A Fool’s Errand

The key to good art and good imaging is, and always has been, expressed by the formula, “10% inspiration, 90% perspiration.” You will note that this formula does not include $50,000 grand pianos, $750 paint brushes, or, in the current context, $8000 cameras. I find the entire lustful consumerism surrounding digital photography extremely distasteful. To that end, I have always tried to make my camera purchases as frugal as I can, and that often involves buying used equipment. The irony of this for the seller is that cameras that once fetched the price of a nice used car are now fetching the price of a new toaster oven.

One of my Nikon D100s; this camera is an excellent tool for  imaging, and presently very affordable
One of my Nikon D100s; this camera is an excellent tool for imaging, and presently very affordable

Part of this is simply that it seems idiotic to spend thousands of dollars on cameras at all. How did consumerism distort our perspective so much that we would spend the amount of money it takes to make a down payment on a house on a camera?

To that end, in recent years I have been shopping eBay for cameras, and the bargains I have made are, financially speaking, amazing. Here are some examples:

  • Nikon D100 with MB-D100 vertical grip, original price: $2700
  • Nikon D100 with MB-D100 vertical grip, eBay price last year: $220
  • Kodak DCS 760: original price: $8000
  • Kodak DCS 760: eBay price two years ago: $300

Before you launch into a pixel tirade, ask yourself this: how big is the largest print you made of one of your digital images this month? If it isn’t filling an entire wall, about 60% of those new pixels that cost you thousands of dollars are wasted. A sidebar to that is that Michael, Abby and I all have poster-sized images hanging in our homes, made from two or three megapixel cameras, and they look great. The only people who even care how the pixels look are the rich amateurs themselves. Performance? When I was at Delicate Arch in October, there were tons of rich amateurs here with D3s and D700s, blasting away at 7 frames per second, 7 identical frames of the same thing. Performance might be helpful if you are shooting for Sports Illustrated, but even when I’m shooting sports, timing is always more effective than frame rate.

Ultimately, I see a lot of today’s cool cameras in my hands, making great pictures, five years from now. And I won’t be in debt doing it.

Tree near Ghost Rock in Utah's San Rafael Swell, 2006; like most images, this one is successful because of light and composition, not pixel count or frame rate
Tree near Ghost Rock in Utah's San Rafael Swell, 2006; like most images, this one is successful because of light and composition, not pixel count or frame rate
0
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someoneShare on TumblrPin on Pinterest

1 Comment

  1. Consumerism is definitely an enemy of mine. It’s one reason I’ve never bought (and likely never will buy) a brand new car.

    For me, the saddest thing about the digital camera boom is that parents who 10 years ago would own a $30 instamatic are now shelling out $900 for low-end dSLRs, because someone told them they could take amazing images with it.

    And they still get crappy snapshots.

    As a photojournalist in a small town, I was asked almost daily, “What camera should I get?” and I almost always recommended a point-and-shoot (unless the questioner could convince me they already knew photography basics or were willing to learn…)

    0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *