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Jeff Day

Does a digital M have a useable life span of more than two years?

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Greetings fellow Leica-philes. I just read Erwin Puts new article about the S2 where he made the comment, "The dynamics in the world of digital capture are such that a camera hardly has a useable life span of more than two years."

I have stayed with my MP and film while waiting for a digital camera that I thought would be a more permanent solution for my needs. I thought the rumored full frame M9 might be that camera. And yet, I wonder as I read Erwin Puts article if there will be any digital Leica that will be anything more than a temporary solution. I am not a pro that makes my living from photography, but rather I enjoy photography as a hobby, and as a supplement to magazine articles I write.

I don't mind investing in a Leica like the MP as it has a very long useful life, but if it is true that an expensive digital Leica is outdated every two years, can it be a viable alternative for someone like myself - a non-pro - when the cost of staying with a current platform begins to be extremely expensive?

I would be interested in your thoughts.

Here's the link to Puts article: Leica S2: its significance

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An interesting question! I'm sure there will be many different opinions, but I have been more than satisfied with my Digilux 2 which I purchased new in 2004. It has travelled extensively with me (on occasion as my only piece of kit) and still produces images that I am proud of. I am concerned about the life of the sensor (still original) but I understand that it will be replaced free of charge should it fail. From a non-professional viewpoint, I would like to think it would continue to do that for as long as I can get replacement batteries and SD cards

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... I just read Erwin Puts new article about the S2 where he made the comment, "The dynamics in the world of digital capture are such that a camera hardly has a useable life span of more than two years."

I have stayed with my MP and film while waiting for a digital camera that I thought would be a more permanent solution for my needs.

...

 

What EP says is not referred to the reliability of the camera but to its becoming obsolete, and unfortunately I sort of agree, though Leica has never been as fast as two year in renewing their product line ... BUT ... the main point is not if something you have is obsolete, but if it is useful to you, if it does what you need to do. This is not stopped by a model becoming "old", just like your car, perfectly able to bring you safely where you want to go, even if it's [gosh] last year model ... you do not *have* to change.

 

As for the Leica digital M, my suggestion is to wait for mid-September and see what happens, imo prices will likely be better. Unless you're in a hurry for a decision of course.

 

Just my 2(euro)cent.

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I once learned they took automotive grade devices, when making the electronics for the M8. Automotive semiconductors are designed and tested to last for 15 years (now you know, when to sell your car

).

 

I'm still using my first digital camera - a Canon G2 from 2002. The battery is getting weak now.

 

In the end it is up to oneself, when a camera is obsolete. Maybe I'm the wrong person to ask, my oldest camera is a M3 from 1955, still in use.

 

Stefan

Edited by StS

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A camera is not a conversation piece or a bragging piece or a piece of bling-bling. It is a tool. No tool is obsolete as long as it does what you want it to do. You can still make technically excellent pictures (artistic excellence is entirely up to you) with a 1950's Rolleiflex. Some very nice exhibition size prints on my wall before me as I write this were made from negatives exposed in a 1950's Zeiss Super Ikonta IV -- around 1980! A common axe has kept its design since the Iron Age. Attempts to 'obsolete' it have not proven very popular.

 

The marketing-driven production cycle is an entirely different matter. The criterion is not utility to the user, but profit to the company. Every marketing director or C.E.O. or shareholder would love us to scrap all our equipment every six months. But reality prohibits it. Don't listen to the marketing song, judge for yourself.

 

The old man from the Age of the Tessar

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For my Digital needs I use a Canon G9, I have been using it for about 20 months, but very much doubt it's still works in another 2 years, I will have to wait and see.

My oldest SLR is the Leica SL owned since 1973, still works but I have retired it (dont build them like that anymore)

 

Ken.

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I see the validity of the 2 year lifespan in the world of Japanese and Korean cameras, where after 2 years the original purchase price would buy you something that has more pixels, larger dynamic range, faster frame rate, more features (eg better autofocus, more dots in the screen, stabilisation...) and you were not really satisfied with the origiinal camera and its limitations.

 

I dont see it applying to the world of Leica where we are already satisfied with the IQ when we buy the camera. I would guess 5 years for the people on this forum would be more accurate for our expected replacement time.

 

Ravi

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I've had one M8 since the intro almost 3 years ago, and another a slightly shorter time.

 

I will use them until there is a full-frame M body (which may not be quite as soon as everyone thinks - and then again it might) - or until they are no longer repairable, whichever comes first.

 

A full-frame body that gets at least another stop of high-ISO performance will last me until it simply can't be repaired anymore (or until SD cards disappear as a viable medium - no more readers, or the Mac OS doesn't recognize them). I estimate that to be at least 10 years. At which point I'll probably just buy another one, if they are still available - or see what the camera landscape contains.

 

Obsolesence is pretty much in the eye of the beholder, for amateurs. If 10 Mpixels gets you what YOU want, who cares what the market is producing? Now, or 5-10-25 years from now?

 

There may be some pressure on pros to keep up with the competition - but even there I (as a media designer and picture editor) will choose an outstanding 10 Mpixel photo over a talent-free 60 Mpixel image every time. The number of settings that can actually use anything over about 25 Mpixels with a visible difference is just a microscopic part of the photography market.

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I got my M8 in Nov 2006.

Enjoy every moments with it and my M-lenses. I'm not a pro either.

