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Sunday, 14 August 2011


You have to know your own habit, too. Personally, I don't have a great track record selling off things to pay for a major purchase. So I gotta watch that and be skeptical of the acquisitional whispers that tell me to start my diet AFTER eating the big piece of chocolate cake. So the "rental" concept? Good in theory. For me, that is.

So, this was a question you were asking yourself, with a view to a purchase, rather than general musing about the economic mechanisms behind our lust for photographic equipments.

An immediate question springs to mind if you are looking for help with your decision - do you take many photographs, and if so what do you do with them? I seem to remember you got hold of a K5 some time ago, but even comments about it are elusive, let alone photos. I know TOP is not a vehicle for your own photography (although some has surfaced recently) but there doesn't seem to be anything else obviously available on the web or in print.

If readers had some idea of the photographic goals you have in mind, then maybe we could offer some advice?

"So, this was a question you were asking yourself, with a view to a purchase..."

No, really not. I'm not considering any purchase at the moment, and I will never buy a $10k camera.


I don't see a lot of difference between a camera that moves out of your regular rotation and one that's obsolete. If a camera has been replaced by a different one that does the same kind of thing, that's proof of its functional obsolescence. The only case where they aren't the same thing is when you got the camera for a specific type of shooting that you don't do anymore, e.g. a view camera for architecture.

if only pentax made a full frame dslr with body-integral image stabilization...*glare*

As for the 645D talk, Mike:

I've heard serious reports from CNN strongly suggesting that the camera has such a level of mojo that the doctor running Leica had to buy three of them under disguise to avoid being recognized.

He got three in fear that Ricoh might stop the line.

So you better get at least one while it lasts.

I'm thinking about where that "car" comparison fits in, particularly since I live in New York City and don't need a car, and I may even justify my photo expenses in part by telling myself that I don't have to spend money on a car, so I can afford other things. I suspect that the relevant psychological factor is just what other things cost. Of course what we save on transportation in New York is more than made up for in other living expenses like rent/housing, taxes, schools, eating out, movie tickets and such, but on the other hand, salaries tend to be higher in New York as well to compensate for the greater living expenses.

In the age of internet commerce, camera equipment costs about the same amount everywhere, so maybe that $1600 lens feels like a bigger heap of cash in the Midwest than it does in the City, where we know people who are paying $2900/month for a 1-bedroom apartment.

"...and I will never buy a $10k camera."

Luckily, Pentax 645D costs only $9,995.95! ;-)

I'd like to toss in another possible factor: recent price escalation. Seems to me gear prices have been climbing quite a bit lately. (I'd love to see a website with graphs and historical price data.) Even if I can afford it, I'm not likely to buy if there's been a recent price jump. I don't enjoy the feeling of being ripped off.

I always get the 'last years model' used at a good price and sell my previous model at the same time. So far (over 7yrs) I have had an annual camera cost of about £50 perhaps less as some I sold for more than I paid for them. The thing is that last years body will take perfectly good photographs. If I factor what I have made from sales etc then they have been awesome value. I do not like to buy much new, especially with cameras as there are so many gear heads who buy the latest and greatest and flood the market with last years model at knock down prices. Mind you apart from a couple of items around our house an awful lot is bought used letting someone else take the hit of depreciation.

Latent_image, I don't know where in the world you are, but here's a website that has graphs of historical UK prices of many DSLRs and lenses, and a few other things such as tripods and filters.


Otherwise, "good deals" are highly overrated.

To paraphrase an old saying, it isn't a good deal unless you'll use it.

I'll add, related to this and your comment on pleasure of ownership, that if you're already thinking about upgrading later when you buy a cheaper version of something, you'll probably save money in the long run by buying the expensive version to start with. Otherwise you'll spend all the time you're using the cheap version thinking about how much better you'd do with the expensive one and wind up buying it in the long run anyway. If you really feel the need to test, you're better off renting the good model you might want than buying the cheap one with the plan of upgrading later if you like it.

Re: 'pleasure of ownership'
It's not 'owning' the thing(picture making machines/processes in this case) that matters, merely access to the thing. In my situation(and probably most folks'), I've accepted that I have to own it... in order have it available for me to use.

It's a good list of thoughtful criteria. But I am so bad at predicting usage of the gear I buy it's a dart-board for me. I certainly had no idea that when I bought a 60 year old camera I would end up making my living with it for 30 years.
The rest of my cameras are closer to expensive toys.


If you're in the States, the US dollar has been losing relative value lately. The "real price" in some sort of economic abstraction terms may not have changed.

Also, it's more capable, and more consistent, gear; a lot less hunting around for a "good copy" of a lens and being able to treat ISO 800 (or 1600, or ISO-you're-joking) as something that will of course just work. So it's not immediately clear that even a real price increase would be attached to a drop in value.

I mean, yeah, if you don't need or use any of the new capability, it's a drop in value, but I'm pretty sure anybody who has, for example, a camera with usable ISO800 will eventually use that capability.

"...and I will never buy a $10,000 camera."

But will you buy, and keep, 10 cameras costing about $1000 each? :)

Not sure if you buy more than the 'average' guy, or if it just seems that way given your many camera discussions.

Yep, put me down for 1 through 6.

I agree about "the deal".

I care more about after sales service and find the extra 5-10% I pay in a bricks and mortar store is more than made up for by the ability to haggle for extras, try stuff out and get swift and friendly service if anything goes wrong. Deal with Nikon on your own and you can spend a day on the phone - get your local pro dealer to do it and things happen.

I think many people pay too little notice to the value of their own time. Time is finite. It's the one commodity you can't buy more of when it runs out. Out of the billion minutes or so I have left, I want to spend more of them shooting than bargain hunting. If I waste half a day saving £25 it's a poor rate of return IMO.

I'm no good at arithmetic, but my quick calculation is that a billion minutes is roughly 1,902 years. Am I wrong? If not, I don't think you actually have as much time left as you think you do.


Standing in Costco yesterday playing with a D7000 with an 18 to 200 I had the thought that this could be all the camera I would ever need.
Then I recalled thinking exactly the same thing five years or so ago holding a D70. I bought the D70 and later a used 70 to 210 f4 and cannot think of a logical reason to trade up. Logic may play a small part in these kinds of decisions but two grand is real money at my house.
Instead I wandered over to join my wife and pick up some baby clothes to send to the grandkids.

We've recently started buying (cheap) antiques to fill up a new house and I've worked out a method of judging value that works for us - we look at the thing for a long time without looking at the price tag then decide how much we'd be prepared to pay for it. If the actual price is less then we'll buy it. However, we also have another rule - we have to really like the thing regardless of value so we don't buy pieces of nasty cheap junk just because they're cheap.

The British concept of a "billion" used to be: one million millions. More recently, we adopted the same convention as the US: that is, one thousand millions. (In one brilliant stroke our economy, as measured in billions, expanded a thousandfold.)

However due to more recent worldwide loss of market confidence, plus the increasing wholesale discounting of reality on the supply side, "one billion" is currently only running at about 160 to 170 million: which is in minutes, 304 years. Doable; perhaps; in principle.

"One trillion" is considered a mere bagatelle - too large to be worried about. (g)

Every purchase that I make is a compromise. I pursue photography as a hobby although I am pretty serious about making images. Even if I were a professional I would still very likely have to compromise on my choice of equipment. Most of the time you get what you pay for, but the constraints and compromises are part of every buying decision.

The points about Payback, Resale Value and The Deal are really interrelated arguments about how to justify a buying compromise. In particular basing a purchase on resale value is essentially making a decision based upon 'The Deal'. No matter how delicately a buying decision is crafted some purchases will be more satisfying than others. This goes back at least in part to an earlier discussion here concerning issues of making a proper decision given too many choices. The tyranny of choice or maybe the agony of compromise.

