The Allure Of The New (Not So New, Old, And Positively Ancient)

What is it about having something new that gives us fresh impetus and inspiration?

With cameras, aside from those built into phones, I think I’ve only ever bought one brand new, a Nikon Coolpix back in 2011.

This was a breakthrough purchase for me, being my first “proper” camera, after years of Sony Cyber-shot phones.

But since then, despite owning hundreds more cameras, they’ve all been second (third or fourth!) hand.

This hasn’t detracted from the feelings and excitement I’ve felt in researching, sourcing and finally receiving and using these cameras.

The most important element in this anticipation has been simply that the cameras are new to me, not brand new.

I know that, for some, the brand spanking newness is the key factor.

Many people seem to want a new car every year or two, something no-one else has driven, and perhaps for the status of being a new car driver and displaying particular digits on their number plate.

And it’s a shame – in my view – when this quest for newness overrides the factor of quality and enjoyment.

For example if I was considering a new car, and had the funds, I would instead more likely go for a two year old car that’s a better make/model/spec than a brand new cheaper, lower end vehicle, just for the sake of having something brand new.

Your day to day experience and enjoyment of a product is dictated far more by its quality, than how old it is.

The same applies with cameras, digital especially.

Three of my favourite digitals, the Ricoh GRD III, Pentax Q and Lumix LX3 cost around £530, £600 and £300 respectively when released – a total of over £1400.

I paid less than a quarter of that – under £350 – for the three combined.

There have been much cheaper examples, where I’ve paid under £10 for a camera that cost £300 or more when new.

I don’t understand why one would pay hundreds every year (or even more often) to be a part of that upgrade parade and fall for the manufacturer’s latest feature or gimmick that no-one really needs.

In fact with many genres of product, the release of a brand new model is the best time to buy last year’s version, as stores want to offload them to make way for the new.

You get less than year old technology at a fraction of the price when it was first released. (Even cheaper if you go for three or five year old versions!)

But back to the main thrust of this post. What is it we like about something new to us, especially a new camera?

Is it the challenge of learning and mastering a new system, to prove you can make good photographs with a range of cameras?

Is it the promise that this camera, finally, will catapult you to master photographer status, where all those previous flawed cameras have failed to?

Is it to keep your interest fresh and stimulated, and to broaden your experience, by trying a different kind or format of camera?

Is it just simply to have a new toy to play with?

For me, I think all of the above are true to some extent.

How about you? What do you love about a new (to you) camera?

As always, please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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26 thoughts on “The Allure Of The New (Not So New, Old, And Positively Ancient)”

  1. I do not easily buy new stuff, and I think about it a lot before to be sure it matches my needs. Then I stick to it and try to make the best of it. I actually have less and less appeal to new stuff, and more and more to better use of what I have. Contrary to what (I remember) I though when I was young, a camera with better specs does not make you a better photograph (if the basic specs are present of course), exactly like a better bike does not make you a better cyclist (or very marginally, and yes the young me thought that also…). I can just use my phone and still become a photograph at a reasonable level (with probably less pleasure).

    For keeping the interest, revisiting the way I use the camera, getting a better knowledge at it, is also a strong stimulus; probably better than getting a new one because then you have to become familiar with it again. The novelty effect has not to come from the camera itself, and not changing gives you more chance to use the camera at full capacity.

    Regarding the brand new vs second hand, there is nothing special for me with the brand new. I remember I bought a second hand Nikon F801 when I was young, and that was really fantastic to get such a great tool, which was only possible for me because it was second hand. It felt much better than when I bought a brand new Minolta X300 before. My LX3 was brand new when I bought it 10 years ago, but the feeling was exactly the same than for the F801: I thought about it for long before, I was sure it was the tool I wanted, and whether it was brand new or second hand was secondary (at that moment there was probably not many second hand LX3 on the market, and as I knew I would keep it for long, buying a brand new was not illogic).

    1. Yes, I don’t think the newness of something is what makes it pleasurable to use, for me. As I said in the post, something that’s a few years old but a better quality model is far preferable to me, for the same money as something brand new but more basic, not as well made and so on.

      With photography, the camera can of course bring some variety and interest, but far more can be brought into the equation outside of this, like where you go to photograph, what type of photographs you make, etc. These variables can change whatever camera you use.

  2. I just upgraded my iPhone. My trusty 6s was on its second battery, and that battery wasn’t holding a charge all day anymore. I could have invested in another new battery but Apple had already issued the last major iOS update to that phone, and over the next 1-2 years apps would stop updating and some would stop working. So I held my breath and bought a new iPhone 12 mini. And it’s very cool! But it’s not so much more capable than my old iPhone 6s that it was worth the money.

