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Thursday, 01 January 2009


I love this solid-state strategy, applicable to anything with a processor in it, to wit:
If one waits an infinite period of time, one will be able to purchase the most powerful device for absolutely nothing. Of course, a tiny detail here: following this strategy to its logical end also means you will wind up never getting to use it because you ran out of time waiting for the correct power/price point. O, the Perils of being a correct little consumer......
Key word, as correctly pointed out, is "need". If one needs a tool, one should buy the best affordable, maybe + one unit higher, right now, do it. Tools are Capital, they will make you money...
If, on the other hand, one "needs" a toy, a luxury, then being sensible with the budget will pay dividends. I personally make myself wait excruciating periods of time lusting after the newest bit, sometimes long enough until its replacement shows up, even better and more powerful...(sometimes)
best wishes, All...

Exactly right! I see the world the same (binary) way.

As my Shakespeare professor used to say, "there are 2 kinds of people in the world: those who divide everything into 2 and those who don't." (The Google generation version is, "there are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who get binary and those who don't.")

Hmmmm...wait to buy a camera when I need one?

At my skill level I could've stopped with the Pentax K1000...

Happy new year, Mike.


"I won't try to defend these choices, because they don't need defending. They work for me and that's the last word."

Although I feel exactly the same way about anyone's equipment choices needing to be defended, let's be careful about spreading that kind of thinking. If too many people adopt that attitude, some of the funniest and most entertaining reading imaginable would simply disappear from the internet!

The New Orleans Mardi Gras is advertised as the greatest free show on earth. Wrong! It's internet photography forums. I say let the fanatics be fanatics!

Have a great 2009!

Hello Ctein,

I've always seen you as a bellwether of good sense and practicality when it comes to the tools of the photographic trade. You know what you need and you know what you don't need, and if you don't need it, but it would be nice to have, you don't buy it. As you know, this is very rare.

And you have persisted from the film days. Even when all the temptations have blipped on your radar, you just continued to work with your trusty Pentax 6x7.

It almost isn't fair that you have street smarts too. :-)

Happy New Year to you Sir!

And what do you do with your old cameras? I have several, and it kills me to see perfectly good equipment sitting around idle, but it's still too valuable to throw away.

With the threat of price increases for major camera manufacturers in 2009 - will holding off actually produce benefit, or do you think they are just marketing scare tactics?

Third strategy: buy value for money. With pc components there usually is a distinct point where the price-performance graph becomes much steeper, i.e., where more performance starts to cost much more money. Buy something just below this point.
I'm not sure whether this strategy would beuseful for camera equipment.

If digital photography means being committed to replacing consumer grade cameras(read disposable in 2-3 years with fixed lens) and not being committed to a lens system that happens to hang on to a digital sensor....then your strategy works well.

However, I found this approach fundamentally wasteful and frustrating. Why? We have a number of digital consumer grade Minoltas, Konicas, Canons, a Pana-Leica and yes even a straight Leica laying around the house. For what has been spent to date, I could have just got into something more substantive at the point of entry. But did not, as I could not find a camera that translated my analogue experience of an Olympus OM-1 with a decent set of Zukio prime lense into a digital experience.

I recently bought a Lumix L-1 on the cheap. Experience wise, the act of shooting felt right and felt real. Camera wise, the dim viewfinder with less than 100% coverage, tiny magnification, terrible white balance, and hit and miss focusing, takes some work arounds and a lot of patience. Shooting RAW helps. Doable, given a very good zoom lens, but not quite right. I am still debating on investing in the one and only Pana-Leica 4/3 prime on the market. The results by others (on Flickr) look very promising.

Now with the advent of full frame digital, I am considering moving toward a fuller, wider, and of course, more costly, investment into digital photography and a lens system. But it is the lens system that will determine which full frame camera to purchase, not the camera itself. The cameras will only improve. Camera designers (read system engineers) are still learning about the relationships between pixel pitch, pixel design, pixel sizes and quantities and image quality. Therefore I suspect we are some time from creating a digital sensor that can be as simple and wonderful as the basic process exposing good film to light through a good lens.

