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Old vs New

Sea Otter 2010 – Nikon D200 w/Tokina 11-16mm f2.8

I’ve had some time to think recently and I don’t know about you, but when I have time to think it is sometimes dangerous. Sometimes free thinking is close to being unhealthy. Over the past several days I’ve been wrestling with this notion of old vs new. For me personally, I’m wrestling with the cost of new versus the performance of the old. More specifically, I’ve been thinking and looking at cameras (It applies to my bikes too) and thinking about new technology, proven brands and just exactly what is the true cost and benefit of owning the “new” camera or technology? I’ve asked myself if I could start over, what would I do? What have I learned from my trials and error with “new” stuff?   Do I need this new expensive equipment? What are my true needs for a camera system?

This has been a hard process and one of which I also learned early on in my bike shop new mechanic phase some 20 years ago. When you are new to something and really passionate about it, you want to try everything. I also had this recently pointed out to me by a good friend through email. The fact is that I really don’t need all the bells, whistles and gizmos given my career and supporting my family do not depend on photography. In fact, looking at images I shot 3 years ago with an old, used (now sold) Nikon D200 and images I shot with my newish Nikon D7000, I like some of the images, color & feel from the old camera just as much or better. Sure my number of keepers is higher with the new camera as are the features and benefits, but truthfully given how I use my camera, I’d probably still be just as happy and getting the images I want out of the old camera. I do know my D7000 is worlds better in so many ways. Please don’t send me mail saying I’m crazy or leave comments telling me how great the D7000 is. I know it. I am just sitting here thinking about all the time, energy and money I’ve spent on acquiring the new technology and playing with toys such as Sony’s NEX cameras.  If I pooled all that money from over the years of trial & error and committed to one system, I’d have the camera body and the lens kit I always dreamed of. That is what I am thinking about.

Alaska 2011 – Nikon D7000 w/28-300 f3.5-5.6

So, just for giggles I have floated my whole collection of gear out to some buyers and am considering making some changes. I have other needs and wants as well, but just for fun I’m putting together the real value of my kit and seeing what I could put together as a complete package or system by buying good quality used equipment?  Based on what I have found, it really does look like I could put together something quite awesome all while putting some money back into my pockets. It may not be as fast or be able to shoot in near darkness as my D7000 can, but I can still capture the images I need to make me happy. Isn’t that what it is all about?

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14 replies »

  1. Daring and scary choices, but that doesn’t mean its not the right thing to do. Looking forward to hearing what you decide and how it all ends up.

    • John, I’m not so scared nor do I consider myself daring. I’ve just found myself in a trap lately and the reality is, I don’t make a living by photography nor do I plan too. I just need/want to have a good camera to get images I like. I may not even change. I may sell some stuff and invest in a new Nikon lens or two. We’ll see.

  2. Gnat, I’m just in the process of investing in the NEX system as my first attempt to get serious about photography but I’ve totally been there with bikes. After some trial and error I settled on a road bike that is perfect for me, and after a few years I don’t see myself parting with it. I’m still working my way through mountain bikes but getting closer to what I want. I’m sure if I’d stuck with some earlier choices and focussed on being a better rider that would have been better in some ways… but trying different things is fun.

    btw, I’m in the market for a NEX-5N EVF if you are thinking of parting with one, let me know.

    • Ben I love my NEX camera and the images I have captured but I am considering getting rid of it as a way to finish my lens kit for my main camera. I will be in touch regarding my EVF. Look for an email this evening.

  3. Sure, I lust after certain gear or equipment, but as I get older realize they’re just tools. Some are nicer then others, but the real skill lays in the hands of people using them. With examples of your photos on this blog, you’re obviously very talented and could probably grab winner shots with a disposable camera. No doubt about it.

    Due to financial reasons, like raising a family, big dough for high end bikes no longer exists for me. Through that I’ve learned mid-priced components work incredibly well and my current bike, which costs less then frames I’ve bought in the past, is really all I need. I’d go no faster or any farther on something more expensive.

    I also own a D7000 and totally dig it. I also doubt I could take better pictures with anything more expensive or different. But I’m just a learning hack photographer, so maybe I’m missing something.

    It seems after a certain price point or technology level, the level of “advancement” doesn’t match the increase in cost or produce better results. True? Or maybe I’m way off.

    I always enjoy hitting your blog. Great stuff.

    • Well said Dan-O. Thank you too for the kibd words. I love my D7000 and it would be hard to part with. We’ll see where this goes.

  4. Yeah, this resonates with me on so many levels too, Gnat. I’m still horrified by the 4.5K I spent on my DSLR setup (body, lens, grip, spare battery, additional lens, filters). That was in late 2009 and it was already late in its “development cycle” (read “consumerism-perpetuation cycle”). I guess I won’t mention what camera it is because this applies to any camera. This DSLR gives me images I like but it’s still too big and heavy a camera for my liking, and I don’t really enjoy using it. I’m still a rangefinder man at heart. But I guess the good part is that this DSLR really lacks nothing in comparison to today’s offerings, and will stay that way for years (ISO capability aside). It has an APS-C sensor, which seems to have settled as a longer term standard, and it has enough pixels. And really all I ask for is a decent sensor behind a good lens that gives me the flavour I like, all wrapped in a package that I enjoy using. I could have got a cheaper model but this one had the better sensor, and had the better ergonomics, and for me the ergonomics are key to my enjoyment of using the camera. Coming from a film rangefinder, I knew I’d have to try to get used to the DSLR size and weight. I’m still getting used to it…. It changes how I take a photo, somehow. I get nice results, but I’m not particularly enjoying taking the photo.

