« Winter | Main | Getting Past Technique »

Thursday, 13 January 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I'd love to see the corresponding answers in regards to the average age of users lenses.

But aside from a d300 that I purchased new, most of my cameras were purchased used, and are old, especially the Kodak slr/n, from 2004.

Shouldn't there be a "I don't own a digital camera" choice?

I first started shopping for DSLRs around 2002 or 2003. I only bought one last year. It took me so long because in 2003, I came up with a spec list that would meet my needs for the foreseeable future, and decided to buy the first camera that ticked all the right boxes.

Those non-negotiable specs were:

Live View
Full Frame
12 Megapixels
$2500 or so
good lens lineup

The negotiables were:

Good ISO 1600 performance
Flipout LCD

The camera I got, a 5D Mark II, had everything I was looking for except a flipout LCD. I'm very happy with it, and I'm going to be shooting with it for years to come.

I'm thinking you need a little more granularity, Mike.

Yup, the poll options are incomplete. I have not bought a digital camera in my life :-) I like the advances of technology, but I'll buy a digital camera only the moment I can soup the memory card in HC-110 ;-)

QUOTE: Shouldn't there be a "I don't own a digital camera" choice?

Posted by: Adrian UNQUOTE

That would have been my choice.

My currently most-used camera is Pentax istDL bought in May 2006.
My currently main camera is (was, in fact) Pentax K-7 bought in July 2010 and stolen in December 2010. :-(
So here I am using back the istDL while saving for the K-5+insurance :-P

Shouldn't there be a "I don't own a digital camera" choice?

There certainly should. Whilst I do have one which was bought in 2003, I could have made that selection in the poll but I could not describe it as main or most used as it just sits on a shelf gathering dust!

Given the fast rate of camera renewal the poll seems to be showing, next year I suggest you to give the options in six-month periods...

I don't have one. I gave my first one, a Nikon D70, to my son 3 yrs ago, when he was 10 years old. He uses it constantly, I borrow it on occasion when I need a digital image.

Remember when you made the 5D Mk II your camera of the year (and took lots of flack for it)? I teach photographic workflow—the bit after the shooting, for the most part—and almost every photographer I've taught, be it serious amateur or jobbing pro, fine-art photographer or PR event shooter, has used a 5D2. It's almost depressing (as a Nikon shooter) so I have to tell myself that the folks shooting Nikon, Pentax and the rest know what they're doing and don't need my help. It's a bit of stretch but it works for me. :)

The question was clear: when did you BUY.
As for me, I picked a true answer, however it doesn't tell a whole story. And the whole story is that my most often used and only digicam have been bought not that long ago. But I bought it second-hand and it is my LEAST used camera ;). It is the old Oly C-5050 (I woudn't recomend it to a friend;P) manufactured long, long time ago in a galaxy far away.
But when you ask when I bought it it is not so long ago.
Which is ok as long, as no one conclude that it is quite new.

"QUOTE: Shouldn't there be a "I don't own a digital camera" choice? Posted by: Adrian UNQUOTE That would have been my choice."

Guys, how would that help me find out how long people keep their digital cameras? I already know how long people keep their film cameras.


Those of us that like the A700 are fortunate that nothing has come along to tempt us. We may actually get to know the camera.

I bought my D700 just before your most-recent cutoff... and I intend to use it for years to come.

I also intend to sell my Mamiya RZ67 this year to fund a new "carry everywhere" camera, either an X100 or a GF1 or some kind of mirrorless thing. But I'm pretty set on an X100.

Either wya, this'll be a small camera I expect years from.

Maybe this isn't in the realm of your question and maybe it is. But I intend both cameras to serve me for years...

Curious to see the explanation for the year spreads. Splitting the 6 recent years (the years that have seen DSLRs drop below $100 and hence the biggest explosions in camera buying) into only two categories while choosing a year apiece for 99, 2000 seems... well, I'm sure there's a reason. I just have to tune in next time!


I currently use a Canon 20D, purchased in 2003. I shoot for the enjoyment and consider myself a very informed amateur. I expect to purchase the 5DIII when it becomes available. Until then I can survive with what I have. I have learned to live with the poor metering and noise. Aargh. What's taking Canon so long?

Guys, how would that help me find out how long people keep their digital cameras? I already know how long people keep their film cameras.

