Tuesday 21 February 2012

In with the New, and in with the Old - a few reflections

Last week I was reflecting on how we have been 'marketed' by the popular technology manufacturers to become a throwaway society, and how that has infiltrated our world of photography in terms of the tools we use.

This thought process set my mind thinking about other parallels in my life both past and present about the gear/price/quality arms race.

Tonight's blog is a mix of on and off topic so if you don't want to stray off topic, then look away now. You will also have worked out by the end of this blog, that I haven't got any recent images to share as well.

For example, twenty years ago, I enjoyed competitive mountain bike racing a short couple of years after the sport started. The manufacturers then were launching new bikes every year, with better, lighter, must have kit that we couldn't do without, and prices spiralled inexorably upwards from what was heady prices of about £1000 for a hard frame bike to £3.5K plus for a competitive suspension bike. As bits of kit were designed to shave grammes off the weight, the price increase went up logarithmically by the gram.

We see it with cameras with the way the pricing structure transitions from entry level kit, regularly replaced on an annual cycle, transitioning through the pro kit with the associated massive price hike.

Lets say you want a 300mm focal length lens. Looking at Canon, you can start at a mere £170 for a 70-300 f 5.6 zoom., and go all the way up to £5.5K for the 300f2.8L.

Another great love of my life is my music, and the associated prices of hifi. I am not going to go there in this blog, but any of you that are into it will get where I am coming from.

So as we see the new technology coming on the market, and we tell you about it on here, we lust after that must have new camera body, or PC, or tablet or lens, it is worth reflecting whether it will make our life's more fulfilled (too philosophical Martin - move along now) or whether the quality is massively enhanced.

So where am I going with this tonight. Well two things really I guess have made me reflect.

At the weekend, Jacqui bought home a large bag of camera gear from her boss to see if it could be re homed anywhere.

In the bag was a complete set of the old Pentax 110 mini SLR system. I remember these at the time, never saw or held one, and never took an image. I think they suffered from a bit of sniffiness as the 110 film format was a strictly amateur point and shoot format But what a great little set and it took me down a nostalgic route. Maybe, if I could really have been bothered, I would have held on to it, and given it a try if I could have got hold of some film. But without the processing kit, I am not sure I wanted to return to that particular time of my life.

For those of your that have no clue what I am banging on about, have a look here. And even if you do, check it out and go down nostalgia lane anyway.

Anyway, we found the local rep of the Disabled Photographers Society, who are keen on film gear and passed it on to them.

But I will close on old technology that I have to say has not been beaten in quality terms by it more modern day replacements. Apple have a lot to answer for when it comes to the destruction of musical quality, and while I have a lot of compressed music, when I play through my quite reasonable hifi, I only ever heard flat compressed two dimensional sound.

Cd's are pretty good and have been my mainstay for over 15 years now. But I took a trip into our local hifi shop a couple of weeks ago and listened to some vinyl on a turntable. I needed one and so a new deck turned up last night along with a couple of the beautifully remastered recut vinyls from Pink Floyd.

Finally music had come back home and was resurrected. With a lot of time on trains today, listening to compressed music in my ears from my phone, it was clear that both formats have their place - convenience over quality. The same as using the little pocket point and shoot over a heavy pro body and 500 or 600 mm lens.

Let us know what old technology you are into, photographically or otherwise, and why it is 'better' for you.

Right I am off for some pancakes as it is Shrove Tuesday here in the UK, and all us tossers have a fun time, and to fire up some old vinyl, and look at some old 35mm slides.



  1. Hi Martin, thanks for a great post. Personally I'm a bit worried where photography is going because of the cost ! Upgrading to the 7D has certainly made me realize how old and out of date my pc is and the dire need to replace it.

    Only recently I was unpacking some of my stuff now I have my own 'indoor shed' (office to other folk) and I came across some of my old cameras that I've acquired over the years - when I mean old, one is 1911. It did make me think how things have progressed and wondered where photography will be in say 10 or 20 years time - I shudder to think.

    Away from photography, I still use woodworking tools that are possibly 50 years old and are made of mahogany and brass, modern tools just don't have the same feel or 'life'.

    Mind you, I don't think I'd want go back to sending the films away to be developed and wait for two or three weeks to see them (such as with Kodachrome)


  2. Hi Martin,
    When it comes to photography, I have to admit I am really too young to remember true film days; but old enough to remember film point and shoots (I am 43). I remember having to really think before pressing the shutter as I knew I could not delete and retake the shot. I do like the newer digital format in a sense that I can correct my own color and exposure as necessary and not worry about some-else's processing (who was not there to take the shot). I can get the picture as it was when I was there.

    Now let's talk music. I agree that music has gone down hill in many aspects. Much of it is computer generated and processed now-a-days and even those who still play instruments enhance the sound. Forget computer speakers, sound quality is terrible. In fact, since I cannot find a new quality receiver anywhere - I am looking at the thrift shops and yard sales to find a big old receiver and the towering speakers to get the sound I remember from back in the 70's and 80's. All the highs, lows, mid-range. Not some tinny indistinguishable mess.

  3. Robbie, Scott,

    Many thanks for your lengthy comments - very much appreciated. Nice to know there are similar minds out there