7.28.2012

Staying ahead and getting behind. Why the current gear buying model is bad for individual businesses.

Shot, pre-digital, with an old 35mm camera 
and some film.

Lordy. We all love our cameras. As long as they're brand new. I'm stunned at how often I hear (and say) stuff like, "I'm waiting for the new XXXXXX camera.  I just sold all my YYYYYY stuff and I'm switching over as soon as it comes out."  Boy oh boy! Are we ever great shills for the camera industry? (I am pointing my finger at myself and every photo blogger out there who consistently reviews all manner of digital cameras...).  Remember back when camera companies had to do their own advertising?

There's an old saying in political advertising.  It started with Karl Rove. It goes something like this:  "If you lie about something consistently and persistently it becomes, in the minds of the masses, the truth."  From the dawn of digital cameras there's been a mantra that grows each year in intensity and scope.  It says, "The newest technology is the best technology.  You must own it and use it if you want to remain competitive."  For the amateur the mantra is the same but ends with, "....if you want to live up to your artistic potential."

The last ten years has been somewhat of a revolution in the world of buying and selling cameras. With the ubiquitous nature of the web, the ease of blogging, the cult of photographic personalities and the magic of affiliate advertising programs (the 800 pound invisible carrot in the room) we've turned a quasi-logical process (evaluating and purchasing cameras for our hobbies and businesses) into a frenzied entertainment process.  Bored with your subject? Buy the latest camera. Too lazy to learn good technique? Buy the latest camera. Too scared to get out and show your portfolio? Stay in, buy a new camera and push some stuff out onto the web. But by all means, get a new camera.

We've all done it so often we've all come to believe it.  I've owned more different cameras in the last ten years than I owned in the previous (and very, very busy) twenty years. Probably by a factor of two.  And the tragic thing for me is that while I've "mastered" the process of discerning which cameras have the highest coolness quotient I've produced the least amount of really good work.  When your focus shifts from the art to the tools it's an inevitable consequence. I spend way too much time reading the goo on the web about cameras now than I do actually using them or getting myself into the right position to use them.

At this point two or three commenters usually rush in to tell me that they are the resolute masters of their impulses and that I don't have to look.  Let's not be so literal.  While I'm writing from my own experience I am using myself as a foil to discuss something that I think is very, very wide spread. People are becoming convinced that a constant churning of cameras is part of the photography business because that's what they hear at every popular portal.  Hobbyists are convinced that the success of the current "hot on the web" photographer is the result of the new camera he or she is touting. (Of course the logical assumption should be..."If they are such good and successful photographers why the hell are they wasting hours and hours a week on the web talking about photography equipment instead of spending their time making art?" I don't buy the "I love to teach so much I'm more than happy to walk away from hundreds of thousands of dollars of assignment revenue from world class clients, shooting the things I love to come to this mildewy general purpose room at the Red Lion Inn here in Des Moines in order to help middle age professional IT people get more out of every shutter snap.  It's my life's calling."  You've got to call "bullshit" on that).

It's worse for the professionals who think their lives depend on getting their hands onto the latest Nikon and Canon offerings, even though the cameras in their hands have been satisfying good clients for a year or more.  The majority of the time photographers are getting zero push back from clients on which camera they bring to bear.  It just doesn't make a discernible difference in most situations.  Very few projects ever hinge on the "per pixel sharpness at 100%" which is a goofy way to look at most imaging. 

But it can be highly detrimental to the financial health of their businesses because they lose money with every trade. They divert money that could desperately be used to do more marketing and advertising into equipment that merely duplicates the performance they already had in hand while perhaps adding 3 to 5% more of something vaguely worthwhile.  A slightly faster focusing system for the still life photographer, more art filters for the corporate shooter who will never use the filters....

But here we are. I have a friend who is an amateur photographer.  Three years ago the Nikon D3 was his "everything" camera.  The camera he dreamed of owning.  That was until the D3x came out and then the D3x was his everything-I-ever-wanted camera. The new camera of his dreams.  When we talked a few months ago I asked him how he liked his D3x.  His quote, "I could be happy with this camera for the next ten years. It's that good."  And now, last month?  "I've got to get my hands on a D800. Do you know anyone who's got them in stock?"  

The amazing thing to me is the way Olympus has managed to steal and transform the process yet again with their EM-5 camera. I've talked to otherwise rational people who bought Canon 5D3's and Nikon D800's who've turned around and added a OMD as, "Their walking around camera." They are not necessarily abandoning their traditional cameras as much as they are adding to the inventory.  And once you buy a OMD camera how can you bear not to have the 45mm 1.8 and the Leica 25 and the Panasonic 14, etc, etc? Now the second, smaller system is almost mandatory.  

And then, of course, you also have to have your state of the art pants pocket companion camera to stick into your skinny leg jean's pocket.  The start of the moment?  That would be the Sony RX-100.  For those times when the micro four thirds camera is just too big...  And the cost is the same as 1,000 big post card mailers with postage...

In days of old we would have settled on a system and nursed it for a decade but now we're convinced it can't be that way.  To not move forward would be too painful to our own imagined process.  Amazing. The bottom line is that the churn rate barely allows us to get to know our cameras as tools, much less develop a sense of mastery about them.  

But you know what I say......"Be sure to use our Amazon links!!!!"  right.

Note:  Comments are now open to everyone. But they are being moderated. If I don't like em I chuck em.  If you think that's not fair get your own soapbox.



