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Wednesday, 17 February 2010


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Mike; The Civic Si is an awesome car for the money. I drive a 5 year old Acura RSX Type S which was a slightly more hot version of the Si with the Acura badge. Great fun with a readline at 8100 rpm. But at 47 I seem to be way older than everyone else with that car. (I laugh at them even more when I pass on my sportbike, with the full face helmet they have no idea I'm not another kid.) Don't let them have all the fun.

Maybe suggest looking at a Honda "Fit" or perhaps something manufactured by either KIA or Hyundai.
My main concern with the latter two would be longevity, even though the purchase cost isreally cheap, like most of the vehicles are less than CAN$25,000!

As to digital cameras, all are computers with a photographic rendering device attached.

One thing I've learnt - nothing is perfect. I always wanted a BMW motorbike as the perfect and expensive tourer but when I got one I found two major problems: suspension had to be dismantled to remove the battery and the electrics were susceptible to damp - so no easy start in the morning if it was left out overnight. This caused me some grief on an Autumn tour (Fall to most of you) of France. Bump starts every morning and that isn't easy with a shaft drive bike. The perfect bike was no longer quite so perfect. Nothing is perfect with cameras either. I shoot with my left eye so my nose can play games wirh the autofocus on my GX 10. But I like most of the rest of the controls. It's also bulky and I have small hands. Though I like now like the solidity and find lighter cameras too susceptible to the shakes. I've often thought whether I change to fit the camera or how much is genuinely intuitive through good design. I reckon I adapt more than I like to admit though I still use my DSLR like my old film camera which was my first learning platform. In my mind I am quite adaptable unless I hit a major design obstacle or flaw. Most cameras are designed sensibly and with a little preparation are easy to pick up and shoot. My main complaint is that these days they are overstuffed with modes, features and the like which make them harder to use.

Small sporty cars? What I want to know is where is the high performance mini-van for us Dance Dads?

I understand about the camera as favored tool. I'm currently using my battered G9 for a digitization project for the local art museum. If I had to use the viewfinder on the museums DSLR, there isn't enough ibuprofen out there to ease the back. And knowing how to work with a tool, is, to steal from advertising, priceless.

So what I really need to know is: just exactly how did you come to know what it feels like to be "... worked over by a couple of weak midgets who knew exactly what they were doing." ???
Oh, I and agree with your camera assesment...owning both a 40D and a 5DMkII, I have come to love them both, even though I suffer from Nikon envy every time I'm with my shooting buddies who use Nikons. They have all these features that make perfect photgraphic sense and Canon is just now starting to implement a few of them, heralding them as ground breaking...maybe I read too much for my own consumer good.

"we tend to learn to love the cameras we use a lot for work that's important to us."

That's exactly my experience with the Mamiya 645 AFD. I hate the way it's laid out, the controls, the weight, the clunkiness, the counterintuitive custom functions, the needlessly large size (why is the prism so much bigger than a Pentax 67 prism?); but when push comes to shove I reach for that camera because it gives me great negs.

As far as car seats are concerned, I feel your pain. Most Japanese cars leave me with my legs in the air, my back sore and my arms straight like a late show zombie. That's O.K. for a test drive, but it's a showstopper when it comes time to put money down.

[quote]...unless you're some kind of freaky prodigy[/quote]
Or you have lower standards. Is it OK to love shots you know aren't all that great? Maybe just for the memories of the time/place?

I buy all, (almost they don't carry everything), well all of my Nikon stuff anyway at a local camera store, MQ Camera in Syracuse NY. It only cost me a tiny bit more than if I bought it online.

The benefit I get, unlimited face to face support is worth far more than the few dollars extra I have to pay. I guess I am lucky to have such a fine store close to where I work. the folks who work there have excellent knowledge of the products they sell, great personalities, and are willing to teach what they know.

To me online is good for first research but when I think I am ready to buy i run down to MQ Camera and hold the product in my hand. Sometimes i bring my card or camera and take some shots and bring them home to evaluate the images before I decide. The extra few percent i have to pay is far outweighed by the service I receive.

What I can't tolerate are folks who go to their local camera shop and suck them for information and then buy online to save a few dollars. I can see if it's 20 percent but I guess I'm blessed that my shop is competitive, they are still a few dollars more but they are worth every bit.