I think I tend to mostly go on use, enjoyment, and "lost opportunity" cost ... i.e. I know I'd use & enjoy a Leica M9, but that money makes too big a dent in my long term finances.

As for longevity, I've thought a little about it in the past and now it's just automatic. I assume lenses, filters, camera bags will last as long as I want them to (I may have to pay for the odd repair) and cameras will last 4 years. (It works for me).

I like bargains; bargains can influence a decision. But I won't wait long for bargains if it's something I really want. If going on an important trip, for instance. I waited quite a while for the price of my first DSLR to drop. It was several months and it only dropped $100, but when I look back at my Lightroom catalog and see pictures of my daughter shot in low light with a Sony F717 and realize I could have been using my DSLR if I hadn't been so cheap, I kick myself.

So bargain kind of offsets use. Enough use makes the bargain less important; a good enough bargain makes the justification less important.

But it can be a lot fuzzier than that. For instance, I have a Sony NEX and don't want to build up a big system; I might pick up the 18-200 for video use (and have little problem with $800 for a high quality, well stabilized lens that's supposedly excellent for video). I also want one fast, compact, normalish prime. Sony is expected to announce the Carl Zeiss 24/1.8 in another week or so. 24mm isn't quite right for me; it's not going to be nearly compact enough, so right away, I'm not going to spend the money on a CZ lens. But the rumors point to a $999 price tag. That's high even if it were a lens I wanted. My reason for saying this is that I'm still hung up to an extent on 35mm equivalents. That's a 35mm equivalent FOV and around f/2.8 equivalent DOF and light-capturing ability. I could never justify full frame WA lenses like a 16-35/2.8 or a 24/2 to put on an APS-C camera because I know I'm paying for excellent 24x36mm coverage, and that an APS-C version should be a lot cheaper. But in this case, I'd be paying a lot even though it only offers APS-C coverage. I see the same thing with ultrawides for micro 4/3, like $800 for a 12mm lens. Some of the lens prices, especially for ultrawide FF lenses, are enough to make you consider whether it would be worth buying a full frame body ! I know there's plenty of apples-to-oranges in there, but the point remains, there are instances of very expensive lenses for APS-C or 4/3 where full frame equivalents are cheaper and that raises a red flag in my valuation immediately.

One of the great things Google does is not only calculate, but understand units arithmetic. So, googling [ 1 billion minutes in years ], I get "1 billion minutes = 1 901.32588 years". (Spelling out "billion" avoids a possible mistake in counting zeroes as I type them in.) (Square brackets to delimit exactly what I put in the search box, without suggesting I put quotes around it, which I did not.)

So, close enough; just over 1900 years. Longer than I expect I have left, anyway, can't speak for Steve :-).

"I took a picture with it I couldn't have taken without it, had a print sale, and earned $3,000."

Dang! You made three grand on one picture? And this didn't involve blackmail?

I think Steve might have a billion or so seconds left, not minutes, since a billion seconds is 31.7 years. The average US life expectancy is a hair shy of 2.5 billion seconds (or 2.5E9 s, if, like me, you prefer scientific notation).

Resale value is not a factor for me in camera purchases, since I have some sort of internal barrier against reselling anything that I own; my cars are driven into the ground (or, on two occasions, into other cars) before they're donated to charity, and all of my electronic toys will either end their lives in a closet, a recycling center, or a charity resale shop.

I sincerely hope that "Payback" will be a factor in a future camera purchase for me, but that has certainly not been the case so far.

Mike, slipped a couple of zeros in there for effect...actually I calculated seconds not minutes - sheepish grin:)

When you think you may only have say 15 million minutes left (and for many of those I will be slowing down some) that's a little depressing!

Certainly not going to waste any more of my youthful minutes over a few measly bucks when I could spend them making images!

My father-in-law finally "bit the bullet" and bought a new system. For years, he couldn't stomach the fact he would have to give up using his $20k worth of lenses.

He borrowed my stuff for a weekend and I didn't get it back for a week.

He can buy all the lenses he wants now and I'll make sure I give them a thorough testing :)

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