It’s sat there for 5 years. It’s sat there since my son pushed the memory card in backwards and rendered $2500 of digital excellence almost completely useless.
I sat next to it every day and lamented through all that time. I sat there and watched it get old, past it’s prime and well on the way to obsolescence. It wasn’t the money, and it wasn’t that I didn’t have another camera. The day after my son damaged the Fuji, I ran over to the West Edmonton Mall and bought the best Nikon I could afford. We were lucky in a way, Alberta, Canada is not exactly teeming with camera stores. It’s a good thing he done it next to the biggest mall in the world. Well…maybe not “good.”
Those were desperate times, a once in a lifetime opportunity for pictures and the new camera filled the bill. It was also lighter, took a lot less batteries (one, as opposed to six) and all my precious lenses fit. Lenses are much more important than cameras, as any photographer will tell you. In addition it was a lot cheaper and the pictures were still pretty good (although only 6 megapixel as opposed to 12). But I was still happy, until the big “Professional” Fuji began to mope on my desk, and cry to me with it’s pitiful voice.
A year went by and money to fix it never surfaced. A second year went by and I began to look for alternative ways to use it. It was possible, with enough wires and adapters. However, a heavy camera with three wires and dangling adapters isn’t what I like to call “Handy.” More, it became kind of a continous shaming experience. “Look I still work,” it whined, “what could it possibly cost to restore my former glory? Am I worth nothing to you?”
Let’s see. Bench charge to take it apart and diagnose the problem (because Fuji of America wasn’t interested in my “opinion”) $250. New power/memory/ processor elements, a grand or so (WOW). More bench time to reregister and re-adjust the chip computers and CCD( Boinggggg!!!!!). Thinking, “And I used to think lawyers made a lot” I hung up the phone and tried to explain it to my whiny broken friend.
Meanwhile, time and camera advancements marched on, rendering its complaints of neglect ever more accusatory. “I’m a professional grade machine, a thing of excellence! And look at me now. Lost in the hands of amateurs…Amateurs! I had value once…….”
As annoying as that was, I still couldn’t bring myself to throw the damn thing away, so I lived with my invalid prisoner and suffered in silence. I once asked the Queen of the manor and the girl of my dreams if I couldn’t get it repaired as a Christmas present, or perhaps a combined Christmas and birthday treat? An old trick, I grant you.
“That’s a little big for a present, baby. Sorry my love.” Curses, foiled again! The Fuji was unimpressed, with my begging ability, so time and whining kept marching. It finally came out that a replacement could be had for less than $400 on eBay. Devaluation, what a cruel blow. A replacement? Could I do that, toss away this old cancer for a working cousin? No, too late, it was a pernicious disease and I was stuck with it, the good money after bad rule. A hill I may never climb but at least it’s mine to mope about. The dust settled ever thicker on the impressively smooth professional case and the cries of despair came less often.
Time passed and one day this week, in one of those times when you have so much to do you end up doing nothing at all, I heard the long, low plaintiff cry once again. I picked it up and fondled my old accuser gently. “I wonder….” I thought. “Could I fix it myself?” I’d tried many times to straighten the bent pins at the bottom of the 2 inch slot. Even made special tools to grab them and nudge them back in position. It looked like I got them all as well, but it’s really hard to see down a hole two inches by 1/8th of an inch. The fact of the matter was that it still didn’t work. What if I just took the old bastard apart and had a go from the inside?
Why not try to get the maintenance manual and have at it? After all it really wasn’t worth much any more, why not give it a try? I never even considered it before, who wants to admit taking a multi thousand dollar camera apart and breaking it in the process? In a flash I abandoned all the other work (which I wasn’t doing anyway) and my fingers flew to my keyboard. A minute later I had the sacred text. Out came the micro screwdrivers, the tiny tweezers and the dental tools. A quick breath for lasting power, and in I went.
One by one the pieces, thin as razors and delicate as flower petals, came off and out. I was in lands only known by inscrutable engineers and Asian assembly women with tiny elfin hands. Still, my big mitts dug away at it unscrewing each and every nano-particle sized screw. Paper thin ribbon cables were released, stubborn 32nd inch micro plugs popped free, usually disappearing into the bowels of the machine.
“Stop! Stop! Stop for a minute and let’s think about this.” the Fuji wailed, “Think about what you’re doing! Oh god I need a drink! NOT THE DENTAL PICK AGAIN!!!” , all the while it’s few remaining senses eyed the terrible trash basket of doom next to my desk. Still, I was relentless because I had to go beyond the manual and fix something that was only meant to be replaced. This was no time for mercy.
With its dead entrails strewn all about me I cursed and swore at the tiny folded pin I’d uncovered. I did my best to juggle jewelers loupe, a shaved dental instrument and a very bright light while romancing the twisted gold pin, no more than a hair’s width, into a semblance of its former self. Five times it all collapsed into a heap and 5 times I got it all set up again, but I finally got it.
My hands shook terribly now as I slipped everything back together. The half an hour search for a microscopic black screw on the black rug actually calmed me enough to finish. All the screws were so tiny I had to wax the tip of the screwdriver to hold them on for placement. And then suddenly the Fuji, my beautiful Fuji, was whole again.
Four AAs went in the bottom slide, and after some shouting one of my sons went down to the super market to get the other two stubby 3 volt lithium batteries the camera required. The time was now. My path was clear. I flipped the switch.
One LCD lit and then another that gloriously showed not only the presence of the memory card but also that it was empty. Success! Well, at least until the third LCD, the main one, just turned bright white and the Fuji began to gibber and squeak like a gibbon. No sparks or actual fire though, I’m proud to say.
I’m not ashamed to say I turned to the bottle in my defeat. I guzzled away the evening, a smoking ruin of the man I was that morning. I’d reached for the stars and was repulsed.
And yet the next morning things seemed a little brighter, beyond the fog anyway. I checked the maintenance manual again and again for some “secret trick” known only to the wizards of Fuji-dom. Nothing. So, I picked up the screwdriver again. “Glucka-gluck-glucka, num, nuuum!!” screamed the Fuji.
It was easier the second time. I had less to lose and had at least some familiarity with each awful part of the endless process that came relentlessly one after another. Finally, there it was, a tiny ribbon cable, transparent, printed with tiny traces had slipped out of its connector and was hiding behind one of the circuit boards. I lost the same damn screw the second time as well, and had to resort to using magnets to find it. Sensing my need for calm, my dog had been helpfully sitting on it for the past hour.
This time all three LCDs came up and the Fuji firmly and responsively reset it’s mirror shouting a hearty “Hi Ho Silver!” I was more than elated, I was ecstatic. It was a great moment and yet it was followed with the almost instant recollection that a fully loaded and lensed Fuji was really heavy, 8 pounds or more. In that it is also a massive photographic appliance, it almost begged for a tripod, or suspension bridge. It was all coming back to me.
“How much were the special batteries at the store?” I asked my son for the first time.
“12 bucks each, but I looked them up. The manual says you ought to be able to get at least two weeks out of them,” he paused for a moment, gauging my reaction, “Whether you take pictures or not….of course.”
“Of course…I remember now..big as a house, heavy as a tank, expensive to feed..and now just a little better than the camera on my iPhone..what a piece of shit….” All the while, my new best friend, the Fuji dragged heavily on my arm crying “Hi Ho Silver!” and “Let’s take some professional pictures!”
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2012
Prentiss Gray is a writer and columnist and currently writes the Domesti-Tech Blog for Gannett. He can be reached through his website at GrayResearch.net