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Archive for Sunday, September 4, 2011

Behind the Lens: Dreaming up the perfect camera, digital rot and all

Digital rot, the inevitable loss of value in digital cameras, makes it confusing to know when to jump in and purchase a new camera. Old film cameras hold their value better but don't have the conveniences of digital technology. The best advice is to buy a quality camera that fits your needs today. Although it will quickly lose value, it can still fit your needs in the future.

Digital rot, the inevitable loss of value in digital cameras, makes it confusing to know when to jump in and purchase a new camera. Old film cameras hold their value better but don't have the conveniences of digital technology. The best advice is to buy a quality camera that fits your needs today. Although it will quickly lose value, it can still fit your needs in the future.

September 4, 2011

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Digital rot, the inevitable loss of value in digital cameras, makes it confusing to know when to jump in and purchase a new camera. Old film cameras hold their value better but don't have the conveniences of digital technology. The best advice is to buy a quality camera that fits your needs today. Although it will quickly lose value, it can still fit your needs in the future.

Digital rot, the inevitable loss of value in digital cameras, makes it confusing to know when to jump in and purchase a new camera. Old film cameras hold their value better but don't have the conveniences of digital technology. The best advice is to buy a quality camera that fits your needs today. Although it will quickly lose value, it can still fit your needs in the future.

I’ve decided that the next camera I purchase will be my dream camera.

I may have to spend a considerable amount of money, but I’m determined to own a camera that will have everything I will ever need. It will be very well built, last many years and I will never regret the purchase.

Right now, I’m getting tired of reading about all the new cameras and advances in technology each month. I figure if I settle on one really good camera, then I can quit worrying about all others and get about the business of taking photographs. Yes, the Journal-World supplies me with nice cameras, but using them outside of work can be like taking an electric guitar to a bluegrass jam. It’s not necessarily my instrument of choice and it’s not my guitar anyway.

But, here’s the problem. It’s known as digital depreciation or “digital rot,” as written about recently by well-known photo blogger Ken Rockwell. Because digital camera sensors keep improving, cameras purchased today are quickly outdated.

Film cameras, on the other hand, are metal boxes, with mostly mechanical parts, built to last and very reliable. Some models don’t even require batteries. Improvements to film cameras come from advances in lens design and film emulsions. I believe many photographers would agree that if you shot a roll of 100 ASA film through a good film camera from the 1960s today, you could get results comparable to current high-end digital cameras. In fact, with film improvements, you’ll probably get better results from that Nikon F than you could in 1960.

Film cameras hold their value, their digital counterparts do not. Consider that when the Journal-World invested in our first professional digital camera, the Nikon D1, it retailed for $5,500 and had a file of only 2.74 megapixel. Ebay has one on sale today for $294.00. Compare that to an old film camera, like the famous Nikon F, with a list price of $359.50 in the ’60s. There’s one currently on eBay for $700. But honestly, I doubt if many of us care to go back to film cameras. Digital camera gains in auto-exposure, auto-focus, low-light sensitivity and the ease of working with your photos on a computer are conveniences we won’t live without. So we’re left with digital rot and the acknowledgement that digital cameras have a short life span, just like computers.

To avoid the restless cycle of worrying whether your camera is still good enough or wondering when to buy that next new camera, it really comes down to your needs. Whatever your choice in camera, if it satisfies your needs today, there is no reason it can’t meet your needs in the future. Meanwhile, I’m daydreaming about my next camera because I’ve finally decided which one to buy. I just haven’t purchased it yet. I heard rumors last week that the manufacturer is planning a Dream II model. I think I’ll go grab my acoustic guitar and sing the blues.

— Chief photographer Mike Yoder can be reached at 832-7141.

Comments

Jonathan Becker 3 years, 3 months ago

What kind of guitar? A pre-war Martin or a CBS Fender?

Matt Needham 3 years, 3 months ago

"Digital rot" is about selling cameras not making photographs. The camera salespeople pushed this same BS when they were selling film cameras too. They want to convince consumers that the introduction of a new model means their old camera (or stereo or computer or cell phone or car...) doesn't work anymore.

While there may be the occasional Nikon F that sells for more than it did when introduced, a quick look at the Ebay completed auctions suggests that $150 to $175 is what they are more typically selling for today. I own many film cameras, including a half dozen old, mechanical Nikon SLRs. They are all worth less now than what I paid for them used in the 1990s. My Hasselblad 500c/m and Pentax 67II, which were very expensive cameras when I purchased them, plummeted in value. Only a select few of my film cameras have retained or increased in value over the last decade. They tend to be the rare and uncommon models.

"It has been the fashion to think too much of the tools and too little of the use made of them." -H.P. Robinson, a photographer from the days when film was the new fangled technology

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