I have purchased a D200, D300, 2 SB800s, three pocket wizard, a 17-55 f/2.8, 70-200 f/2.8, 50 f/1.4, 10.5 f/2.8, 105 f/2.8 macro and lots of other stuff so I have put my money where my mouth is.

Camera's for different use, 3 of them and each has their own purpose. I have a Nikon D50 that I use for sports and event photography and I have a Canon A95 P&S that I carry with me always and the photos on my photo blog are mostly taken with a Nikon D40 and a stabelized lens. I've tried interchanging them or even considered upgrading one or more of them and I can't do either. It would be like using a baseball bat for golf. Each has a purpose and I know how each will react in their respective uses, for me this works.

"So what I really need to know is: just exactly how did you come to know what it feels like to be '... worked over by a couple of weak midgets who knew exactly what they were doing.' ??? "

Heh heh...well, just that I can't imagine how else I'd be slugged in the kidneys repeatedly, but by someone who wasn't all that strong.


It seems that even the foreign car brands whose former claim to fame, going back decades, was 'those great seats' don't have good seats anymore. I had a 2007 Corolla as a rental that had awful seats, awful visibility, and awful ergos in general.

My main car is old enough to buy a drink in any state in the union, and my other one is just behind it. A new car is the worst "investment" you'll ever make and, unless you see me on TV with one of those big-ass Mega Millions checks, it's used (WAY used) from here on in. After the Volvos wear out I'll be taking a hard look at the late 90's Hondas.

I currently have a 6 megapixel camera, and I was looking for 10 to 12 as an option, as I couldn't choose both 8 to 10 and 12 to 14...

While in some cases 14 or more megapixels would be great, I'm looking for a camera with 10 to 12 megapixels, as 8 isn't quite enough, and I think that for what I do 14 is overkill.

(I voted for 8 to 10 BTW)

RE: Cars - Do check out the Hyundais - they remind me of what Toyota used to be and the seats are pretty comfy - I'm still driving a slightly pre-teenage car myself - but the Hyundais are impressive in build and comfort and on the list when I do decide it's time to buy.
Like cameras, ya gotta try 'em on to see how it fits and feels in the hand.....and kidneys. For me the 40D is a great daily camera, and 10mp is just fine, thank you, but Nikon features are sweet...hmmmm

For a while I had a Voigtländer Bessa II with a coated 105mm/f:3.5 Color-Heliar, which I thought would be the penultimate medium format folding rangefinder camera (the ultimate would be the Bessa II with the 105mm Apo-Lanthar and the 645 mask option that often sells for around $5K). This was not a cheap camera, but it seemed like I was into it for the long haul, so I accumulated slip on filters for it, and I think I spent over $100 for the rare lens shade. It shot 6x9, had one of my favorite lenses on it, a coupled rangefinder, and fit in the pocket of an overcoat.

The ergonomics just didn't work for me. It was too left-handed. It was great on a tripod, but the whole idea of a folding rangefinder to me is as a portable handheld camera. If I want to carry a tripod, I might as well shoot 4x5" or larger. I could get sharp verticals, but after experimenting with various methods of holding the camera in the horizontal position, I just couldn't hold it steady consistently. I mean it was lovely, the way you would open the front cover and the shutter trigger would emerge from the door and erect itself, but that lever was a good ways out there on the left side of the camera, maybe a quarter or a third of the long distance from the eyepiece to the lens, and it was just very difficult to keep the camera from rotating slightly.

I also realized that even the best folding cameras of that era that were expensive in their own day are ultimately tourist cameras and don't have the film flatness of a decent modern medium format camera or rollfilm back for a large format camera.

So I sold the Bessa II to an Asian collector at a surprising profit, and I've been standing pat with my "pocketblad"--the 6x6 Perkeo II with the Color-Skopar--a smaller format and lesser lens and uncoupled shoe-mount rangefinder, but film flatness is better on 6x6 with the light construction of a folder, and it really is a tiny camera for medium format, smaller than many 35mm rangefinders.