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70 comments:

christian said...

Well, you are absolutely correct. For thirty plus years I did perfectly fine with my Yashica FX-3 camera bodies and Zeiss lenses, but during the last seven years I have gone through three digital cameras.

Chris said...

Technically, the Big Lie goes back further to someone who could be labelled as way more sinister than Karl Rove:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Lie

And yes, Godwin's law.

D&E Photography said...

Lol... sure I read this just after coming back from the local camera store with a D3200, but then again.... maybe that's a good example of a minimalist approach. As a portrait shooter I *could* have spent over $1,000 on an OMD, D7000 or a Sony 12 fps machine gun, but the D3200 checks all the boxes (ISO 100, good raw support, microphone jack, works with my 80-200mm). The age of lenses with disposable cameras is in high gear.

wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) said...

Ha! Here I sit with my OM-2N - and I still wouldn't probably get a photo of Renae as good as yours...

ODL Designs said...

:) I am at a constant battle with myself, which I am actually getting better at falling on the side of "I dont need the VL 17.5mm f0.95" to replace my MZ 17mm f2.8... Why, because I dont.

I recently deleted all my images from DPR, changed my password to an open palm on the keyboard so logging in isn't an option, and now visit 500px from time to time for a refreshing view of work, and only work. Sometimes I am lucky enough to see the exif, where I am rewarded with a D90, 5D (MK1), D2x ad a host of other obsolete cameras.

Blogs like yours remind me that the gear is nothing, and while I fetish about paper and pencils (as I was originally in art before design) it is healthier :)

Thanks for another great read!

neil said...

My first DSLR was a Canon D30 (not a 30D) which I used to photograph my daughters figure skating. It had 3.1 MPx sensor and I had a 10% to 20% success rate (shooting figure skating in dark amateur rinks) because of the slow autofocus. But I was ecstatic to get those shots.
I do not regret my upgrade to a 20D, or the upgrade to a 1D Mark IIn, or the upgrade to the 1DS Mark II. In every upgrade, either my image quality improved dramatically or my success rate improved dramatically, or both.
I absolutely agree that a better camera will not make you a better photographer.
However, if I was still using that D30, I would have missed capturing some of the best moments of my daughters skating lives because it simply could not deliver the same level of performance.

Anonymous said...

The mantra probably made sense back in the early days when the jump in performance from one generation of a model to the next was significant, like going from 2 megapixels to 4. Going from 12 to 16 or from 18 to 20 is nowhere near as big a jump.

BUT in my experience expectations do rise over time. Your clients may not notice the jump from last year's camera to this year's, nor expect it, but I think part of that is simply that it takes some time for them to see what can now be done. Photos with the "latest and greatest" have to start crossing their desks and once they see it they do start to expect it. It will happen, but not the day the new body hits the store shelves or even a month later. Sooner or later the expectations of others will become a driver for upgrading even if your own expectations are not.

My other comment is that I think the comparison to the longevity of film bodies is mistaken in one important aspect. If you wanted more performance back in the film days you either went to a larger format or you changed your film and development. With digital, a new sensor is partly a format upgrade and partly a film upgrade. More megapixels/increased resolution has some of the aspects of moving to a larger format. Improvements in things like dynamic range and low light performance are more like changing film. With a film body you could run with it until it died or you needed a different film size, and get improvements at regular intervals by adopting a new film formulation. With digital, if you want to get the kind of improvements that came with new film you have to change the sensor and no one makes cameras with replaceable sensors unless you go up to medium format with the various digital backs. I wonder how the cost comparison would go if we compared a new camera body to the cost of a years worth of film in the old days, or 2 years or however long your body replacement cycle is. If a body costs $1000, then that translates to something less around $4 a day for a year based on 5 days a week usage and a couple of weeks off during the year. Would your film costs be less than $4 a day if you were shooting film?

OK, I know we need to factor in a longer replacement cycle for the film body, and batteries and battery recharging costs for the digital, but I still think the costs on a day to day basis would still favour digital and regular body upgrades. The fact that you pay for the body in one hit vs paying for film in instalments over the time you use your film camera does have a psychological impact that favours film.

David.

everchangingperspective.com said...

I agree with you Kirk. I have been reading your blog daily since I find that you and I have both been floundering in the same way. I'm tired of chasing the gear down the rabbit hole and would like to get past that. I'm really looking forward to learning where you go with it and this blog ... but I'm not at all interested in portrait, studio photography. I don't have such a niche.

stefano60 said...

amen to that; i wasted more money (and time) chasing after all the latest and greatest cameras in the last few years than i care to admit. i am done. sold all the new gadgets (not the film cameras), bought the m8 back and it will be my only digital camera now for a long foreseeable future (it goes great with the other film RFs).
lenses are a different story unfortunately, we are never done with those, but i am focusing mainly on old glass now, so i can justify to myself that 'it not that expensive' ... it is an 'investment' .... 'cameras go, lenses stay' ...).

Peter B said...

The big lie predates Rove by more than half a century. Hitler was the first one to use the expression in Mein Kampf with a slightly different meaning. A bit later Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, used the expression pretty much the way you describe it and attribute to Rove. A Google search with "Hitler Big Lie" will get you to the relevant Wikipedia article.

kirk tuck said...

