Musings on Photography

More Upgrade Thoughts

Posted in equipment by Paul Butzi on December 15, 2008


Some of the comments on my thoughts about upgrading to the EOS 5d mk II merit responses:

One commenter wrote:

Regarding your hesitation to purchase a 5DMKII, you wrote, “…part of it is the cost, and part of it is that I’m not clear that I can see increased utility from the upgrade.”

No offense, but I imagine that you’re fooling yourself if you really think it has anything to do with cost. You’re a photographer, and judging by the equipment you appear to own — i.e. Leica M6, Linhof 4×5, Z3200 — you buy what you need in order to do your art. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

No offense, but I’m pretty sure that I understand my own evaluation of value. And while I buy what I need to do my art, that doesn’t mean that I’m immune to considerations of value. Careful consideration of value is, in point of fact, how I got to the point where I could pretty much buy whatever the heck I want.

You say you’re printing less and less. Could it be that you’re in a rut? Approaching digital fatigue? My advice: stop pondering the Canon upgrade, head back to film to a while with the amazing equipment you have, and I bet you’ll be fired up again soon enough, just as you suspect.

I don’t really see how switching back to film will change things, to be honest. I have a perfectly good digital camera that I like, and use. The printing thing is more a matter of being a bit burned out on printing. Printing from film will not make me less burned out on printing, because all printing from film will do is a) add the step of DEVELOPING FILM, which I don’t much enjoy and which consumes time, and b) SCANNING FILM, which I hate with incandescent fervor that is brighter than 1000 suns.

Another commenter wrote:

‘Time to sort out the support accesories. Time to sort out the new control layout. Time to come to grips with the image qualities. New sharpening standards. New color issues.’ I’m using a 3 year old laptop that overheats after an hour, a 4 year old scanner and the first version of PS CS to do all my work for exactly the same reason. I could afford the money to upgrade, but the time . . . that’s just too dear. I know I’ll need to upgrade the computer soon, but I’m thinking about just virtualizing it in a new iMac, buying a couple of spare scanners from ebay and seeing how long I can keep this workflow going. After 3 years, I’m just about to get the hang of it.

Exactly. What I have works. I understand it, in the way you understand a camera after making thousands of photographs with it. If I could find some way to constrain the retraining cost, I’d be a lot more inclined to upgrade. But when I have to switch to PS CS4, learn a new camera body, and go through the process of working out color management, sharpening, et al – well, it just becomes this big hurdle, both in terms of time and money costs, and in terms of psychic energy that I really am trying hard to hoard and use only on things that are productive.

What I should do, really, is sell off the gear I’m not using.

Anyone interested in a Linhof Technikardan 45s? A Leica M6 body? Anyone with good ebay tips?

8 Responses

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  1. Jerry Freeman said, on December 15, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve stayed out of this fray but since there are so many similarities. I kept the 5D as it satisfies my needs. I sold “all” my Leica and Nikon film gear, professional desktop computer system, scanners, and printers. I print once a month to an Epson 4800 (for a fee, which is more cost effective), and do everything on a Macbook Pro in Lightroom, (archiving with an ICY Dock swappable external drive). I have no office, use my camera more, and have never felt so free!

  2. Paul said, on December 15, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Paul, regarding eBay. First, do a little research to see if anyone else is selling the same item, or similar, as you.

    If you can find some, try to get a good idea for what they might sell for. You’ll want to look for auctions that will be ending in a very short time, preferably, within a matter of minutes. Thanks to bid snipe programs, all bids seem to come within those last few minutes.

    Price your camera in line with what things are selling for. If a camera is selling, in general, for $1000, I’ll either start my price at $700 and put a reserve of $900, or perhaps a buy-it-now price of $950. Other people comparison shop too and may jump on that price right away. It’s up to you on how fast you want to sell it. Offer a great buy-it-now-price and it will probably sell in a matter of hours. Price it too high and, well, you’ll be stuck with it. 🙂

    If you do a buy-it-now, make sure that it is “Immediate payment required”. You don’t want someone taking your item off and then poking around with the payment.

