Long ago — so long ago that it was legal to travel to Cuba — I was into Photography. Even though I was just a kid, I knew about f-stops, lenses, strobes, film speeds, and could pronounce the chemical names of the stuff you use in the darkroom to develop prints (and, for all I knew then, erode your fingerprints). My first camera was a Kodak "Brownie" or some such, and I couldn't wait 'til my dad brought me my long-awaited and wished-for birthday present, a 35mm film camera. I did, in fact, take this to Cuba on a trip with the parental units, and used my membership in the "I use 35mm film club" to pester mercilessly the professional photographers whenever I ran into one on family vacations. (It's a wonder I don't have a 35mm-camera-size indentation in my cranial unit.) Although the best cameras in those days were German — Leica, for example — the camera my dad brought me was a Kodak, and I cherished it for years until I eventually discovered I liked ham radio even more and that I never really looked at the photos that I could also just barely afford to have developed. (I still have the photos of pre-Castro Cuba. I'll scan them real soon now.)
My pretensions to Photography fell by the wayside. While I have always had a camera, I never claimed my "snapshots" were anything but. Other than using sodium thiosulfate for removing potassium permanganate* stains I don't recall ever needing it again. I would get a new camera every five or ten years, and for some reason never even thought of getting a Kodak. Everyone knew that the Japanese cameras were the things to have. (And Leicas were still hopelessly unaffordable, while the print in the used camera adverts was getting smaller by the day.)
Fast forward to the late '90s. At some point I used my Canon 35mmSLR to take my last film picture. I had a digital camera, too, but the film had much better quality. The digital (also a Canon) was for web stuff only. But when the film camera became physically infirm, I decided to replace it with a new digital since film was such a nuisance. I got a slightly better Canon digital, which could take a picture that would actually fill a computer screen!
Batteries, and the failure thereof, are a boon to the consumer industry. When the NiMH batteries for the camera started weakening, did I think about replacing them? No! Instead I decided it was time to succumb to the megapixel lure. I began "researching" a new digital camera purchase, which means I looked at the ads, the bizarre rebate offers, the free stuff, the deadlines, the zoom ratios, the pixelage, and the lists of useless features. When I felt I had done enough of this, I asked Pam, who is into Photography, what camera I should get. She told me "Get the Kodak DX6490," to which I replied, "Kodak? Kodak? Really?" She affirmed her suggestion, and so I did as she said. I am here to report that rarely have I been so pleased with a purchase! After decades of brainwashing about imported cameras, it never for an instant occurred to me that a Kodak consumer camera could be so good. I was so impressed at how sharp its images were that I would go into people's offices, point at a software box on a shelf, and say to them while they were sitting at their desk "Read the print on that box." When they couldn't, I would take a snapshot, use the mechanical zoom lens and the digital magnification beyond that, and read their software box from an even greater distance. The strobe light makes this difficult to use if you're a spy, but it's no impediment otherwise.
I could go on about its other features, but I don't quite remember what they are. All I know is that I love this camera, and it's made by Kodak. (Presumably it's actually made by one contractor and 200 subcontractors that Kodak has engaged, but it says Kodak.) Is it any better than the imports or is it an import itself? I don't know — I have learned to not agonize over consumer purchases. But when the battery starts to die, I may replace the battery instead of the camera. Now that's consumer loyalty!
*I don't think you are likely to have potassium permanganate stains around the house any more. It's somehow become a lot more dangerous a chemical than it was in those days, and I think you have to be an approved nation or some such to buy it.
Follow-up 02 August 2006
I was wrong - apparently Kodak did manufacture the camera. But now I'm right. According to today's Wall Street Journal, Kodak will be outsourcing the manufacture and some of the design of its cameras to Singapore-based Flextronics International Ltd.
Follow-up 13 September 2017 (How's that for diligence?)
I finally did have my Cuba photographs scanned. From this I learned that you shouldn't wait 60 years to convert physical media to a digital format, and, if you do, you should go someplace better than Costco to have the job done. Disappointing photos, disappointing conversion, no pictures of Castro or Batista, but I think I did capture a kapok field.