In the early 60’s the potato chip and salty snack company Frito Lay introduced one of the most famous advertising slogans in the business. “Betcha can’t eat just one.”
There may be very few individuals in the camera industry today whose ears were ever treated to that original catchy jingle however; you may rest assured that today the photo equipment marketing mavens chant this phrase daily with the same enthusiasm that a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist chants their daily Daimoku.
Despite the obvious gastronomic reference, the seminal event precipitating today’s post is actually a photographic purchase. I am a Canon shooter and have been for some time. Having carried assortments of DSLR’s, lenses and accessories in bags weighing between 9 to 25 plus pounds, it was a particularly fortuitous moment when in 2007 I decided, on the basis of some particularly glowing reviews from several sources to buy a Canon G9 as an alternative to the chubby Domke bag or Lowepro back pack full of stuff.
I’ve been so happy with my G9 experience that I decided that given I’d skipped two years of upgrades, I should treat myself to whatever technological advances three years worth of Canon’s tinkering could yield. So clutching a credit card whose balance I’d recently reduced to 0, I ran out and “sealed the deal”. Although this wasn’t on the same level as the 70-200 2.8L IS USM III that I really want to replace my war weary 70-200 2.8L (sans alphabet soup), the “G” is my go-to camera many a day including when I want to go “street shooting” where the big stuff puts everyone’s suspicions on red alert, and I was anticipating a fresh new experience. I soon learned a “new experience” was indeed in store for me.
Opening the box led to several revelations. First was the absence of the familiar little white fading to pale green, 4 x 5 ¾ inch booklet with “Canon” in black on the upper left corner and a picture of your new toy in the center of the cover. A confession is in order here. I DO read the manuals. Stifle that sneer! I also eat quiche and I can assure you that my testosterone levels are quite up to snuff (for my age anyway). So surprise number one. Canon has offloaded the burden and cost of printing the manual onto the customer. I opted not to burn up a whole black ink cartridge and half an afternoon printing the 214 PDF manual that is on the enclosed software CD, instead having my local FedEx Kinko’s print the file out for me at a cost of about $20 with spiral binding and a cover. Nice going Canon.
Then I take out the battery and charger for that initial exacerbating wait for the battery to charge up so that I can begin to play with my new toy. I notice two things immediately. The size, shape and terminal placement of this new battery doesn’t remotely resemble the G9 battery and the spare I purchased to give me the backup battery power which a serious photographer always needs for long days and cold weather. Perhaps there is improvement in battery stamina but why do you need to massage and reshape the form factor so that the extra battery I bought is now obsolete. I’ll need to buy a new extra battery. That’ll cost me $40.29 and no, I don’t buy off brand batteries. I’d rather not turn my camera into toast with an ill specked substitute power source.
Next I look at my G9 filter adaptor that I use to mount 58mm filters and certainly to protect the front element of the lens when shooting macros at 1cm away from the subject. (I killed my G9’s front element and the replacement cost was more than 1/3 the cost of the camera so I know of which I speak.) Anyway, can you guess what revelation came next? For no particular reason, the mounting ring, not the lens mind you but the mounting ring, which is the bayonet attachment for the adapter is just a bit larger in diameter on the G12 than the G9 so…. Arni “Money Bags” Cheatham gets to key his 16 digit number into B&H’s website again for the new and improved filter adaptor to the tune of an additional $44.95.
Lastly, because I’m a believer in good support, I actually spent a considerable sum on a monopod and Arca-Swiss quick release plate for this camera setup so that I could have the ultimate lightweight travel kit. On the G9, a “Really Right Stuff L Plate” allowed for a lot of flexibility and actual camera protection all in a nicely machined metal bracket that attached via the tripod screw. Let’s see Canon, could’ya move that tripod mount over half a centimeter so that I’d need to browse over to the Really Right Stuff website and drop another $88 to make use of my monopod or other tripod setups for that matter since they are all fitted with an industry standard Arca-Swiss quick release. What’s that Canon? You say “Done as requested!” How nice you are to me.
Oh, but I almost forgot. Lightroom 2.7 balked at reading the G12 raw files. (You don’t shoot JPG’s do you?) Lightroom 2.7 isn’t being updated for any new camera formats because Lightroom 3 has just been released. Oh, I know. I could do mortal combat with DPP (Digital Photo Professional) which comes with the Canon software but it is so limited and kludgy it reminds me of the current commercial for a health club where a muscle bound guy is asked “what do you do” and he replies “I pick things up and put them down”, and then repeats himself over and over… Of course, now drooling in anticipation of the new hot files, I run to the Hunt’s Photo Video and drop a hundred bucks for the Lightroom 3 upgrade version and spend a couple of hours upgrading my image catalogs.
So the answer is no. You can’t just upgrade one thing these days. Whether it’s software or hardware or batteries or accessories, these guys have it all figured out. Never reproduce the same form factor exactly otherwise those consumer cheapskates will never buy more supportive pieces for their kit. If they’re silly enough to leave the store without dropping the extra bucks for a supporting cast, make sure that getting by without doing so is an odious and distasteful task if not impossible.
And alas, a word of caution to you, dear constant consumer. When you need a gear fix and you’re thinking “I have just enough to…” actually you probably don’t. It is wise to delay gratification. There’s probably another 50% of that purchase price just waiting in the bushes to bite you in the ankles. You’ll be popping out one more credit card and wondering “Do I have a little room on this one?”
The marketing guys are smiling. They know the answer to the question. You really can’t “eat just one”.