I still have my only digital camera bought in 2003 - I just don't use it. Film cameras - we keep those forever!

I bought a Pentax *ist-D when it was first released, probably from the first batch into Australia. It was finally replaced by a K7 in 2009. The K7 may get replaced by the successor to the K5, or maybe I will wait another generation after that.

Bahi, I started studying photography at a tertiary level this year and the class was nearly 50/50 Canon and Nikon. The only exceptions were me with the K7 and another with a KX. The Nikon shooters all had APS-C cameras but a few of the Canon people had full frame models.

This is kind of a dumb question, but if I bought it used...? It sounds like if you're trying to gauge how long people keep them the year I got it is the right one to use.

Also as with many previous posters, I do not use it very much any more after the initial "oooh" phase (I'm now in phase two, "fed up with digital's faults and shooting more film than ever").

"Guys, how would that help me find out how long people keep their digital cameras? I already know how long people keep their film cameras."

Mike, I'm not sure the options you provided have helped you much in that investigation. ;-)

I think we can safely say your average reader keeps their cameras for much less than every three years. But whether it's one, two or three we don't really know just yet.

Perhaps you could run the same poll tomorrow with quarterly breakdowns over the past three years to help fill in the gaps.

My first digital SLR was the D700. I saw that camera as the way DSLRs are MEANT to be. Awesome image quality, reasonable resolution, rugged, fast. Due to a Nikon user's moment of weakness (a common sickness) I switched to a 5D2, which I also feel is a fantastic camera (I learned my Canon vs Nikon lesson, they both win). Right now the only lens I own is the Voigtlander 40mm f2 Ultron (due in part to a review on this site), which is a wonderful little affordable premium lens. I completely plan to get the 20mm f3.5 as well.

I've since backed off on the 'what DSLRs are meant to be' line of thinking. But I stand by my conviction that before the D3/D300/D700 or 5D/1DS2/40D line up, unless you were a commercial photographer and needed the speed, early adopters were short changed. Small pictures, bad RAW processing, having to deal with photoshop as a primary editor instead of Aperture or Lightroom, what a pain!

I'm very happy now. My 5D2 has pretty much replaced up to medium format, and overall a lot of my color work. But I still get to enjoy my 4x5 Toyo, and 35mm Bessa rangefinders. It's a good mix creatively.

Plus I don't feel the urge to upgrade. I feel like after 2008 there isn't the huge need anymore. Unless you're into video the 5D2 or D700 will take excellent pictures that still stand up to whatever the 5D3 or Dwhatever Nikon has planned. Not so in the past, I think it took a lot of effort to hang onto the 10D after the next one came out... And what D2X owner didn't immediately switch to the D3? I don't see a lot of D3 owners feeling like they need the D3S, however. Which isn not saying the D3S isn't great, it is, I'm saying cameras obsolete at a slower rate. Which is good for all of us!

Buy Voigtlander lenses!

Guys, how would that help me find out how long people keep their digital cameras?

Then why didn't you ask that question? Just because I recently purchased my second DSLR three years ago doesn't tell you that I used my first DSLR for six years.


Hopefully there can be a follow-up poll on the longest you kept a digital camera. I shot with my D1H from 2001 through 2006. My current, most used digital camera I've only had for 45 days or so ... I still don't know what all the buttons are for.

Guys, how would that help me find out how long people keep their digital cameras? I already know how long people keep their film cameras.


Hmm. That's a slightly different point than the poll. My main digital camera is a Nikon D300 that turns three years old next month. But I still use my Konica-Minolta 7D (that I love very much), and it's older, obviously. So I keep (and use) my digital cameras longer than my "main" digital camera.


I haven't kept my film cameras "forever"; they've been stolen, or eventually sold. I no longer have a Miranda Sensorex, Bolsey 35, Asahi Pentax Spotmatic, Yashicamat 124G, Leica M3, Nikon FM, Nikon FM2, Olympus OM-4T, Olympus OM-4T, Nikon N90, Fuji GS645, Norita Graflex, Nikon FM, Nikon FM, or Nikon F.

And I've sold all but two of our digital cameras in working condition (much younger than the upper limit in your poll!).

I do still have the Toyo D 4x5 camera. So far.