My photo-klunker is my Panasonic DMC-L1. Dim viewfinder, poor autofocus (it quits focusing if it can't lock in), noisy at 800 and pretty much useless at 1600, lousing metering, and horrible in-camera JPEGs. Add very limited (actually no) fast, wide-angle prime 4/3 lenses, be it Olympus or Panasonic. But, it is relatively small and portable with the Olympus 25mm pancake (compared to a Nikon D700 anyway), is non-descript in appearance, and has decent RAW. As a result, it has become my street shooter and everyday camera, because it does not attract attention like a Nikon D700 would.

It's the little things that can make a car miserable, and you won't find them in the reviews.

My brother-in-law is proud of his Prius (still, I assume), but he hasn't gotten used to the constant reflection of dash lights in his windshield, right in front of his face at eye level. I suggested electrician's tape, such as I used to mask 90% of the high beam lamp on my New Beetle's dash. That light doesn't dim with the rest of the dash lights, and it's such a strong, piercing blue that it robs my night vision just as I've reached a dark highway where high beams are usable.

I was interested in seeing the new Subaru Forester, since my '04 has been such a trusty companion. The new model is larger and roomier but no heavier, which sounded great. But a few seconds in the driver's seat showed me why I can't drive this car, or even ride in it. The front seat headrests are tilted so far forward that I couldn't hold my head up in a normal position. Now I've observed many other folks who do slouch forward, heads on their chests, and other long-armed types who like to lay the seat back on a diagonal. The new headrests would give better crash test scores to dummies fashioned for those body types. But I'd have no options but to replace the headrest with an older one, if it fits, or do what I did with my last car, removing the fabric and carving down the foam padding with a hot knife. Now that's safe!

Modern cars are designed to look sleek and fast from outside and to score well on crash and mileage tests. Ergonomics are way down the list, even with brands that used to design cars the right way, around their drivers and their physical needs. That's why I expect I'll be driving cars from the last decade for he rest of my life. They're new enough to have essential safety features like air bags and ABS, but not so new as to forget the needs of humans.

Speaking of cameras, no review has ever hinted at my biggest beef with my Sony A700. The histograms are difficult to read, shown very small with no frame marking the limits of brightness that can be captured. Blinking highlights are shown on a tiny thumbnail image that's also too small. My Nikon D40 does this wonderfully well on a full-size screen image. But that camera has an annoying second-long lag between changing dial settings and seeing them register on the screen. Nobody mentions that in reviews, either.

These small ergonomic quirks mean so much more to me than the 0-60 times and noise ratings that dominate the lab tests.

The EOS 10D keeps clicking away, while my 5D coaches from the sidelines.

Jim, I wish there were more of you when I worked retail.

So, Mike, you are essentially telling us that you are the middle-aged guy in need of a sports car - who is exactly the wrong guy for a sports car. These hugging seats are called sports seats [well, in the UK; in Germany: Sportsitze]; they are made to steady your position no matter how ridiculous your corner speed [thus G-force] is.

We overweight, bell-shaped middle-agers should use a bicycle or - if we have family - one of those shoe boxes called 'vans'.

> Spend a few minutes practicing with it every night<

Uhm, what? Why not at daytime?

Mike - if you haven't already, go for a nice long ride in the current model Subaru Impreza WRX (NOT the STi, which just isn't realistic given your reported aspect ratio :) )

Mine arrived early January and it makes me smile every time I pick up the keys. BTW, I'm not the stick figure that I used to be, either.

Oh, and make sure you find some nice twisty bits to fang it around. Preferably without being noticed by John Q Law.

" you are the middle-aged guy in need of a sports car - who is exactly the wrong guy for a sports car."

Who says so? Is there some law I'm not aware of? I've always driven small cars with four cylinder engines, stick shifts, and a decent power-to-weight ratio, and I'm unlikely to stop now just to satisfy YOUR stereotype of middle age. When you're my age you can drive a ponderous big land yacht if you want to, though.


"go for a nice long ride in the current model Subaru Impreza WRX (NOT the STi"

Okay, I will.


Well, if we must discuss cars on TOP - I think of any car manufacturer that wasn't going before WW2 as a "new upstart" so could never consider a Honda.
Maybe your US Civics aren't the same as our European ones but the newer ones I've seen are trying very hard to look like something from "Thunderbirds". Looking like something from Thunderbirds would be a great choice for a 10 year old in the 60's so why do otherwise sane grown ups lust after such nasty looking vehicles now?

