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Wednesday, 06 October 2010


In a very similar comparison, Olympus XAs are worth about $75 on Ebay, XA2s about $35. Even completedly shot, people buy them for parts.

At work, we go through digital cameras - we give them to the IT department for recycling. Somebody always graps the strap. I've saved a few lenses for "experiments".

Nice job getting up the gumption to pitch a camera. I have never been able to do it. Even the broken ones. I have always either sold off cameras before they became completely worthless, donated them to a cash strapped friend or put them up on the camera display shelf in the family room. I certainly have some which should be thrown out (i.e. Mickey Mouse head 126 instamatic). But I just can't do it.

If I had the patience and the proper personality, I could count the keepers I got from that thing and figure out the camera-cost per good shot I got. Don't even want to think about it.

As Lightroom (or any similar application) allows it, and my photo collection is very well organized, I've done that for all my digital cameras. It's something not to be recommended, save in case of needing a good torrent of tears to remoisten our monitor-fried eyes...

Funny (or rather, not funny) to see that camera in the trash. In one of the interminable and repetitious film vs digital debates recently, someone claimed that digital cameras never, ever ended-up in landfills. If they did eventually die (which apparently was very seldom) then they were always, ALWAYS responsibly recycled.

Yours must be the first.

Yes, but the question is, what did the Contessa cost in today's money, how many frames did it have shot on it, and what would it cost to have it repaired if it croaked 20 years ago?

That said, I feel your pain. It's the unfortunate reality today. Very little anything ever gets sent in for repair.

There won't be any "classic digital cameras" (in the user sense), for a while. A fifty-year-old film camera can potentially take as good a picture as it ever did. My Olympus D-460, admittedly never a great camera to begin with, takes horrible pictures, just like it did when I bought it. I just didn't know any better at the time, and besides, it was great for getting pictures onto eBay. It still works, I still have media for it, and I can't imagine a single reason for wanting to use it. The pictures aren't even bad in an interesting kind of way, just bad. There it sits on my shelf.....

OK, I'll bite...Permanence and impermanence.

The print you have scanned and posted to internet may have suffered gas fading more than light fading if it's a dye-based inkjet print. Nevertheless, it hasn't died catastrophically as your digital file did. It has still got plenty of information content left that can be copied and restored.

Still, your hardcopy print could have died catastrophically... you could have lost it, thrown it away, or it could have perished in fire or flood. But all that said, its normal process of decay is one of a slow analog failure rather than a sudden loss of bits and bytes that render all the image content undecipherable instantly. That gives it certain permanence qualities that digital files don't have, and conversely, the duplication ease of digital files gives rise to a type of potential (operative word is potential) longevity that hard copy prints usually don't have (i.e. numerous multiple copies).

I guess the moral of the story is that hardcopy prints still have a significant value and a useful role to play in this digital display-iPad happy era of photography. Long live the printed photograph! I love photographic prints. I hope younger generations following in our footsteps will in time come to appreciate them as well.

kind regards,

Mark / aardenburg-imaging.com

Our first digital camera was an Olympus C3000. We took our daughter to the Junior Olympic (she took Gold :-) ) in Florida and I spent 3+ hours playing with it in the store convincing myself that it was worth $850+. Back in year 2000, there really wasn't much competition then. It died a few years ago.

I didn't get a serious digital until the Epson R-D1. Before that, the M7 + 100 rolls of film per year kept me busy.

Then it was on to the Olympus E-3.

Now back to the M, but digital. An analogue M would last forever, but the digital ones? May be 10 years at the most optimistic projection? Eventually, the electronics will die, if nothing else. They will go on the shelf though. I doubt anyone would be throwing digital Ms out, even if they are non-functional.

You could have had some fun by taking it apart I guess. Otherwise, you're looking at the shadow side of digital photography.

Although, from an obsolescence POV, it's interesting to see what Kyle Cassidy's been up to with a 1.3 megapixel Leica digicam from the early days: http://kylecassidy.livejournal.com/622484.html

Digital can indeed delete images faster than anything except a bomb can destroy negatives (a house fire actually takes quit a while).

When I bought the too-expensive-for-me Fuji S2 back in 2002, one thing I thought of was that it came with a permanent supply of film and free processing. Printing still costs money, but just getting the images into my files costs only disk space now (and even at prices back then, it's not a big fraction of the cost of a roll of film plus processing). When I sold it on, I found that the film and processing to take the pictures that I had indexed from that camera would have cost about 50% more than the camera had cost.


I've been thinking about this whole issue of permanence and impernance recently - and hinted at it in my response to your last post. I'm sure that I've discarded files that I might value in the future, perhaps because they were hidden amongst the very large heaps of dross that it's possible to create. I've also lost negs from my youth, so they're not foolproof either. But (sorry to start a sentence with but - I know it's wrong), with negs I can stick them a binder and they'll still be there in x year's time. With digital I need two copies and to check and re-back-up from time to time. I won't do this. If the house burns down both will be lost. Of course, there is offsite storage, but that adds expense and more complexity.

