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.
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.