David, the flaw in your argument is that professional photographers MADE money when shooting film by charging a mark up on film and processing. Every roll we shot didn't cost us money, it made us additional money. Ditto with Polaroid. No one is replacing that income when it comes to digital. Or very few. And clients don't get why they must pay for post processing now that all digital files are "free."

I would also disagree that clients notice incremental increases in IQ. My experience tells me that they only notice big jumps and only when it's relative to solving one of their technical issues which might include the need for something like a large tradeshow graphic that people can walk right up to.

kirk tuck said...

I'm just about to start the process of getting rid of all the duplications and all the things that keep me from running this business like smart business. Good bye film cameras, small cameras, eccentric cameras, and a small forest of neat tripods that I never end up using. Look for a big sale. Coming soon....

Claire said...

Kirk, as you can see that type of post always attract the most comments, because deep down, we ALL love, and lust for, gear.
I was guilty of it myself not later than today. And it's not even a valid excuse to say I went for legacy glass, a gadget (CCTV 35/1.7) and an already outdated/discounted body (G3). It's Gear Acquisition Syndrom all the same, albeit reasonably controlled.
I see the gear frenzy two fold. Firt, there are legions of poor, unskilled, but worse, untalented people, who try to BUY their way into making better pictures. Those are lost for good. Then, (and I really hope to belong to the second group) there are the decently capable photogs who just yearn for the new, sexy stuff, because we live in a consumerist society and that marketing is pushed within our BRAINS by high tech companies. We can't really fight. For me, the important thing is not to control this urge but rather identify and understand it. Feeling compelled to get the O-MD to make better pictures is kinda pathetic. Wanting to get one because it looks fun to use is a minor sin. As long as gear lust DOES propell once's photography forward by making one wanting to go out and shoot more, then the goal is-at least partially- reached.

Jan Klier said...

Read this post earlier, didn't have much to say. Then I read the following paragraph over on TOP, and I thought this pretty much summed it up:

"In a comparison test in front of a blind panel of film experts that included "Godfather" director Francis Ford Coppola, the lowly Panasonic GH2 came out on top—besting a battery of expensive bespoke movie cameras that included the Sony F65, Red Epic, Canon C300 and Arri Alexa.

The occasion was Zacuto's "Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout 2012." As the EOSHD blog concluded, "For digital theatre screenings in 2k or 1080p, extremely high end cameras simply don’t look that much different to the lower end ones. It is therefore the lighting and the skill behind the camera that makes a larger percentage of the difference."

Folks don't even have to do the dreaded marketing. Just keep your camera, go and shoot something, and get better at your technique. After all it's what you bring to the table that folks hire you for, not what the camera brings to the table. Otherwise the client could just buy the camera and be done.

Roger Alison said...

Kirk, I'm fairly certain you will regret it if you sell the Hasselblad and 150mm lens.
You need that to produce your art.
You ought to separate the art from the business.
Both are important.

Don't waste time that could be spent working trying to get digital to produce what you get easily from the Hasselblad and a few rolls of BW film.


The above sounds as if I'm a "film is best" nut - I'm not - I personally find it far easier to get the BW results I want with a 5D2 and the same three prime lenses that I've owned for over 10 years than I ever did with film.

kirk tuck said...

Yes, Yes, Yes.

Ero said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Van Antwerp said...

I think one reason that many of the folks I know have switched from DSLRs to u4/3 systems is the sheer bulk. We shoot mostly underwater and travel to far away places (Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Philippines etc.) and overweight baggage fees have gotten absurd. On a recent trip to Indonesia, we had to pay $220 extra for each flight in country so we are always trying to save weight. Moving from a Canon 7D to an OMD system could save us about $130 of that $220 each way and so far at least the OM-D files look pretty much as nice as the 7D stuff. In any case, love the blog and couldn't agree more with the sentiment that we need to look at gear a lot less (and the UW guys are way worse than most land-based photographers) and shoot more.

Andy B said...

No way you're gonna make me feel guilty for picking up an A57 this week to go along with my A700. In fact, your blog helped talk me into it! And I love it!

Craig Yuill said...

I can understand wanting to simplify equipment inventory and maximizing usage to control costs. That seems to be sensible from a business perspective. Are you going to get rid of ALL film cameras, even the Hasselblads? Or will you just stop using them for professional work? It was only a few months ago that you waxed eloquently about how you felt most satisfied when using those cameras.

Good luck with the upcoming equipment cull.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, so what you're saying is that you effectively used to disguise part of the bill for your time by marking up the cost of film and processing. The situation hasn't changed. You needed to present a bill sufficient to cover your costs and deliver a viable income stream, and you needed to present that total bill in a way the client could accept. That's what you still need to do. Just because you can't use the same billing strategies to do that shouldn't mean that you lower the total amount you're billing. The fly in the ointment is not that you can no longer charge a markup, it's that you haven't found a way to charge the total amount you'd like to charge because you haven't discovered a substitute for the markup. Previously you were creative behind the camera, in the darkroom, and in your billing practices. Now it seems you're only being creative in the first 2 of those things. I think you need to rediscover that lost accounting creativity.