I guess I will not hurry for a FF M9 shall it appear 3 weeks later =)

I second on the 5 year life span for M8/M8.x

M9 may get an even longer life span if Leica just put everything right in it.

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I'm expecting the M8 to have a longer life span than 2-3 years, even if the M9 comes into the market in September. 10 MP and the picture quality of the M8 still are outstanding and bare bone Leica customers are not willing to join the buy-and-sell rush of Canon/Nikon customers. It's still the M lenses that make the difference.

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A camera is not a conversation piece or a bragging piece or a piece of bling-bling. It is a tool. No tool is obsolete as long as it does what you want it to do.

 

Though I can't fully agree with Lars' definition of a camera -- to each his own, IMHO; it is certainly valid that as a tool, a camera shouldn't be obsolete as long as it continues to fulfill its function. Is a mechanical/film camera more 'relevant' than its electronic/digital counterpart over time? Debatable. That is, until the remaining 35mm films go the way of the Kodachrome.

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I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for film to go extinct if I were you.

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This is what Erwin mailed me on the subject:

 

The two years are commercial years. Canon and Nikon renew their models every 18 months.

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I think this is a defining point for Leica.

 

In the past no matter what Leica did with its camera body designs they ultimately could not make them take "Better" pictures. Yes they could make them easier to use, faster to focus, automate exposure etc but the picture was taken by the same lens onto a film medium over which they had little or no influence.

 

Now it's different. Now they can develop the camera body to make it possible to take "Better" pictures than was previously possible; higher ISO, lower noise, greater information content etc. This is philosophically different and they must exploit and react to these changed circumstances or they will steadily decline. The problem for them is that they have entered the world of digital electronics and this is one of the fastest changing and toughest technology areas.

 

I’m not in the least surprised to read that an M9 is about to be launched – I’d be upset if it were not.

 

Does this mean we all have to go out and replace our M8’s? Of course not, but if the only available upgrades to an M8 are basically cosmetic then any M8 probably has a life of 5 to 7 years and 3 of those have gone – quite a thought.

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This is what Erwin mailed me on the subject:
The two years are commercial years. Canon and Nikon renew their models every 18 months.

Is that so?

 

Canon EOS-1Ds to EOS-1Ds Mark II: 24 months

 

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II to EOS-1Ds Mark III: 35 months

 

EOS-1Ds Mark III has been the current model for 22 months as of now

 

Canon EOS-1D to EOS-1D Mark II: 26 months

 

Canon EOS-1D Mark II to EOS-1D Mark II N: 17 months

 

Canon EOS-1D Mark II N to EOS-1D Mark III: 19 months

 

EOS-1D Mark III has been the current model for 28 months as of now

 

Canon EOS 5 to EOS 5D Mark II: 38 months

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Yes - simple answer

I have two, both are more than two years old, and both are quite useable (and used). Whether I'll choose to update them to a possible ff M9 is really not the point. They will remain useable and used.

 

I've been 'worse' than most at changing my digital cameras - always after something a little better. But I really think we have come to a point where the results are better than 'good enough' and really on the brink of being 'all that you want' (which is, of course, even better than 'all that you need'). I'd like a FF digital M with another stop or two of ISO and around 18-20mp, after that I find it hard to see what else I'd need in a digital M - that should be enough to make massive prints (when required), without causing too much computer bloat, or files which are too slow to usefully process.

 

I changed my dSLR cameras faster than my clothes . . . but I've had my Sony A900 with the zeiss lenses for nearly a year now, and I don't even look at other developments (it really does do the job I want from it). Days of scouring the news for better products and avidly reading reviews seem to be over.

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I ordered my first M8 in October 2006. Several replacement bodies and 24 months later there was the firmware update in September 2008 that finally turned it into an almost fully useable camera. After an upgrade of the shutter and the frame lines, for which I had to pay just a little bit of extra money in November 2008, the M8 finally became what it should have been at the end of 2006. (And then the new shutter failed and had to be replaced, but that's another story.)

 

So, what I have learned from this kind of experience is that a digital Leica doesn't even begin its useful life until at least two years have passed. So, not to worry about obsolescence after two years...!

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Is that so?

 

Canon EOS-1Ds to EOS-1Ds Mark II: 24 months

 

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II to EOS-1Ds Mark III: 35 months

 

EOS-1Ds Mark III has been the current model for 22 months as of now

 

Canon EOS-1D to EOS-1D Mark II: 26 months

 

Canon EOS-1D Mark II to EOS-1D Mark II N: 17 months

 

Canon EOS-1D Mark II N to EOS-1D Mark III: 19 months

 

EOS-1D Mark III has been the current model for 28 months as of now

 

Canon EOS 5 to EOS 5D Mark II: 38 months

I agree fully, Michael . I was just repeating Erwin.

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...if it is true that an expensive digital Leica is outdated every two years, can it be a viable alternative for someone like myself - a non-pro - when the cost of staying with a current platform begins to be extremely expensive?...

Depends on the camera IMO. If you plan to buy an M8 or M8.2, the (possible) arrival of a full frame M9 will render them obsolete soon or late. But if you plan to buy the M9, it will be at last a true Leica hopefully. You'll have to accept some concessions like lens coding or vignetting with some lenses, most probably, but you will feel pretty well the same way as you do with your MP at present. The reasons to change for more pixels, isos or whatever new features will then become less relevant if you're happy with your MP that is. Just my 2 cents.

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