    1. Ah yes, planned obsolescence, one of the dark arts of the consumer world! I’m all for progress and evolution but think companies should be far more responsible in the usable lifespan they give their products. The likes of Apple know that once they stop issuing OS upgrades for a device, it’s the beginning of the end, and the apps on the device will be upgraded beyond the capability of the OS before much longer. Sony used to be terrible at this with digital cameras, every time they brought out a new range it would have a different memory card (stick) whilst most other brands had settled on Compact Flash or the now industry standard SD.

      I read about a new phone brand recently that is very modular in build, and allows you to just upgrade parts, like the battery, when they are no longer usable, rather than throw out the whole thing. It even came with a little screwdriver and instructions to take it apart I believe. I know there’s campaigning over here (in the UK) to bring laws in to make new devices far more repairable, rather than disposable, to reduce the insane amount of electronic device waste we produce.

  3. I have only two expectations of ‘new’; that is will proved something not available used, and/or it will last longer than something which already has some of its lifespan consumed.
    Nikon P610: bought new, almost worn out now, utterly worth it.
    Canon T100: bought new, does what I want although a used version might also have, still worth it.
    Lumix ZS-60: bought new, failed the critical test which could not be determined beforehand, not worth it.
    My Master Plan thus requires the replacement for the Nikon be new, and I dread the thought that whatever that turns out to be (Canon SX70 is the top runner right now) will not be another ZS-60 failure.

    1. I think these days with cameras, there’s very little – if anything – a new camera can claim to do that one that’s a few years old can’t. As you know I regularly use 8, 10, 12, 15 year old digital compacts, with very few limitations for my needs.

      I think another thing I like about buying used is the reduction of that risk that a camera might be perfectly capable but I just don’t like using it. I would rather spend £30 to find that out than £300!

  4. When I buy things that include computers, like cars, appliances, computers, etc. I prefer to buy new. I tend to use these things for all of their useful life so I like to know their complete history.
    When I buy things that don’t include batteries or computers I tend to prefer older used things. The design, materials and workmanship are often superior to the new junk on offer these days.
    And I find that shopping for things in both categories, and then using them, is equally enjoyable. Two of my favorite purchases in 2020 were a new GE induction range and a 1972 prism finder black Nikon F.

    1. Thanks Doug, given your camera preferences, I’m quite surprised you would buy a new car! I understand your reasoning to a point. I think there was probably a cut off point maybe 15, even 20 or more years ago, where cars were still made to last, rather than having a planned life span. I remember a Honda mechanic telling us a few years back when we had a Jazz, that Honda only expect their cars to last about seven years, that’s all they’re built for, and by then they expect the owner to have upgraded to a new model. Whereas a car built in the 90s perhaps still had the aim of lasting 20 years plus, and the build and materials quality to make that realistic.

  5. I find my drive to buy “new to me” items, photography-wise, has been to try new ways of doing things. My Yashica Mat 124 is an example of that. Also, there is the desire to try the best, the Maxxum 9, being the example here. I’m still at the learning/exploring stage so, many experiences are new. So far, I have a complete collection of Minolta SLRs from manual to AF, far more cameras than I will ever use on a regular basis. Already, I know that I will only keep about 12-15. This group consists of cameras that fit my needs and that are costly to fix or replace, so there are duplicates. As they die off, they will not be replaced or repaired The others, I hope to sell.

    1. I think we’ve probably talked about this before Jerome, that once we get a little older and of more means, we can buy some of the things we longed for when we were younger, but couldn’t afford them, like your Maxxum 9, which no doubt was incredibly expensive when new.

      I think it makes sense to have a couple of examples of a camera model you love, then rotate them to make them both last longer, than to instead have other models you don’t like so much, and don’t really get used. This is my approach with my old Pentax DSLRs, there’s not much difference between three of them, they all have a CCD sensor (6MP in two, 10MP in the other) and are very similar to use, and I hope collectively they’ll last me longer than if I had just one and it broke.

  6. Good timing as I have a new to me camera right now. The part I most look forward to is learning it so well I can forget it’s new to me.

    1. Thanks Bear, that sounds like a strange statement, getting something new, so you can learn to use it until it doesn’t feel new any more. Why not just use what you already have, that you know inside out already? Or do you mean you gain from that intensive learning process each time?

      1. I had a camera outfit given to me–camera and about a dozen lenses…yes, I found it hard to take in too–that is of much higher potential quality than my current outfit.
        So, I didn’t choose it but it sits a few rungs (and four years more recent) up the model ladder than my current one, so I think it’s more than worth keeping, exploring and learning it.
        It’s not that different, being the same brand, but different enough in control positions and function to need a period of acclimatisation. Or, put it another way, getting to the point it doesn’t feel new any more.

      2. I remember you mentioning something, I think on your blog, is it a Sony something, one of those 7 models that they’ve released a dozen variants of?

        It’s funny how sometimes you need a more sophisticated camera to get the simple set up you need, at least that’s often my experience.

