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New-Camera Bugs
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Yashica Electro 35

A Mature, Bug-Free Design: The Yashica Electro 35.


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July 2012, July 2008   Better Pictures   Nikon   Canon    Fuji    LEICA   All Reviews


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Every time a new camera comes out, some people are afraid to buy it because they're afraid of the potential for new-product bugs. They wait for a year in fear for these imaginary bugs to get worked out, at which point, the product is just about to be replaced by something better anyway.

My full-time pro friends and I always take up a betting pool for how long it will be for some non-pro blogging bozo to discover the first "problem" with each hot new camera. It's usually only a couple of days after the first one ships (our pool divides into hours), and there is always something insignificant for every new camera, but none of these "catastrophic cover-ups" are ever anything worth worrying about.

The cameras you and I are considering are not casually designed products. They rarely, if ever, have any crippling bugs. It's not like some different kinds of products, like cars, which are rushed to market, and are horrible for the first year. Cars are mechanical and have many years of model life. Digital cameras have product lives measured in months and are mostly controlled by firmware.

In the world of complex electronics like digital cameras, and even modern autofocus lenses, the hardware design is completed before the firmware which runs it. The hardware is rarely changed, while future tweaks, fixes and upgrades happen in firmware. It's easy and almost free to send out new firmware, but expensive and ridiculous to replace everyone's hardware.

Therefore, if a new digital camera needs updating, they all get it for free via a free firmware update.

If a real company like Nikon or Canon has a hardware problem, like apparently some Nikon D70s which had a blinking green light problem (mine has always been fine) or the Canon A70 which had problems with connections to the CCD (mine has had these problems), Nikon and Canon repair those problems, for free, even out of warranty.

Canon's first 1D Mk IIIs had screwy mirror boxes which lead to AF problems. Canon replaced the hardware for the people who bought the first samples, and those people still got that many months of use of the new cameras, which were still mostly OK, which worry-warts didn't. My pal Steve bought two of the bad ones, which he described as good even with the defects, and after they were upgraded by Canon, became spectacular. He got bit as bad as anyone, and he was happy the whole time.

Problems rarely happen, and if they do, they are fixed for free. I now order all my new cameras the day they are announced, and all these have been fine. Even if they have a problem, like my 5D Mark II's black rings around Uranus, they went away with a firmware update before I ever noticed them.

I make far better pictures by having a camera instead of waiting and wondering "what if." I had both my D3 and D300 back in 2007, and my D800 and D800E in March, 2012 and have been shooting away ever since without a hitch.

The cameras I've bought the first day I could order them have been fine. The only one that has had a problem, my Canon A70, I bought after it had been out a year, almost at the end of its product life!

Digital cameras come and go so fast it's not that likely that any real problems will get fixed in production during most of the product's life. If there is a hardware problem, it's not as simple as just the first ones having the problem: most of them will have it.

Guess what? When there are problems, unlike with cars, the problems are usually not related to the first cameras built. In the electronics world, I've personally seen issues where a manufacturer gets a bad batch of chips. This can happen anywhere in the product cycle. This is also why no manufacturer can simply recall every product, but instead needs to research which got the bad parts, and recall only select date codes or serial number ranges.

As I mentioned above, the only camera that's had a problem for me is my Canon A70 which I bought pretty far along its product cycle. I've gotten all my other cameras as soon as I could, they've been fine, and I've gotten far more enjoyment out of them than waiting six more months using my old camera instead.

If I don't get a new digital camera at the beginning of it's life, I ignore it until the next model comes out. I don't want to throw money at a camera soon to become obsolete. If you want a camera that's been out a while, don't let this stop you: prices drop as they get older, but prices don't drop fast enough to make it worth while to wait on a new camera.

The biggest advantage to ordering as soon as yo can is that you get more use out of the gear. I ordered my 14-24mm the day it was announced, and I've used it for many things. Sure, I paid full price and it's $250 cheaper today, but that $250 bought me the past seven months of getting to create great photos, like the one below, that I couldn't have otherwise.

Oak Preserve

Oaks, California, May 2008. original file © (5MB). Nikon D3, 14-24mm f/2.8 at 14mm, f/11 at 1/8, ISO 200.

An advantage to buying the first ones out is that often they have some more expensive parts which are cheapened down the line. For instance, sometimes the first cameras will have metal parts, and if the company can, they'll cheapen some of these parts later to plastic.

Cameras aren't Porsches, which get better, bigger engines each model year. Digital cameras are as good as they're going to get as soon as they hit the street.

I ordered my Nikon 18-200mm VR the day it was announced in 2005. I paid a discount price of only $629, before the stores realized how popular this lens was and proceeded to jack up the price the next week. The first ones like mine are made in Japan, then Nikon quickly moved production to Thailand where everyone else's are made today. When I go to sell mine, who do you think is going to get top dollar? I got mine before the rush that had most people wait a year to get theirs, I paid the lowest price, and I'll get the most for it when sold. People thought I must have known someone to get mine a year before everyone else, but all I did was take my own advice and order it the first day I could.

Buying what you want when you want it, especially with digital cameras that go out of fashion every year, makes the most sense. Being afraid of problems that aren't related to early production winds up costing some people a lot of time, money and enjoyment.


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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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