Also I never said that clients notice incremental increases in IQ. I said that they notice what others are doing and that includes how their competitors are using photography. As new technology gets used, and the results become visible, people become more aware of what now can be done and start to expect it. They may not notice the difference in IQ between the latest iteration of your cameras and the previous iteration because that is a small jump. Make it the difference between the latest iteration and the one 2 or 3 generations ago and the jump is bigger and that's when it becomes noticeable. My point was that expectations do rise over time, and they tend to rise not because people are necessarily more aware of what the latest generation of cameras can do but because they see what others are doing with images. If a competitor makes a hit by exploiting the IQ of the latest camera to create a large graphic for a trade show, they are going to want to do that at their own next trade show, and they may well want to do it a little better than the competition did at this show. Clients don't have to notice incremental advances in IQ from one camera to another, they just have to notice what their competition is doing with images and want to match or surpass that in order to stop the competition stealing the audience they're trying to market to. Expectations rise for one reason or another as technology allows photography to deliver more. Last year's gear is probably good enough for a lot of work but gear that's 2 or 3 years old may no longer be good enough for that work. Gear that's 5 years old may well not be good enough. Expectations will drive equipment upgrades sooner or later which was my point. I wasn't saying that it would drive them so hard that you needed to upgrade equipment with every new version of your gear that is released.

Bat54 said...

Per Roger:"Kirk, I'm fairly certain you will regret it if you sell the Hasselblad and 150mm lens. "
I have to agree on this one. Putting those two portraits of Amy side by side on my monitor (I can just imagine the prints!)just screams "Kirk, don't get rid of the Hassy/150!!!"
I had that combination before I sold it to get into digital. No regrets going to digital, but wish I still owned the Hassy/150 if only for the occasional portrait session. It was wonderful.

Bold Photography said...

At least, don't sell the lenses- (unless, of course, you sell them to me.. :-)) ).... I'm not much into rumor mills --- but there is one on the horizon that claims that Hasselblad will release a mirrorless system:: http://www.mirrorlessrumors.com/hasselblad-with-big-announcement-on-spetember-18th-it-is-the-almost-medium-format-mirrorless-camera/

kirk tuck said...

Right. rediscover accounting creativity. It wasn't "creativity" is was industry standard practice, acknowledged by clients and photographers and magazines alike. You can try to charge for anything you want my point was in contention to your idea that we were losing money by shooting film. Just not true. And no one had to hide anything or be sneaky about it. In the old days even clients understood the value of keeping their good suppliers in business.

I also disagree with you contention that clients somehow see something get better within the context of consumer cameras. The jump from a Canon 5Dmk2 to a Hasselblad 60, yes. To a D800? Dream world.

kirk tuck said...

The Hasselblads aren't film cameras...they are magic cameras. I'll keep them.

kirk tuck said...

Love the a57. I wouldn't dream of making you feel guilty for that. Now, when you pick up the a57.5 next month we'll talk...

kirk tuck said...

Clarification: Keeping the Hasselblad stuff. Really. All the lesser gear (except the Sony's) must go.

Zac said...

Another convert to the a57 here, and I've had gear lust for months! However, I kept my previous camera for 7 years. Seeing the files that the a57 puts out, how much time I am saved in post processing because of their file quality, and the accessibity of important functions such as white balancing and ISO changes has made me want to strive to match my capabilities to those improvements and I think I'm making better photos because of it. Some friends (I'm not a pro) have already commented on the difference of my photos with only 3 days use. Sometimes an upgrade can offer a clear benefit and I believe in picking what meets all your perceived needs the first time around and sticking with it for a while.

I have read photo blogs all over the web for these several months and I must say that now that I have a new camera in hand that meets my needs, your blog is the only one I intend to follow for the long term. You post so much about inspiration, the process of art, and your own personal feelings of how to make art that it is a breath of fresh air accompanied by fantastic images. To steal another commenters term, it's the "measurebators" that are really dragging this whole art into nothing more than a technical exercise. We need to let the images speak for themselves without huge concern over the exif data indicating the latest camera or how many lines of resolution can be resolved on a test card.

Please keep posting your wonderful images and thanks again for all you write on this blog!

Govis said...

So photographers didn't, for instance, own a Hasselblad or Mamiya system, Nikon F4s and N8008s, and they didn't complement them with Olympus XAs or Stylus Epics or Yashica T4s back in the film days?

Govis said...

Then I suggest the industry develop a practice for charging for post processing. The fact that photographers used to make money shooting film seems to indicate that they had a pricing power that they have lost- especially considering the incentive that this would create for the photographer to be liberal in his or her use of film as the more he or she shot, the better.

Libby said...

"But it can be highly detrimental to the financial health of their businesses because they lose money with every trade. "

Ain't that the truth. I know a few whose entire "biz" was put on the Visa of MC and they're still paying. That's insane.

I love my cameras and I'll probably never stop but I have works bags and "fun bags". Except that these days I don't know quite where to put the m4/3 because I've started to use it for some basic product shooting for web. Nice manageable files and the quality is there. Quite a conundrum.

Hey let me know if you are dumping the Kodaks. I'd be interested.

MichaelT said...

In reading this blog post I found myself thinking that one could easily substitute "camera" for "computer" or "notebook" or "smartphone" or now "tablet" or even "car". The one industry that has fine tuned its ability is advertising. While it may have been invented in the US it is now global. Perhaps Kirk what you, and other commenters, as well as many untold number of readers who have not commented is that we are now, dare I say post the "great recession" here in the US, thinking a little differently about the way we use and consume those devices that either propel us professionally or as amateurs (and I go back to the original meaning "for the love of")? It is easy to get caught up in all that is "new" (and even easier since the invention of the "world wide web" and accelerated by social media) since we are exposed to it from childhood and now it has become generational so it takes concerted and thoughtful effort to get off the bandwagon!

cidereye said...

