In June, we packed our bags to go on a holiday to Tasmania. It was the first holiday I’ve had in quite some time.
The idea came from Twitter, actually. I had heard that Antony and the Johnsons were playing in Hobart.
They are a quiet, intimate band; not the kind of thing you see at a regular mud ‘n’ guts festival. They hardly ever tour, and (as far as I know) had never come to Brisbane.
So naturally, I bought tickets first, like an impulsive child, and only then worked out why they were playing in Tassie.
Turns out, it was for a thing called Dark Mofo.
I read that piece and thought “there’s an interesting place I have to get to at some point.” Then I forgot about it.
Dark Mofo reminded me.
So, what the hell is Dark Mofo? Well, for about ten days, Hobart (and other bits of Tassie) host events, public art displays, music, film, feasts and parties with a gothic, dark, kinda vibe.
It’s ostensibly a license for Hobart –a city that strikes me as incredibly generous and nice– to cast off the button-down image and just get a bit fucking weird for about a week and a half.
This is a camera review.
About a fortnight before I left, I asked Pete if he knew anyone from Sony who was willing to lend me a nice camera to take with me. “I will probably take great pictures with it!” I pleaded.
He did, and they did. So I ended up with 2 cameras for duration of the trip. My iPhone 6 in my front right pocket, and a Sony RX 100 Mark 3 in my left pocket.
It costs about nine hundred bucks, so it’s a Serious Camera.
Here are some obligatory photos of the camera before I left.
I would describe it a dark, solid, metallic obelisk of a camera. Reassuringly hefty.
The most surprising thing about were the extendable bits — the screen, the viewfinder, the flash.
I started thinking of it like an Inspector Gadget of cameras; a telescoping dingus protruding from every surface.
So we got to Hobart, and I promptly started snapping away like any good tourist does.
Look at my coffee.
Gaze upon the wonder that is my obligatory holiday food.
Bow before the macro photography that I have excelled at, using the full capabilities of a camera I borrowed and then set to full-auto. What an arsehole.
The second night we were in Hobart, I managed to convince Jean to go to a thing called the Blacklist, the first Dark Mofo event we went to, set in what I was told is the City Hall. The promo picture was thus:
It turned out to be a dance party, of sorts. DJs were spinning rockabilly and sixties swing. A large screen replayed a person obsessively applying spreads to pieces of toast.
A scantily-clad man did an interpretive dance around a large reflective ball. I don’t know why.
This was not the last scantily-clad man we encountered on this trip. Not by a long shot.
There was also a large tree of sorts; a sculpture made of plastic and foil containing visages of men, animals, furniture.
Dildos were scattered in the maquette, like little christmas baubles on a tree.
There were also what we coined “the terry towel people”, a pack of fanged and creepish folks wandering purposefully around in bathroom robes, seemingly oblivious to the party. Occasionally they’d stop and sway to the music. I think they were enjoying themselves; it was hard to tell.
Anyway, I drank a Negroni (after buying it, it occurred to me I hate Negronis, but always forget the specifics of the drink until it’s too late) and we watched the night unfold.
Oh yeah, I forgot to take the Sony camera to this event. Anyway.
The next day, we left to head west.
Here’s a landscape. It’s nothing to you, but this was the view from a bridge as we were leaving Hobart in our white cheery hire Camry, destination Strahan (rhymes with spawn).
I had something I wanted to say about this camera’s shutter button. It’s wobbly. I noticed that while I was looking over the boats in the Strahan harbour.
I would rub my finger over and sort of jiggle it when I had it in my coat pocket. It seemed an odd oversight to me on a camera that was otherwise really precisely crafted.
One thing I did like was that the battery could be charged while inside the camera. I packed a micro-USB cable, and so it was charged off my iPhone’s charger every couple of days. Easy.
Strahan is picturesque, but there’s nothing really to do there. We kicked around the graveyard (I get some kind of historical kick from graveyards) and then we were off to Cradle Mountain, for a 2 day event called Wild At Heart.
I had heard Wild at Heart described vaguely as a ‘hotel experience’. Basically, they’d let a bunch of artists loose in a nice hotel, and they curate your whole stay. So for 2 days, you get a little bit of luxury, and a lot of weirdness.
Apparently there was someone there from Vice, they did a good job of describing the mechanics of the two days. However, I don’t think they did a good job describing the vibe.
When you got there, a pair of scout uniformed camp guides insistently hugged you, told you not to go outside without a torch, and reassured you that the mouse-masked people you saw in the hotel were just fine, just fine indeed.
The rooms had a tent over the top of them, and there were crackling fires on the LCD TVs.
If you switched channels, you could watch animal documentaries, or a live cam of… nature? I think it was nature. It was hard to tell.
Later that night we ate in a big hall, set out like a campground, with spindly wiry trees.
We had wallaby stew and salmon and shitaake mushroom skewers, then flame-throwered s’mores. There was music, and we drank red wine from steel camp mugs, and we met a bunch of nice people.
There was also an art opening, and a guy called Ash Keating painted a bunch of canvases which were reminiscent of the surrounding nature. The grey fog. The calm mountainous horizons. Grey gradients of varying tones. It was good.
Oh yeah, Bob Brown was there. I don’t know much about Bob, but he said the work was “striking”, and I thought he seemed like an alright guy.
There was also a guy there with a white beard accompanying an Alpaca called Zeta. Amongst the wine, and the drinks, and the campground, the music and roast-marshmallows-on-sticks, this seemed an entirely normal event which merited no further explanation.
