Shiny and new: the new Olympus Pen F
With expensive but undeniably desirable gadgets that lose value quickly, it's worthwhile to spend a little thought to develop an adoption strategy so you don't waste your resources.
- Be an early adopter and buy new, but keep the camera only for a short time, say 6 to 18 months. Or two years at the most, especially if you're willing to keep an eye on the announcement and timing of replacement models. Why: this way, you always have the latest up-to-date camera, and with any luck you can sell the model you have before it's superseded. Your loss includes the early adopter "premium" (most digital cameras are at their most expensive right after introduction) to the possibly more discounted later-life price, plus the inevitable new-to-used depreciation, but you can often still get a good amount of your investment back out of the camera—more than half in many cases. This strategy makes sense for: people who enjoy trying out the latest thing and don't mind switching often, and who will put relatively a lot of use on their cameras within a relatively short time.
- Buy new but up to a year after introduction, and keep your camera for a relatively long time, at least 3–5 years. Why: this allows early adopters to be the "beta testers" for the product, allows time for the camera to be thoroughly reviewed, and gives "the crowd" time to uncover nagging problems and issues—some of which might be fixed by the manufacturer—making your purchase more likely to be fully eyes-open and therefore safer. The downside is that there won't be much value in the camera after five years have gone by and you won't recover much of your investment selling it used. But by then you'll presumably have gotten so much use out of it that this won't matter very much. An additional advantage to this strategy: when you finally do buy a new camera, the improvements in its technology will probably be very real and quite noticeable. Makes sense for: people who are conservative about their purchases, like to get to know their equipment well, and are secure enough to use a camera that's a bit "yesterday's news."
- Buy older models used or on closeout at the end of their lifecycle. Around the time camera models are replaced, early adopters are often selling examples that have received relatively little use, and dealers and discounters are clearing out slow-selling older stock. Bargains are to be had. And of course models that are two or three generations old are usually available on eBay or from other sources of used gear. Why: prices are often a fraction of what they were when the cameras were the latest thing. Right now, for example, the Fuji X-Pro2 interchangeable-lens RF-style camera is the latest thing, but it sells for $1,700. The X-Pro1, which also created a huge amount of excitement and inspired a lot of devotion among its fans when it was announced in early 2012 and also cost $1,700 new, now can be purchased new for $500. It's known to have "slow" focusing, but that's a relative thing—it's not that slow, and it's perfectly good for scenics and landscapes or deliberate portraiture—and you're saving $1,200. It's a nice body to use while starting a collection of lenses. This isn't the only example of course—a great many cameras reach a "low ebb" in pricing, and are sometimes spectacular bargains. Prices can be such a bargain that whatever value is left in it after your term of ownership amounts to a bonus. An additional advantage to this strategy: it's a way of inoculating yourself against impulsive purchases. You know you're not just getting your head turned by the latest shiny toy that everyone's excited about! This strategy makes sense for: people who like to spend as little as possible and like real bargains, but can resist the siren song of the latest thing.
So what I'd recommend is either buying early and getting out again quickly while the model is still current, or choosing carefully and deliberately and keeping the camera for a number of years. I personally think it's too hard to limit yourself to older, discontinued products purchased used—it's human nature to want the latest and best. But some people have the discipline to do that.
A fourth strategy might be:
4. Create a "photo budget" you're comfortable with and just "write off" that cost in your mind as the amount you pay every year for a pursuit you enjoy. I did that for many years in the decades between 1980 and 2000, first earmarking $3,000 annually for my no. 1 hobby and later, when my salary improved, $5,000, mainly paying for film and printing paper but also a revolving door of cameras and lenses. I didn't worry about getting that money back; it was what I was willing to pay to do something I loved, and I've never regretted a penny of those old budgets I spent. I got my money's worth. Doing what you enjoy in life can cost a few bucks, which is okay if it's within what you can afford.
ADDENDUM (see below):
5. Moose's "Smategy": Don't scrimp; you're supposed to be enjoying yourself! Buy whatever you want!
Sounds good to me. :-)
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
JG: "Personally, I've employed all four of the strategies you outlined and in pretty much sequential order, too. I am now photographing with a pair of older cameras bought used, and most of my modest photo budget is used to buy paper and ink to make prints. (Most of which are then neatly stacked in stylish Pina Zangaro cases and stored under my bed, but I digress...)
"It has taken me quite a while and cost me a lot of money to reach this point, but I don't believe I could be any happier than I am today. It really is liberating to finally focus the majority of my attention on the photos I take and not the cameras that I take them with! 8^) "
Kusandha: "Thank you for suggesting option 4! I have mostly worked with option 2 in the past, but I like the sound of option 4 a lot more as a way to fight off GAS, enjoy this hobby of mine, and also be more financially responsible as I get older."
