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OT: Sometimes it just doesn't pay to be the guru...
Old 05-07-2006   #1
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OT: Sometimes it just doesn't pay to be the guru...

Rainy day here today. Our church was busy, though - 8:30 Mass, then Senior Grad Appreciation Pancake Breakfast, then 11:00 Mass, then something we call the "Living Rosary," which is just a giant set of rosary beads and we act out all the parts. As usual, I was asked to take photos.

So afterwards, one of our more senior parishioners comes up to me and says "I notice that you've got an SLR. Is that a digital?"

I reply, "Yep. Pentax *ist DS."

"Does it have a wide-angle?"

Now, I'm not about to start getting into crop-factor and so on, but the lens is the cheap kit lens from Pentax, 18mm-55mm, but even with crop factor, yeah, basically a wide-angle.

"Yes, it's got a wide-angle."

"Umm. You know, I have a wide-angle."

I look at his Kodak point-n-shoot and tell him it is very nice. And it is, actually. Nothing wrong with it for what he does with it. I'm sure it will crank out nice 4x6's all day long. Probably a nice sharp lens, might even do nice 8x10's.

"I hear you know a lot about cameras."

Oh boy, I think. Here it comes. 'What kind of camera should I buy?' I get that all the time. I'll bet you do too. We all do. Problem is, nobody wants to stick around for the answer, or to answer our questions when we honestly try to help by asking they how they will use it, how much they have to spend, etc.

So, I answer "Well, I know a little bit about them. Kind of a hobby for me."

But as it turns out, that wasn't the question he had for me.

"I want to buy a new digital camera. I don't want to mess around with film anymore."

"OK..."

"But I have to get rid of my cameras first."

"OK..."

"I have a Canon Rebel X. That's a really nice model."

"Oh, yeah, it sure was."

"Was? It's top of the line! I just bought it a couple of years ago. Practically new."

"Right, is. Great camera. You know, if you bought a Canon Digital Rebel, you could re-use those lenses from your Rebel X."

He looks at me like I've sprouted horns and fangs.

"Re-use the lenses? No, I've got to sell the whole thing to pay for a new digital camera."

"Ah, I see."

"I figure it will bring a grand, easy."

"A grand? Really?"

"Oh, sure. It has two lenses. Got 'em at Wolfe Camera before they went out of business here in town. Quantum lenses, something like that."

"Quantaray?"

"Yeah, that's it. Great photos."

"Right, right."

"And I have a Polaroid."

"Really? Which model."

"It's the flat kind. You open it and take a picture."

"Right. Any idea what model number?"

"The flat one."

"Oh, I see. The flat one."

He stares at me, like he's expecting me to get out my checkbook or something.

"So, are you interested?"

"Excuse me?"

"You want to buy my cameras? They're worth quite a bit. You could get a job with the newspaper with cameras like these. Start you off with professional equipment."

"You know, I just barely could afford this Pentax. I'm afraid I'm going to have to take a pass. Thanks for asking, though."

"Well, I'll put an ad in the paper. I figure I'll ask for $1500, and take $1,000. What do you think?"

I have to bite my tongue. I mean, He's going to get maybe $100 for the whole thing. If he's lucky. But I can't tell him that.

"Well, good luck, I'm sure you'll get whatever the market will bear these days."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Uh, well, I just mean that film cameras have taken a bit of a hit in popularity lately, and a lot of folks are going to digital, so used cameras are not selling for what they were a few years back. But I'm sure you'll do fine."

"I told you, it's a Canon AND a Polaroid. That's worth big money."

"Right, right. Hey, that's great. Good luck with it, really."

"I thought you knew something about cameras."

And with that, he stomped off.

I went home and uploaded my photos to the KofC website, played with a broken camera, had a nap. Later on, I had a beer.

Ever have one of those days?

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Bill Mattocks
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Old 05-07-2006   #2
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Hey Bill,

Once again, you were far too polite!!!


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kf
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Old 05-07-2006   #3
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Bill, that gentleman will soon enough discover that you were not only correct but that you were diplomatic as well. Sadly, the chances of him EVER admiting that you knew the score are very remote. You handled it about as well as anyone possibly could.

Now.... have another brew!

