Fortunately, TOP is now popular enough that I'm again getting cameras from manufacturers for launch announcements and for review, not to mention loans (and even gifts!) from readers, so the pipeline is full again. Or full enough.
For me, the biggest problem of digital is not the cameras. It's that mastery itself has become more fugitive. Where computer photography is concerned, everything has a time-stamp, a sell-by date. No matter what it is, everything seems to march past on a steady progression from cutting edge to mainstream to obsolescent to unsupported. As soon as you're used to something and begin to master it, it changes. It hardly matters what it is: sensor, file type, color characteristics, image editor, calibration issues, printer models, even papers and inks.
Mastery of the old methods wasn't easy, lord knows. It required what my friend Nick called "the room-sized accessory," a.k.a. the darkroom, and a lot of time and practice, which in turn worked best if they were directed by knowledge, testing, and experimentation. More time spent and knowledge gained usually equaled improved or enhanced mastery. But many photographers spent a relatively short time mastering their craft and a very long time simply practicing it.
With digital, by contrast, you have to keep up: you have to invest substantial time and effort just to stay in the same place, and hard-won mastery can be obliterated by a change in one or another aspect of the process.
I mastered my first printer, for instance. Of course, now you can't buy paper or inks for it. Landfill.
I calibrated my first DSLR to a fare-thee-well. Of course it no longer works, and the company that made it left the camera business.
I mastered Photoshop...
...7, I think it was. (Or was it 5?) Photoshop hasn't stood still. Soon, I'll have to learn CS 4. Or 5. I'm several generations behind now, which won't be tenable for much longer.
I learned ACR when it appeared as a plugin to Photoshop. Of course, a friend who keeps up with technical issues says that ACR is not a good raw converter for the camera I've been thinking about buying next. He's recommending a third-party converter that has a "steep learning curve." Great.
And on it goes.
I'm guessing none of this is unfamiliar to you. A change in one link of the chain changes other links; and something or other is always changing. And if it hasn't changed yet, you know it will. Maybe not soon, but probably sooner rather than later. You have to keep up. To put it overly simplistically, it's the difference between running, and running on a treadmill.
This isn't necessarily worse, just different. But I would say that, for me, this is the biggest difference between the practice of photography now and what photography was like when I built my first darkroom in a bathroom under the basement stairs.
A little gain, a little give.
Featured Comment by gene lowinger: "While the digital age is always moving forward in a way analog film and chemicals did not, I find it a wonderful challenge. Practicing the craft of getting things right with my current software is as fulfilling as getting it right in my wet darkroom. And it keeps changing, so I have to constantly be upgrading my skills. This massages my aging brain cells and keeps my thinking tack sharp. I've found over the years that if I let version upgrades go by with the idea that I'll pick up another upgrade down the line, the more space there is between upgrades the harder the transition is. I don't buy the upgrades to keep software developers afloat. I buy them to keep my brain afloat!"
Featured Comment by Rodger Kingston: "The digital revolution in photography that we are swept up in today is very much akin to the first several decades after 1839, when photography was first invented. Then, as now, constant improvements in both equipment and light sensitive materials proceeded one another in a headlong race that makes ours today seem tame indeed.
"From Daguerreotypes to Ambrotypes to Tintypes; from Calotypes and paper negatives to albumen on glass, then wet collodion negatives; from salted paper prints to albumen prints; all were cumbersome processes that required taking the darkroom into the field and coating the plates immediately prior to exposure, then developing them before they dried.
"All of this (and countless more subtle refinements) took place in the nearly half century between 1839 and the late 1880s, when the first dry plate negatives and pre-sensitized printing papers were introduced, thus ushering in the modern age of photography that has ended so recently.
"The point of all this history is that some of the finest photographs in the entire history of the medium were made in these early years, when "operators" (as photographers were first called) had not only to master their cumbersome and ever-changing equipment and materials, but also had to invent the practice and profession of photography itself.
"Over my many years as both photographer and collector, I have often wished I could have experienced the excitement and sheer adventures of those amazing first decades of our medium. Well, now I am doing just that.
"This digital revolution we are all a part of is almost exactly the same as those first heady decades: the infancy of a whole new means of human expression and endeavor, with the same sorts of challenges that faced Fox Talbot and Daguerre, Roger Fenton, Frances Frith, and all the other early masters.
"They didn't complain about how slow their collodion on glass negatives were, or how inadequate their bulky cameras and crude lenses were; they worked to improve them, and more important, learned to make great photographs despite (or perhaps because of) the limitations under which they were forced to work.
"I love digital photography, and I come from a long career as a film photographer and Cibachrome printer. And if I have to struggle sometimes to keep up with the latest equipment and software, I know that I am simply walking hand-in-hand with Mathew Brady and Julia Margaret Cameron and all the others who brought photography into being."