Ken Rockwell reviews a ton of photography equipment. He seems to know what he’s talking about so I have been following his site for the last month or so. However, yesterday he had a post that drove me crazy, above and beyond his usual idiosyncrasies. It was only topped when I went to find a link to it. Turns out that he doesn’t do the daily updates as individual posts, but rather updates the same page every day. So here is the link to the article in question Ken Rockwell's Updates. But you’ll have to scroll down to January 6. It also looks like the link will break at the end of the month. Okay, annoying.
Back to the impetus of this post. In his update on January 6th, he asks us to “try to forget how many tens of thousands of dollar each of us threw at DLSRs last decade, and how little we have to show for it today.” Digital rot, which as far as I can tell is a term he made up, is when digital technology rapidly ages and loses it value. After about two years, your DSLR is out of date and due for an update.
Part of his argument is that before DSLRs, a camera was basically a dark box used to expose film. Some cameras had more bells and whistles but they all served the purpose. With DSLRs the “film” is built into the camera—the sensors. Improved film? Buy a roll and use it. Improved sensors? Buy a new camera. “Camera companies love digital, because digital cameras are thrown away and replaced every two to three years.”
I remember buying my first SLR—a Nikon N70—in 1998. That same year the F100 came out and a year or two later the N80 came out. I was so fascinated with the F100, and the N80 was much much closer to the F100 so I upgraded when I could. It may not have been the sensor since it was a film camera, but there were other things that I wanted like 3d-matrix metering, better autofocus, 3 fps, etc. So it wasn’t digital rot like he talks about, but there was feature rot.
Rockwell’s main beef seems to be the need to replace camera bodies every two to three years. The resale value of these DSLRs falls pretty quickly. I’ll only mention that the N70 I bought lost half of its retail value (not talking resale value here) within a year of my purchase. I’ll also admit that I’m confused why he needs to replace his camera that often. Maybe we are looking at this from different perspectives. This past year I bought my first DSLR. I didn’t even bother looking at new ones since they were well outside of my price range. I found a used D200 (released 2005) for a very reasonable price. I’ve been using it for about a year now and absolutely love it. It may have issues and newer cameras may have better cooler features, but the D200 does everything I want (and more!). Unless things change a lot in the next year or two, I will continue to use this body and I even bought it used. Maybe I’m missing something about his argument, but it seems to me you don’t have to buy into new often.
The reason he doesn’t like having to replace is because of the cost and the drop off in resale value. “[His] F4 cost me only a couple of hundred bucks in its box a couple of years ago, and it's still worth at least what [he] paid for it.” He doesn’t even consider the cost of film, developing, etc. I haven’t spent any money on consumables since I bought my DSLR.
I don’t really agree with his point, and I definitely don’t agree with the his arguments. He says “I always like to get a rise out of people, and I guess at least a few of you will be hanging on to digital capture for at least a few more years.” I really don’t see that happening, except for getting a rise out of me.
The kicker though, and the paragraph that really set me off:
This was frame 39 on a 36-exposure roll of film. Digital does't even go to frame 39 or even the 37th frame; when you fill your card or your buffer, you're bonked. Worse, with digital, you pay for a 4GB card, but it only holds 3.8GB. What's up with that?
He tagged this on at the end of the article and really should have left it off. Is he really complaining because a 4GB flash card which holds a couple hundred images does not hold a couple hundred plus 3? A 4 GB CF card holds more than 5 times as many photos as that “36” roll of film, even with those few extra frames.
At this point I have a love/hate attitude toward his blog. He reviews a ton of equipment and does a pretty decent job. He has some good how-to articles. But then he is always begging readers to support him, and the blog layout is horrible, and he occasionally lays an egg like the one that prompted this post. For now, I’ll keep checking on his blog, but he’s on probation