Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 8/8/2005Hand-held cameras are on their way. Hand-held cameras are here to stay.

Monday 8/8/2005

Hand-held cameras are on their way. Hand-held cameras are here to stay. So sang 80s cult band Kissing The Pink on one of their many forgotten masterpieces of synth kitsch, eerily presaging the digital picture revolution. No revolution is without its victims, though; in this case, of course, it's film.

Dixons, heartened by the heavy press coverage of their previous announcement that the VCR was dead, told the world today that it will no longer be stocking 35mm film cameras across its stores. There's more to this than a cold-hearted bid for publicity: Dixons started seventy years ago as a photography studio that moved over to selling the cameras themselves — no jokes about telephoto lenses being set up above the door so they could see the customers coming, please. This is a real break from the past, a bit like deciding that you're not going to go to Midnight Mass any more despite giving up on the whole God business many years before.

The chain says that 93 percent of its customers can't tell the difference between film and digital — well, no, but then most people can't tell the difference between vinyl and CD — and as with the CD, convenience has won over quality issues that only matter to a small minority of enthusiasts. "35mm will be with us for ages yet", said one commentator, "but it'll be a beards-and-sandals job".

"Beards and sandals". The quintessential description of the eccentric, enthusiastic male. Curiously, Google only records about five hundred occurrences of the term, which feels like it's been around forever and is instantly decodable. "It all started to go wrong for the Santa Cruz Operation when the beards and sandals gave way to the suits". "Beard and sandals" gets a few more hits, but not nearly as many as I — once fully qualified for the description but am now a mere half-blood — would expect.

There is no feminine equivalent of the phrase, which can't be because there are no eccentric, enthusiastic females. I know many; indeed, I will be marrying one. But footwear in general and sandals in particular have a completely different semiotic with that gender, to say nothing of the beard. There is a certain uniformity of handbag (large, stretched to capacity by books, frequently harlequinesque), so perhaps we can work on that.

And you'll never find one working at Dixons. Bit like a stereo, really.