I was only considering the above a few days ago myself and pondering on the question "Has the internet ultimately been positive for photography?"

Sure, in general I feel it has on the whole but there are so many aspects that IMHO have taken photography back years. You highlighted the main one Kirk - The upgrade/buy new mantra that far too many sites & blogs promote over good technique and style. Then the old childish argument of digital v film when all that really matters is the photograph. They just seem to be the two most perpetuated mantras on the www when it comes to photography and it's getting dull.Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Get out and shoot you people!

Sam said...

I definitely think it is positive to keep it down to a few "systems" and avoid overlap. That most of my cameras are film and most of yours digital is simply relative to our respective tastes. Each of my cameras has a set of three or so lenses and its own bag. This helps me to learn each inside and out. I think gear churn gets in the way of properly learning what you have.

Sam

theaterculture said...

Since the 19th century, part of the pleasure of photography has been owning and caring for precision machines and optics.

What I'd argue is new is that digital technology has made market analysis and product differentiation its own genre of activity. I see this as distinctly related to your point, and to an earlier phenomenon Kirk posted about: the use of digital tools to chain people to their jobs with devices that blur the line between leisure and productivity. Thom Hogan is arguably the most visible face of this - his discourse is appealing to precisely those instincts to appraise markets, forecast economics, and engage in a pseudo-performance of the work of capitalist analysis as a leisure hobby.

Jeff Damron said...

An awesome post and I agree 100%. But my Oly E-620 is getting long in the tooth and who can argue? That new EM5 is the bomb and I'm sure the DxO numbers will prove it. And I've had my little Fujifilm X10 for like 7 months now and clearly the Sony RX100 is so much better because that guy who is always reviewing cameras says its the best compact ever! I'm just an amateur but I'm considering doing a project that may take a couple of years. It would be great to do that with one camera but hey, what camera is going to be good enough to finish that off in two years? And you are right about new cool cameras driving pageviews on blogs. I have a small, and often neglected one, but my recent post on the upcoming Sigma DP2 Merrill has more views than anything I've posted in a long time. And that's for a Sigma - guaranteed to not generate the views of something from a more popular brand. What I would like to see really is someone review the Cosina Voightlander Bessa cameras and lenses. I remember reading reviews by Roger Hicks/Frances Schultz in magazines back in the day when these first started coming out, but it is almost impossible to find anything on the www these days - beyond, of course, that they're no Leicas. Damn, I'm rambling again.

AndyK said...

. . . and there is no way that a color negative film will ever be as good as a 'chrome (but that Ektar 100 is pretty sweet - I have a block in the freezer that I will use on a project real soon now) **grin**

JJ Semple said...

I'm keeping only my Sony a57, adding a few accessories and lenses. Why?

I recently bought an Olympus E-PL3 from a friend. It only complicated my life. Now I have to concentrate on recalling two different operational control systems when taking one or the other out. So while I'm working with the E-PL3, I'm forgetting, or confusing, some controls on the a57. And vice-versa. For example:

The other day I was shooting a street market with the a57, which I hadn't used for two weeks because I was "familiarizing" myself with Olympus. I set the a57 to M — I find I can better control exposure in that mode. I used the front index finger flywheel to select the shutter speed, then I proceeded to snap away. When light conditions changed, I reset the shutter speed, realizing I would also need to change the f/stop. All of a sudden my mind went blank. I knew the flywheel also controlled the f/stop with a modifier button, but because I'd used the E-PL3 for two weeks, I couldn't remember which modifier button to press at the same time in order to change the f/stop. So a camera whose controls I had become very familiar with was suddenly useless as I pressed all manner of button trying to find the right modifier, completely screwing up the settings and pissing me off at myself for being so dumb. Well, it was my fault for wasting time with the E-PL3, unlearning, as it were, important operational controls on the Sony.

I know this kind of thing never happens to any of you master photographers out there, you with the perfect memories and lightening quick reactions under all circumstances, you who have mastered all systems (on paper) and know the pixel dimensions of every sensor and the controls on every camera since the Kodak Brownie.

But it happened to me because I stretched my limited capacities too thin. I spent a lot of time learning the Sony controls and experimenting with it; then I wasted a lot of time confusing myself with the E-PL3, which, by the way, I found to be much inferior to the Sony and all it's capable of.

So I'm selling the E-PL3 and all my other m4/3 stuff. One more by-product of the sensory and cognitive overload that browsing the web for gear foists on us: Spreading ourselves too thin.

Real good deal on the Olympus, if you're interested...

Jim Tardio said...

I've done that already...but couldn't bear to sell my Nikon FM3a with matching 45/2.8 pancake lens. My last film body.

Anonymous said...

acquiring new gear is part of the human psyc, just look at the car market with new models released every year.

Days of film, cameras changed at a snail's pace compared to today. As long as the body was ergnonomic, precesion made, we didn't lust as much for the new model because quite often the new model had very little more to offer. At this time, photography equipment consisted of 3 basic parts: body, lenses, film. At this time it wasn't so much which body but lots of discussions on the latest film and if we wanted the best in resolution, medium or large format was the way to go.

