Monday, January 1, 2007

Fat Camera Fails Test

The official TeeBeeDee dweeb and I meet up at a food mall called Chelsea Market. The plan today is for him to help me find my way around the new camera. Eliot does not mind being called a dweeb, he says, perhaps because he’s anything but the stereotype. He’s charming and talkative and not gizmo-crazed. He tells me he’s opposed to “technology overkill,” which he defines as when people “spend money on features they don’t need.”

Like a camera that’s supposed to make you look thinner? The HP Photosmart R927 digital camera has many other features, but to me its most intriguing one is the “slimming” option.

I hand over the camera to Eliot. The first thing I notice is that he doesn’t look at the manual either. He just starts pushing buttons. Like me, only to better effect. He zips through the functions at lightning speed, keeping up a running commentary that goes something like this:

“There are these nice help menus tied to the individual functions, so I guess there isn’t one overall help menu – no, that’s wrong, here’s one – it has the top ten tips for taking better photos! . . . And it gives you image advice, if you want it, telling you how each of your photos could be improved. . . Let’s try the panorama feature that stitches the pictures together. Oops, that didn’t work. Oh, I see, I have to select the image first. . .

I can see that he is having a conversation with the camera, as you might with a friend. I don’t want to interrupt, but I’m impatient to get to the main event: from my perspective, the slimming function. We turn to the camera’s Design Gallery, and Eliot shows me how to use the slimming effect and sends me home to try it on my own.

First, I have to find a willing subject. It takes some convincing, but finally a family member, who prefers to be known simply as P, agrees to pose for an experimental portrait. I take his picture and press the magic slimming button. Then we watch the image in the camera as P appears to stretch like a piece of taffy being pulled. The result is quite pronounced, as well as fairly strange. Once slimmed, P. resembles a gangly male version of Alice in Wonderland after she eats the cake. The effect is not flattering.

You can’t say it’s a case of the Emperor’s New Midriff; the slimming setting actually does pare you down. But since you can’t select which body parts are subjected to the reducing treatment, the results tend to be peculiar. Why elongate the whole body? I wonder. Couldn’t they have invented a slimming feature that just lengthens your legs instead?

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