Monday, March 13, 2006

Power Through Jargon

I find that whenever I immerse myself in the discourse of a certain field, I learn a set of jargon, a bucket of buzzwords, which allows me to efficiently and convincingly navigate the social waters of that field. Or, since I'm thinking of hobbies and not snooty academic fields (though I think my observation applies there just as well), one quickly learns to talk the talk, even if one is having trouble perambulating.

And often, talking the talk means being able to make sense of a dizzying array of abbreviations and numbers. Talking photography (and just Canon lenses), the comparison between a 70-200 2.8 L IS USM and a 70-200 2.8 EX APO IF HSM should be gibberish to anyone who isn't looking for a fast, professional, medium telephoto. Both are 70-200mm lenses with a maxium constant F-stop of 2.8. But what about the rest? L instantly designates the first lens as a canon professional series lens, the IS stands for Image Stabilisation, the USM stands for Ultrasonic Motor. And the comparable parameters on the other lens?

Not very. And it depends on what the definition of IS is =P

EX matches L in that EX is Sigma's top of the line series of lenses. But then APO stands for the use of SLD (Special Low Dispersion glass) and IF stands for Internal Focusing, which the Canon leaves out. And HSM is like USM but Sigma calls it the Hypersonic Motor but then DG (which is sometimes left out) means that it's a lens designed for digital cameras, equivalent to Canon's EF-S (which the canon 70-200 isn't because it's an EF lens, also sometimes left out of the designation).


But talking the talk IS (not Image Stabilisation here) fun. Knowing that the 17-40 and 70-200 (the F/4 version) are legendary sharp but cheap L lenses allows you to understand 1/4 of the gear talk that goes on in the forums. And when somebody asks you for an ultra wide on a 1.6 crop canon, you can rest easy knowing that the EF-S 10-22 is the best answer because you've read all the reviews and know what's up. 17-85 IS? Pssssh. Distortion, CA, and soft wide open and at 17. Tamron 17-35? No way, just go for the 17-40. Spotting eagles? Pleeeease, just sell your daughter, by a 500L and fugheddabadit. Because even though you're spouting other people's opinions, you're spouting them fluently, assertively, and even (seemingly) knowingly. It allows many to get their confidence level up to a point where they don't shy away from interaction with other who are already in the know. And once you start finding out who those people are, you can graduate and rise above the plebes because, seriously, why go with the 70-200 non-IS when you can get a magic drainpipe for cheaper?! I know, right?

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