        Something like my Ricoh GRD III has dense layers of options, and many of them I did set up initially, but only to know that the camera would then be almost point and shoot simple, but with the settings of my choosing, rather than an actually simple P&S camera (or phone!) that might make a host of decisions about ISO, aperture, focus etc, that you didn’t want it to.

      3. Yep, that’s something that some of us miss about the more sophisticated models sometimes, but it’s more prevalent in the digital age than it was with the slower tech film camera days. It’s easy to scoff at some of the ‘unnecessary complexity’ as you go up the model range, but a lot of it is there to make it be a better fit for more people (by turning most of it off except the bits you need!) Whereas, at the less expensive end, you are given whatever functionality the price point of the camera has allowed the manufacturer to fit in. Then it’s a case ‘this is what you’ve got, laid out as we thought best, now deal with it’

        Yep, the camera is a A7Riii… of course, there’s a mark iv out already!

      4. I think we’ve talked about this before, but there must be a market for a camera that has a kind of core body, then different modules with sensors, lenses and adjustments built in. Then you could have one optimised for b/w say, (along the lines of the Leica Monochrom), one optimised for landscape photography, and so on. Then anyone could buy the basic body, plus the one or two plug in modules that best suit their photography, rather than having a complex camera with 300 options you’ll never use.

      5. Yes, maybe *ideally* but in the modern world we live in, it’s cheaper to make the redundancy than it is to make all those different specifics… and of course, there would be more waste.

        You couldn’t accurately estimate how many b/w only sensors–or high dynamic range ones or whatever–you need beforehand (you might optimistically make many thousands and find only a few hundred sell) v make one sensor that can do many things, even if more than most photographers want or need it to do.
        Production lines machinery, parts, manufacturing etc, all needs to be one line per product, so if you do one multi purpose product v many specific products, it saves costs, materials and waste.

        Cameras may sometimes offer too much for most of us, but one persons surplus is the most needed part in someone else’s eyes.

  7. I like the idea of a new toy, plus it gives you a boost to go out and learn about the camera and how it compares to other cameras.
    I know after using an older camera I appreciate the features of a newer camera more.  If you start with a newer camera you don’t fully appreciate just how good it is and sometimes this is the very simple things like customisable function buttons that are on the newer cameras but not the older ones.

    1. Yes and I think that can work the other way around too Phil, at least it has for me. Having a newer camera, then going back to an older camera and appreciating it more because it’s simpler and more direct to use, with fewer of the kind of features that are of very limited use anyway. It’s refreshing to use something with all those superfluous functions stripped away.

  8. Over the years I’ve upgraded my cameras so infrequently that the thing I’ve liked the most about them (as new tools) was the significant enhancement in intuitive handling, performance and image quality. But with digital having reached such a high ceiling I’m not sure if that will be such a factor for me, anymore. Been quite a while since I got a new camera or lens. I got my oldest boy a camera for Christmas, though 🙂 Something completely different than I’ve ever used (Canon) so it will be pretty fun to look over his shoulder.

    1. Interesting Jason, which Canon is it, a compact, mirrorless, DSLR? I agree that digital has been highly evolved for perhaps a decade more now, so newer cameras won’t make much difference. More important are things like the handling and ergonomics, and often the lack of unnecessary features!

  9. but of course if I used film cameras all the time I’d posit that perhaps my take would be dramatically different than what I offered last night. Not that digital cameras don’t have their unwaning personalities or character that might tend to influence the end result but arguably…….it’s really just not the same as old film cameras. such different variables between analogue and digital that make a conversation like this apples to oranges. Really, now I’m just sounding like I don’t know what I”m talking about, though.

    1. I think if we dig around enough we can find digital cameras with personality, and my ongoing quest for “digital classics” has certainly unearthed a few that I’ve enjoyed as much as film cameras – Ricoh GX100, Ricoh GRD III, Pentax Q, Pentax K100D, and Panasonic Lumix LX3 all come to mind.

  10. My interest in used gear comes from many years as a musician. I’ve always liked used, broken-in guitars better than new ones, and there’s absolutely no difference between used and new guitar amps. So that transferred over to photography and lately to cars as well.
    I can understand though, the appeal of the “new”. People get excited about having the latest and greatest. But that’s not me.
    That’s not to mention the appeal of older things. All-metal lenses with aperture rings, are so out of date it seems, but I just love them 🙂

    1. Yeh I think there are broadly three eras of age with any product like cameras, guitars, cars etc. Brand new, used (from a few months old to a few years old), then vintage, which depends on the equipment, but there are certainly cameras I have that I’d consider vintage digital classics, even though they’re only 10-15 years old. In this vintage category, the gear tends to include features that are simpler, or more direct and/or better designed and built than more modern alternatives, hence the appeal, the experience in using them is greater, more special.

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