As a digital camera owner, this scenario likely applies to you. After visiting a digital camera store, talking to friends, reading reviews, or possibly shopping online, at one time you bought what you thought was the perfect digital camera for your needs.
After purchasing this digital camera and using it for a few weeks, you later visited the same store, browsed the same websites, or scanned through the latest issues of those same magazines, and guess what? A newer, ‘better’, faster, and cheaper digital camera is now available, making your current camera seem ‘uncool’, agonizingly slow, and obsolete. I can definitely say the above scenario has happened to me – way too often. I’ve purchased five digital cameras in the last few years and have friends who have been through many more. Instead of continually burning holes in your wallet, how can you purchase a digital camera that will continue to stay cutting-edge for years to come?
Welcome to the sad truth – obsolescence is inevitable with digital cameras, just as it is with cell phones, computers, television sets, or other electronics. No matter how much time you take researching digital cameras, no matter how much money you spend, sooner or later a new model will be released, making you rue the day you purchased your ‘old’ camera. You may be thinking, “I’m ready to purchase a new digital camera. Should I spend the money now and buy a camera, or wait a few months until something better comes along? The one I am interested in buying might become obsolete soon.”
My advice: unless you are still very happy with your current digital camera and absolutely know a specific new digital camera model will soon be available, go ahead and purchase the best camera you can find. When I mean “best”, I don’t mean the most expensive, or even the digital camera with the most “bells and whistles”. I mean the camera with the best combination of features and value for your budget. Life is short – really short. You could wait, watching the releases of camera after camera, and think, “I’m smart. I’m going to wait until a better digital camera exists.” While you may technically save money in the long run, there are larger costs you’re enduring – the opportunity and enjoyment costs of not having the right equipment for your needs during the time waited.
If you always wait for the newest crop of digital cameras to be released, you could very well wait forever. Digital cameras continue to advance in technology with no end in sight.
* Megapixels: I remember when one megapixel cameras were all the rage. Now twelve+ megapixels is not uncommon, and if you read this article years from now, who knows what will be the norm.
* Focal length: My first camera had no zoom at all. My old prosumer camera has 7x optical zoom, I have a digital SLR with a 28mm – 300mm zoom lens, and other cameras and lenses on the market have even greater focal distances.
* Speed: Expect continual increases in shutter speeds, plus decreasing startup and memory writing times. And if you own a digital SLR, newer and faster lenses will be released to market.
* Image Quality: New lenses and image sensors will continue to produce clearer, more exact replicas of your subjects in digital form.
* Battery length: Think your digital camera can’t last but a few dozen or hundred photos before switching batteries? Even that will change.
You could constantly worry about obsolescence, or you have a couple of other options:
* Plunk down more money and purchase a digital SLR camera instead of a prosumer or compact camera. Unless you are familiar with dSLRs, you may have to spend some time familiarizing yourself with controls and techniques, but these cameras have several advantages. Digital SLRs may have quicker start-up and media write times. Since dSLR lenses can be changed, you can acquire different zoom distances and quicker exposures without buying a new camera body. And if later you do purchase a new camera body, if you purchase the same brand of camera you may be able to reuse your current lenses.
* Are you sure you have read your manual and taken full advantage of your current digital camera? Have you learned about adjusting shutter speeds and ISO sensitivity to take faster exposures, white balance settings to make photos seem truer to life, and bracketing so you can better experiment with all of these features?
* As New Yorkers are prone to say, “Fugitaboutit”! Great photography requires more than just great equipment, and great pictures can be made without top-of-the-line electronics. Remember that even with a first-class digital camera, if your composition is boring and your lighting dull, the results will prove likewise.
An ancient proverb states that “the only thing constant is change”. Such is true with the development of digital cameras. Don’t let life pass you buy while waiting for the perfect digital camera that will never become obsolete. That day may not occur, at least in our lifetimes. If you’re in the market for a digital camera, buy the best one available for you, enjoy shooting photos, and don’t always be concerned about newly available ‘better’ digital cameras. Eventually you may upgrade (again), but for the time being, just relax, enjoy your hobby, and get everything you can out of your camera.