Later that night we went back to the hotel and played Jenga in a tent, pitched inside a fancy hotel with a bunch of relative strangers. Jenga is a great collective event to get to know strangers.
I nearly lost the camera in the tent actually. One thing about losing your phone; you probably won’t. But a separate camera? I don’t mind telling you, dear reader that I damn near forgot about it until we had to hit the hay. Or bed-tent.
The next night, the venue changed to a different location, and the theme changed to what I would describe as “nature and rituals and eating animals and crazy shit”.
A wood paneled bar was open, and Negronis with bloodworms in the ice were served. Fuck, another Negroni.
There was a ritual opening with altars, a chanted invocation and a song. Everyone downed a glass shot of beetroot juice and blood. I read the Vice article later and he described it as “tasting like a nosebleed.” I think that’s accurate.
There was a wild, decadent feast of hunted animals. A cockatrice was the serving table centrepiece, a ghastly whimiscal frankenstein of roasted animals stitched together.
Later that night, there was a dessert that involved a naked woman on stage being slowly covered with caramel sauce, tipped by a robed acolyte behind her. You would walk up, hold out your bowl of ice-cream. She would hold her arms aloft, and drip, drip, drip, caramel topping onto your bowl of ice cream.
No camera allowed at that one, I’m afraid.
There were other things, like a naked guy (save for an animal-hair merkin tied to his junk) with antlers performing a bawdy burlesque show in a log-cabin pub, before finishing up by rolling himself a cigarette, throwing a leather jacket over his shoulder and smoking it outside (still naked, and yep, still Tasmania in June).
We all wound down the evening with more drinks, and a few more oddities (I have now watched two men have a deer buck fight with their faux-horns on a table dressed, resplendent in their full-body fishnets and dark eye makeup).
This is a camera review.
When we got back to Hobart, we went to Mona (of course).
I won’t bore you with the minutia of that, except to say that Marina Abramovic’s exhibition was quite good.
There’s a segment in the exhibition (Private Archeology) where you ditch all your stuff into a locker, put on a pair of industrial strength ear muffs and a white lab coat.
An attendant then leads you gently into a large room, with a large table running down the centre. Dozens of other museum goers are quietly seated there too.
You are seated, a large scoop of rice and dried lentils is placed in front of you and a pencil and paper. You are encouraged to count the rice, and lentils. Or really, do whatever you like.
The owner of Mona is an interesting bloke called David Walsh, who earned the money to build MONA through gambling. Here he is (with his wife) in the background of this photo. I found him in this photo days later.
Here’s his carpark at Mona.
I bought his memoirs in the gift shop and read it on the plane back.
It made me want to learn a bit more about gambling, and a lot more about art. So it was probably good for me as a whole.
There was so much to see as a part of Dark Mofo.
We saw Antony and the Johnsons, and I’m not afraid to say that I shed a little tear when I heard her play “Hope There’s Someone” as the final song.
That’s one of my favourite songs.
We saw the Fire Organ, where a guy plays a piano and sounds are approximated by a huge structure of pipes and fire burners.
We saw the Bass Bath, where eight 2400 horsepower sub-woofers pound your body in a big shed for a few minutes. That was great.
We also did the nude swim on the final day. It was zero in the air, and eleven degrees in the water. It was very cold, even when set to a yackity-sax knockoff.
So, the camera.
I think the real question you have to consider with a separate camera in 2015 is: how different is it going to be to your phone’s camera? A lot different? Or just a little different?
I went out of my way to compare photos from both sources, and I think the major thing that was different, and that kept me going back to the Sony camera was selfies. I am not joking about that. Selfies.
With a phone, selfies are either badly framed, or rubbish quality. With a camera that has a swiveling screen like the Sony, you can flip the screen up and get a really nice photo of yourself. Let’s be real: we are all nostalgics and narcissists at heart, and therefore those are the pictures you’ll look back on fondly.
The other big thing is macro. A photo lens simply can’t do macro photography like a big honkin’ lens can. Consider the following two images.
Sony RX100 Mk III:
The Sony is clearly a better photo. Even with my tin eye.
So, I think the Sony RX 100 III is a very good camera. It’s solidly built, the photos look great, the modes on the dial make sense, and even the camera-to-smartphone wifi is tolerable (once you get the hang of it).
Battery life is good, the flash is fine. The periscoping viewfinder is a novelty — which is a damn shame, because I wanted to love it.
I can’t really fault it. But the question is: would I miss this camera if I didn’t have it? Ultimately, no. I think I would have just reached for my phone more.
Perhaps if you’re traveling around, buying a proper camera is a good way to subtly signal “I Am Not A Cameraphone Jerk, I Am Just A Person From Out Of Town.” Then you can take photos and get a bit more leeway with acting like a dork.
Also, you have the advantage of leaving your precious smartphone battery to other useful tasks, like maps and working out what location review app thing is best in this town (in Hobart it is TripAdvisor, no question).
Anyway, here where I land. This is a very nice camera (for around $900 it better be), and if you want a dedicated device for this task, I would recommend it very highly.
If you have an iPhone 6, there will be a few times you will notice a significant difference in photo quality, but they will be few and far between. Those two times will be selfies, and macro (so if you are an Instagram fiend, this is a compelling argument).
Either way, go to Dark Mofo next year. If you get one thing out of this camera review, that is my expert advice.
Get to Hobart during Dark Mofo and get weird.