Oh, in the spirit of full disclosure - I run an 11 year old SEAT.

Cheers, Robin

"I think of any car manufacturer that wasn't going before WW2 as a "new upstart" so could never consider a Honda"

Still driving that Triumph TR6, eh?



P.S. If I ever win the lottery I'll buy a restored 2002Tii. That's as far as I'll go....

My wife drives a Suzuki Swift Sport, It's a nippy little thing. She drops me off at my bus stop in the dead of winter and all I'm left with is the warm blast from her twin exhausts as she rockets off. If truth be told it's more like a puff than a blast

She picks me up if I'm on a late shift. Half way home I start to remember how comfy the bus is, but man she loves that car.

Get a grip, man. You're a photographer. Discomfort is just discomfort. How strong is the roof?


"Nanny Feature ... looks after you, on account of you're too ig'nant to know how to do it yourself or just too weak-ass 'n' lazy to do it yourself."

Like photo finishing labs. ;)

P.S. If I ever win the lottery I'll buy a restored 2002Tii. That's as far as I'll go....

You mean one with round taillights, right? IMO, the '74s with rectangular taillights are imposters...

My willow-thin daughter owns a Civic Si, and loves it (even though its super-slick manual transmission recently self-destructed at 62,000 miles, j-u-u-u-u-st past the warranty period). Her partner, who is 6'2" and 260 lbs, hates it. He has to pour himself into the passenger seat and take his punishment. They visited us for Thanksgiving, and it was painful to watch him slowly unfold himself getting out of the car after 13 hours on the road.

2002Tii... I learned how to do drive on one of those. A white one ;-)

In all these years, the closest thing I've seem (IMO;-) to come close to the feel and look of the 2002i/Tii is the new BMW 3 series coupe. I know it looks more like the old 635, but the memories it invokes are different for me.

disclosure: 6 year old Honda Van, 9 year old MB 320CLK


I second RobG's advice, You might also consider the Subaru Forester turbo, it feels roomer than the Impresza (better for big butts), even though they're the same wheel base. Aditionally: 0-60 in 5.9 sec (vs 6.3 for the Honda), available with a 5-speed and AWD and frankly, given where you live, the all-wheel-drive would be a Godsend.


"They visited us for Thanksgiving, and it was painful to watch him slowly unfold himself getting out of the car after 13 hours on the road."

Oh dear. Good thing you're a doctor; he might have needed your professional ministrations.


Why shouldn't we discuss cars here? It's Mike's clubhouse, and he started it. :)

BTW Mike, when's the bar open?

"if it were a human, it would be on the verge of puberty—why is that way of putting it vaguely gross?"

Because it evokes the image of hair sprouting in curious places?

Got a new car early last fall, and I settled on a Camry LE. Was planning to get a Hyundi Sonata, but it just never quite drove right; the Camry, even with a smaller engine, was more responsive and just had a more integrated power train.

I'm calling it my first "old guy" car. It's my biggest car ever and my first automatic transmission (previously: vw rabbit, vw rabbit, vw GTI, Saturn). I'm no longer resenting the time spent on the road as much, and starting to think about road trips again (had a nice one to Nashville last spring, before I got this car, traveling with a friend in his BMW 328xli or some such; inline 6 cylinder engine in a 3 series, anyway).

Jeep Grand Cherokees and Olympus OM cameras. Both just "fit right" to me.

When a camera manufacturer figures out that "fits right" thing like Olympus did with the OM System...

OK, maybe Leica did.

Geoff Wittig,

The online car magazine Winding Road just had a story on good front-wheel-drive used cars for around $17k. In the section where they recommend the Civic Si they mention that the cars have manual transmission problems and that Honda issued a bulletin on it but not a recall- but they did offer owners a free fix. I would have your daughter gripe to no end until she gets hers replaced for free.

As someone who has driven a lot of Hondas because of their ridiculous reliability, Honda should be replacing them for free anyway as 65k miles is nothing in a Honda. Honda may not make exciting cars but they run forever if you keep them maintained. I just wish they would make a 2500 lb car with about 225-250 hp but they just keep packing the cars full of stuff and thus they keep getting heavier.

