Frustration Versus Reality

I've been encountering a lot of very frustrated—and in some cases, angry—folk lately. Moreover, the press sometimes seems to pile on without actually doing much in the way of fact checking or logical analysis. 

One example of this is the inability to understand inflation. 

Everyone's grumping about how "greedy" Apple is with the Mac Pro, for example.

First things first: you don't need one. The iMac 5K Retina is what most serious photographers should be using. 

But let's look at that high end Mac just a little more closely. Back in 1987 Apple introduced their first high-end Macintosh, the Macintosh II. With a 20MB drive and 13" color display it cost about US$7200. What's that in today's dollars (okay, end of 2018's dollars)? Why, that would be about US$15,800. Hmm, I'll bet you can get a usable 2019 Mac Pro with the 32" display for that price.

Hmm, so the Mac Pro is overpriced? If so, then the Macintosh II was overpriced. [Disclosure: I was the publisher and primary editor of The Macintosh II Report]. Indeed, we heard that exact same claim back in the late 80's about the Mac II (and the Mac Iix and Mac IIfx), and it went on to be a popular and useful tool for many. They were essentially state-of-the-art desktops that appealed to very high end clients. Most folk bought a Mac Plus, Mac SE, or Mac SE/30, though. 

In other words, nothing's changed. 

Yes, Apple charges top dollar for their products, and our expectations of quality and performance are therefore quite high. I get that. But I got a few complaints about the Mac Pro from people who claimed that a current high-end desktop from Dell or HP could match what the upcoming Mac Pro can do. I don't think so (but we'll have to wait until the Mac Pro is actually available to determine that for sure). The Mac Pro is using a chip that isn't currently available, and it's designed to run that chip in all cores at full bore all the time without falling back on clock speed, plus it has multiple GPUs and more slots than the machines I was being told were "equivalent." 

You can buy a device that comes close to matching the Mac Pro specs on the market today. But it won't the usual stock Dell or HP. It'll be a high-end specialized box that costs north of US$15,000 when all is said and done.

How's this apply to cameras?

I see the same grumping all over the market. I get a lot of folk claiming that Nikon is "greedy" because they can pick up a gray market camera for less. While I'm on record as saying that Nikon needs to stop using the gray market to dump excess product and to come up with truly global warranty and repair policies, there's an aspect of "you get what you pay for" in those claims about gray market. You pay less for no warranty or repair. If you're fine with that, then pay less ;~).

I get others telling me that Brand X is a better bargain than Nikon. Maybe, if that Brand X does what you need doing the way you want to be done and at a lower price.

Maybe because it's because the earth is warming and no one is doing anything about it that we're all getting grumpy. Maybe it's because you see the top 0.1% getting immensely more wealthy while you struggle to make ends meet. Or maybe it's because you're lazy and greedy ;~).

The truth of the matter is this: we have better computers today than we've ever had, and we have better cameras today than we ever had. Meanwhile, prices for either haven't varied all that much over broad periods of time once you take inflation into account. Top gear requires top dollar paid. 

Aside: While most talk about smartphones nibbling away the camera market solely because of the image quality and sharing ability they have, there's another thing going on, too: cost. If you've already spent US$1000 on something that takes "good enough" photos most of the time, you're probably not going to spend another US$1000 to just take "somewhat better photos" that are tougher to share. 

First the compact cameras were destroyed by this, and now we see the same issue facing the crop sensor cameras as well. At the very top—highly refined, near state-of-the-art cameras and lenses—those that can afford the time and money to practice high-end photography are still buying high-end gear (though apparently grumping about prices, as noted above ;~). 

It's that middle area where the camera companies will prove whether they can live viably long term or not. Given that full frame is now US$1300+, crop sensor has a low ceiling in price. And given that US$1000 smartphones are 12mp+, 24-50mm, and decent in good light, that puts a floor on where crop sensor cameras have to live above. That's a fairly narrow tightrope to walk, and you can't afford to get things wrong—like ease of sharing of images—if you want to succeed in that middle.



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