Every few months I have to go into a “sports” clothing shop, push my way through terminally unathletic people in Russell Athletic sweat shirts, step around pot-bellied blokes in Nikes who are unlikely to “just do it” or (anything else) any time soon and ask that question, the question that will penetrate the cookie-cutter hip-hop being strained through the nasty in-store sound system and precipitate a Bateman-esque craning of necks and rounding of eyes:

“Are these running shoes?”

The answer is usually the one I received yesterday:

“No, those are cross-trainers”

My ritual response:

“Oh. I’d like to buy some running shoes. For running in.”

I am no great athlete and I am no great photographer, but my attitude to sports equipment and my attitude to photographic equipment are very similar. Well-chosen, cheap gear will cope with the capabilities of 99% of the enthusiastic amateur population. That Nikon camera body carved from pure nanotubular carbon will not change your mundane snapshots into anything other than massively expensive mundane snapshots; those air-filled soles are of no consequence if all you are going to do is hang out on a street corner, though they might make fleeing from a store detective slightly more comfortable.

Anyway, I rejected the various ribbed, semi-transparent, pumped beasties (with added TechnoBabble™!) for the next-to-cheapest Adidas pair because (after some tinkering) they fit well, support my feet in the important places and have a good system for adjusting the laces to differing tensions in different parts of the instep. I ran a bit faster this morning than I did in my old Nikes, but it’s probably a placebo effect. Or maybe it’s the three glittery stripes down the sides.

And if you want a wonderful 35mm SLR body, complete with a more-than-adequate lens, for the price of a poor digital, you could do worse than this one (under this name in US). What other technology can you get for under £250 these days? Under weird light conditions, using the fastest and grainiest of film, this near-bottom-of-the-range hardware still produces images like this. For the more ambitious, wanting greater flexibility, especially in taking pictures of human subjects, you could try this, rather more expensive, superzoom. (The purists consider it a crime against serious photography to use a lens like this, but any limitations in its optics are more than swamped by focusing and handling errors made by less-than-elite users—including most of the whining camera nerds.)

Don’t even get me started on gold-plated “low-oxygen copper” hi-fi interconnects.