Digital SLR: Life Expectancy?

Discussion in 'Mirrorless Digital Cameras' started by albertdarmali, Mar 7, 2005.

  1. As you all know, some SLRs (especially older ones), seem like they are built to last forever. Some of us are still using 10+ years old camera or even older ones, and the picture output from those oldies can still put some of current DSLRs to shame. I know my brother is using an SLR which is a hand-me-down from my late dad. I don't think current DSLRs have the same durability as older SLRs (well, maybe high end ones). I cant afford to buy expensive cameras every now and then, so I am considering to get one solid DSLR that can last many many years. Do you think it will be possible for a DSLR to last as long as SLRs ? One thing I worry the most about DSLR is the proprietary battery that comes with the camera. What if, say, in 5 or 6 years to come, the battery started to worn off or damaged, and I dont really think that the company would still sell the proprietary battery for that current camera by then? Maybe there will be other issues that you wont find in SLRs too, since DSLRs are mostly electronic, I assume ? Can someone help me clarify this, because I really think it's not funny if I spend my hard-earned money on a DSLRs only to find out that it won't last more than 5 years or so... I may sound like a tight-ass, but I dont earn much money, and unfortunately cameras and lenses dont come cheap. So maybe if it's the fact that DSLRs wont last that long, maybe I'd just settle with some less expensive or entry level DSLR then... Thanks. Albert.
     
  2. Another issue is dead pixels. Over time, my older digital cameras drop the occasional pixel. It will appear to be 'stuck' on a certain color. I can fix it but over a long period of time, I would imagine any digital camera would become more trouble than it is worth to work around. Just my $0.02... - Randy
     
  3. It's hard to say. For them is that there are less moving parts. But against them they have electronics. Some computers run for decades, some stop working after a few years for no apparent reason. But in general I would say, they SHOULD last a decade or more, just like most consumer electronics around them house. The more important question is, if they break before that time, can they be repaired? I would guess that in the lower end of the market, with models replaced aver 18-24 months, availability of spares may become a problem. But buying a pro model just for that reason would be silly as well; for the price of one of those you can buy three consumer models...
     
  4. - Albert: Most pro-grade DSLRs are good for around 150,000 cycles --- the consumer grade models come in at more like 50,000 exposure cycles. Two things to keep in mind: 1) you will take many more exposures with a DSLR --- that zero cost per exposure leads to a trigger happy attitude, 2) DSLRs are a work-in-progress --- it is highly unlikely you would want to use a 5 year old model.
     
  5. I imagine folks who shoot with various Nikkormats, Rollei 35's, Canon Ftb's,etc, never thought mercury batteries would go away either. It's not just digital cameras who's batteries you have to worry about. The oldest digital SLR's today are less than a decade old. Any older than, say a Canon D30 you probably don't want to be using anyway due to technology gains. Starting with the Nikon D70, Canon 20D and this new Rebel XT, performance is getting to where you can probably expect to be able to use it at least 4-5 years unless you're one of these types that always has to have THE current model. There's enough folks like that around that second hand low mileage bodies will always be available. It's kinda like cars- the original owners are ones who get soaked with $1,500 bodies selling for $700 12 months later. I've had my Digital Rebel now for 15 months and 10D for about 6 months, and have no urge to do any updating. Image quality and performance in these two models I use is plenty good at 6 megapixels and no, I cannot afford to upgrade at $1,500 per new body each year or even every other year. At some point you just have to say what you have is good enough, and the current bodies are good enough.
     
  6. If it's longevity you want, buy a proven film SLR. Designed obsolesence is today's mantra. And the speed of changing technologies only adds to that formula. I am expecting my F2 to still be working in another 30 years. But I won't be counting on my D70 then.
     
  7. Yeah, go film. Pick a nice popular and traditional slide film like Kodachrome. The dslrs are still in a rather rapid development phase. You might compare them to any major technological advance in it's earliest years. Look at the early evolution of aircraft and automobiles, most people wouldn't want to "go back." Film cameras are very evolved at this point so going back a few years isn't a huge leap. Yes, you will have trouble replacing componentry at the lowest level, but that's an issue with a variety of products, memory and processors for example have evolved so quickly, there isn't a lot of demand for older, larger, slower, lower capacity devices so they aren't being made in quantities. OTOH, there isn't a lot of demand or economic incentive to repair/replace items at the component level.
     
  8. Firstly, the assumption that electronics are prone to failure is pure speculation. How many PC's have you been through in the last 10 years? how many PCB failures vs processor cooling fans, hard drives, optical drives or floppy drives? Mechanical components are far more likely to fail. Secondly, don't think of the DSLR body as being more expensive than a film body, think of it as including your film and processing costs. Too many people think the shooting is free, it's not free it was paid up front with the price of the body. Work out how much film and processing will cost over x years (however many you think you'll keep thew camera), then work out the Digital premium (20d vs Elan 7ne, or whatever body you fancy - add in a proportion of a wide angle lens for the crop factor - as necessary). Then you'll know if you're saving by buying built in obsolescence. If you only shoot a few rolls a year a film camera will be a big saving, however, if you're shooting 10 rolls a week, then what do you mean about digital bodies costing so much money.
     
