After I posted my review of the Minolta X-700, I realized that I had neglected to add the final frame I shot that day as I headed back up from the beach towards home. As I walked through the parking lot, I spied an old friend from my past; a Buick Reatta.

 Blast from my past: The Buick Reatta Coupe

Blast from my past: The Buick Reatta Coupe

For a decade beginning in 1989, I managed the in-house advertising department for an automobile dealer group in the the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.  One of the perks of the job was I got to drive a demonstrator or "demo" vehicle as we called them. Over the 10 years I worked for this company, I got to drive lots of different new cars. We had multiple franchises including Chrysler, Jeep, Subaru, Hyundai, Isuzu, Hummer, GMC, Pontiac and Buick. The demo policy was that you could select any vehicle you wanted, but as the odometer crept near 5,000 miles, the car had to be sold before you could get a new one. If it hit 5,500 miles, you had to park it until it did sell. I was always careful to choose vehicles I knew would easily sell before the 5,000 mile mark, selecting popular color and option packages and even offering a $100 "spiff" to the salesperson who sold my demo. V-8 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limiteds and Isuzu Troopers were always my favorites.

Shortly after I arrived at this company, Buick sent us our first Reattas. The Reatta was intended as Buick's "statement" vehicle. It was a low volume two seater built mostly by hand in the Reatta Craft Centre in Lansing, Michigan. The car came in either a hardtop or convertible and the most popular color was red with tan leather interior. 

Buick really tried to make the Reatta special. I remember that each one came with a leather book inscribed with the signatures of every GM employee who had worked on that car. Fit and finish was excellent, which was unusual in a time when GM's quality control on other models was suspect.

Other than hand assembly and more attention to quality, there was nothing special about the Reatta. Power came from Buick's 3800 V-6 engine which was also being dropped into most of their vehicles including Century, Regal, Riviera and even the big Park Avenue.

As soon as the first Reattas rolled off the transports in Scottsdale, the owner of our company selected a red convertible as a demo and drove it for a few weeks before deciding that it was a no go fitting his two Golden Retrievers and himself in the little two seater. His office was across the hall from mine and one day he walked in and asked if I wanted to take over his demo. Of course I did!

I remember the Reatta as being a tame, pleasant and very comfortable car to drive...pretty much like a Riviera that had been left in the dryer too long. The 3800 engine had more than enough power for the little car. Visibility was good, seats were comfortable and it was fun dropping the top after work and piloting the car through Echo Canyon on the way home each night.

 The Reatta only lasted a few years and was considered a failure at Buick. The assembly process pushed convertible prices well over $30,000 and that was a lot of money for a car in the early 90s, especially one this impractical. Production ceased while we still had new Reattas on the sales floor.

The old Buick I snapped with my X-700 has been well taken care of. I hadn't thought about the Reatta in years. It was a nice memory.


iPhone Camera Degradation

I hope you will indulge me as I go off on a bit of a rant.

I bought my iPhone 5s in the fall of 2013 for $199. I got it to replace an older iPhone that I placed on the roof of my car while talking to an associate in the parking lot at work and, like an idiot, drove off without remembering that I had left it up there. That old iPhone clung to the roof of my car with all its might until I swung onto the freeway on ramp. That's when I heard the clunk as the Apple phone bounced once onto the trunk lid then spilled its guts across the highway.

If it weren't for the iPhone's excellent camera and the ease of which I can shoot a picture with it and have that image seamlessly and immediately available on my MacBook, I wouldn't have one. I rarely use it as a phone. Since new, I have just over 5 hours of total talk time on it. Looking at my monthly bill, I average about 22 text messages a month. Most of them were unnecessary and any situation addressed in them would have self-resolved.

Co-worker:  "The meeting is starting, Where are you?"

Me:  "Coming down the hall. Be there in 10 seconds."

I have the most minimal data plan my carrier allows and my monthly usage hovers a fraction over 0%. I think that is the amount needed for the phone to keep its heart beating since I have cellular data turned off everywhere I can. I have just one app installed for my bank and only use that when I have access to a trusted wi-fi connection and then only a few times a year.

I treated myself to a late model used car last month to replace the 13 year old one I had been driving. The new car has navigation and Sirius XM, so I don't need the iPhone to tell me where I'm going or provide music during my commute. When I'm home, I prefer quiet or listening to a great old vinyl record on my Technics turntable, McIntosh amp and Klipsch Heresy speakers (all three of which are nearing 50 years old and working just fine).

Most of what I use my smartphone for is taking pictures of old cameras for this blog and for the various analog photography Facebook groups I'm a member of. I love the way I can take a photo and immediately crop it and drop it into a blog post I'm writing or drag it into a Facebook post. But over the nearly five years I have owned this phone, I've noticed the quality of the images it produces are slowly getting milky. There's also a very apparent loss of sharpness. Here is an unprocessed photo from the first week I got the iPhone 5s.


Here's another from about 8 months later with just a bit of vignetting added post process.


And here are two recent images taken with my 5s.


All of these photos were taken in the same physical location, on my kitchen counter near a big window facing east. I place the cameras on a large white cutting board. There's a big fluorescent light overhead that mixes with natural light coming in through the window. Not a totally controlled environment, but consistent enough to prove that something is going downhill with the iPhone's camera.

When I was at the Apple Store a few weeks back laying down some serious cash to replace a stolen MacBook, I asked about my phone. The very helpful young woman who patiently assisted me with my laptop smiled when she saw my generations ago 5s, suggesting that it might be time for an upgrade. A nearby Genius looked at my camera's lens and noticed it had a bit of crazing on it. He said this happens with constant use and carrying it around in pants pockets or scraping it across a table in a restaurant. I told him that I hardly use my phone, rarely carry it, that it has never been in my pocket or even on a restaurant table. I told him that for most of its life, my phone has slept in the comfort of a felt pocket in my laptop bag. He shrugged his shoulders.

It appears my little Apple camera is dying and I must do something about it. If the whole phone were failing it would be easier to justify the expense of a new one, but for the few minutes I talk on it or for the small number of text messages I engage in, everything else on it works just fine. And other than the camera lens, it looks brand new.

The cheapest iPhone, the SE, is like three and half bills. Move up to any of the current models and you're paying a lot more. Even that would be ok if these things lasted. Used to be if you bought something and took good care of it, the thing would serve you well for a long time. Not so with today's devices. They are truly disposable.

It may sound like it, but I'm really not a luddite. You should see the technology I am harnessed to at work. I'm not cheap either. I have no problem spending serious cash on a Leica Summicron because I know it will last me a lifetime and if I decide to sell it down the road, I'll get my money back and usually more.

I wish Apple made just a simple digital camera I could tether to my iCloud account, but they don't.

I might look and see if there are some digital point and shoots with wi-fi capability, even though that adds several steps to my workflow.

Or maybe I should consider how many images I have gotten out of my $199 investment, hustle my butt down to the Apple Store and just pony up.

End rant. :-)