None of the above will be looked at by my children I suspect, and all media may be practially unreadable in 20 years time. So I make prints and put them in boxes or albums, which I am confident will still be readable as the necessary technology will still exist:)

I also wonder if it really matters, but then I like looking at pictures of my children and friends from time to time.


I'm a film shooter but I'll say that one has to be careful in "slamming" (which I realize you aren't really doing) the disposable nature of digital cameras.

It's easy to look at that Zeiss Contessa and think that film cameras have that advantage. But don't forget (as many do) that film cameras were well on their way to the disposable zone before digital came along.

I mean, who was going to fix a Contax g1 or g2, or all those high-end, highly automated SLRs, or the millions of P&S auto everythings?

Just because they used film doesn't mean they were going to be around for decades.

I'm not so pessimistic about the long term value of cameras built in the past few years. I still use a D200 and it's still capable of great quality. Your camera cost $700 when new because of the digital novelty factor, but based on it's capabilities it was more akin to a cheapo brownie from the 70's. Lots of those went into landfills as well.

Certainly digital wont have the ultimate lifespan of a classic mechanical Zeiss, but I think 9 years from now we won't be throwing M9's and 5dII's in the can if they can be salvaged.

You would, of course, throw away the film you used. Or at least, it would no longer be of any further use. So if we (generously) say that a roll of 35mm film costs $10 to purchase and develop, 70 rolls in you've broken even. Maybe home processing changes that math a little, but not a ton. I'm ignoring the associated costs of digital photography, of course, too - the computers and monitors and printers and such - but cost-per-click in digital can still be lower - potentially dramatically lower - than with film.

Of course, I do understand your point - the old Contessa, while unused, could be used. But what you regret is not the loss of the value of the machine (in 1953, the Contessa sold for $214, or $1750 in 2010 dollars - they now sell for ~$100 on ebay, so they've lost $1650 in value) but rather the ability to revisit that time of your life - or so I suspect.

Strikes a chord, Mike!

I still have my first digital camera, an Olympus C-1000L, which cost me around 600 pounds sterling (I think) back in 1998. It boasts in big letters on the side that it has 850K pixels - wow! I imagine that it is now as valueless as your C-3040Z (although it does actually still work). It's probably worth a lot less now than several old 35mm cameras in a box in the loft (Zeiss Werra, Olympus Trip etc), which had around zero value when I bought the early digital miracle.

Ain't progress wonderful?

funny, i was just thinking about my Canon S20 today. It has 3.3 megapixels and cost me $599 in 2002! Happily, it is still working and it has its "uses" & if something happens to it, oh well.

About a year ago, my computer started making odd noises. At first I ignored it. I've had computers die on me before. It’s annoying, but I've generally been able to rescue the minimal data that's really essential, and I rarely cared about the stuff I lost (the dazzling new replacement computer always has a way of distracting me).

But then I suddenly realized that that computer held ALL of the pictures and videos of my twin daughters and I didn't have a backup for any of them, except about 40 pictures I had uploaded to Flickr and maybe a handful more that I had burned to CD for my parents.

The very next day I began shopping for a new computer and figuring out my future backup strategy. I investigated RAID setups, NAS setups, cloud storage, the works. Here is what I came up with:

1. RAID is probably overkill for most users.

For a RAID setup you probably want at least four hard drives. Very few mainstream home computers are set up to handle four hard drives well. This ranges from problems mounting the drives, to having cables of adequate length, to having a power supply that is powerful enough, to having enough SATA and power cables. I wound up with four hard drives, but because I also have a SATA DVD/CD-Rom drive, I had to buy an expansion SATA controller card and a cable splitter to allow me to hook up all 5 devices at the same time.

An external RAID enclosure is another option, but these are expensive. And note that few of them are true RAID enclosures. Some just let you install multiple drives, but the data bandwidth is limited.

2. NAS (network attached storage) is probably too complicated for mainstream use.

Setting up a NAS system requires another computer (possibly an old one you were about to throw out) and some patience with occasionally confusing software. While free programs are available, I decided this wasn't worth the hassle. I also understand that Lightroom doesn't work with images stored on a network drive, so that was another reason to avoid setting up a NAS.

3. Cloud storage can be expensive. And slow.

There are many services offering online backup and data storage solutions. Many of these are targeted at the home user who probably has several hundred JPEGs and hundreds of Word files stored on their home computer. Total volume of data to be backed up? Probably less than 1GB total. Storing 1GB with these services can be fairly cheap. Storing several terabytes of RAW files and home movies can get very, VERY expensive (about $1,867/hear with Amazon's S3 service, for example), assuming you even manage to upload your data. On most household internet connections, uploading data is significantly slower than downloading data. And some backup services or internet providers limit your upload speed. Result? It could take months to upload 500GB of data.

