it's little more than a marker of status (I have a notion that extremely shallow depth of field is so popular these days because it's one of the few obvious signs that the photographer owns a ridiculously expensive camera).

Now that I'm on the topic, here are a couple of examples of depth-of-field gone wrong:

Business Regina Magazine photoshoot. Devin Pacholik and Paul Huber looking out at you from the picture. Take a good look at the image. In seven days you will die.

My brother from the same mother and my grandmother from my grandmother's mother..

These two shots may look artistic. What they really are is wrong  (particulary the first one).

I would have vastly preferred to have both faces in focus, but I had some fast lenses that I paid good money for, so I was going to get that money's worth by shooting them as wide open as possible. I should have taken some time to select a different aperture and then adjust the shutter speed for a comparable exposure. You'll probably note that I've done some smoothing of detail on the top image, particularly around the subject's faces. This was my solution for minimizing the focal mismatch.

Don't get me wrong - I like both of these photos. I love the '70s-era look of Paul and Devin, and the curious reflection of their faces in the mirror. And the slight blurring of my brother's face serves to focus attention on my grandmother (Also, why are their shirts so similar? That was unexpected). But the depth of field wasn't really a creative choice on my part. The camera made a crucial decision that I should have made. In the second picture, it works. In the first, it was my job to photograph two subjects clearly, and I missed the shot.

So where was I? Right, the new camera. I've tried it out in a few environments, with results that have so far warmed my tiny wrinkly dark heart. According to the doctors my heart is actually a peach pit.

And here's some shallow depth of field, done with furious purpose. Maybe not furious, but you know.

Aimee of Tangerine Food Bar disappears into the kitchen. She enters and is entering, exits and is exiting. She is forever and eternal. She probably picked out those grass sheaves herself.

The promise or potential of a new camera is trickier than the camera itself. Promise swirls around it, a sort of mist in which your febrile fantasies can be glimpsed. When I bought my Panasonic GH3 a year ago, I was excited about its potential as a video camera. What have I done with it for video? Not much. Not nearly as much as I imagined myself doing. A few projects half-started, a few more in limbo. Video requires a particular kind of patience that I don't have much of these days. It also requires a laptop that doesn't wheeze and grind and cough when I force it run a video editor.

The X100s, though, has a different sort of promise. With this camera, I can picture all the pictures I'm going to take with it. Which is all the pictures, all the time. This thing is purpose-built to turn passable photographers into good ones, and good ones into complete bores who drone on about the X100s all day long. And well they should.

UPDATE: A certain amount of kismet must be in the air, because I was just contacted today about ongoing freelance work. Universe, you're right on time with the firmware updates.

ALSO: For the gear-curious, the picture at the top of the post was taken with my Olympus OM-D EM-5, and the middle two with the Panasonic GH3.