[Please note that TOP takes Saturday off. We'll also be offline next Thursday. I'll be back with a new post on Sunday afternoon this week. Please check back then. —Mike the Ed.]
In the last post I linked to an "old" (well, 27 months old) article about my purchase of a Nikon D800, after I had called the D800E "the best overall photographic device of any description I have used thus far in my life."
The D800 did not last long in my possession. It was soon replaced by a nifty 16-MP Sony compact that I used for the next two years.
So what happened?
Well, first of all, I'm a geek. And I had some disposable cash back then (no longer). Geeks with disposable cash, as you might know, are often in trouble.
Secondly, don't we all, at some level, kind of pine for the ultimate device?
Consumption is fun for many people. And for those who like it, usually there's some level at which they seek out "the best."
Those levels vary widely. (I almost typed "wildly," which also works.) The tennis star John McEnroe is an art collector, but he cries poor because he can "only" afford individual works that cost up to $500,000 or so at the max. He's "only" worth $100 million, which doesn't allow him to play in the upper echelon of the world's art collectors. When I heard him talk about this (on TV of course), there was sadness in his voice. He probably thinks that if only he were worth $500 million, then he could get some really nice paintings. All would be well in that case! As it is, he's constrained by relative poverty. Poor guy.
A New York city cabbie once proudly told me he had been a member of the 1960 Bulgarian Olympic cycling team. He admired the Leica I was carrying, but said he couldn't afford to own the best cameras—or indeed, the best of anything, except for one thing. His bicycles were "the best of the best of the best." He said so with pride and satisfaction. Lucky man.
Many early photography collectors were people who couldn't afford to be art collectors. They couldn't buy nice paintings, but they could buy nice photographs, which were much cheaper...
...Then. Now, of course, even photographs are getting out of reach for the garden-variety rich. At least the most famous, rarest ones. (The highest verified price ever paid for a photograph was Andreas Gursky's "Rhein II" in 2011, which sold for $4,338,500.)
In fact, many people deliberately collect things they think are inexpensive, only to see others do likewise and prices go up. Who, for instance, would have thought 40 years ago that anyone would ever pay an exorbitant price for a comic book?
There must be a name for this in economics (good thing I'm no good at math, or I'd have ended up as an economist)—the impulse to seek the level at which you can own the best of something. Wherever that level is. Poor ghetto kids in the '90s wanted their Air Jordans. Maybe they had nothing—maybe even not enough food—but they could have the best basketball shoes.
Seeking the best (at whatever level you can) is a common impulse, and I'm not immune. But of course the very idea of "the best" is a mirage. Fact was, the D800 was too big for me, in two ways. The camera was a lot to cart around. And the images were too big too; I just don't need 7360 x 4912 pixels. Didn't know what to do with 'em all.
History was repeating itself. I replaced a Nikon F4s in the late '80s with two N8008's. The latter, smaller, simpler, cheaper, were actually better suited to me.
You'd think I'd learn. But the dream never quite goes away. Sometimes, you just want something that's the best thing. Even if it turns out to be not quite the right thing.
Original contents copyright 2015 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.
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Featured Comments from:
kirk tuck: "Mike I am so happy I am never afflicted by the desire to buy new equipment. Yep, I just happily soldier on with whatever I bought last month...."
MarkB: "Everything I find interesting enough to collect quickly becomes something I can't afford to get "the best" of (new or old). Pocket watches, maps, lenses, even early Apple computers, can all go into the same bin as McEnroe's art. My lovely partner is the only 'best' in my life, and I'm more than fine with that."
Mikey: "I found the best cure for Gear Acquisition Syndrome was to share a joint bank account with my wife. She's like the Betty Ford clinic for camera buying addicts."
Benjamin Marks (partial comment): "Sometimes I think we have to wait a good chunk of time to see what 'best' actually was. One of the reasons that Leicas fit into this category is that even thought they are not everyone's cup of tea, you can readily find a 50-year-old example that is serviceable and will do what it was designed to do with élan.
"Of course the joke is on all of us as far as digital cameras go. I can state with confidence that they are all, regardless of price or brand, now essentially disposable commodities compared to the best cameras built in the middle of the last century. Try to find a battery in the year 2060 for a 50-year-old Nikon D800? No, the joke is really on us. But, hey, we had a good time and went over the cliff cheering."
Rod Thompson: "Problem is it's only new until you buy it...then it's old!"