4. Hard drives are cheap. DVDs are small.
When people say hard drives are cheap, they mean it. Highly rated, high-performance (7,200 rpm) 2TB drives are widely available for about $115. That is a lot of space for not much money. While a hard drive may not be the most physically robust backup medium, they are widely available, broadly compatible, fast, cheap and spacious. You just need to bear in mind that you will likely need to transfer your data to another medium in a few years. Don’t expect to put a hard drive in your safe deposit box for 20 years and expect to be able to access the data upon removal.

Backing up to DVDs is OK, but time consuming. Moreover, DVDs and CD-Roms are not nearly as robust for archiving as people like to think they are. Many DVDs and CD-Roms start to degrade within 5 years. And keeping track of what files are on what DVDs can be a chore.

5. You need multiple backups.

Everyone knows the mantra, it’s just that few people observe it: keep multiple backups, and keep at least one copy of your data off-site. Some people recommend backing up to at least two different kinds of media in order to protect yourself against sudden technological obsolescence or faults.

6. Your backup system has to be one that will work FOR YOU.

Picking some grandiose backup scheme that you will never keep up with in practice is of no good to you whatsover. Make sure your plan is one you can – and will – stick to. If after a few weeks you find you aren’t backing up appropriately, then it’s time to explore other options. I, for one, am not the kind of person who would remember to manually initiate a backup once a week or once a month. Moreover, I use my computer sporadically, so scheduling a backup to run every Tuesday at 8pm could mean that my computer isn’t backed up for weeks on end.

With the above in mind, here is the setup I settled on. It isn’t perfect, but it works for me. I’m only offering this as an example to show you what is possible.

Original Data: My data is stored on two hard drives. A smaller drive containing my operating system and applications, and a larger drive containing my documents, videos, pictures, etc.

Physical local backup: The drive containing my operating system and applications is backed up using the backup utility in Windows 7. Disk images are stored on an internal hard drive that is the same size as my OS/application drive. Because my OS/application drive isn’t full and the system images are compressed, I have multiple sequential backups of my OS and applications. The backup utility runs once a week at the only time during the week that I fairly certain the computer will be on. Because I don’t modify my system drive frequently, backups are fairly fast, painless affairs that run in the background.

The drive containing my documents, pictures and videos is backed up to an internal hard drive of the same size. I use CrashPlan+ software, which performs real-time backups of my data. This is ideal, because I don’t have to think about it, don’t have to have my computer on at any specific time and my backups are always up-to-date. CrashPlan+ supports versioning, so if I make a mistake and overwrite a file, I can always go back and get the original.

Remote cloud backup: After a lot of poking around, I came across CrashPlan Central. Backing up an unlimited amount of data costs as little as $3.47/month for a single user. You can backup an unlimited amount of data from all of the computers in your household for as little as $5/month. CrashPlan’s software is easy to use, their support personnel are responsive, knowledgeable and helpful, there aren’t any hidden “gotchas” (e.g. surcharges, limits on upload or download speed, exclusions of certain file types, etc.) and everything works as it should. I get regular e-mails (you can configure how often or even disable this feature if you prefer) notifying me of the backup status of each of the computers in our home and alerting me if any computer hasn’t been able to backup for a while. Moreover, I have conducted test restores – I was able to very, very quickly identify the files I wanted to restore and download them in seconds.

Most importantly, CrashPlan allows you to “seed” your backup. As indicated above, if you are backing up more than 100GB, it could take weeks or even months to complete an initial backup over the internet to their system. Unlike many competing home-user services, CrashPlan will send you a blank hard drive for a small charge. You perform your initial backup onto that external hard drive, then send it back to them. They upload your files to their system, and from that point forward you only need to upload the incremental additional data you add to your system. I was up and running within days. [Note: they have a similar service that runs in reverse. If you experience a catastrophic data loss, then can copy your data onto a hard drive and send it to your for you to load onto your system, so that you don’t have to wait for days while downloading several GB or TB of data.]

Warning: even after seeding your backup, backing up large volumes of new data can take a long time. I just returned from three weeks of vacation with several thousand pictures and video on top of that. Uploading 10-15GB of data will take you between 1 and 2 weeks, even leave your computer on for long stretches of time. Such online or cloud storage is not a practical solution for professional photographers that generate a large number of images.

Offsite physical backup: I purchased two portable, external hard drives. These drives contain clones of my primary drives (the drive with my OS and programs, and the second drive with my data). If my boot drive is damaged or stolen, I don’t even have to perform a system restore: I can just swap in the clone of my boot drive and away we go. Same thing applies to my data drive. There is no need to uncompress, decrypt, or download any files, everything is readily available to me. I store these drives in a locked drawer outside my home. Once a month or so, I take them home and update the backups, then put them back into storage.

Is this overkill? Probably. But it is a surprisingly low-maintenance system, since most of it is automated and runs in the background without any intervention from me. And the cost is minimal: I already had a couple drives, so I only spent about $250 on new drives (which I expect to last me at least 3-5 years) and another $5/month for CrashPlan Central. I have complete peace of mind and I know that my precious memories are safe, at least for the time being. I’m protected against theft, fire, flood, burst pipes, electrical shock, physical drive failure, CrashPlan Central bankruptcy (not that I expect any such thing, but I wouldn’t want any 3rd party to be the only backup of my data), viruses and, thanks to the versioning features in the backup software, simple stupidity on my part.

