The Ritual of Checking Out Each New Camera Body. This Time a Lumix S1R.

I bought an "open box" camera from B&H Photo/Video last week and it arrived on Tuesday (a day before it was scheduled). But I had stuff to do on Tuesday, like painting a fence, so I didn't have time to put the camera through its paces. By Thursday I'd carved out some free time and decided to take the camera and the 50mm S Pro lens to the Blanton Museum to test. I shot a few frames in the studio to make sure there were no gross problems with the camera before I headed out. So, my first test shot is of a flash and its umbrella taken in the studio. My focus was on the product logo on the side of the flash and, when blown up to 1:1 the lettering is sharp and pretty much noise free. It was shot with the lens at its widest aperture.

Seeing no obvious defects I moved on to the museum and shot there under available light and also at f 1.4. While you won't be able to see it on the blog because of compression and file size reduction, in the image below I can zoom in to 1:1 with the full 47.5 megapixel frame and clearly see the texture/weave of the woman's sweater in the adjacent gallery. It's a very impressive performance. 

I spent the better part of the afternoon inside and outside the museum making images. I looked for any defects or dirt on the sensor. I shot sky images at f11 as that's a surefire way to show up dust spots, if they exist. And I shot white walls with the lens wide open to see how much vignetting the camera and lens combination would produce. When shot in Jpeg or converted via Lightroom software takes care of vignetting for the most part. 

Testing cameras is important. You need to know if there are any faults or glitches before you show up for a paying job and only discover some glaring fault after the fact. Part of that testing is also involves just cycling through hundreds of frames to see if you can elicit any untoward camera behavior that might indicated an intermittent problem with a particular unit. 

After shooting the newest arrival, Lumix S1R on both Thursday and then again today I feel confident that I got a good copy. There's no dirt, no focus inaccuracies with the three lenses I tested in conjunction with the camera, and there were no shutdowns or needed reboots. 

I wondered why B&H would sell a like new, current camera, sealed in the original box, for about half the retail price or MAP price (Minimum Advertised Price) of this camera. I asked friends who had been in the camera sales business and all declined to make a public guess but the various presumptions were that it may be a way to skirt MAP pricing for a short term, Prime the Pump promotion. The promotion may have been made necessary because the store misjudged the sales potential of the camera and ordered too many, or they were given all, or the majority of, the factory reburbished units to date and nudged to get them on the market to help spur sales of the system lenses and accessories. 

Most of the people who e-mailed me to discuss their purchases of the same camera from the same dealer via this open box special had pretty much the same story: the camera came quickly. It was sealed in the original (and very nice) presentation box. They were offered a rebate in the form of a warranty extension from one year to four years by the manufacturer. I don't understand retail deeply enough to make any sort of definitive guess but I can say that I feel I was well served by the open box sale and the cost savings. Putting the camera through its paces assuaged any hesitation I may have felt about the provenance of the unit. 

But my field tests are not limited only to used or "open box" camera purchases. Everything that comes into the studio is suspect until we've gotten through the first 500 or so exposures. Most electronic devices will either fail very early on or at the very end of a long cycle. My gut feeling is that most cameras that are perfect for the first 500 to 1,000 shots are generally going to be fine right up until you hit some sort of astronomical shutter count, or until the camera has spent many, many months riding on the floorboard of your work pickup truck as you bounce around on ranch roads and occasionally brush the dust and mud off the camera's exterior. 

As a general rule I handle my cameras like precision tools that are inherently delicate. Why? Because I want them always to work and I want them to look more or less pristine when the time comes to sell them or trade them in. 

If you happen to know why "open box" and "white box" sales happen can you let me know? This is  actually the second time I've bought an "open box" product. The first was a Nikon 24-120mm G lens a few years ago. It was perfect and worked well. It's all a mystery to me....

I knew of Lawrence Ferlinghetti as a poet and publisher but not as a painter.
This painting is hanging in the modern gallery in honor of
the artist's 100th birthday.

No dust blobs in the sky. Be still my beating heart (but not too still, please!)

O.T. Observation.

I recently read an article by a physiologist whose research showed that only 5% of Americans over the age of 65 could be categorized as "physically fit." About 45% of the older population is still ambulatory and able to fend for themselves but are in decline or "accelerated decline", physically, while nearly half of older Americans require assistance of some sort with daily living. Of that half many are obese, morbidly obese, diabetic and largely sedentary. 

The differentiator, more impactful than diet, was the amount of vigorous exercise the 5% pursued. While there are some conditions with genetic dispositions that may account for some decline the reality is that most of the decline cited could be reversed or at least slowed down profoundly by increased and regular exercise. The greater the level of exercise the more likely the various demographics were to be in good to excellent health regardless of age. 

The bottom line is that people give up too soon. I can't fathom not wanting to be healthy to the extent that I would not spend at least an hour a day exercising. Even if it's just to put on a pair of comfortable shoes and walk briskly for an hour. 

Perhaps the real benefit of camera ownership is that it gives some of us an excuse to get out and walk. The heck with whether or not any photography actually gets done. The much more important thing is just getting the exercise.


ODL Designs said...

I am not sure, but have asked myself the same question as I have bought open box that appears new, and new that has certainly been opened and poorly repacked.