Today our camera bodies have gone from 99% mechanical to mostly a computer in a box. Electronic tehcnology is now the rule which allows for more rapid changes. We no longer talk about film but which sensors. In the past we changed film and kept our current equipment. Today we change sensors, but have to change bodies to get this new sensor. This fuels our desire for the latest tech.

Rapidily evolving electronics fuels the camera companies ability to upgrade cameras every year contributing to the human psysch for having the "newest/best" and marketing knows this.

and on top of this we have the internet today. I use to avidly read the current photo mag but today, with just a click I can spend hours reading about the latest on the internet which just adds to the new tech lust.

John F. Opie said...

Goodness, I can't imagine any photographer staying in business without the processing markup. Back in the day when I did weddings (over 30 years ago now!), I charged a fixed fee for me showing up and taking pictures, then standard processing charges as listed by the lab I used. They, of course, gave me a moderate discount (bless them!) for the volume of business I gave them, and actually branched out into wedding book manufacturing around the time I ceased doing business.

But it is not creative accounting: industry standard. Seriously...

John F. Opie said...

Oddly enough, I was extremely tempted by a cut-rate price on a Sigma SD-15 on Friday evening, less than $450 new with the kit lens. I've always loved the Foveon look.

But right before then I was reorganizing files in Lightroom and created collections for the cameras used. E330, E420, E510, E30, EP1, EPL1, GF2...yep. Enough kit for a while. 26553 pictures with the E30, 18972 with the EP1, 13317 with the E510...

No new kit. My daughters are in college. No new kit. My daughters are in college... :-)

Kirk, you do need a nice small camera for walkies. Or are you convinced that the Sonys (Sonies?) are that? :-)

Andrew said...

Sometimes, it's just fun to try something different. Did it make rational sense to replace my D200 with a Kodak DCS-14n? No. Did I even try to pretend that I needed my X100 or OM-D or Pentax 645N when I already owned perfectly functional Nikon digital and Hasselblad film systems? No. Sometimes a different camera can give a different look or force you to alter your process enough to learn a new way of working. The DCS-14n, for example, won't meter with any of my AI-S Nikkors, so it forces me to slow down and consider exposure more carefully. And that sensor certainly gives a different "look" than the D200 did, not to mention what happens when I forget to reset the lens optimization after changing lenses. The X100 and OM-D are certainly not the most financially rational purchases if you're purely considering "image quality," but they do make the whole process more enjoyable, and I don't see anything wrong with that.
On the other hand, I can appreciate the austere, "one lens, one camera" approach. I've been perfectly happy riding a used mountain bike as my only form of transportation for the past seven years even though I could easily afford a nice car. Sometimes I wish I could be like that with a camera, but hey, there's just so much out there to try. Sticking to one camera would feel almost like only eating at one restaurant from now on. I might do it one day, but until then I'm not going to make myself guilty for using as many cameras as I feel like.

Brad Burnham said...

I love reading about new gear, but consider that to almost be a separate hobby from photography. I like to collect old cameras and have far too many (and showing no signs of slowing), but I have only owned two digital cameras. A D50 and now a D300. While I would love to 'upgrade' I won't. My camera is good enough. And I shoot film as much as I shoot digital.

As I write this My scanner is working on some T-Max negs from the RB67.

And Kirk, thanks for the great post.

Ron Nabity said...

Sometime around the early 90's somebody figured out the best way to sell more product was to convince existing owners that their version was no longer adequate. This is much easier than finding new buyers, because the existing buyers had already demonstrated that they were willing to pay for the product.

Add to that the feeding frenzy created by the fear of being left behind during a time when processor speed, memory capacity and storage all increased according to Moore's Law. And with the internet, it's easy to believe that EVERYBODY is moving forward, faster.

This seems to have started with computers and we now accept it as the norm for cars, dishwashers, shaving razors, cameras, spouses, etc etc.

I'm not saying I'm exempt from participating - far from it. (Cameras, mostly.)

Experience is a wonderful thing - it helps us recognize when we make that same mistake, again. :-)

My $0.02, anyway.

texascbx said...

Gear heads love new gear. I have the A77 and love it but the allure of the A99 with it's full frame sensor is ......so..... hard to resist.

Unless the price is crazy high.

Tom Barry said...

As an enthusiast, I can't justify spending big bucks on the latest and "greatest" in this age of rapid technology change. I stay a generation, or two, or three, behind and put the savings into going places and taking photographs. I am a still photographer, and the largest print on my walls is 11X14", so I don't think I'm missing out on anything important. Kirk, you strike me as a man of eminent good sense. I enjoy both your blog and your fine photography.

Ash Crill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron Nabity said...

Regarding technology, here is an op-ed that hits home for me...

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/opinion/29franzen.html?pagewanted=all

Dogman said...

T'wasn't Karl Rove who made the original statement you credit to him. I actually don't remember--or if I ever even knew--who first said it but I first encountered the "if you repeat a lie often enough, it is perceived as the truth" back in my college days in the 1960s. It was credited to many people at the time, ranging from President Lyndon Johnson to Abbie Hoffman and various other members of the radical left, anti-war or hippie groups. I also remember reading a paraphrase of it credited to David Brower of the Sierra Club. The willingness to justify dishonesty for The Greater Good has apparently been with us for as long as there have been dogmatic thought.

kirk tuck said...

Govis, professionals do routinely charge for post processing but it's always harder to sell because it's not a physical product. Clients all believe that time is ...... stretchable.

kirk tuck said...