KW Leon: "My strategies:
1. Buy new
I was sent to buy a camera for the office. So I picked up a Panasonic for a few hundred and spent a few thousand on an M8 for myself. Like sending an alcoholic to pick up the drinks for the office party.
2. Don't use
Left the M8 unopened, continued using the M6. Until the M9 came out and I got that too. At which point I finally decided it really was time to unbox the M8.
3. 1C/1L/many Y
I have 14 M lenses but the M8 has only ever had three lenses mounted on it. Once a lens goes on, it stays on for much longer than just one year. I have no issues with using a digital (!) camera that's ten-year-old news. The M9 is still NIB.
4. Buy in case they don't make them any more
E.g., FM3A (never used). 75mm Summilux, once I heard it was discontinued (did I ever use it?). Old 90mm Macro Kit when the new 90mm Macro Kit for the M240 was announced (better get it before it's gone; never used). Etc.
5. Sell nothing
Except for a Seagull TLR 30 years ago. Should have kept the camera; what was the $50 I got for it?"
Burple: "Following strategy 3, I recently purchased a refurbished Sony A77II with Sony 16–50mm ƒ/2.8 lens, with warranty, for $650. Selling the lens (which retails for $799) for $400. Thus, got myself a new a77II for...$250! If I sell my Sony A700 as well, I just upgraded for almost nothing."
Rodney Topor: "Your strategies seem to assume you stay in the same ecosystem. If you wish to change ecosystems, you also have to buy a new set of lenses to go with your new camera. OK, you can buy new or second hand lenses, but it's still expensive, and changes the thought processes and economics significantly."
Phil: "If you’re seriously considering costs as part of your camera use, it’s usually best to buy a high-end camera, one of the 'pro' models. These will hold more value over a longer usage span, the models aren’t turned over as quickly so they stay current and valuable longer, and they will be supported longer by the manufacturer. Also think of repair—if you break a cheaper camera, it may not be worth putting, say, $250 into a $500 camera, so you never get a chance to 'use it up' or resell it. The high-end camera may be the best buy no matter which strategy you use—it’ll hold a higher percentage of its price at resale after 1–2 years even if you buy early at top price, and it’ll last longer and still be worth keeping for many years or selling if you buy later after its price cut. Same goes for lenses. 'Kit' lenses are basically throwaways, but the popular high-end lenses hold their value very well, more so than camera bodies."
Moose (partial comment): "Strategy, smategy.
"My strategy in photography is to enjoy myself, not to minimize its expense.
"If one of my hobbies were scrimping, saving, making do, and so on, I might enjoy doing photography with greater emphasis on doing it on the cheap.
"But I don't derive joy from that. So I would do it if I had to, but I don't, for the gear I like. If I derived joy from high status stuff, and could afford it, perhaps I would be using Leica and other high $ gear. (They are making something other than rangefinders, now, no? I really dislike rangefinders.)
"But what really floats my boat is finding gear that I enjoy using, that fits, and that is capable of producing images that I enjoy having made and enjoy sharing with others.
"And, truth be told, I simply enjoy taking photographs. I'll see something I've shot many times before, and still derive pleasure out of really paying attention to it and shooting it again. Sheer waste of time, and perhaps a little $, but this is not an exercise in efficiency."
😗Nice! How much?
🤔It does so much more than my old 📷. 😕
I can afford to have 📷📷. 💰💰. 😬
😇 You don't need another 📷.
😈 Yes you do! Look at how pretty it is. Just think how much better your pictures would be with the new 📷.🌊🌷🌝⛰🌄🏜🌈🌇🏝🏯😈
😇 Don't do it!
😍😍😎😎I got a new 📷🤗😍🤗🎉.
🤔That was a lot of 💰to spend to 📷🐱. I don't need 📷📷.
I'll sell 📷🤑.
😐 No one wants my 📷😢
What if no one buys it?😱😩😩😩😩
☺️ <---- Current position in cycle.
☺️ June (maybe)
Gerard Kingma: "You can do an automated find-and-replace 'camera' for 'car' in Word and it's still a valid article."
PaddyC: "The featured comments (and comments in general) for this post are some of the best I've read in a long time. Gerard Kingma's observation is wonderful. I love Bob's emoji post. Is that a first for TOP? I don't always read the comments. I give the single best sentence to Moose: 'Sheer waste of time, and perhaps a little $, but this is not an exercise in efficiency.' Had me truly cracking up. But best reply must go to KW Leon. I'm still chuckling at that one. Thanks to everyone who put a smile on my face this morning. TOP is great."