  9. There seems to be a problem with how some DSLR camera manufacturers approach Quality Assurance these days. I have a Fuji S2 (still working) which has a notorious reputation for CCDs going bad at any given moment. There obviously should have been significantly more environemntal testing before product release to the public. Other DSLRs have had their own catastrophic fail signatures. They sell these cameras for big $$$, but act as if they have no real responsiblity for product longevity.
     
  10. I used to work for a fairly large camera retailer here in minnesota, and in some of my conversations with our district manager, some how it came up that pretty much all the companies out there are designing these dslrs with a much shorter life span that say something from the nikon f series. The current trend for digital right now is for it to just be disposable, and get replaced everything 2-3 years. I just thought I'd put my two cents in.
     
  11. "I don't think current DSLRs have the same durability as older SLRs (well, maybe high end ones)." Why? On what do you base that? "One thing I worry the most about DSLR is the proprietary battery that comes with the camera. What if, say, in 5 or 6 years to come, the battery started to worn off or damaged, and I dont really think that the company would still sell the proprietary battery for that current camera by then?" Lithium Ion batteries, which are used in pretty much all DSLR's, tend to fade faster than that. I noticed a power drop from two Li-ion batteries with just one year's worth of heavy use. (Fortunately higher capacity third party replacements are about $20.) But you can still buy rechargable batteries for notebook computers from the late 80's/early 90's. As long as people are using a particular model of DSLR, you'll be able to buy batteries for it from a third party. Typically battery packs contain a set of standard cells inside and can be rebuilt as well, though I have yet to take apart one of my 10D batteries to see what they're using. If you're really worried, aren't there a couple models that can optionally take AA batteries? Rechargeable AA's will probably be around longer than film at this point. "The dslrs are still in a rather rapid development phase. You might compare them to any major technological advance in it's earliest years. Look at the early evolution of aircraft and automobiles, most people wouldn't want to "go back." Film cameras are very evolved at this point so going back a few years isn't a huge leap." That hasn't been true since the Canon 10D. Yeah, updated models keep coming out. But the major developments are all in place.
     
  12. "I used to work for a fairly large camera retailer here in minnesota, and in some of my conversations with our district manager, some how it came up that pretty much all the companies out there are designing these dslrs with a much shorter life span that say something from the nikon f series. The current trend for digital right now is for it to just be disposable, and get replaced everything 2-3 years. I just thought I'd put my two cents in." Translation: designers anticipate that a particular feature set will only be viable in their product lineup for 2-3 years, NOT that the camera is only designed to work for 2-3 years. When a circuit board is manufactured they don't put "magic solder" on it that fades in 3 years. IC's don't use "magic silicon" that fails in 3 years. I guarantee you that modern board and IC manufacturing is superior in every way to what was available in the early 80's. Yet you can buy fully functional Apple II's and C64's all day on ebay. For that matter it's also far, FAR better than in the 1970's. And yet somehow all those Canon A1 and AE-1 bodies continue to work.
     
  13. jtk

    jtk

    Take a look at KEH used camera descriptions. It's not unusual for digital readouts to die ("leak") within a few years. Batteries for antique mechanical cameras (my bowling-ball-heavy Canon F1 for example) are easily replaced with newer types of battery. Canon AE models relied upon plastic bearings...when you hear the trademark old-age-squeeking it's because they're mechanically failing and won't be reparable...unlike Leicas from 1934 or Nikon FTNs, which will live forever. Happily digital cameras aren't subject to much mechanical wear, except for popup flashes that will be torn off accidentally sooner or later.
     
  14. Phil, as pointed out by others, these high density CCDs and CMOS sensors still have a lot to prove. I have had 2 CPUs die on me in the past 3 years, both in well cooled computers. Remember the bad batch of capacitors that made it onto PC motherboards around the turn of the century? That killed a lot of PCs which fortunately were at their upgrade cycle already. But it made it impossible for me, my brother and one of my colleagues to put these retired machine into home server duty. And no dount many others too. My company also had a couple of well treated 2001-era Toshiba laptops die in new and interesting ways well before they were to be upgraded. While most simple consumer electronics items (Stereos, DVD players, etc) seem very reliable these days, in my experience the longevity of smarter "gadgets", that the current crop of DSLRs yet has to prove they are not part of, is a lot lower. And even with things like the 20D that are good enough to be usable for a decade or more, it remains to be seen if the engineers have dropped the "it will be outdated and replaced in 3 years" attitude to reliability and servicability. Not that I care too much, I fully expect to not upgrade to my "next decade" camera for another few years. But I just wanted to point out that electronics aren't as infalible as some like to think!
     