One last note: CrashPlan offers free backup software on its website. The program is, unsurprisingly, called “CrashPlan”. This is their basic software, but doesn’t feature real-time background backups. That feature is available in their “CrashPlan+” software, which costs $60. CrashPlan and CrashPlan+ can both be used without paying any monthly fees to CrashPlan. You only pay them ongoing fees if you use their “CrashPlan Central” cloud backup service.

Free offsite storage: CrashPlan and CrashPlan+ can both be used to backup to your hard drive, an external drive or via the Internet. When backing up via the Internet, you can backup to CrashPlan Central for a monthly fee, or you can backup to a friend’s computer for free. Here is how it works: suppose Mike and Ctein both want to be able to backup remotely, but they don’t want to pay any ongoing fees. Mike and Ctein each have approximately 1TB of data they want to backup. Each purchases a blank 1TB (or, to give room for the data volume to grow, 1.5-2TB) drive and installs it (internally or externally) on their system. Using CrashPlan, Mike sets it up so that Ctein can backup data to the drive Mike just installed, and Ctein sets up CrashPlan to allow Mike to backup to the drive Ctein just installed. To be on the safe side, they each set up CrashPlan to create local backups as well. Going forward (assuming Mike has installed CrashPlan+), every time Mike downloads a card full of pictures from his Panasonic G1 onto one of his hard drives, CrashPlan+ immediately recognizes the new files, and backs them up onto Mike’s personal backup drive. CrashPlan+ then encrypts the files and backs them up, over the internet, to the hard drive attached to Ctein’s computer. The data is encrypted, so Ctein cannot access Mike’s data. If a burglar steals Mike’s fancy new Mac, he can always get his data back from Ctein’s computer. The only drawback to this system is that your computer has to be on at the same time as your “friend’s” computer in order to allow the backup to work.

Hope this helps,

I feel your pain brother...A 3040Z was my first digital camera, I spent months deciding on that particular model just before a trip to Italy. I shot a lot of photos with it that I still like a lot. Probably more because of the memories they evoke than any remarkable aesthetic qualities. Here's a link to one - http://www.flickr.com/photos/26317521@N00/3838353977/#/photos/26317521@N00/3838353977/lightbox/
As it approached obsolescence(probably more imagined than real), I handed it down to my Mom. I bet she even took two or three photos with it. It's sitting in some closet at Mom's house now, waiting for the day I reclaim it in a fit of nostalgia and give Mom something much smaller and simpler. For me, it represents the line in the sand where I went from film to digital, and rarely looked back. In it's day, I thought it was a terrific camera.

Have you ever owned a Nikon or Canon SLR or DSLR? Why not? They work better than Minolta or Olympus or Leica, which is why, as corporations, they're so much bigger, or, in the case of Minolta, continue to exist.

And printing has come further since 2001 than cameras have, and cameras have come a long way. A digital print will now last for 247 years in full sunlight without any fading whatever. I'd scan it, Photoshop it back to original condition, and print it with a pigment-based printer. And 247 years from now, you might have to do it again, except that in Miller Lite, WI., or wherever it is that you live, there is no full sunlight, so it'll probably last 900 years.

I find it interesting that while your kid has changed a lot over the years, his haircut hasn't. Find something you like, stick with it, by golly (as they would say in ML,WI.)

I predict by the end of the evening, the Twins will OWN the Yankees.


This is one of the new realities of digital photography. With film, there were a limited number of bodies you needed to own in your life; precious few paradigm shifts that compelled an upgrade. In my first 15 years of picture taking, I bought 3 serious/main bodies. The consumables got upgraded and tinkered with constantly, but the cost to you was incremental.

Now the bodies are basically consumable, and regardless of the ergonomics or the quality, every couple of years, it's time to buy new, and that's assuming you skip generations. My K10D is worth 20% of what I paid for it, less than 3 years and 2 gens ago. I've already added a newer SLR, and will probably do a major upgrade next year. Which is kind of ridiculous.

I've often wondered why no manufacturer has taken a run at a truly modular system: control chassis, user replacable sensor/CPU block, interchangeable lens. Make the prism interchangeable too, while you're at it. Ricoh doesn't count, because they're forcing you to duplicate sensors. Various incarnations are tossed around on internet forums, yet, to my knowledge, no one's tried it. It would return photography somewhat back to the days of 3 or 4 main chassis in your life, with more frequent changes of sensing media.

This is why I don't understand the excitement over the latest new digital camera release (pick any).

The electronics will definitely fail at some point in the relatively near future, and the camera will be a total write-off.

If it's a fixed-lens camera, there goes an otherwise good piece of glass, too.

"someone claimed that digital cameras never, ever ended-up in landfills. If they did eventually die (which apparently was very seldom) then they were always, ALWAYS responsibly recycled. Yours must be the first."

Yikes. Now I feel even worse.


