Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Recently there has been a campaign by McCann-Erickson for the Nikon D40, an entry-level digital SLR camera. The camera was introduced to the market in November 2006. The recent TV commercials, which first aired two weeks ago from today, were filmed in March of 2007 in the town of Georgetown, South Carolina. The cameras were given to ordinary people - fire fighters, police officers, retirees, high school students, moms and dads - to document their everday lives. Nikon states that Georgetown, dubbed Picturetown, is "a place where ordinary people take extraordinary pictures."

Viewers can visit to view over 300 pictures in the gallery and learn about some of their experiences using the camera. Visitors can enter in a chance to win the camera if they spot it on the site, within the 40 days of the sweepstakes. The site also gives the time in Picturetown, USA, but it is the wrong time. The time zone here is Central Standard Time, and the time zone for Picturetown is shown as one hour earlier, not later. When I changed the time on my computer, the Picturetown time went back one hour. You can see the screen shot below.

Nikon has also been doing print ads for Picturetown, but I really like the actual size cutout of the camera that you can peel off the ad and take with you. You can open it up and read the camera's main features. If a photography lover wanted to bring this to someone's attention (as a gift, to ask for financial assistance, etc.), it's much easier and a better presentation than tearing out an ad in a magazine.

But a camera doesn't take a great picture; the photographer does. It does not state anywhere (that I could find) if the Georgetown participants were all given cameras with the same lens. Because the price given for the Nikon D40 is $599 (w/kit), we can assume they were all given the camera with the 18-55mm lens. If they used a better, more expensive Nikkor lens, I'm sure their pictures would look even better. It's not so much the body of the camera that matters, but it is in the lens. Unless of course, you want better durability, more fps (frames per second), more megapixels, and more professional features. But again, the camera does not set up the composition for the shot or have an alarm to let you know when the best lighting situation is. It is the photographer who makes the image.

Digital SLR cameras are not point-and-shoot cameras. With an SLR (Single-lens reflex) camera, what you see in the viewfinder - and a little bit of what you don't see - is your picture. The LCD screen on a DSLR will not show you the picture before you take it; you are required to look in the viewfinder, take the picture, and then you will see it on the LCD display. Most point-and-shoot digital cameras show you what you are seeing through the digital display screen.

The Nikon D40 (w/kit 18-55mm lens) retails at $525. Nikon's biggest competition is Canon. The D40 competes with the Canon Digital Rebel XT (w/kit 18-55 lens), which retails at $599. The Nikon has 6.1-megapixels, and the Canon comes with 8.2-megapixels. There are other things to compare as well, and you can find them at photography review Web sites like Digital Photography Review, Steve's Digicams, and Camera Labs. also features the Nikon D80 and the Coolpix point-and-shoot cameras. The site labels the Coolpix as beautiful and the D80 as vision. The D40 is labeled as Picturetown.

The D80 is a step up from the D40. It is a 10.1-megapixel camera that can come with a 18-135mm kit lens and a retail price of $1,179. Nikon gave experienced photographers the camera, and their work is shown at I like this gallery a lot more than Picturetown's because you can zoom in with the entire gallery. And then you can zoom in to the picture itself. All of the participants for the D80 have a Flickr gallery where you can see all of their pictures. There is also a widget you can download that will display their pictures as your background. Great ideas to keep it going even after they visit the Stunningnikon site.

The Coolpix series ranges in price from $110-$350, with various features and sizes. The cameras were given to celebrities to document certain celebrity events. Basic information is given about the limited edition Zac Posen case on the Web site, but the case is no longer available. But if you want to learn more about their promotions, Nikon says to sign up. This is the least involving and least personal.

Nikon released the D40 in November of last year, and four months later, released the D40X, a camera with the same body but more features and $200 more. I believe this is a good move by Nikon, and I thought that maybe it should have been done earlier, in sync with the release of the camera and before the holiday season. But I see that the campaign is about the every day, and this works better with a wider audience, which Nikon is aiming to reach. Though I do believe that their claim of everyone being able to take extraordinary pictures with the Nikon D40 to be false. But with that said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Especially when you get a free camera.

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