Walker
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Old 05-07-2006   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michiel
Haha, great story Bill. Your posts always get a smile on my face



I seem to remember from earlier posts that you are a guy who knows a thing or two about computers, I do too. Now replace "camera" with "computer" and you have the standard conversations I have all the time at birthdays, with parents of my friends, neighboors, teachers, etc..... They never seem to want to bother with answering my questions when I really try to figure out what's best for them... *sigh*

Guess I'm lucky that I just pretend to know what I'm doing with my Yashica, so that when someone askes me a camera related question I can answer honoustly that I don't have a clue
Yes, I used to try to help people not throw their money away when they bought a PC. And they'd ask, but they'd never listen, then they'd go buy an Acer or a Packard-Bell and tell me about it like I should be impressed. Well, I don't give that advice anymore, but fortunately, it's kind of hard to buy a 'bad' PC anymore, I think.

Pretty much the same deal, though.

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Old 05-07-2006   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken F.
Hey Bill,

Once again, you were far too polite!!!


Cheers,
kf
Hey, it was at church, waddyagonnado? I just smiled and kept looking for the exit.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks
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Old 05-07-2006   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doubs43
Bill, that gentleman will soon enough discover that you were not only correct but that you were diplomatic as well. Sadly, the chances of him EVER admiting that you knew the score are very remote. You handled it about as well as anyone possibly could.

Now.... have another brew!

Walker
Oh, believe me, I did. Gotta hit the hay too. I have an eye appointment in the morning. First one in years. I hate this. I'm 45 this year. Can't read anything without taking my glasses off and peering at it from up close. I guess this is the visit I finally get bifocals. Crap.

Getting old really gets my snarglies in a twist, ya know?

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Old 05-07-2006   #7
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I'm with Walker.

Thank you for being our public face today. We, all fim photographers, that is, would be that much worse off without your moment.

yeah, he may well be po'd. SO F*CKING WHAT? You were _right_. Carries a wee bit more wieght w/ some of them.

F*ck it. Lets go get a beer.

William
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Old 05-07-2006   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wlewisiii
I'm with Walker.

F*ck it. Lets go get a beer.

William
Hey William,

Now, there's an idea!

Cheers,
kf
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Old 05-07-2006   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wlewisiii
I'm with Walker.

Thank you for being our public face today. We, all fim photographers, that is, would be that much worse off without your moment.

yeah, he may well be po'd. SO F*CKING WHAT? You were _right_. Carries a wee bit more wieght w/ some of them.

F*ck it. Lets go get a beer.

William
I actually feel badly for these guys. They did spend a pretty penny on their cameras and various accessories, and they do not come from a generation where things lose half their value in six months, 90 percent of their value in a couple years. I was used to PC prices plummeting while PC power kept going up, so I guess it didn't shock me as much when I found I could not get $300 for a used Minolta X-9 SLR body a couple years back. But some of these guys haven't really gotten burned by PC prices - they bought one and kept it - and so they're very shocked to learn how little their kit is worth. And I hate to be the guy to break it to them.

Best Regards,

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Old 05-07-2006   #10
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Bill, I get people like that every now and then. I have weak self control. I usually can't control a giggle or a smirk. Or all out rabid laughter, the kind that you can die from.

I was once in that position. Sort of. My first camera was a NIkon N65. . .then I wandered off to a Mamiya 645E. BIG jump, and I never really stuck around in that zone of cluelessness. Some might argue differently.

I think the guy that handed me my first Leica experience, at Glazer's Camera, was probably on the edge of breaking out as I asked all the dump questions about rangefinders (I had never actually held one).

When people come up and ask me advice about cameras, the first thing I say is "Are you really serious about getting a good camera?. . .I mean REALLY?", then i give them my formula talk about aperatures and prime lenses and film vs digital, and long term cost. They usually break me off and give me the "You know the pics people have on their Myspace pages? I just want a good camera for doing that. You know, snapshots".

They sort of cross a line at that point, and I have a hard time understanding how anyone could exist in that frame of mind.

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Old 05-07-2006   #11
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Bill, you're right. It's often hard for people to realise that their favourite and trusty gear is worth less than dog-doo. They enjoyed the gear, taking pics with it, showing it off to everyone. And now they have to come to realise that all those years they might have been making a fool of themselves. That's hard, just as it is hard to have to admit to yourself that you actually know very little about the gear side of photography anymore. Tough.
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Old 05-07-2006   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RML
Bill, you're right. It's often hard for people to realise that their favourite and trusty gear is worth less than dog-doo. They enjoyed the gear, taking pics with it, showing it off to everyone. And now they have to come to realise that all those years they might have been making a fool of themselves. That's hard, just as it is hard to have to admit to yourself that you actually know very little about the gear side of photography anymore. Tough.
I sense an alternate message there, RML.

