For what it's worth (doubtless not much), I think I've come to a tentative axiom—
Current digital cameras are too complicated to be either a) adequately precise, or b) adequately durable.
I'm still on the fence as to what might be the best way to act on that. Two potential options:
- Buy the best possible camera* and just make sure you earn enough with it so that it pays for itself several times over within a three-year cycle.
- Buy the cheapest camera that is adequate for your needs, put up with its imprecision**, and use it sparingly until it's "totalled"—i.e., costs more to repair than it's worth. Cross your fingers that this is >6 years.
That is, two opposing philosophies: 1. offset high cost with high returns, or 2. eke maximum value out the equipment via the route of minimal investment. Option 1 minimizes the "A" constraint in the axiom and option 2 minimizes the "B" constraint.
Haven't come to any conclusion about that yet.
And of course the argument could be made that traditional mechanical cameras were too durable...sort of a dogs vs. parrots kind of problem....
*On the assumption that the best professional cameras where "good value" is not a design constraint will also have the highest precision. Not an automatically true assumption, as you're probably aware.
**Going on the assumption that this is unavoidable, as all digital cameras will be to some degree imprecise anyway.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Ken Sky: "You are leaving out the biggest variable in the equation—the photographer. As humans age we are prone to decay and increasing imprecision. I am sure my vision is more imprecise than the latest generation of digital camera. The likeliest cause of camera failure is human error e.g. dropping it or forgetting to charge the battery."
Mike replies: Right. In a private email exchange, a friend wrote, "How a camera fails matters. The worst kind of failure is one that's not obvious while you're shooting—i.e., you think it's working but find out when you get home that your negatives / files are trash," and I replied, "Agreed. My camera often fails because it's pointed at the wrong thing, which for some reason was invisible to my brain while I was out shooting but which becomes quite clear later on."
Featured Comment by JOHN MCMILLIN: "I've heard a similar idea postulated with automobiles, probably first by Public Radio's The Car Guys. Choose one: either buy a three-year-old car and keep it seven years, or buy a seven-year-old car and keep it three years."
Featured Comment by Nick: "Option 3: Adopt the notion that digital cameras are more like film that cameras: A consumable. Undersand that you aren't really sure how big a box of film you're purchasing, that there may be a couple hundred or a couple thousand rolls in it.
"Alternate Option 3: Consider that digital cameras, like all bits of consumer electronics, are more rented than bought. Understand that your are paying an upfront cost for something like a three year lease, and that the 'landlord' may be a bastard and kick you out after six months, or he may be a sweetheart and let you stay for years and years."