I suspect the rate of DSLR replacement will go down considerably as the technical advances slow down. It will take considerably more to convince me my D700 is no longer adequate than it took to convince me my Fuji S2 needed replacing.

I, too, am curious about your year spreads. Given that I just updated, I was worried my answer would not reflect my buying habits. Luckily my older camera was bought in 2008.

To answer what you didn't ask:

I have been keeping my primary cameras about 2 to 2.5 years, with the trend being toward longer use. That's comparable to my 35mm film cameras. (I've had my Deardorff for 35 years, but that's a special case.)

Five of the six cameras I have bought in the last 10 years were discontinued or otherwise heavily marked down. The one exception was a Sony 828 -- I really wanted it and the old camera broke.

My cameras keep getting cheaper. As cameras get better I am able to do more with less. To borrow from Ctein, what I do doesn't "stress" even a mid-range camera. I own far less equipment now than in the film days and have far less money tied up.

Bahi: Canon has more mass market appeal thanks to a marketing campaign, so yes, you're not too far off there. Prior to the D3 and D700 releases I'd say 8 out of 10 GWCs (Guy with Camera) were Canon users. Now it's closer to 5 out of 10. :P

I bought my K7 last summer because my K10D was stolen, otherwise I'd still be rocking the older model. I still technically "have" my Nikon D1X in the sense that it sits on a shelf with no lenses weeping softly to itself...

I want to buy a new one now!

We don't need a 'no digicam' option; I'm expecting there should be an 'I bought my workhorse film camera in...' poll coming up next, right?

Do cell phones count?

Kodak DC290 (2.1 megapixels, woo hoo!) bought December 1990, broken summer of 2000. Slipped crossing a creek in Yosemite and jammed the lens into the body - permanently. Did not use it much. Shutter lag was long enough to have a cup of coffee.

This cured me away from digital till now.(Not counting all of the phonecams, of course.) The Fuji X100 has got me thinking, though.

My main camera is the Canon 300D I bought around 2003 or 2004. I bought it with a tax refund and did not use it for the first year. Then I got started. The only other addition was a 10D converted to IR. Due to the cost of larger sensors I chose to do photo stitching to be able to print larger images that looked good. Lack of money for an upgrade kept me from buying a migher mgpx body. But the Pentax 645D beckons me.

Mike wrote:

"Guys, how would that help me find out how long people keep their digital cameras? I already know how long people keep their film cameras."

I'm not sure how useful this is, at least as a predictor. How long someone kept a DSLR made in 2005 may have no bearing on how long they'll keep one made in 2011. It might, but I'm thinking that at some point over the last decade, probably in the last 5 years, affordable cameras became "good enough" for most peoples needs, and "upgrade fever" may be a little less of an epidemic. Also, you have the majority of responses in the 2008-present category, which tells you nothing about how long people keep their cameras ... it only tells you how long ago they bought one.

Thinking it would be nice if the survey showed how many folks have responded. Is that 72% of 50 responses or of 5,000 responses?

Just wonderin'

I would trade all the cameras and lenses I have for a Nikon D700 with an 18+ gigabyte sensor and fully articulated screen.

I think you need the more recent years broken out individually as well. Turnover is just to high with digitals.

In a year or two you'll just be asking people when they bought their phone if you want to know how old their dominate image making device is. :)

It's funny, most of your respondents have bought a digi in the last two years. My main DSLR was bough at the end of '04 and is still in use. On the other hand my currently most used film camera is only weeks old. I've just bought into the Contax/Yashica system as I can cross mount the lenses ( Zeiss 18 & 28 Distagons, 50mm Planar and a Yashica 21mm) onto that ancient 1Ds but am enjoying the simple, elegant Contax 159MM a lot more!

Good idea for a poll! Agree that more granularity wouldn't hurt, but the results are interesting nonetheless. Would also be interested in getting some idea of the sample size too.

"Thinking it would be nice if the survey showed how many folks have responded."

If you follow the "view it on Vizu" link you'll find that information.


Interesting - I expected a far higher figure for the 2005-2007 period. That's when IMHO digital cameras reached 'maturity' ie. did everything the best SLRs did - plus a bit.