I find that I don't do well in the digital conversation circles.
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Old 05-07-2006   #13
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I get the opposite, I work with a bunch of graphic designers (no surprise there, I'm one of them). All of them know which camera is the better camera, and sometimes that's true.

The designer in the cubicle just behind mine has proclaimed repeatedly "I'm a Nikon Man." What does he get at Christmas? Actually seeks it out. A Canon digital, one of the ever so compact models with Big A** screen for those moments when you just have to "chimp." It's actually not a bad camera, perfect for snapshots of his poms. "They're a Spitz type you know." Trying to make the cute little buggers somehow a little more macho.

I pointed out to him recently that I wanted a Rebel XT with one of the new canon EFS IS lenses. He lights into "My father in law has the Canon 5d, I think I'm gonna get one of those." Every so often he does that "one up" thing. I usually just smile.

I think I'm going to take him out and hand him a FED one day, site the sunny 16 rule and see what kind of fun he has with it.

I'm betting I can get him hooked on some post Soviet photo crack.
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Old 05-07-2006   #14
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I spend about five or six hours per day in the photolabs at school, usually the conversations go like this. I'll be drinking coffee and a student will be standing there with his or her stuff on the light box:

"This is my first roll of medium format."

"How'd it go?" Purple blotches all over the film, looks like it jumped the track. There're sacrificial rolls of film to practice loading but it's much harder in the dark, most students find.

"Okay. I think I f'd it up when I was loading it."

"Looks like you're focusing okay, but your exposures are really all over the place..."

"Yeah. It's this camera. No meter."

"Really? Did you shoot it with one of Media Loan's seagulls?"

"No, I shot it with a... rollei... um, rolleiflex."

"Hey, that camera's a classic, it should be up to the task. The good news is that your future rolls will be better."

"I hope so... I paid almost two hundred dollars for it."

There are several students with rollei TLR's (and at least two with rollei 35s), many canon AE-1s, lots and lots of nikon F-somethings, a couple Pentax K-1000's and a honeywell model with screw mount. One of the photo interns shoots with her grandfather's hasselblad and a crown graphic special. Classic film cameras are alive and well at my school!

Also, this is a side note, and really not related to anything, but it's a funny conversation I had with a student, that really made me smile with secret satisfaction. You know how we often toss around the term "lens signature?" Two weeks ago I attended the critique session for this quarter's beginning photography course. Everybody's stuff was up on the wall and the 20-odd students were circulating, quietly inspecting one another's work. I saw this one photograph, actually a whole set; they were close-ups taken at middle apertures of some flowers near a tree and a park bench. From across the room, though, I knew they had been taken with a canon EF 50mm f/1.8. Have you ever used this lens? It has a pentagonal aperture, and at f/4 through f/8 or something you can get this distinct background blur where everything out of focus looks like it's clumsily slapped on with wide pastel chalk. I know this look. It's the look of my first forays into digital with a 300D, before I sold that wretched lens.

I found the woman who took the photographs and asked her if she shot with a canon. She said, she did, but how could I tell?

I said, I just know. I know that lens that you're using, I know what it looks like.

She said, the fifty millimeter f-one-point...?

Eight, I said. The one point eight.

It's cheap, she said. And then: If you can tell which lens I used, is that bad?

I thought really hard for a few seconds, and then just said no. Not really. And I left it at that.

...this coming from the guy who paws through contemporary recipe books to see if he can spot some distinguishing characteristic, some minute aberration or optical fingerprint in food photography that would reveal what equipment the photographer was using...
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Old 05-07-2006   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shutterflower
I sense an alternate message there, RML.

I find that I don't do well in the digital conversation circles.
No, no digital vs film rant here!

My granddad left me a Praktica MTL 5 with some lenses. He was very proud of it. I never dared to tell him that in the mid 1990s this gear had been surpassed several times and that he would get little or nothing for it. He passed away and left me the gear. I shot with it only for a few months and even then got comments on how old and noisy that gear was (and it frequently suffered sticky shutters). I still have it but never use it anymore. It's simply no longer adequate and needs CLAs that cost more than getting a new set from eBay.

Instead I got a Eos 3000 with some lenses. When I was looking for a replacement (the Eos 300D) I wanted to trade in my old 3000. I could get 30 euro for it IF I'd get the 300D at the same time. Otherwise they wouldn't even want it if I gave them money. I too learned to my shame that I had over-estimated the monetary value of my valued and treasured (though hard-handled) gear.

Now, how will my 300D do? Or my R-D1?