  15. I would say that DSLRs are no more than a prepayment of film costs. If you go through 50 rolls of film a year, you probably spend about $500 per year on film + development. At that rate, you have used up your DSLR prepayment in about 2 years. For a Canon 20D or Minolta 7D, three years. Etc... as modified by your own personal film usage rate. I don't look as a DSLR as much as a body as a purchase of a sensor which will degrade/become obsolete over time.
     
  16. "I have had 2 CPUs die on me in the past 3 years, both in well cooled computers." I'm kinda surprised by that. Not that I doubt it... just haven't heard much about PC failure (the 'end of life' for mine is always based on performance = can't run the OS and apps). Even VCR's (originally very tempermental, lots of mechanical stuff) tend to last many years now. But DSLRs? The stories I hear of CCD failure, mirror malfunction, ERR signals on powerup, etc. put them at the top of the list for product fragility. This is not a DSLR bash, it's basically all I use and plan to use. Just wish they'd put some true quality control in there.
     
  17. Albert, I understand your concern. I have shot Nikons for over 30 years. I used F's, F2's, and a couple of F3's for over 20 years. I used these cameras extensively, shooting everyday professionally. Because of the workflow, I switched to digital a couple of years ago, and I have had numerous problems with digital cameras. Shutters seem to wear out quicker, electronic bugs that pop up, etc. It makes me yearn for the reliabilty of mechanical film cameras. I know that I can never go back to film for my work, but I still shoot film cameras for myself. I am now using a Nikon D2H for my work, and so far, it seems to be holding up well. I bought that particular camera because I wanted something very easy to use and also because it is built like a tank. I could care less about megapixels, etc ( I shoot for web sites and newspapers). All I ask in a top notch DSLR is RELIABILITY! So far, as far as I can tell, the modern day DSLR's do not seem as sturdy as older film cameras, but that is just my opinion.
     
  18. Opinions on both sides of arguments seem to make lots of sense... I think it all comes down to your perceived value of the camera ? I am really not worried about current DSLR being obsolete in a few years in terms of features or technology. What they are offering now is enough for me already. (yes, even in terms of image quality). I dont think I will go film as well, first, Im really not a pro, I can't just calculate everything and predict correctly how the pictures will come up. I do lots of trial and errors, So I have to stick with digital. Therefore I think the best way to look at it is, include the DSLR as part of the cost of taking pictures then... and at least I can keep the lenses (hopefully). Maybe I'd just get a D70 or maybe wait a little while and see what's coming up later this year or something.
     
  19. If you get to this answer and don't skip it like I did quite a few above I would suggest that just becuase you have used SLRs you do not need, more than likely, to go to the DSLR if you are an average photographer. The alternative option is the Pro-sumer which gives you much more bang for your buck, and can be more readilly replaced due to it's intermediate price. Looking a a 'special' offer for the beginner grade Nikon and two lens on a flyer today I noted it was still nearly twice what I paid for my FZ20. I also have an older Nikon 5700 ... and my Pentax must be at least 30yo :) I missed a whole generation [or two] of electronic supported SLRs, I just have a battery for the meter. Often digital cameras, like my FZ20 and 5700, have a plug for a secondary battery supply useing perhaps rechargeable C or D batteries, so the proprietry battery is not a serious problem, plus at a pinch you could 'hot-wire' the no working battery to provide the connection from a battery pack in your pocket .... 'more ways to skin a cat" etc etc :)
     
  20. How many of you would want a DSLR built like a Nikon F? Every camera is that line is a brick with weight measured in kilos. So few of us shoot promo materials for paratroopers. I'll take plastic over a metal frame anytime. DI
     
  21. There are still early KODAK (Canon) digital cameras around that work perfectly well. There is NO data that suggest sensors would stop working in 10-20 years. Any of the mechanical parts subject to wear (much like in a film camera) can be replaced. BTW, where do you think FILM will be in 30 years?
     
  22. I would take a DSLR built like a Nikon F anyday. Hard to tell about film. I think it will be around for years to come but the availability and cost may be something to be considered.
     
  23. I am a computer tech. I have seen a few references to computers in regards to this topic. I personally believe that if you get 10 yrs out of a digital componant you are one of the lucky ones. Much like humans digital devices are "born" dying. They are subject to things like oxidation and power surges ( hey so are we Lol) So in my experience dSLR's much like all other digital devices do have a shelf life, I believe I read once that thumb drives have an expectancy of a million read/writes. That may seem like alot, but when you consider how many times the device will be accessed during one session, I think it's a "dogs life" expectancy at best. And yes mechanical components do wear but not wether or not they are being used like digital devices which degrade over time wether or not they are used. Take cd-r's for example they degreade just sitting in the case. I read an article that says that the life expectancy of this media is highly exagerated by the companies that produce them. They claim 100 yrs + when actual tests say more like 10 yrs - There is my 2 Cents/something to ponder?
     

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