I'm a purist and I have the same problem with digital cameras that I have with cars. There is no good purist option out there that doesn't cost way more than I'd ever spend. I want a manual focus camera with a great viewfinder that doesn't do anything for me but give me the light meter reading. I can't find a car like that either unless it's a "track toy" which is a huge waste of money IMO. I keep reading about motorcycles because you can work on them yourself (except in Rod's BMW experience above) and I love looking at the mechanicals out in the open because I'm a sucker for mechanical items like old clocks, watches and cameras. What keeps me from trying a motorcycle is that I don't want to go sliding across asphalt at 45 mph only stopping when I hit something. But check out the Moto Guzzi V7 classic! Che bella!

Sports seats are a great incentive to trim and be fit. :)

This thing about a camera feeling right is soooo true. I have been following, like many people, the Olympus EP2 VS Panasonic GF1 comparisons. But after spending LOTS of time at my local store handling the cameras I walked away with neither.

The EP2 just felt like a slug with its focusing even though I liked the rest of the layout. The GF1 has that pesky hard to turn recessed function wheel, that is a button and a wheel, and I found it very frustrating to control and turn. I think they designed the bevel around the wheel so that it could not be turned accidentally, but it makes for a very sticky control. After working with the camera for about an hour in the shop, my thumb was feeling blistered.

So I walked out empty handed and I WANTED to buy one of these. They just did not feel right either in their function or controlability. Sure they will work just fine for lots of photography, but they just didn't feel right to me. This is the critical piece that you cannot get by reading about them online.

Personal ergonomic feel (or lack of it) killed the deal for me at this point....

This post came at just the relevant time for me. In December 2008 I upgraded by old, beloved Nikon D70 for a D90 with an 18-200 VR. And it's taken me until now -- 14 months -- to get to know (and love!) the D90 as much as I did the D70. The catalyst, predictably, was loads and loads of shooting, both for a new fashion blog and the longest single-day job I've done (13 hours, 998 exposures).

To be honest I was beginning to despair that I'd never feel as comfortable with the D90 as with the D70 that I used so heavily, but simply logging the hours of shooting did the trick. It's wonderful to have that feeling back -- that of the camera being merely an extension of a limb.

Mike, you totally missed the point of my post. Which shows I hit at least a minor truth. And where's you sense of humour gone? Not only did I make clear I am middle-aged, too, I thought the satirical elements were a little too obvious.

If you feel better, I don't care what kind of car you drive. I don't care if you are comfortable. I do care a little about reviewers - and in this case you were reviewing - giving negatives for the wrong reason, a littel, mind.

Clearly a mass-produced item cannot fit everybody, sports seat [which are uncomfortable even if they fit], blue jeans, cameras. If you want the perfect fit for YOU, go out and pay for custom tailoring. Or find a manufacturer using a model very close to you; it took me about half my life-time until I found shoes, whose fit is much more important than a camera's, created on models that could have been taken directly from my feet. The next step can only be custom-made, which adds a zero after somewhere between the first number and the comma ...

PS: Since my satire was obviously too oblique, I detest vans, love Aston Martins, Lotus's and Spykers. I am also big on sport motorcycles, from Fireblade to Buell, from Ducati to MV Agusta. None of my cars or motorbikes ever was without niggles, especially in the comfy area.

Weird that the Si seats bothered you so much. I'm a bit younger (28) and own an Si. I'm a pretty big guy at 6'3" and 240lbs and have never had any discomfort issues with the seats, though I will say when I ride passenger on rare occasions that seat does seem to feel tighter. I suppose I've "broken in" the drivers seat (mine's a 2007). Then again I prefer a seat with large solid bolsters...

My biggest discomfort issue with the car was the fact that my knee rests against the emergency brake.

I also suffered some transmission issues (as Geoffrey mentioned) though nothing as far as a full breakdown. Notchiness, and third gear popping out when shifting. Honda performed warranty work to (mostly) fix my issue. It gets a little notchy still, but slightly more frequent transmission oil changes help with it. I absolutely love the car otherwise.

One of the main reasons I switched from Canon to Nikon was the fact that Nikon cameras just fit my hands better. With the Canon, my pinky never quite fit onto the grip. It would just kinda float in the wind. Nikon makes its cameras just big enough to get all my digits onto it. Well worth the upgrade.

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