I know my M2 will keep its value. It will, won't it...?
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Old 05-07-2006   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tetrisattack

...this coming from the guy who paws through contemporary recipe books to see if he can spot some distinguishing characteristic, some minute aberration or optical fingerprint in food photography that would reveal what equipment the

photographer was using...

that's hilarious that you do that. I do similar things to magazines. I do the same particularly with magazines where the photography is held highly. National Geographic for one. The Costco photo contests. Popular Photography contests.

I really do it to movies.
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Old 05-07-2006   #17
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The worst thing . . .and this really burns me on a regular basis . . . is people who mention they are looking for portrait work or some important photography to be done. Like Senior photos for their school yearbooks. My name comes up, and they contact me gently - like a whisper through a wall - and I respond passionately. I'd love to shoot whatever they need. I seldom ever get callbacks about it, and weeks or months later, I see that they hired some photographer who evidently cares little or not at all about the product. But they don't know any better.

Wringing of hands. . . and I'm really happy to be where I am right now in the photography evolution.
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Old 05-08-2006   #18
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you know what amazed me, Bill?
Here on RFF you're the guy who always tells his oppinion upfront in our face, whatever the subject of discussion might be, which is a good thing (on the long run, at least).
Apparently you are completely different in real life. Or is it really the church that made you so sweet and polite? You could have told him the truth without saying **** it, i guess.
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Old 05-08-2006   #19
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Conor, i'd love to go to that school
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Old 05-08-2006   #20
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Conor, i'd love to go to that school

Hmm, yup. Me too. What school is that? I'll quit the MBA thing and do something meaningful with my life.
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Old 05-08-2006   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmattock

"I thought you knew something about cameras."

And with that, he stomped off.

...

Ever have one of those days?
This brought a smile on my face and a tear in the eye..

People constantly ask me about which camera to buy. But they're not actually interested in the answer. They've already set their mind on a particular make/model. And when I tell them it really doesn't matter as long as they are comfortable with it, they're indeed quite disappointed..
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Old 05-08-2006   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pherdinand
you know what amazed me, Bill?
Here on RFF you're the guy who always tells his oppinion upfront in our face, whatever the subject of discussion might be, which is a good thing (on the long run, at least).
Apparently you are completely different in real life. Or is it really the church that made you so sweet and polite? You could have told him the truth without saying **** it, i guess.
I figure ya'll can take it, I guess. Photo enthusiasts, be they rangefinder folks or SLR or medium format, whatever - we tend to be more aware of what's happening in our industry. Or that's my theory anyway.

But you've got a point - I'm a lot 'softer' on people who are not 'into' photography.

Best Regards,

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Old 05-08-2006   #23
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Thanks Bill for making me start in good mood my (late) beautiful and shiny V-Day Europe
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Old 05-08-2006   #24
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This brought a smile on my face and a tear in the eye..

People constantly ask me about which camera to buy. But they're not actually interested in the answer. They've already set their mind on a particular make/model. And when I tell them it really doesn't matter as long as they are comfortable with it, they're indeed quite disappointed..

people just want to hear us confirm their own decision. My cousin is going on a once in a lifetime trip to Vietnam, and asked me about cameras. I said "bring a film camera, someday you'll be glad you did." He replied with some form of "no way, I want to bring a digital P&S because it's easy and I know what I'm getting."

Yes. Yes you do. Tragic, really, because the kid has an awesome eye. He'd be a star here. I sent him the link. . . but I think he thinks I'm just trying to disease his mind. He knows what I'm about.
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Old 05-08-2006   #25
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Bill, I was having "one of those days" - and you made me laugh out loud!

Thankyou!

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Old 05-08-2006   #26
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Hi,

Good post. Your posts frequently are, Bill.

I guess I'm lucky because I haven't done too many assignments yet. And the ones I did, people seemed happy with the results without caring about the equipment. Now that I moved from film SLRs to LTM, people with some prior knowledge will rather declare me mad than ask me for advice. One friend who did ask about a decent digital camera, ended up buying a Panasonic that he's really happy with now.

Clueless starters are a much better audience than people who think they know all about it because they already have a camera.


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Old 05-08-2006   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmattock
<snip>I went home and uploaded my photos to the KofC website, played with a broken camera, had a nap. Later on, I had a beer.

Ever have one of those days?

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks

Nope. I drink wine.

I vacillate between the diplomatic approach and the direct, if a bit brutal approach. I lean toward the latter for two reasons. First, life is a bit short and I've lived long enough to be a curmudgeon. Second, if I am direct with the idiots who only really want confirmation, not a valuable opinion borne of experience, will be "offended" enough (their problem, not mine) that they won't come back later with their shiny, new sorry excuse for a "camera", expecting me to ooh and ahh over it, heaping praise on their empty heads.