Your last point struck home as I am dealing with some knee problems that will probably slow my basketball and volleyball... Being someone who loves physical competition and running I am wondering what I can do that I will enjoy and will keep me fit.

Hopefully the knee recovers and I can get back to my sports... Doc says it is patella tendonitis so I might just have to slow down a little

granitix said...

I bought an as-is lens from a commonly-visited online used site. Most lenses in that condition are abused but perfectly functional, which was all I needed. Other than a lack of end caps it was as good as new by my inspection. Events like that make me bolder, and I've only been even slightly disappointed once in a dozen or more tries. Sometimes taking a chance is worth doing, especially at places with straightforward return policies.

Craig Stocks said...

I purchased a Sony a7r2 from B&H as an “open box” but it turned out to actually be a gray market camera. The tip-off was in the default video setting. It defaults to PAL and gives a power-on warning if NTSC is selected which is the behavior of non-US Sony cameras.

Jeff said...

I think your comments about exercise are really really important and I wish more older (and younger) people would think about this and move more.

As to the reason for the open box sale, who knows, but Occam's Razor might suggest it's as simple as they aren't selling well (at a pretty high price) and B&H just wants to move them (as you suggested).

mosswings said...

The decline in muscular potential in later life is a very real thing, but we rarely use all of that potential, even those of us who are very fit. Regular exercise ensures that we realize all of the potential that we possess at any age. One of the things that has to change as we age, though, is the mix of our exercises. Resistance (weight) training has to be prioritized. That's a difficult thing to do for those of us who have been endurance athletes for most of our life - but without resistance / weight bearing exercises we literally lose the ability to support ourselves.

I'm nearing 65. I started out as a runner but transitioned to cycling, cross-country skiing, and hiking fairly quickly. So great cardio and overall fitness regime, but heavy on the endurance side. I hit a patch of invisible slime 4 years ago and before I knew it I had fallen on my hip, fracturing the trochanter. My fitness allowed me to ride the 7 miles home, but I spent the next three days in hospital and left with 3 pins. Blessedly, no replacement needed.

What I didn't expect what how the necessary 12-16 weeks of primary healing would change my fitness level. Even with heavy PT and regular activity, it took me nearly 2 years to recover - part of this attributible to simple age, part of it to the dramatic toll not being able to move or bear much weight exacts on you. I'm working back nicely now, and thank the years of vigorous exercise for giving me strong bones and good cardiovascular tone, but also now realize that "full" recovery won't be possible without changing my exercise regimen. That change has been long overdue.

So keep exercising regularly, but diversely, and even if you can't stand the inside of a Planet Fitness, do it anyway. Those of us who sit on things or let the water hold us up while we sweat are most in danger.

TMJ said...

OK, between the S1 and the S1R, have you found one better than another?

Depending what you define by 'better'.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

TMJ - They are equally good. Just psychologically I prefer the S1R. Knowing the potential of the sensor seems to make me more attached to it. If I were shooting mostly in low light the S1 would be the better choice; I think. Now loving the ergonomics of both!

Roger Jones said...

People who own, and walk with their dogs do better. My Lab is 16 now and has gone blind, and his hips are going so we don't walk the mile a day we use to, and we can feel it. It's seems I've been working out all my life just didn't know it, I was just having fun with friends. Now at 68 I can't jog any more(for 30 years I ran a 5K every day at 6000 ft. elevation Dr. says my heart rate is to low, 42-56 BPM, so now I walk 1.5 miles at 1200 ft.) as I just found out I'm missing some of my ankle bone, but I can bike, cross county ski, swim, walk, lift weights. I miss jogging, a lot. Ya, I do about 6 hours a week of working out between walking, Nordic Track, and weights. It's to wet and cold to bike and there's no disent pool with in 10 miles for swimming.
As for cameras, ya, they need to be checked every now and again. I'm more into film these days than digital, and I haven't bought a new camera in 3 or 4 years.

typingtalker said...

From The Atlantic on exercise ...

What 10,000 Steps Will Really Get You

A clever bit of marketing has obscured the more nuanced nature of human well-being.
“The basic finding was that at 4,400 steps per day, these women had significantly lower mortality rates compared to the least active women,” Lee explains. If they did more, their mortality rates continued to drop, until they reached about 7,500 steps, at which point the rates leveled out. Ultimately, increasing daily physical activity by as little as 2,000 steps—less than a mile of walking—was associated with positive health outcomes for the elderly women.
[ … ]
Lee says that thanks to advances in technology that make wearable fitness trackers more affordable and reporting on activity more reliable, her research is just starting to explore a fuller understanding of how physical activity and overall health are tied. Because her study was observational, it’s impossible to assert causality: The women could have been healthier because they stepped more, or they could have stepped more because they were already healthier. Either way, Lee says, it’s clear that regular, moderate physical activity is a key element of a healthy life, no matter what that looks like on an individual level.

“I’m not saying don’t get 10,000 steps. If you can get 10,000 steps, more power to you,” says Lee. “But if you’re someone who’s sedentary, even a very modest increase brings you significant health benefits.”


Anonymous said...

Love the Ferlinghetti. Love that you know about Ferlinghetti. Happy Holidays! Keep cranking out the great writing.