    Lastly, don’t sell ‘around’ eBay. More than likely, someone will ask you to do that. I’ve been asked a few times. You have no protection if you do and it is against eBay’s rules anyway. They want their cut of the pie!

    Good luck! I’ve sold all of my equipment that way and have had no problems.

  3. Colin Griffiths said, on December 15, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    And end your auction on a Sunday evening, there will be more potential buyers at home ready to bid than at some other more obscure time.

  4. Chris said, on December 15, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I’ve been selling on ebay for almost ten years and making a living off it fully for 6 years. A have few suggestions for you to consider. It’s more or less too late for Xmas now so hold off and sell in January. Pre-Xmas and Post-Xmas week is not reliable. Use this time to monitor items using completed listings and get an idea of demand and price. If the demand is low then prices will fail to meet potential value and it’s better to re-consider or maybe wait til demand seems to pick up. In your listing include several good photos, include detailed descriptions and check carefully for mistakes that would detract from confidence of buyers. I have found the best end times to be Thursday and Saturday evenings but I think that varies a lot with type of audience. If the items are of high value then require people to use their confirmed address for payment and be careful with flaky or low feedback buyers. I’ve had very little trouble over the years but my items are of low value and the crooks don’t generally bother with me. Not to scare you but the higher the value to more careful to be. Anyway there isn’t one right way to do it. I always include a BuyItNow but if poorly chosen it can hinder a maximal price. Often though it is good for making a quick sale at an acceptable price.

  5. Bron Janulis said, on December 15, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Pretty much in line with Chris, though I think Buy it Now has slowed bidding. A reserve price slightly higher than wholesale, 1/2 plus, of say the prices in KEH, is good. The camera and woodworking gear I’ve been selling has generally been sold for slightly over what I can see as wholesale. Sales right now maybe slowed by a general economic malaise.

    As to trading in, or not upgrading, I started this spring, by going from a DSLR to Canon G9, selling off the big Gitzo and Markins Ballhead; but that is a very personal response to deciding to not do any more of the one pro thing I do, photographing artwork. Same response to software; instead of CS4, Elements 6.

    Go figure.


  6. Hugh Alison said, on December 16, 2008 at 5:48 am

    I have had a 5D and a few prime lenses since it came out. I think the 5D reached the Hasselblad point in the film era – it produced good enough quality for you to say what you wanted (or produce salable prints, etc.). There are better options now, in the same way that one could always move up from 120 format, but it does the job.

    If you just want to get the job done, unless the conditions are really severe, the original 5D will do it.

  7. Anita Jesse said, on December 16, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    You have covered the reasons that I postpone upgrading as long as I can take it. I so dread the hours of learning and unlearning it takes me to become comfortable with a new program or camera. I can happily putter about, camera in hand, for the longest time or fiddle with an image in Photoshop tweaking and experimenting and never feel the time is wasted. On the other hand every moment I spend learning a new camera or a program upgrade is a source of acute aggravation.

  8. John M said, on December 17, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I’m the first “no offense” poster — which, by the way, wasn’t intended to have a snarky tone. Sorry if it came off that way.

    Speaking as someone who recently encountered almost the same printing fatigue, I decided to shoot less and to take time between viewing and printing my photos. The “shooting less” part also coincided with a general return to film, which I am by no means dissatisfied with. I have great film gear, a lab that I trust to develop and sleeve my negatives for $5, and hopefully a lifetime of leisurely Sunday mornings to scan, edit, and print. The net result is that I happen to print less and I don’t burn out, as I sometimes did in the past.

    Garry Winogrand was famous for being a prolific shooter, and although he rarely admitted to making very conscious decisions about his art, I think that he knew the value of lengthening the shoot-and-edit cycle and getting some objective distance from the shooting experience and his subjects. (He often developed his negatives a year after shooting them.) IMHO one of the problems with digital is that it naturally creates the temptation to work in a very short shoot-edit-print loop, which in my experience leads inevitably to fatigue.

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