Now please pass the cabernet.
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Old 05-08-2006   #28
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People say they need a computer for their kid to do their homework. No, the kid wants a games machine, music downloads and chat.

Likewise people say they need a 5 Megapixel digital camera, and then print only 1% of their pictures to just 150mm x 100mm. They really would be better off with a disposable camera, but they don't want to hear that.
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Old 05-08-2006   #29
hoot
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Heh, fun story, Bill. I must say I've never experienced anything like it before. People usually just ask me to look at the cameras they just dragged out of the attic, where they spent the last 30 years or so, and want to know whether they're worth anything. Of course, they never are. Even the fancy-looking ones from the '50s are just point-and-shoots with no RF. I've always told them that to their face, to save us both the trouble and embarassment of trying to sell them. It's somewhat sobering to note how few "real" cameras are still floating around, waiting to be discovered.
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Old 05-08-2006   #30
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I always tell folks like that to check Ebay completed auctions. Brings them back to reality fast and I am off the hook.
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Old 05-08-2006   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoot
It's somewhat sobering to note how few "real" cameras are still floating around, waiting to be discovered.
Oh, I know where the 'real' cameras are. And if I wanted to go into the eBoy camera-selling business, I know how I'd do it.

Move to Florida or Sun City, Arizona. Go to estate auctions.

Most of the best cameras are held onto, even into their owner's retirements. They are sold only when the original owners passes on.

Look at the eBoy locations sometime - such a high percentage come from FL and AZ!

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Old 05-08-2006   #32
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Quote:
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I always tell folks like that to check Ebay completed auctions. Brings them back to reality fast and I am off the hook.
I suspect I'm dealing with a group of folks who don't 'net'. I put up a website for our KofC council. Got a lot of compliments on it - oh, everybody loved it! But I monitor the site stats - maybe six or seven hits a month.

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Old 05-08-2006   #33
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I sold some non-photo stuff on eBay and a few local people asked me to help sell their stuff too.

So I went round, looked at whay they had, researched it, and told them the price they might get.

They thought I was 'offering' too little and went aound telling others that I wanted to buy their stuff at below market price. As all these people are off the net however many times I explained that I did not want to buy, but I was willing to help sell, they did not/could not understand.
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Old 05-08-2006   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fedzilla_Bob
It's actually not a bad camera, perfect for snapshots of his poms. "They're a Spitz type you know." Trying to make the cute little buggers somehow a little more macho.
Huh? Poms? What did you say?

Are you talking about someone taking pics of their yarbles?

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Old 05-08-2006   #35
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I believe that "pom" is dogspeak for the Pomeranian breed.

Now, "yarbles" is a new one to me...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Ford
Huh? Poms? What did you say?

Are you talking about someone taking pics of their yarbles?

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Old 05-08-2006   #36
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Thanks for a good laugh Bill. I can always count on you. Guess we've all had a similar experience or two. I've had folks try and sell me old Kodak folders and Hawkeye Brownies as "old cameras" so they should be collector's items. I try to be polite, but hate to see their faces when you tell them approx. what their camera is worth. One old guy talked cameras and WWll for over four hours before trying to sell me his Minolta Himatic 7S. Told him I actually wanted his Kodak Recomar 33 and Zeiss Nixe but he insisted they weren't as good cameras as the Minolta. Left him my phone # and felt a little richer for the war stories if nothing else. Old folks fascinate me so I can't get too frustrated, but like yourself it's hard to be diplomatic when they look at you like you're trying to con them somehow.
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Old 05-08-2006   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dexdog
I believe that "pom" is dogspeak for the Pomeranian breed.

Now, "yarbles" is a new one to me...
'Yarbles' refer to something that starts with 'm' and ends with 'arbles'.

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Old 05-08-2006   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clarence
'Yarbles' refer to something that starts with 'm' and ends with 'arbles'.

Clarence
AKA Snarglies.

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Old 05-08-2006   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Ford
Huh? Poms? What did you say?

Are you talking about someone taking pics of their yarbles?

I meant pomeranians, but your version is better. O God, I hope he doesn't find this thread, he does check out my gallery now and then.
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Old 05-08-2006   #40
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I was photographing for a friend's opening (of a new business) with a bessa R. Someone asked me a very strange question:

"Is that digital or an SLR?"

I said its neither nor and he was a bit upset I think.
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