I just don't see the imperative to replace a 2005-2007 camera (unless you're into video). So while I admit to buying a Canon 7D last year for a particular purpose, my 'vintage' 5d and 1D3 are still my everyday workhorses. They simply provide better image quality. The 7D I use when I need higher pixel density and/or scope for cropping.



I'd like to see the relative ages of "most used film cameras". I'm betting the inverse age ratio from the digital poll.

Seems we are trend followers or digital just comply us to buy things.

I'm down to just my old 40D while I wait for the X100 to arrive. Might get a 5D mkII once the MkIII hits the street.

What an odd and narcissistic pursuit this thing we call photography is. The motivation is most often either self-expression or personal consumption.

Mike, I think you should have had a category for 2011 purchases!

I bought my new Canon 7D a week ago and the 50D (my previous camera) 18 months ago. However, as a fan of sport, drama and dance photography, I tend to hammer the shutter of my DSLRs.

My path to digital use was not typical I think. Bought a used E-300 body May/2008 and used my old OM Zuikos on an adapter. The E-300 was OK but compared to my OM's felt like a huge brick in my hands. Then in March/2009 purchased new but discontinued E-410 with kit lens when they got silly cheap and sold E-300 body for a little less than I'd paid for it. After selling the E-300 my total investment in the 410 with extra battery is about $225. I think I will just use the current camera till it fails. Ever searching for the more compact solution, especially in the front to back depth of a camera the micro 4:3 is of interest to me. Unfortunately, it seems that unless you live in New York no one seems to have the EFV in stock to check out personally to see if it really works. Not going to part with a $1000+ for a camera, EVF, and a bunch of lens adapters sight unseen. Pschologically I just can't seem to get past the fact that with even the 410, all that size and bulk exist to place an image on a sensor the same size as a 110 instamatic negative! Thats just wrong.

Someone metioned "trend followers". Is it 'trends' we are following or boyhood dreams of 'wanting the latest toys'.

Don't worry, its a sentiment I struggle with daily (gulp)

What bothers me more is the "pixel race" which is being touted - how many is enough.

And from the poll, we see the vast majority of users have bought new equipment since 2008.

What I would really like to see is a poll of which features are important to a digital camera buyer.

Interesting comments

And I am in the market for a new camera since mine is starting to lose the pixel race with customers :(

I'm sure you get lots of granular detail of your readership from your hosting company, but I was interested to see the Vizu map of how far the TOP village spreads around the world; as expected for an English language site the main English speaking nations are broadly represented, but there's all sorts of interesting outposts. Israel, Chile, Romania. Many in Germany (seemingly clustered in the area where Leicas come from), but only one in the former East Germany

But you may need to crank up the TOP global marketing arm. Not a single reader in the entire of Russia? And only one in France - was it something we said?

After spending the last three to four years trying to plan my move to the digital SLR world, a full frame was a must for me. Being retired and having no disposable income anymore and realizing I will be 64 years old in a few months, the time had come to get off my ass and make my move. To do so I had to sell off some of my other worldly possessions. My Canon G6 had died several months ago so I called Canon two weeks ago and asked for the Canon Customer Loyalty Discount. As I was placing my order for the 5D MKII I said to the person on the phone "No, make that a 7D instead". Go figure,

I cast my vote for 2001. Personally I use a Canon 5DII, but I purchased a Sony DSC-S75 in the spring of 2001 for our use at work. Ten years later we are approaching 9000 images and still going strong. It's the only camera we've used since then. Each year I keep saying, "I need to buy us a new camera". But frankly, for the what we use it for, the Sony is going to be damn hard to beat. I work at NASA in a collaborative problem solving environment. We are constantly facilitating groups of engineers who take great advantage of our rooms with whiteboard walls. After a meeting we use the 3.1MP Sony to photograph their work on the walls. This camera has a fantastic Zeiss f/2.0-2.5 lens that is unequaled on a digicam today. Because we are shooting directly at a whiteboard,we cant use flash because of the glare it causes. That fast lens is wonderful. Because it's only a 3MP camera, the jpg images are quite small but the resolution is more than adequate for recording whiteboard work. You can dump 15 images into a pdf and still only have a 2MP document to email. Today's 10-15MP cameras will result in much larger files. And finally, we have several team members who are not exactly photo literate. This camera is dead-simple for them to use. Just turn it on, half press the shutter, wait for focus confirmation and take the picture. Long live the Sony DSC-S75. At this point it owes us nothing.

