Old and New, Young and Old
48-year-old Nikon S3 kit owned and used by sbug
I wasn't trying to make any great big point with yesterday's question. Oren and Carl and I and a few others had been having a semi-private discussion about planned obsolescence, and I mentioned a furtive memory of Porsche having once designed a so-called "20-year car" that was over-engineered, understressed, and underpowered and meant to have a normal service lifespan of the eponymous two decades. It never got built, the beancounters having decreed (if my memory serves) that there was no market for such a thing. I mentioned that my first digicam, a five year old, 3-megapixel Olympus I paid $700 for, is broken, un-fixable, and now worth exactly $0.
Oren noted—tongue only partly in cheek—that he doesn't use 5-year cameras or even 20-year cameras, but 100-year cameras. So I asked him which of his cameras in full, frequent use is the oldest. Turns out it's his 6.5x8.5 Eastman No. 2 that dates from 1914-1920—not quite 100 years, but close enough for government work.
We're in a curious phase right now. At best, we're just barely coming out of the "incunable" era—the crucible years—of digital, during which upgrading has been natural if not downright mandatory because of the march of the technology. (Who uses a digital camera from 1996?) It's possible things have settled down such that people might actually be using cameras 10 years from now that they own today. But, if so, that's a relatively new potentiality. My own "main" camera is a little more than a year old.
Respondants to my question seemed to break down into a main group using digital cameras for very short times and a subgroup using film cameras for considerably longer times. It's tempting to see this as a "advantage" of sorts for film cameras, but of course that's not really fair, because film cameras are a substantially mature technology. Allowing for the accordion-bellows compression of the pace of progress compared to 150 years ago (though it was pretty rapid then too), similar things happened to film in its early days: few photographers were using the same cameras in 1869 that they were using in 1849, I'd venture to say. That's 20 years, not ten, adjusted for inflation. Still, the march of "sensor" technology from Daguerreotype plate to flexible film wasn't exactly slow, considering.
Last night Oren said he spent the evening sanding and drilling a 6" lensboard to mount a Wollensak Verito for his 6.5x8.5 Eastman. An 11 1/2" Verito, which was the focal length intended for use on whole plate. Ca. 1920s, which makes it more or less contemporaneous, too.
Fun stuff. I envy Oren his hobby, as I envy sbug his nearly-half-century-old S3 and people still using Leicas and Rolleicords. There a lot to love left in the old technology. Still, most of us are fledglings these days, and for ample good reason.
Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON