Wednesday, January 15, 2003

I am fated not to have a digital camera.

In September 2002 I packaged a digital camera (technically, not my digital camera, even worse) to bring to Canada in my checked-in luggage. By the time I looked for it a day after arriving at my parents' house, I couldn't find it. Optimistically, I thought it would be around there or at home somewhere but of course six months later it hasn't shown up at either house. I believe it was stolen from my luggage. My biggest fan however unsupportively suggests I lost it, though I fail to see how.

Well, I had already been thinking of getting a smaller model anyhow. Digital cameras have reached a point where for a price I'm willing to pay, I can get a high quality digital camera that I can carry everywhere. Now that, I would really use. In August I was discussing this with a friend who passed on a news article about new smaller Nikon and Casio models. I thought about this a lot. OK, in fact, I dithered, undecided, comparing features and prices randomly and unproductively.

I went to Good Guys and looked at cameras with the intent to buy. But I couldn't decide by the time my biggest fan unsupportively decided he was ready to leave, so I gave up for the time being.

A month or so later: I decided to stop dithering. I went to my biggest fan for help deciding, but he unsupportively suggested I decide what features were important to me before comparing cameras with those features. Fine! I decided size was crucial - it must fit in my laptop/messenger bag (peewee timbuk2 size) and stay there without me constantly regretting the space it takes up. But quality was also crucial - 2 megapixels with reasonable ability to take close-ups of the things I make. Three models seemed to basically fit my requirements: the Minolta Dimage X, the Canon Powershot Elph, the Casio Exilim EX-S2 or EX-M2. Maybe the Nikon Coolpix 2500 as well, but I never had the covetous craving passion for that one that I did for the Dimage or Exilim, despite its swiveliciousness.

I dithered some more. Would the MP3 player capabilities of the Exilim be useful to me, enough to justify the extra cost? Hmm.

Finally decisive, I ordered a Exilim EX-M2 through a vendor (Tristate Camera) found through Pricewatch. Tristate offered the EX-M2 for about $50 less than Amazon. Great! Only two days later, I got a call from Tristate saying the price was actually $50 higher because of Casio's Christmas packaging deals which included some thingy. On principle, I cancelled the order.

I looked at Amazon's listing for the Exilim, since I trusted Amazon not to bait-and-switch. However they didn't have it in stock at the moment, and I didn't want to buy something that might be in stock at some unspecified future date. I wanted reasonably quick, though not instant, gratification. I was hoping to bring a new digital camera with me to use at Christmas.

Christmas shopping was upon us and we headed to Fry's Electronics for various purchase. They had the Exilim EX-M2. After dithering more about whether I really wanted it, with my biggest fan still unsupportively hoping I'll hurry up and get it over with, I asked the sales guy to get me one. The only one they had left was a pre-opened model. Honestly, I didn't want anybody else to have already touched this camera. Somehow it seemed too personal. Would you buy underwear somebody had bought, then returned? However unreasonably, that's how I felt. I walked away.

Over Christmas, I did some serious rethinking. Maybe I didn't want an Exilim at all, with or without the MP3 capabilities. I wanted closeups to be high-quality, and I found out about the Dimage Xi, which has 3.2 Megapixels, compared to the mere 2.1 Megapixels of the Dimage X, and reputedly very fine opticals. It was somewhat more expensive of course, and the highest price I'd considered paying. But at this point I was willing to pay more to avoid any possible disappointment. I decided to get it. I ordered the Dimage Xi through Amazon. Only after emotionally committing the order, if not actually committing it, did I notice that the order was actually being filled by Office Depot. The date was December 29. The order was going to ship in 1-2 days.

Over the next few weeks, I periodically called home just before returning home from work. You see, I didn't want to sit in the train wondering the whole way if the camera was going to be there, and face disappointment at home. Two packages did arrive, but they were the other two things I had ordered from Amazon the same day as the camera.

Finally, today, I checked Amazon's status: order still there, not yet shipped. It said to call Office Depot for shipping information. I did and discovered that they had cancelled the order, although Amazon didn't know it yet. Apparently they don't stock it any more, and their response to that is simply to cancel the order. I checked a different page at Amazon which claims both that the camera order is ready for shipping 1/1/2003, and that a complete refund has been applied for that order. I don't think I've received the refund yet.

Looking through the Amazon site, they now appear to have taken down the useless offer to order from Office Depot, and instead they have a hopeful "in stock soon" offer for the Dimage Xi. "Order now to get first in line."

I don't know if I can handle the disappointment again. If camera manufacturers did a better job of stocking cameras rather than creating scarcity, and retailers didn't screw around with availability and packaging, somebody would have had my money three months ago. Now they'll just have to wait.

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