There aren’t many things we buy these days that last a lifetime, most things break after a few years or are made obsolete by replacement products. We may be really impressed when we get a new iPad and show it off proudly to anyone who cares to listen but after eighteen months the iPad 2 comes out which takes the shine off things. OK your iPad still does what it always did but it won’t do forever, and now at the back of your mind you are thinking “yes I’ve got an iPad but it is not the best iPad any longer”. You can buy a new car and be really proud of it but as soon as newer registration plates come out everyone knows that there are newer cars out there, even if you don’t care about how new your car is it will only last twenty years at most before it goes to the scrapyard.
Recently I have been trying to think of products I own or would like to own that would last a lifetime and I would still be proud to own in twenty, forty, or sixty years time (if I last that long). I always think that it is better to spend more once (if you can afford to at the time) than spend less but have to do it many times. One product (maybe the only product) I own that will never need replacing is some Carl Zeiss binoculars which my Dad got me for my birthday almost thirty years ago. They must have cost him a small fortune but he knew that they were worth it and that I would never need to buy any other binoculars. I own a very expensive bicycle which is fantastic but in ten or twenty years time it will be to high geared for me to ride up steep hills, I would love to replace it with a top quality touring bike with a steel frame and a more relaxed position that I will still be riding around when I am seventy years old.
What got me thinking about all of this was the idea of selling my Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, my Marshall amp and my Tanglewood acoustic guitar in order to buy a top quality acoustic guitar which I will always be proud of. I love my Fender and Marshall but hardly ever get to play them and they take up a lot of room in the house. My acoustic guitar was relatively cheap and to be honest not very good. Looking at the prices of good guitars such as Gibson, Martin or Guild though I may have to have a rethink!
So how does this relate to photography? It probably doesn’t for film photography and it doesn’t for the lenses we buy but digital camera bodies are almost obsolete as soon as you buy them. Newer bodies come out which have more mega pixels, more features, better ISO performance etc. You may not find any of these improvements to be important to you but you can’t buy a digital camera body that you will be proud to own and use in fifty years time.
So what can you do? Well if you are happy to work with film and do without the convenience of instant results that digital provides then maybe invest in a Leica? I’ve discussed this before on the post here. The Leica M3 is arguably the best camera ever made, has already lasted for sixty years and will probably last for at least another sixty. Team it up with a Leica 50mm lens and you will have a camera that you will never need to replace and which you will always be proud of. Maybe you can have a cheaper pocket digital camera for when you need instant results?
Am I going to take my own advice? I would need to spend some time with a Leica rangefinder camera first to see how I get on with it but the more I think about it the more I like the idea.