    I really like gear that has become faithful to me. That usually means it’s served me and not let me down for at least 5-10 years. That gear carries memories with it, and adventures shared, under its skin. These ooze out onto me anytime I use it. I love that. Certain bikes, Goretex pants, softshell jackets, cameras, thumbshifters, tents…. It’s usually one of a few similar items – one item that stands above the others, not for its up-to-dateness, but for its faithfullness and longevity. It just works. Fast-moving modern technology doesn’t allow this, until the technology starts to settle. I think DSLR technology is beginning to settle, and at last we’re starting to see the kind of digital camera I really want (a matured and affordable digital rangefinder with good interchangeable lenses).

    Meanwhile, there’s no point in selling my DSLR – I’d “get nothing for it” – it still does what it’s meant to do, so I’ll just keep using it and using it. And who knows, maybe it’ll become an old faithful yet.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking post Gnat. It’s a topic I’ve spent a lot of time on over these years, and I have plenty more to think about. An entry on my Blog touches on this too – this topic of favourite things, the right tool for the job, things that are older, and using things hard, which I think somehow goes hand in hand with what we’re discussing here. It’s here, if you don’t mind including the link:

    http://needlessranting.plynnmiller.com/2011/06/02/fuji-x100-carrying-it-in-a-compact-way-part-i/

    Cheers, Martin/The Old Man.

    PS. Dan O, I really get what you’re saying about mid-priced bikes and componentry, and good frames are getting more and more reasonably priced, especially steel hardtails. One of my favourite bike years was when I re-equipped a favourite high quality 10 year old steel frame with Shimano STX mid-level componentry. It just worked. And every time there was a crunch in the gears, I’d just say to myself, “what do you expect? It’s STX!” It was SO relaxing, and I ran that component group completely into the ground.

    • Some day Martin, I’d love for you to send me an email about your A700. I’d love to know more about your feelings and why the images aren’t working. I have long considered getting one as they are super cheap now and I’ve got old Minolta glass that works on them.

  5. Martin, I hope you are well. I thought of you today. It was when I picked up my film and prints from the processing lab today. I gotta be honest, the rangefinder (my Bessa R4A) is ruining me. I won’t stop shooting digital because I need to shoot it, but if I only shot for myself, I’d have a Contax G2 and my Bessa R4A.

    Aside from that, it is so great to hear from you.

  6. Thank you Gnat.

    Funny you should say that “if I only shot for myself, I’d have a Contax G2 and my Bessa R4A”, because my Contax G1 I will never, ever part with. And my Bessa R4A…well, to be honest I haven’t shot that much with it yet, but I LOVE the feel of it in my hand, the look through the viewfinder, and the sound of the shutter. Makes me want to use it a whole lot more. I think I just need to find some lenses that inspire me more. I’d like a Zeiss 28mm lens for it actually.

    What do you mean by the rangefinder is ruining you? Do you mean that you can’t stop shooting it, and it is draining your pockets?!

    I’m fortunate to be doing a trip to Paris in a few months, and I’m still wrestling with which camera(s) to take. The DSLR? The Fuji X100? The Bessa R4A with b/w film and the Contax with colour film? Just the Bessa? Just the Contax? I actually think I’ll get more gorgeous prints out of 144 frames (4 rolls) of film than from 1,000 digital shots.

    • Martin, thanks for the comments.

      The rangefinder has ruined me to the FEEL of the camera and the overall control you have over the image. Sometimes less is more.

      I think I am going to stick with my 21mm and add a nice 35mm. I am also considering an R3A with the 40mm 1.4. Different tool and then I can keep different film in each of them. However, I may just end up shooting an old rangefinder in the 40mm area. Trying out an old Canonet and an old Olympus. I REALLY like the feel of my new old Olympus 35RC. I hope it works as well as it feels. Plan to put film in it this weekend. We’ll see.

      Keep shooting that Contax.

  7. Martin, thanks for the reply. I am so happy for you going to Paris. It is such a beautiful city. Honestly, I think you should take the Contax and the X100. Shoot the 45mm on the Contax. I think you will regret not having both film and digital. I am wrestling with the same thing for my upcoming trip to Japan. I want both. I will likely take the Bessa and NEX.

    Shooting film is ruining me in the sense I love the feel of the images. I’m getting the hang of the metering and focus on the Bessa. It isn’t really the feel of the camera for me, it is the result. I so love it. I picked up another roll of 36 today and I had that tingly feeling with several of the images. I love it.

    DSLR? Well…I am on the verge of selling my entire pro kit. I use it about 3-5 times per year for specific trips. If I sell it, I will be picking up my very own Contax G1 or G2.

    Safe travels to Paris my friend.

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