Monday, August 22, 2011

I no everything, just ask Me- Part 3

Tons of emails lately about bicycles, photography, and one question about back acne from Lenny in Peoria, Illinois.  You guys are sending in some really great questions, I will try to answer a few, but first to answer your question Lenny, wear a shirt. Always. And thanks for the question and the photo.

Arnold from Boston, MA asks, "I am interested in buying a classic Dutch bike, I notice that some male riders are riding girl bikes and am curious as to the reason.  My friend says that it is a life style statement, I think it is because they are less expensive, can you give me some insight?"

That is a really good question Arnold, the "girl bikes" you are referring to are called step through frames, that is, there is no bar running from below the handlebar horizontal to below the seat.  Years ago, bike manufacturers realized that boys would tend to be harder on their bikes, toss them around, jump curbs and other things that girls would not do with their bikes.  So we got the classic boy-girl type frames based on durability and cost.  But things have changed in design and components since that era, so now in fact high end Dutch bicycle companies like Gazelle and Batavus manufacture bikes in which there is absolutely no difference in load weight, stability, or ride ability between the two frame styles.  I have a Gazelle Toer Populair in both Dame (step through) and Herr (male frame) deigns and you can see where the step through frame is just a tad thicker in load bearing areas to offset the lack of a top tube.  In congested areas, places where you are constantly stopping for traffic, signal lights and the such, the step through frame is the way to go, less chance of pinching the twins if you know what I mean, and these types of bikes being large and heavy, it much easier to get off on then on again. Also, the price is usually identical.  So Arnold, hope that helps, and get a step through frame and ride it down to "Arm Wrestling" night at your local biker bar.

"Hi Matt, my friend told me that any bicycle over $500.00 is a rip off and a waste of money, is there really a difference between a low price bike and a really expensive one, especially if you only ride casually on the weekends?" Laurette from Richmond Hill, Georgia

Thanks Laurette, your question can best be answered by one of my favorite quotes, "The poor man pays twice." Or in this case, woman.  What does that mean? Here is a good example based on my own experience, and this particular example is repeated over and over, I have even seen articles referencing this exact scenario when talking about "You get what you pay for," and other don't be a cheapskate advice. Here goes, when I first got into photography I bought a new Nikon D70s at a large camera chain store, and decided at the time I needed a tripod.  Since I just dropped a grand on the camera, I opted for the cheapest tripod they had which was $56.00.  The tripod was heavy, poorly built and would not stay steady.  Big deal I thought, I will hardly use it.  Well about six months later I started doing paid jobs which required better results, so I had to get a better tripod. I went to the same chain store and got the top of the line model for $165.00.  It was much better than my first one, and for portraits in a studio, no problemo.  After about two months of heavy use, the release mechanism broke, and since this tripod was one unit with no separate components, off to the dumpster it went.  I learned my lesson, so my next tripod was purchased from a specialty camera store in New York, $284.00 from a well known tripod maker,  the cheapest model they made, but so what?  It lasted four months, collapsed with a ten pound Fuji GX680 camera mounted on it, snapped a leg, the camera wasn't even scratched.  I anted up and bought a $690.00 carbon fiber tripod and separate ball head, have had it for years, no problem, I could fight my way through a band of starving pygmies with it, hack down a tree to build a raft, and mount a 20lb camera on it in a hurricane and take a picture of the whole thing without any worries.  So Laurette, the bottom line is I paid $1,195.00 for a $690.00 tripod.  The same holds true for bicycles, a quality Dutch built bicycle will last a generation, I have a 1955 Fongers Dutch built bicycle that I can ride without any issues, like it was new, fifty years from now that Wal Mart bike you buy today will have been in a land fill for decades, the only thing remaining is the Made in China sticker.  You get what you pay for.

This email from Lawrence in Brisbane, Australia, "I want to get into photography but the choices are overwhelming, every time I decide on a camera brand I see some negative comments about it, there seems to be no reliable sources, basically I'm just confused, can you help? Thanks, Lawrence "

I know where you are coming from Lawrence, but today is your lucky day because there is only one true reliable source, and I be it.  First, forget about everything you have read or heard about cameras and camera manufacturers, clear your head Lawrence, because they are all the same, more on that later.  Do you read the camera reviews in the popular photography magazines? Have you ever seen a bad review, as in "Bottom Line: This camera sucks"? Me neither, but you will notice a direct correlation between how high a camera is rated based on the amount of advertising that camera manufacture has placed in that issue.  Let's use the big two, Nikon and Canon for our demonstration to show how these two companies are more about marketing and playing the consumer, than about the product.  Oh, and by the way, Nikon and Canon US engineering headquarters are next door to each other in New York state, so you don't think there is a little mix and mingle going on during happy hour?  When digital first became popular, it was all about the megapixel race, the more the better, and the more expensive. Both Nikon and Canon released new models every year at the same time with the same megapixel count, with the same features, at about the same price point. Once digital cameras got to the ten MP count, really anything above that is fluff and not needed by 99% of the users, Nikon and Canon continued to raise the megapixel bar and the price, and the consumer bought into it hook, line, and sinker. The problem was, as more pixels were crammed into the sensor, the more heat and digital noise were effecting the photograph.  But Canon wasn't hopping off this gravy train, they had spent millions to convince people the more megapixels the better, to Nikon's credit, they realized that consumers were starting to wise up which is why their professional D3s "only" has 12MP, but still costs around $8,000.00.  Nikon uses sensors made by Sony, so does Pentax.  Do not buy into the megapixel myth, know that the two grand you spend on a Canon 7D will turn into about $400.00 when you go to "update" to a "better" Canon with more megapixles in a few years.  So Lawrence, to get back to your question, it really does not matter what brand you go with, I would go for something used, let the other guy take the depreciation hit, get a good lens, and go make some art. 

As a follow up to the email from Lawrence, I personally shoot film with a Nikon F5 for serious stuff, and for just goofing around I use an Olympus E-PL1, a digital camera with, uh, let's see, a bunch of megapixels, not sure how many, really don't care.  In the last year I have owned a Canon 7D, a Nikon D7000, a Sony SLTa55, a Sony NEX-5, and an Olympus E-5, the fifteen year old Nikon F5 smokes them all in terms of image quality, you can pick up a minty one for less than $500.00, and unlike all this digital stuff, the F5 prices are going up.

Keep those questions coming, thanks everyone, and Lenny, put that shirt back on or somebody is going to think the pizza delivery guy is here!