Don't forget, Sony's first digicam, the Mavica, which used floppy discs, cost $999.00. That's not a typo.

My 4MP Leica Digilux 1, cost $695.00, and it only went to ISO 400.

Speaking of hand-me-down cameras, I'm proud to have my father's Nikon F Photomic. This is the camera that was used to take virtually all of our family photographs. It's beyond functional, by which I mean that the camera is so new looking it's hard to believe that it has ever been out of its box.

I'm the type to personally prefer "user" cameras to "collector" cameras, as if unused cameras break a karmic cycle in some unkind way. Ironically, I haven't yet brought myself to risk putting the first ding into this one camera.

I hope, I pray that the equipment cycles are slowing down---and so does my wife! :)

But I do think it is slowing down. The Nikon D3x that I own is likely a 10 year camera---maybe not in my hands, but over its life. I am not seeing 20 year cameras yet, but its getting close.

Wouldn't it be nice if Leica could make their entire M camera system image sensor a modular block that could simply be pulled out and replaced upon the occasion of grander image sensor quality or better image processing. Cast the functionality in permanency, leave the viewfinder and focus as is, but just change the guts out on rare occasion for a bit of a boost in performance.

If you look at the birth of analog photography, it took many decades for the methods to start to stabilize. The migration to digital has been quite painful and still is not fully "baked", but I find it remarkable that we can do any meaningful work with it given such a short period of development.

OK, so off to my trash can to add my own photo money to the bin. Don't want you crying in your tea alone there Mike! :) Perhaps this is the start of a photo therapy movement. Removing the weight of past dollars spent from our photo shoulders by the use of trash can therapy.


I have my dead OM-4 on the bookshelf along with a Nikon F. I can't imagine putting the OM-30 up there when it coughs it's last.

The OM-1 was pressed into service on Easter. I never gave it a second thought that it wouldn't work perfectly.

The other day, while I was waiting for the salesman to get a pre-ordered lens for my digital camera, I spotted a half dozen young people come into the camera store to buy FILM!!! Finally, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked what this was all about. It seems the local college with a large photographic department has now started teaching with film again. The more things change........

Save the camera strap? What do you take us for? Misers of the first order?

Of course, on looking into your kitchen rubbish bin, I did wonder why you hadn't saved the camera strap? And what happened to the front cap? And ...

I've very cleverly managed to give away | permanently loan | even sell for a nominal amount, some of my initial forays into digital photography. That way I can try something a bit more recent, and young people of my acquaintance can have fun with photography. The resale price, makes "passing on" older gear, a better use of my time than trying to sell it.

sir --- you have in one small article summed up all that is wrong with digital and it is so true - excellent point

Yup. As I've been sayin' for a long time, if you really want to preserve those photos, print 'em.

I'm sure legions of us could tell the same story of the first digital camera.

Digital moved photography from a specialized technology to the mainstream of emerging computer technology. Not very good at first, but has it ever improved. I went from a Coolpix 990 to a D70 to a D200 to a D300. Still have the 990 and every time I look at it I shudder to think how much it cost and, even worse, how much the memory card cost.

The D300 is a gem. At last, something that feels like my old F100. But without the cost of film, no need to scan to print, I'm comfortable and it does what I want.

Digital has matured to the point that we don't need to dash out to buy the next best thing. I can make big prints from what I have. I might buy a new Nikon D7000 because it is smaller and not so heavy.

Now digital just works. Unless you are a pixel peeper and have to have the newest. Good on you if you are, keep pushing for more, but I'm happy where it is and if it gets better I may eventually buy it, but not in a hurry.


"Have you ever owned a Nikon or Canon SLR or DSLR?"

Sure, I shot Nikon for 7 years as a pro so I could share (both ways) equipment with the 3 other Nikon-shooting photographers in our studio. Only shot Canon for 1 year. Have never owned a DSLR by either company, but I used some guy's D3 for a while once. Nice guy, some confusion about his name.

Don't let Jeter the cheater get you down,


This post touches on a concern I have, as well. A very important part of my photography has always been documenting my family. In fact the initial stimulus to become a photographer was the urge to photography my rapidly growing 1-year old, lo those 39 years ago. Even though I took no more than reasonable care to properly process and store negatives and prints, my entire archive has not noticeably deteriorated in over thirty years. I'm still committed to doing serious work in film, but my documentation of family and friends is increasingly digital. Storing digital files safely for anywhere near that long will require considerable money, effort, and discipline. I have two copies of everything inside my house, and two more copies in the garage. That gives me a fighting chance for the files to survive the inevitable hard-drive failures. But what about the long term entropic degradation of files on all current forms of storage media? Safe storage of digital files requires periodic recopying, with error checking, of data from old media to new. You can't just write it to a hard drive or optical disk and expect it to be usable decades later. And what confidence do we have that our carefully stored .dngs, .tiffs, and .psds will be readable in the future? Not only to we have to monitor and refresh the data, we have to stay alert for file format changes and convert everything while converters still exist and still run on whatever version of computer we have. And imagine the task of converting multiple terrabytes of data.