I finally took the plunge and bought my first dslr - a D300 in 2008 and couple of other cameras (digital and film) since then. Latest one is a M7II since I love shooting film. I don't think I'll buy another digital camera. My fav is the used F5 I bought from eBay and my MP. In the meantime, I'm enjoying learning to shoot 120s. Cheers!!

Maybe I've just had exceptional good luck, but my two digital SLR's have worked flawlessly. I purchased a new Canon 10D in 2003 and a new Canon 1DsMk2 in 2005. I still use the 1DsMk2 as my primary camera because none of the current Canon models have tempted me to upgrade from the standpoint of image quality. My wife uses my old 10D for all of her personal photography. I don't believe the high turnover in digital cameras is due to equipment failures. It's just like the early days of personal computers, when the technology moved so fast that a 2 year old PC could be considered ancient. Now, I don't look for a new computer until the old one is dead. I'll consider a camera upgrade this year, but that will depend entirely on features and prices. It's entirely possible the 1Ds2 will survive another product cycle - for my landscape/nature photography needs.

Being in the electronics/communications technology business and having been a dedicated "upgrader" all my life, I would say that the lifetime reliability of electronics is generally greater than their perceived lifetime. We have a brand new MacBook Air we use all the time but also a 8 year old PC laptop we keep for Windows applications and a 11 year old Macbook laptop that we use daily as our radio, streaming stations around the world over the Internet. We have a couple of 20 year old Nakamichi digital radios also in daily use. Until recently I had a HiFi setup from the 60s still being used.
In cameras, the drive for upgrades has generally been resolution - the MP race. But my older son is still using the 6MP D100 I bought in 2003 and it takes very good photos, perfectly useful. I even have a first generation 2 MP Nikon digital that's useable. But I'm 3 generations further along because I 1) like testing and using the latest hardware and 2) some things do get better.
However, I think we're reaching a point of diminishing returns in some areas. On APS or 4/3 formats, more than 12-16 MP is about as useful as 500+ HP in an AMG Mercedes or Porsche Turbo - if it were not for the electronics that control it, few drivers could get to the end of the block without crashing. Get my analogy?
I want to see the camera companies open their operating systems to let developers add apps to the camera - like HDR, edits or stitching. I think the first company to do that will capture a whole new generation of users used to iPhones, iPads and Android.

I own two serious digital cameras, my first was a Canon 1D in Dec 2004, it was already a three year old design and my body, I got it secondhand, was two years old. I still use it for a lot of my work. It is plenty good enough for newspaper and website work. It has superb functionality, world class auto focus and at a value of under $400 is my go to camera if I am worried about its health, sailing, surfing and remote shots. When I kill it I can buy another one for the price of a new shutter in my 1Ds MkIII, why would I not use it?

Hmmm....this idea that digital cameras are unreliable and/or "clapped out" fairly quickly makes me uneasy....

Bought my first digital camera (Olympus E-3) in early 2008, because I had to face the fact it was becoming a digital world. Been very happy with the E-3. Very reliable camera, produces excellent pics to my untrained eye.

But I see the camera mags were calling it "old" after only three years on the market...and it's been replaced by the E-5, which from what I've read, doesn't seem like that big a jump, technologically speaking (I don't care about making videos...or Art Filters...).

Frankly, I'd like to continue using the E-3 for a long time to come. My only concern with hanging on to it too long is that in the digital age, today's technology seems to become tomorrow's junk awfully fast, even if the equipment itself works just fine...can't afford to be left behind.

I think that may be one reason why digital equipment doesn't seem to last that long. Sorta like Alvin Toffler talked about in "Future Shock"--that in the future the rate of change would accelerate at an ever-increasing pace.

Seems you barely have a digital product before all of a sudden there's a new and improved version--which renders what you have instantly obsolete--or appears to--judging by the buzz on websites and in camera magazines. So it's buy, buy, buy to keep up. Great for the camera makers, I guess....

Odd to think that in the film era, companies like Leica and Nikon were able to run with the same flagship models for well over a decade, before feeling a need to upgrade. And all my film cameras (including some that are headed for senior citizenhood) work just fine,without any worries about feeling rendered useless by the next digital innovation-of-the-day...

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007