But do we buy a new car every year? And a casual, walking around car?

kirk tuck said...

Yes. we bought ONE and used it till it died.

kirk tuck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Barry said...

Your last sentence says it all.

cidereye said...

It was Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels that came up with the infamous.....

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

.....statement Dogman. He also said - “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over” Seems like most marketing campaigns follow these ethics (?!?) in our modern world today sadly.

thequietphotographer said...

I agree with this post. As a simple amateur I have a few film cameras (bought in about 40 years). Around two years ago I bought my first digital camera: my choice was a Leica x1 because of its simplicity and IQ. The eq 36mm lens covers 70% of my shooting need. Some of my friends commented it was a very expensive camera. They are correct but in the same two years some of them already bought three different camera (m4/3 or aps-c) looking for the ideal camera and spent much more money than me!
robert
pS: to be honest I?m tempted by the OM-D with that 45/1,8 for portraits...this is the other 30% :-)

Low Budget Dave said...

Thanks for writing this. It is always good to get a reminder that we don't need new cameras every month. Your writing is one of the things that convinced me to keep my D70.

Since you saved me all that money, I will use your Amazon link. (When the D70 breaks.)

John F. Opie said...

Here's the acknowledge first use of the term "big lie":

All this was inspired by the principle--which is quite true within itself--that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Volume I, Chapter X, James Murphy translation.

Please don't attribute it to any one else.

Clay Olmstead said...

I can see the vultures circling around the used camera display case at Precision Camera now...

Clay Olmstead said...

True - and the camera companies wouldn't keep pushing technology forward if people didn't buy the new gear. So while gear lust can be harmful to the individual, it's led to the incredible tools we have in our hands today.

Steve J said...

Yeah that hits home with us all, but there are some reasons for it. Digital HAS improved dramatically in a single decade (about the time I used to keep and wear out my film SLRs). At the same time, in the last three years we have seen smaller cameras which provide useful quality and sufficient control to take over a lot of the work that the "big guns" used to do.

And what's improved the fastest is the sensor/image processing technology. When film stock was improving at a pretty glacial pace there were few advantages in upgrading a decent film body with some nice lenses, as long as they were working.

However I think it is all slowing down. Sensors have some space to improve but between 100 and 800 ISO they all do a great job and anything over 12MP will print to the limits of my printer (19X13). From now on, each new upgrade just brings diminishing returns from my point of view as I don't have what you may call "extreme" requirements, eg. large landscapes, sports or wildlife.

But would I upgrade from a D3s to a D4? Probably not, at least until the D3s was worn out. I think you can now skip a generation and lose very little.

Mark Davidson said...

You used the Amazon link I hope.

Rex said...

I went thru a short but... severe gear acquisition phase that ended with me purchasing a fuji x100 and... stupidly, barely using it. It sat in my room looking nice and clean and wonderful but it was meant to be out with me on the street. However, I was too afraid to take it out, I didn't want my lovely beautiful splendid camera to get dirty, or damaged, or stolen. Eventually I grew tired of this and so I sold it for a bargain price and then bought the Nikon V1 simply because I saw it for cheap on Ebay.

The V1 fits in the pocket of my favourite jacket and I've already taken it out all night with me to a night-club! Something that I'd never do with my x100 or previous cameras.

I'm hoping Nikon will release some more primes; but I'm not desperate. I own the 10mm and I recently picked up a cheap m42 adapter and some cheap russian lenses to play around with!

Now I am saving up for a trip overseas, where I will wear my little camera around my neck and walk among the people on the street as another character in the story of whatever foreign promenade I find myself strolling along :).

Rex said...

I enjoyed this read and posted a lengthy comment, however, it was lost somehow.
It was something about how I went through many cameras only to find myself with a certain slow-focusing but wonderful looking digital camera... However, I was to scared to actually take it out and use it - i didn't wanna lose my baby to damage, or dust/dirt, or thieves... It was a stupid scenario.

I eventually sold it for a bargain price and then picked up the V1 at a bargain price (with the 10mm). So far I've taken it to many places with me, as it seems tough and it's not exactly pretty. In fact, I took it out the other night (all night) to a night-club with me and it was loads of fun and easy to use, it fits snugly in my the pocket of my favourite jacket.

I recently found a good price for a m42 adapter and I also picked up a few second hand lenses. I've never played with the lenses from decades ago and I'm looking forward to it!

Now I am saving money for a trip overseas. I'm looking forward to hanging my camera around my neck and becoming a character on the lovely foreign streets of whatever place I happen to voyage to.

Mark O'Brien said...

You are right on a lot of points. I shoot film AND digital, but its the film that I enjoy the most. In film, it was always about getting a better lens or a different format, or a different film. Oh wait, I really like that Nikon F3HP better than the F2... I think in the pre-digital days, we did lust after new gear, but the replacement cycle was far longer, and people were more brand-loyal. The big difference were the price points between being able to afford a Pentax, a Nikon, or a Konica. There were also more "things" to buy to add to the stuff in your camera bag. Anyone that walked into a photo store 20 years ago will know what I mean. However, today, the bodies are so similar, that it often comes down to personal preference for the layout and whatever firmware features are in the camera. While I have gone through a lot of film cameras (because now they are so darn cheap), I only recently upgraded from a Nikon D70s to a D90 because the feature set and MP were so much better. Is a D7000 THAT much better? Not for what I do, and in my humble opinion, the more features they tack on the more it becomes like using a computer and less like using a camera. But, that's what drives the sales, and sucks more people into "upgrading."

