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Digital SLR: Life Expectancy?

Albert Darmali , Mar 07, 2005; 07:58 a.m.

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...




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Randall Ellis , Mar 07, 2005; 08:07 a.m.

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

Bas Scheffers , Mar 07, 2005; 08:39 a.m.

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...

Fred Bonnett , Mar 07, 2005; 09:05 a.m.



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.

Greg Chappell , Mar 07, 2005; 09:54 a.m.

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.

BW Combs , Mar 07, 2005; 11:24 a.m.

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.

Craig Gillette , Mar 07, 2005; 11:46 a.m.

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.

Phil Vaughan , Mar 07, 2005; 12:32 p.m.

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.

Greg S , Mar 07, 2005; 12:38 p.m.

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.

Ben Severns , Mar 07, 2005; 02:03 p.m.

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.

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