I realized recently that I bought my big ol' Gitzo Studex tripod when I was 23, from old Mr. Baker at Baker Photo on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C. (Tenley Heights, I think the area was called. It's been a long time.*) Actually I traded him for it—traded the Konica Varifocal ur-zoom that I've written about as being the genesis of my lifelong dislike of zooms. I remember he disappeared into the basement for a good long time to see if he could find one of them that he thought he already had. He came back empty-handed, which made him more interested in mine. The lens was already outdated, just, but Mr. Baker really liked them and had a soft spot for them (they were certainly big, impressive pieces of glass). I think he had a soft spot for young photographers, too—his wife used to complain that he was always giving deals to ardent beginners that weren't good for the bottom line. I was nothing if not bitten by the bug. I think that Konica lens for the big Gitzo was a steal.
Anyway, I'm 50 now, so that was 27 years ago. And, by coincidence, my life expectancy at the moment is 27 more years. The Gitzo is a little the worse for wear—it's lost one of the little rubber collars for the locking knobs, and the gunmetal steel legs have a smattering of chips in the finish. But it works fine. I really see no reason why it shouldn't continue working for another 27 years just as well as it has for the last 27. So what should I say when anyone asks me how long I've had the good old Gitzo? Half my life? Half of its life? I think it's a good bet that we'll go out together. Although it might have some more life left by the time it becomes an orphan; I'm likely to be less hard on it in the second half of our acquaintance than I was during the first half. But that still might not save it. People tend not to care so much for beat-up pieces of equipment unless it was they themselves who did the beating up. Guess I'd better "use it up," then.
*Tenleytown, near Friendship Heights. Thanks, Dan.
Featured Comment by Clay: "It's funny how some things just are better than than they seem like they ought to be. My example is a day pack I bought back in the mid seventies—I was ( and still am to a degree) a mountain climber, and I succumbed to European romanticism and bought this gray canvas Sac Millet day pack from REI. I got it in the mail, and my immediate thought was: 'what a piece of crap.' It just seemed cheesy and poorly made.
"So I decided, what the hell, I will just try to destroy it. Well, it traveled with me on many crazy climbing trips and later on, as a picnic carrier for hikes with my kids. We just moved recently, and I unpacked a box, and there it was, with a nice patina from the abuse I threw at it, but still fully functional and ready to go. I never expected this thing to last more than a season. But it has been dragged up tens of thousands of feet of granite at the end of a rope, dropped five hundred feet on one occasion, and it has never needed to be repaired. I think that is pretty cool. I expect that I will give this to a grand kid some day who wants an uber-cool vintage book bag for college."