Since I mostly shoot for myself, there is something to be said for sticking with one camera, one or two lenses, and one film. Some of those that Those that have done that, wield a camera like its an extension of their brain, and hardly have to think to make a great image. I'm not there, because I DO like dabbling with different cameras, films, etc.

Anonymous said...

I have had a NikonD300 since Aug 2008 and it is amazing the things I am still learning. Seems you dive in and learn the things you feel essential can glass over the "things I will never use" and now I am finding I wish I had known more about those little things. The OP is correct, we trade cameras too quickly to learn how to use them.

I saw a post on a wedding site and the photog wanted a second shooter with xxxx or better. Wonder if they cared about the skills of the photog? A good photog with aNikon D2 can run circle around a clutz with a D800.

Lee said...

Reached up for my old film camera to see what model it was to write about it (Minolta Maxum 7000i) in a post and discovered that I had 5 rolls of ISO 400 film unused in it. Excited to shoot the first roll and see how it comes out.

Phototransformations said...

This is happens whenever technology is rapidly changing. Once it stabilizes, there's no reason to upgrade quickly. While it's still developing, the newest and latest is more appealing.

For me, returning to photography after a 20-year hiatus, there have been decent reasons to upgrade cameras every couple of years, although the old cameras still, for the most part, work and still take essentially the same pictures they used to take when I click the shutter.

Although my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot G1 (2001), still takes decent 3mp images, it also still gets only 40 low-res shots to a battery. A couple years later, Minolta came out with a camera that was 1/4 the weight and I bought that because I could take it everywhere and get essentially the same type of image. A couple years after that, Fuji came out with a camera that was only a little larger but made decent images at ISO 800, and suddenly I could shoot indoors or at dusk without a flash. Not long after that, image stabilization became available. This opened up more low-light shooting. Then came a Nikon DSLR because I realized I was finally back into photography for real and wanted to be able to change lenses again. Then m4/3 came around and reduced the size of the camera and lenses enough so my bad back didn't complain. A couple years later, the refinements from the G1 to the G3 made upgrading the body bring even more available light shooting into range, and the 45 1.8 finally made decent available light portraits possible at an affordable price. Will I buy a G5 or OMD, despite their having features the G3 lacks that I'd really like? No, I'll wait until the upgrade also upgrades the range of images I can shoot (that I'm interested in shooting).

On the other hand, my old 1976 Olympus rangefinder, 1969 Miranda SLR, and even the various twin-lens reflex cameras I used before them didn't evolve much in later years/decades, relative to what I wanted to shoot. Film got better, so that was a help when I wanted to shoot in lower light with finer grain, but there was no point in upgrading cameras. When digital stabilizes the way, for instance, PCs have more or less stabilized (a new PC lasts me until it breaks in a way not worth the money to fix it) and the way cars stabilized long ago, then a digital camera will also last me until it breaks. But we're nowhere near there, yet.

Robert Watcher said...

I hadn't noticed this post previously - so am a little late on the scene.

I used to use logic like this on forum posts many years ago and even had supporters of my way of thinking from long time pros. Then over the course of a few posts, I was bashed by photographers who informed me that they buy snow mobiles, golf equipment and whatever else they want every year - - - and if they want to spend thousands of dollars continually upgrading and updating their gear, then that was their prerogative. While I didn't agree - I had to consent and just leave it alone.

Mention was made above about us older film shooting pros having a variety of cameras for different purposes, and I indeed was one of those. There was a difference though in that such an investment would last for 10, 20 or even 30 years or more. From a business standpoint, I would be getting tax writeoffs for years down the road. As well the investement in the variety of formats took place over the course of years and I wasn't likely to dump my RZ67 and the 2 lenses that I owned for a Hasselblad, just on a whim or swap out my few Olympus bodies and lenses because a new Nikon body came along that was so much better.

My biggest concerns ever, were that after 10 to 15 years of heavy use - my OM4 and OM2sProgram cranks were wearing out and costing a lot of money to fix and I was unable to get replacement bodies easily. As well my eyes were getting older and Olympus wasn't producing an AF camera that would benefit me. Those were my lame justifications to switch to Nikon in the early 2000's.

Since going digital capture almost 8 years ago, I have been through around almost a dozen bodies and gone from Nikon (for the above stated reason) to Nikon/Oly back to Nikon and finally settled on Oly with the E-3 some 4 years ago. But I still feel as I always have, that it doesn't matter what instrument I use - - - it sounds and looks like ME. If I cave, it is a result of being too heavily influenced by web based opinions, or more often than not, the cameras give up the ghost much sooner than they used to and even if they could be fixed, costs are nearly what a new replacement is.

So why I found interest in this post was that I was at my daughters babysitting for the last 2 days - and I got to revisit a large 24x36 canvas that I printed or her kitchen. It was taken in 2006 with my first digital camera, the 6MP Nikon D70s at an ISO of 1600 which was much beyond that cameras capabilities, and not even a Nikon lens but a Sigma 18-50 f2.8. The image was shot at night into a store window and the large print looks marvelous. Only I know how and with what it was taken. http://robertwatcher.arwpic.com/13453249584040/img21.jpg



Rob