As I have aluded, my Canon G11 is gone, lost at the mall in mid-August, and not by mugging as Lisa has accused. Stupidity! Mine… So on to the hunt for a camera to replace it. At the moment an online used retailer is shipping one to me (August) in New York. I’ll see how that goes. The reason for the used camera is because the darned thing worked so well with the underwater housing, which I still retain. But here in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I needed an immediate replacement (August). I was diving in about 6 hours. In New York, no problem, there are a number of camera stores and you can get setup in less than an hour.
As luck would have it, I had seen a Canon camera store in one of the malls. It was a tiny store the size of a large walk-in closet. They happened to have a underwater camera housing on the display wall. So though I did not need anything at the time, I filed the location away for ‘just in case.’ And now the case had happened.
Off to the store, I arrived to watch and wait… while a young kid agonizing over the purchase of a $20 tripod. There on the wall as I had remembered were several underwater housings. And there was a Canon G15. It would do. But, the big ‘but,’ did they have the underwater housing? And the answer…no, and they weren’t going to get one…not for a long long time. Ah, but there was a Canon S100. They had an underwater housing.
Dive photos or no dive photos. I sensed, correctly, that getting a dive setup would not be simple in Jeddah. By the way, parenthetically, there are no bike shops either. I’m talking Trek and Specialized not Harley. So I sprang for it. It’s not cheap, but then again I wanted to dive with a camera.
I bargained. You’re supposed to… and got $25 off. No problem. It turns out that the S100 has been replaced by the S110 for quite a while… How long? …long enough that today (August 22) I came across the announcement that the replacement S120 will be out in October. I knew of the S90 and it had been recommended to me highly by a professional photography friend a while ago. Well, to end the speculation, I paid just above retail for the package. The guy threw in a memory card and a case for the camera. Yeah, some bargain. But it meant that otherwise, no camera in the water. So it was worth the price. The battery needed two hours to charge, which was exactly the time I had until the dive.
I have since haunted the retail scene, malls, and shops for camera gear and stores. There aren’t any around. Well, there are some. But most people are not seriously into gear. By far and away, cellphones double as the family camera. My quest came about because I wanted (needed!!) and extra battery. The tiny one in the S100 gives out after about one and a half hours. Two dives without flash is about two hours.
I went to the big bookstore, Jarir. They sell everything. No batteries, it seems that anyone who buys a camera doesn’t need/buy extra batteries. I was sent to the Canon service center in Jeddah. Remember Jeddah is a city of 3 million people. Nope, they don’t have any, but they sent me to some of their retail outlets. No and no and no again, it was becoming an obsession to see just how impossible it would be to get a spare battery. I was next sent to an electronics mall. Around here stores of the same item tend to cluster. Hence, there is a computer mall… I found a store right away. All they carried was Nikon product. Then I found another Canon store with the big red logo at lit up and welcoming. So what if half the store sold travel luggage? Nope! There is a battery available in the Al Balud, the old city. It is a winding warren of tiny shops in the old section of the city. Finding the particular store is near to impossible, frankly, impossible.
So I give up. I will get the battery sent in from New York. There’s another fine trick. I have no listed address. In fact, as I peruse the internet, it appears that addresses in Jeddah are an afterthought. Many homes have no number. It’s just the street intersection. There is a company who will arrange an address in the USA to use as an originating address from which to send a package. I don’t need one. And then you have to get past Saudi customs, who will stop and frisk your package and even censor your magazine for offending pictures (of women they deem to be clothes inappropriately). What are my chances of getting camera equipment safely delivered?
Final thoughts… it was a surprise, not really, to find out that I got last years model. My bad, but I was in a tight spot and needed a replacement now not later. It turns out that this was the only setup I have seen in my travels through the camera retail stores of Jeddah. So I’m lucky to have found what I have. They think nothing of selling the old model as the latest, greatest. Bargaining, ha!… with myself or in my own mind. They really got me there. But in the end I did have a very nice dive experience and never missed a beat. I found that I had to learn to use a new camera and experiment on the fly. So that did take a little time and a few mistakes. But right now Julia says she didn’t seen any fall off. And unless you have absolutely no choice, it would seem that Jeddah is not the place to buy camera gear.
Oh? The camera, the Canon S100, it really works quite nicely. The underwater housing is smaller. And the images very good so far. It wants to shoot at shutter speeds too slow. The battery is too small. I could dive all day with the Canon G11.
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