Typing this on a 69 dollar Mac bought off Ebay, wondering if I should buy film for my beat to s*%t Rollei TLR and scan w/ my refurbished Epson Perfection 4490 or just go out and take pictures w/ the circa 2003 Canon Digital Rebel that still works....

Interesting post, Mike. Aside from a vest-pocket camera for snapshots - the original Pentax Optio 3 mbl - I continued shooting film for years. The main reasons were a short span for DSLRs before some new model would vastly exceed the capabilities of an earlier version. Also, the quality from my scan the negative, improve the image in Photoshop and print routine was not significantly bettered by much that I saw from professionals using very expensive DSLRs. It is a time-consuming routine but a lot of fun.

Last April, I took the plunge and bought a D3s. The reasons are that it can do anything I am ever likely to want to do, regardless of any future improvements, and at my rate of shooting is likely to last at least 15 years before it needs a new shutter. So I'm a happy camper. And by the way, I still use that mini-Pentax.

Ugh, yes, never toss these toxic digital dead things in the landfill. (Kind of shocked you did not know!) ALWAYS recycle them. Best Buys and other retailers have e-cycling bins at the entrance for cameras, cell phones, rechargeable batteries (another danger in the landfill), and other small items. Best Buy also takes back just about anything e-waste including TVs, computers, DVD players, stereos, etc.
Other e-cycling companies include Target, Staples, Ikea, Apple, Office Depot, Dell, Waste management, and even the US Postal Service.
Go to http://earth911.com/ to find recyclers near you of anything (even oil, paint, packing peanuts, photo chemicals, etc.)

I bought a Olympus E100Rs in 2001. My reasoning was that digital MUST do something I couldn't with film. the E100RS did 14fps and had that pre-shot setting. Any case 1.4mp and I loved it...
NOW - Today 2010 we still use it daily in our law firm to photograph clients injuries and accident scenes.
So no rapid shooting ;) anymore - I have tons of shots 7.5 every second to be exact of my oldest 2 sons as babies as they were born 2000 & 2001. Moved on to E1 and other Oly DSLR's

So my comment: 9 years old and the e100RS is still doing the job.

South Africa

A C-3040Z! That was my first digital camera as well. Boy, did I have fun with that thing. I still have it somewhere, and it probably still works, but I'll never find out because, as mentioned, SmartMedia cards are a digital dodo. I'm going to have a hard time chucking it though.

As long as these things are going to break eventually anyway, I kind of wish they'd make them so that they break absolutely and unequivocally, so there'd be no reason to feel any remorse about throwing them out. Perhaps they could be made to simply dissolve one day: "Whoa, that one's a goner! Guess I'll just pour it down the drain and get a new one." That would make life so much easier.

It's interesting you mentioned the Contessa. There were several models, but the original one is a cute little folding range finder (probably the one you inherited). I have a Contessa myself. When I came across it in almost mint condition I simply HAD to have it. Turned out to be a capable picture taking device (and an ultra-high precision tool). The old Tessar lens works fine with nowadays films - giving colourful and sharp pictures. What a fantastic piece of mechanical engineering (with some cute litte quirks and kinks). Everybody who takes it into her or his hands admires it. Who admires a 10 years old point-and-shoot digital? Who will fall in love with a Panasonic ten years from now? (Nonetheless I enjoy the advantages of having a tiny digital with me all the time...)

"...could have fun taking it apart..."

Whatever you do, DO NOT just take it apart. You may be in for a surprise.


The one critical advantage that a digital file has over a print or negative is that there's absolutely no reason for it to exist in only one place (once it's been downloaded from the camera card). Every one of my RAW files is backed up to at least two different places, and I send JPGs of every single picture I take to Flickr (hidden from public view, of course). At some point, I'll probably shell out for some other online backup service, too, just to be sure. Prints are too expensive and time- and space-consuming to be useful for archiving large numbers of photos; backing up the 12,000 digital pictures on my drive is a matter of a few mouse clicks and and some waiting. Prints may survive neglect better than digital files, but an archive of digital files will be immortal for as long as someone is willing to actively maintain it.

Didn't that C-3040Z you threw out have an f/1.8 lens? Imagine, these days people are trumpeting the Canon S95 and Panasonic LX5 for their radically bright f/2.0 lenses, and yet Olympus had them both beat over 10 years ago. What's going on? Are we moving backwards in camera evolution?

I'd worked on project called "The People Behind The News" It was a series of shots of people reading news papers on trains, buses, in bars etc. Some of my best shots (he says) were taken on the project. All the original files have gone now; Off in to cyber space. All that remains is a couple of low res files, not even a print. I was getting ready to print my favourites and they were gone, to this day I can't recall how or when.

My 30 year old slides are fading fast. They have been well maintained in dry dark conditions at 20C.

It's very very disappointing. It would have been even more disappointing if they had been taken on a Leica. Damned analog. No matter how good the camera is they all look the same, eventually.

Adam, ( amcananey ),
Thanks, that is just the kind of information I was looking for. I'm reading reviews of CrashPlan right now.

