Sunday, August 2, 2015

To be or not to be, that is the question

Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them.

Thus wrote the little known playwright, William Shakespeare, some 400 years ago. This is pretty much still relevant today. Particularly regarding camera gear and worse, the temptations of marketing.

Years ago, when technology didn't change much, cameras were a pretty safe hobby. One could build a nice lens and body collection and be pretty sure that it would retain most of its value for later resale. That was when lenses were durably built from metal.

Roll on a few years when autofocus lenses came in and the lenses became not so durable nor as well made. Flaws in the focussing mechanism were hidden by the autofocus system. Lenses began to rocket in price.

In came digital which meant that in addition to the camera, a computer was needed. Then ever more storage as the camera manufacturers gradually dropped ever bigger sensors on the market. People would be fool enough to buy one camera then another then another. First a 2 megapixel camera then 3 then 4 and so on.

Being a slave to upgrading is expensive! Not only that but the upgrades aren't very often necessary. How many people actually print a photograph these days? Not me, not in the past 5 years. Everything is digital.

How many megapixels are needed? Megapixels are just a silly number these days that mean absolutely nothing. Just about any 3 megapixel and above image will more than fill a computer screen. Going to the biggest extreme, digital movies at the movie theaters are going to be 4K which means each frame is an 8 megapixel image. How many times will you be viewing your images on a movie theatre screen?

Recently, interchangeable lens compacts came in. This combined with the move away from laptops and desktops toward tablets has really changed the photographic landscape.

As far as tablets go, they're inexpensive, portable and can have keyboards added to turn them into laptops. They largely lack any way of transferring digital image files to or from them in any other way than Bluetooth or WiFi.

Needless to say, digital SLRs do not have Bluetooth nor WiFi especially legacy models. This means that digital SLRs are pretty well unusable now. Either a newer body at a cost of $500+ is needed in order to make the most of existing equipment or bite the bullet and go for a new system built around the new technology.

It would seem sensible given that cellphones take darned good photos, not to blow too much on cameras. For myself, my system was around $8,000 when purchased in 2006 - 2007 for a photography business somebody sold me hard on starting. Needless to say, it never took off because there just weren't enough clients with money to spend - especially straight after an economic crash. Slowly, that camera system has been sold off. It never realised more than quarter of what it cost. EBay and Amazon yielded such poor results after fees, postage etc that the last batch of gear was sold directly to a dealer.

Where does this leave us now? It leaves us knowing that camera gear is not an investment. It will not make a dime while there are so many out there, happy to make one photography sale a decade. It also leaves us knowing that paying a lot for gear that will be worth next to nothing a couple of years later is money that might have been more rewardingly spent on loose women, slow horses and booze.

The question now is when to sell the last of the photography junk. It held a huge place in my heart but gets rarely used on account of its bulk. The next question is, given that I have a cellphone, do I really need a camera as well? Would my camera needs be better satisfied by an ultra zoom compact or a mirrorless camera?

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