So I have since rediscovered my Zukio lenses and OM series cameras and find myself now re-committing to film and simutaneously making a commitment to a lens system for digital sensors. Nikon, Cannon, or Zeiss (Sony)...who knows? But it is a decision about the lens system not the cameras. Light passes first through a lens not through a camera body. Good (or even excellent) glass comes first. Hence a lean in the direction of the Nikon Fx cameras as they can use old, very good glass, and new glass too, on the same body.

Computer wise: I have been severely burned by Apple of the 90s, then PC makers, and now have, upon actual use, come to believe that investing in the best iMac one can afford, with a MacBook, is the way to go. The iMacs do the job and well, and while more expensive than a lower end Dell or HP, cannot be touched for the build quality, system performance, and price. If Nikon, Cannon or Sony follow the recent path of Apple with their offerings, we indeed are entering a new digital era of reasonable (comparative to say 10 years ago) priced digital tools that have some staying power.

...and of course we have not even discussed output (printers are coming a long way and the pricing down to earth).

2009 is shaping up to be looking to the past for inspiration about why I try to pursue taking great film pictures (without a lot of post shooting processing), and the future as to how to compose images on full frame digital sensors (and then process them on an iMac) to hopefully make great pictures.

It will be a balance between the craft of photography (as a very tactile and tangible experience) and the act of digital image capture, processing and printing. I still like to hold and look at dense negatives. There are some experiences that digital can never quite replace.

There is a third choice in addition to buying high and buying low, and that is to buy what is current that you need.

After that use it and use it and use it. For example, I bought my Canon G5 in 2003. Today in the G10, megapixels have gone way beyond that, image stabilisation has kicked in, ISO range has gone up.

I procrastinated when the G9 came out and I see no strong reason to buy the G10 despite that fact that it's a beautiful picture taking device. I think it can wait till my G5 is no longer serviceable.

Canon makes reliable cameras!

Dan K.

Dear Lucas,

That's really my computer strategy when I "buy high." That's why I didn't say "buy best;" best is often ridiculously expensive. OTOH, if one can afford best...(which I, and most folks, usually can't).

Dear J,

Nice summary of the factors that enter into your buying decisions! Makes the point that my strategy is only mine, and everyone needs to evaluate their own according to their needs.

Truthfully, I'm a little surprised that my camera strategy has been (so far) "buy low." If you'd asked me ten years ago if that'd be the way I'd be going, I'd have guessed pretty strongly not.

Shows how good my personal crystal ball is [g].

pax / Ctein

Dear Jim,

What I wrote:

"Never buy a camera before you need to."

What you replied with:

"Hmmmm...wait to buy a camera when I need one?"

Do you see the problem?

pax / Ctein

Dear Player,

I'm afraid you praise me a bit too much. I still have my medium format film gear, but the last photos I made with the Pentax were in mid-2005,and the last ordinary (non-dye-transfer) darkroom printing time for myself was late 2005.

I've got all the gear, and the lab, and plenty of film and paper in the freezer. Question is, will I do anything further with it?!

No, I truly don't know the answer yet.

pax / Ctein

Dear Wilhelm,

I sold a bunch of camera gear I *KNEW* I'd never use again on eBay last two years. Paid a large fraction of my digital camera purchases.

Your equipment isn't valuable if you don't use it and no one wants to pay you for it.

Dear Michael,

Short term, anything's possible. Same way you can't be sure RAM prices next week will be cheaper than this week. Sometimes they go up. But 6-12 months from now, they'll be cheaper 90% of the time.

Same with cameras. Can't tell you about next month's prices. Can tell you that this time next year odds strongly favor you will be getting more for your money.

pax / Ctein

My strategy is that almost all my cameras are older than me (44+).

Thanks to ebay and digital I can just about afford what I want when I want it.

Wilhelm said

"And what do you do with your old cameras? I have several, and it kills me to see perfectly good equipment sitting around idle, but it's still too valuable to throw away."

The answer? Give it all away! To a neighbor's kid, to a friend at work, to the barista at the coffee shop. You and they and the will be happy, and the equipment will be used. If you can't think of anyone there's always http://www.freecycle.org/

Happy new year.

If deflation becomes a reality then God help us all. Many of us won't be in a position to purchase anything despite lower prices all around.

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