Mike, thanks for bringing up this topic.

If you take the total amount of money spent on film and processing and divide it by the number of keepers from a film camera, the short lifespan of (relatively) expensive digital cameras doesn't look so bad. Buying a $1300* rangefinder in 1954, and using it a the rate of 10 rolls per year until you replace it with a point and shoot in 1984, conservatively get you to $30,416.67. (In constant dollars, assuming $10/roll for processing, not including the camera.) That's Forty-Three $700 dollar cameras over thirty years.

Alternatively, you could view it as having the ability to buy a $700 digital camera every 9 months.**

Note that the chemical waste from the developing process and all the packaging, roll ends and whatnot were either dumped down the drain or land-filled for most of those thirty years. So recycled digital cameras look pretty good.

*ballpark for a Retina IIa at $168.50 in 1954
**8.37 months, actually.

Get Ctein's book for picture restoration. I think I can promise you that he will give you a discount!

This just reinforces my natural instinct to be a 'late adopter' of technology. I didn't go digital until 2007 and then went straight down the full frame route (5D). At the time this was a punishing financial outlay for me but I didn't have to invest in any new ultra wide lenses as it worked fine with my existing 35mm lenses.

This is still my main camera and produces pictures which are only limited in quality by my own technical shortcomings. I don't envision changing it any time soon.

No, I'm not interested in video.

There's no free lunch I tell ya. Your old Contessa might still function but you gotta buy film for it, plus the camera had to be purchased too. We all know that digital photography forces you to pay for the "film" upfront, but when the film runs out you have to buy more, a new digital camera. There's no free lunch I tell ya.

No no you don't understand, that print has now become "vintage". Maybe you should "accidentally" leave it outside in the rain, then it will really become priceless.

I also still have my first digital camera (Canon S30). Cost me about 650 euros I believe, back in 2002. I tried to sell it after I stopped using it, but I couldn't sell it for a decent price anyway, so after a while I just forgot about it. Now I'll just keep it as a memento.
It still works by the way, but I have no intention of using it. The pictures look just like pictures from a modern digicam, just a bit smaller. So no "vintage" arguments to use it.

Perhaps if each family train one offspring as a kind of digital monk who makes sure to keep up to date with the latest storage technologies we can be assured our image files will be there for our descendants.

"There won't be any "classic digital cameras" (in the user sense), for a while."
Hmm, I don´t know but perhaps my Canon 1DsII bought in 2005 could turn into a classic, very nearly six years old and it still kicks a lot of very recent cameras butts with ease. But it should do, it cost me a small fortune and one hell of a quarrel with my wife when she found out. I think the D700 will become another classic and perhaps the A900.
You hoard camera straps and David Alan Harvey seems to hoard camera bags!
That´s a lovely photo and a typical Mike Johnston colour palette, get that photo scanned NOW!

On the bright side, look at all the film & chemicals not being produced & disposed of. (Probably paper, too).

It is a shame that digital cameras are disposable. As far as I can tell, 'regular consumers' (people who don't consider photography a hobby) mostly don't upgrade too often (only gadget hounds). My family & friends are good for using cameras for many years. And I think cameras are maturing to the point that there's increasingly less reason to upgrade, especially if you have a model with IS.

One surprising thing I've read is a big 'waste' is those musical/talking greeting cards with little computer chips & speakers in them that Hallmark sells by the gazillions. A few minutes of novelty, then into the landfill.

- Dennis

I have an old Canon D30 with a screwy viewfinder that I can only use if I trust the autofocus confirmation beep (and shoot a little to the left of what I want to capture) but I can't stand the thought of throwing it away. It still meters beautifully and renders well at low ISOs.

I sold an Olympus C2100UZ to a co-worker some years ago and have had seller's remorse ever since. I don't want to go through that again!

Mike, did you toss out the SmartMedia cards as well?

A question for those who make regular backups of their files: How do you know that the files you are copying are not corrupt?

You may be overwriting perfectly good files with a copy of something which is not correct unless there is some way of verifying it.

I just (like an hour ago) bought a Pentax LX recently serviced by Eric Hendrickson. That will go very nicely with my K-series primes. Doing my bit for re-use and recycle.

A note on digital electronics in general:

In the course of my work, I recently had to pay a couple hundred bucks to have a nine-year old digital projector removed from our facility.

At the time it was purchased, it was the premiere digi-cinema projector available. It had every conceivable feature, (and was bigger than a refrigerator) and part of its attraction lay in its supposed "future upgradeability." With the optional anamorphic lens attachments, it cost about $100K.

We lease that kind of stuff now.


Two points:

1. Actually, CrashPlan checks your files for corruption as it backs them up. I have read one report of a user discovering corruption because CrashPlan alerted him to that fact. Otherwise he never would have known there was a problem. Fortunately, the user was able to recover a functional copy from a local CrashPlan backup.

2. CrashPlan (and many other backup programs) support versioning, so it is impossible to overwrite a perfectly good file with a corrupt file. If one of your files becomes corrupt, you can go back in time through your backups until you find a version that is not corrupt.

