For nearly a month now, I have been walking around without a decent camera (the one on my phone is too low quality to count). At the outset, I was wondering if it would change the way I looked at the world. It seems plausible that a person carrying a camera might become overly concerned about the possibility of recording experiences and thus become less immersed in the situations themselves. While I think that remains true in some circumstances, I find that the general result of not carrying a camera is simply loss of acuity in sensation. Having a camera forces you to pay more attention to what is happening around you: the quality of the light, the details of natural and man-made objects nearby, brightnesses and distances and angles.
As Tristan and I discussed while he was visiting this weekend, one’s sensitivity extends to include consideration for the kind of equipment being used. You do see a bit differently when you are carrying black and white film than when you are carrying colour; you care more about textures and relative brightnesses and not at all about colour temperature. Probably, there are differences in how you see based on whether you are carrying a camera loaded with 35mm film, one with a small digital sensor, or one with a larger sensor more capable of low-grain performance in low light. It is a bit like Michael Pollan’s description of what happened to his vision when he was collecting mushrooms: our visual systems are quite happy to optimize themselves for the task at hand.
Thankfully, my repaired camera is in the process of being mailed back to me. It is notable that Canon repaired it for free – essentially acknowledging that the problem arose because of a defect in manufacturing. I thus feel vindicated in saying that the Future Shop staff were wrong to reject an exchange, on the basis that I had abused the camera. I won’t be making the mistake of giving them more business anytime soon.
[Update: 31 January 2007] Oh, trumph and celebration! My camera has been returned and seems to be functioning properly. No more photos of the day from weeks past!