Transitions are Tough

bythom camera-transition

Any tech transition is tough. Not just tough on the producers of the products, but also on the users of the products. 

As I've outlined before, you can be a technophobe and try to avoid transitions, but in the end that's only going to make for more pain down the road, in my opinion. 

In the photographic world we're in the midst of a wide range of transitions right now:

  • ILC is going from DSLR to mirrorless
  • Lens design and which/where faults are corrected is changing in new mounts
  • Flash has gone from IR wireless to radio wireless
  • Camera control is going from wired to Bluetooth
  • Cards are going from SD and CF/CFast to UHS-II and CFe
  • The primary cable connection is going from USB-A to USB-C
  • Apple has gone from Thunderbolt 2 to 3, Lightning to USB-C (but not with iPhone!)
  • Wi-Fi is going from 5 to 6 (yes, there's a new way of talking about it, too!)
  • Storage is going from hard drive to SSD
  • Operating systems went from Win7 to 10, macOS High Sierra to Mojave to Catalina
  • Software went from 32-bit to 64-bit
  • Software is going to subscription models

If you let yourself fall too far behind, you start running into huge hurdles to jump over—mostly cost and time sink—in order to catch back up. If you fall behind on a bunch of things, you start having major pain in the future when you update even one primary product (camera, computer, etc.).

You don't have to be at the front edge of all transitions, i.e., the early adopter (also known as the Bleeding Edge for good reason). But you also shouldn't be behind the back edge of transitions, either, i.e. the procrastinator. Unless, of course, you're 100% satisfied with what you have and don't ever intend to update/replace it. The problem with that last bit is that when what you have breaks, you may not be able to repair it or even find a used replacement that you can restore to (especially true of computers). And then you're in major pain trying to catch up. Remember, in tech products eventually die, and when they die, they're dead and generally un-resurrectable. 

The way to deal with this is to not think of your gear as a one-time expense (some go further and think it's an investment, which is not at all true). If you're a serious enthusiast or pro, you need to budget over time for continued upgrading and transitioning. Right now, I'd probably generalize it this way:

  • Camera — Every four years. Why? Updating every other camera cycle produces true change, while updating faster produces minor change.
  • Computer — Every four years. Why? Mostly because software is inefficient, really. Software bloats over time and requires faster processor and more memory.
  • OS and software — No more than six months behind current.  Why? For security and compatibility reasons.
  • Lenses — Every eight years for replacement, but keep augmenting and supplementing regularly. Why? Lenses have long useful lives, but optical technology and mechanical tolerances do make tangible improvements possible over time.
  • Cards — Are disposables; replace at least with camera upgrades (e.g. four years). Why? Cards wear out and break, while card speed technologies keep moving further towards the faster hard drive/SSD underpinnings.
  • Storage — Degrades; replace every two to four years based on comfort level; augment with cloud backup. Why? The worst thing to happen is to find that your precious data is locked into an obsolete format, or worse, is on media that is no longer readable due to deterioration. 
  • Communications — The cameras hold you back, while your mobile and computer devices tend to pull you forward; let yourself be pulled forward. Cables start going away as wireless speeds increase. 

The trick is to schedule your transitions at a pace you can afford. Hobbies (and businesses) are expensive to run, and costs can run away from you if you're not careful. So you need to have a yearly budget you're comfortable working with. Then you need to take the above suggestions, modify them to suit you, and pre-plan when you will spend that budget on what. This year? New camera. Next year? New computer. Following year? New storage, update communications. Following year? New lens(es). Repeat. 

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