Here is how one of the reviews below describes the versioning feature in CrashPlan: "CrashPlan takes care of versioning and deleted files, too. It can do unlimited versioning, meaning you can go back to whatever date/version you want. If you noticed that something happened to an Excel spreadsheet today, restore yesterday's version. Oops, still has the problem, go back to last week or last month - it's all there and it's all easy and fast to restore, either from your local destination or a remote one."

And bear in mind that NOT backing up is no protection against corruption - files can become corrupted in numerous ways even if you don't (directly) touch them on your hard drive. I would MUCH rather have multiple backups and versioning then trust that the version of a file on my computer will always be safe and secure.


I'm sure you have already seen these, but here are the reviews I found most helpful, especially the first one (but note that CrashPlan is much cheaper than it was when some of these reviews were originally published):

CrashPlan Central Review – The Perfect Online Backup Solution? - http://silvexis.com/2009/09/06/crashplan-central-the-perfect-online-backup-solution/

CrashPlan: the backup tool for the lazy paranoid - http://wonko.com/post/crashplan_the_backup_tool_for_the_lazy_paranoid

CrashPlan status report: still awesome - http://wonko.com/post/crashplan_status_report_still_awesome

CrashPlan Review – A flexible multi-platform backup solution - http://www.blackbeagle.com/reviews/crashplan-review-a-flexible-multi-platform-backup-solution/

CrashPlan review - my new favorite backup - http://www.goodcomputerguy.com/goodblog.nsf/d6plinks/BGRG-7TBEDZ

Best regards,

Dear Steve,

A good low-tech check on the current status of your files is the Contact Sheet II plugin in Photoshop (I imagine the Bridge contact sheet generator would work as well, but I haven't tried it.)

Whenever I burn a new archival DVD or build a new archive of any sort, I direct Photoshop at it and tell it to generate contact sheets (usually 100 photos to a page) from all the photos on the DVD or in the new archive, including any subdirectories.

Photoshop is VERY anal about corruption-- 95% of the time, a corrupted image file or bad read will simply cause the process to halt before completion. For 100% assurance, I quickly look over the contact sheets for any obviously wonky thumbnails (the chances of getting visually-insignificant corruption are insignificant).


Dear Archer,

People should remember that it's impossible to "instantly" erase files from a hard drive. A hard drive can only write a few gigibytes per minute; overwriting several hundred gigs of photos takes hours. Until the sectors are actually overwritten, the photos are still there. Even quick formatting doesn't eliminate them (the slow formatting that takes hours may).

Unless there's a hardware failure that renders the drive inoperable, a "sudden" loss of data or drive death is actually no loss at all.

What does happen in that instant (or few minutes) is that the directory structure is thoroughly trashed, so your computer can't find any of the files.

A program like Data Rescue will be able to recover everything. It's $99, I think. I used it to recover a 500 GB HPFS drive whose power suddenly got shut off, rendering the drive unmountable.

If you're comfortable playing in Unix-space, TestDisk works fabulously well:

TestDisk 6.11, Data Recovery Utility, April 2009
Christophe GRENIER

It recovered 100% of the content on a 400 GB NTSF partition that Disk Utility trashed.

The number of data files I have lost in the past 30 years, from all sorts of media and sources, starting with 5" floppies, is under 0.1%. By which I mean 99.9+% is currently readable, with my current computers and peripherals.

It does not take a large amount of my time to maintain data integrity. Certainly no more than the amount of time I've spent to insure my film integrity.

pax / Ctein

Steve Smith: The filesystem that I keep my pictures on keeps block checksums for everything it stores, and keeps two copies of everything on different disks. I have it go through weekly and verify that everything is okay (the hope being that an error that occurs will be detected before the other copy has a chance to also degrade).

I snapshot the filesystem, so I can go back by hours, days, months, and years (this doesn't take that much space since most of the files just sit there).

And the snapshots are maintained onto my backups (which I have three of, one rotated off-site periodically). Plus less formal optical disk archives.

For some of the older (inactive) directories I've also used PAR2 to create redundant bits, which PAR2 can use to find and fix damage to files.

Not that anything is perfect; but I think I've got pretty good reason to be confident in my backups.

Thanks amcananey, that was very, very helpful!

I use an triple backup system for all my digital files and every file itself is stored three times. First as a raw files, then as a jpeg and thirdly as a processed jpeg. All processed jpegs are stored at my 1 Tb internal disk and at my 1 Tb external disk and once a month at one or more (usually more) DVD-rams I store at my nieces house. Obsesive, sure.....wastfull.....of course, but when at ING-Barings in the nineties a backup restore procedure failed I had stored my work localy as well (against bank regulations I must say) but I had lost no work at all while my colleges lost up to a weeks work. Since then I'm a paranoid android and back-up, back-up, back-up and back-up. Crashes are expensive, disks are cheep, said he parafrasing mr. Hearst.

Greeting, Ed (a little drunk but still able to formulate full sentences in English).

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