Starting Again


At the beginning of 3B, I walked into the Henrys on Main and Williams and asked for a quote on the EOS-300D. North of $1500 after taxes and a CF card.

I remember my thoughts with a clarity that’s surprising given the intervening time and events. The Rebel felt ‘plastic’. It was too small. It was ‘crippled’, though firmware hacks existed. One by one they tumbled through my mind.

I walked out of the store, hand firmly on my wallet. Wouldn’t be putting any money down that day.

I decided then and there that the Rebel wasn’t for me. Great camera – but the ergonomics didn’t fit. That left two possibilities, a Nikon D70 with an 18-70 f/3.5-f/4.5 for $1500 before tax and an EOS 20D with an 18-55 f/3.5 – f/5.6 for $2000 before tax.

So here’s the real question. If you came to me in the same situation and asked me “Allen, I have this problem. Which camera should I buy?” – how would I answer?

“Try buy the Canon.”


Look at me. Do you know how long it took me to pound that sentence out?

As technically oriented people, we ‘tend’ to have brand loyalties; we ‘tend’ to evangelize our preferences. Languages, operating systems – heck – I’ve seen people become religious over database choice. Use a Mac? Tell your friends to buy a Mac. PalmOS devotee? Convince the world of the “Zen Of Palm”. Microsoft lover? Revel in their dominance. Perhaps we need to justify the choices we’ve made, convince ourselves that we made the right decision. Do we validate ourselves by converting others to our cause?

It’s hard to step back, analyze your decisions given the optics of the circumstances and look at it from another’s point of view. Very hard.

Which brings us back to the D70 vs. the 20D.

Both are beautifully made.
Both are backed by a committed, traditional company that knows cameras.
Both have the needs of the photographer in mind.

The D70 has a better kit lens, but you could always dump the 18-55 and buy the 17-85 IS USM for $400 more…

Truth is, it’s always nice to be using products developed by a company that’s at the leading edge. Canon’s got a huge R&D department; they’re big, powerful and consistently profitable. The rate at which they roll out new models is staggering and unmatched by every other camera company. They’ve got a huge lens range, from the $120 plastic fantasic all the way up to top of the line L glass. Their sensors are renowned for their high ISO performance.

They are the guys to beat. Period.

If you buy into the Canon system, you’re pretty much guaranteed that you’re buying into a system with no valley in sight. This is not a company that’s left the middle of its lineup anchored by a 3-year old camera or just encrypted the “as shot” WB information. No. This is a company that’s increasing its stamp on the new photographers of the world. You’re buying into a frontrunner.

This matters because glass matters. The body you buy is worth around $1000 up and it’ll be obsolete within a year or two (not unusable – just obsolete). Glass lasts. And keep in mind that the F-mounts (Nikon) and EF or EF-S mounts (Canon) you buy aren’t interchangeable. The moment you start putting together a lens collection, you’re committing yourself to a system – unless you have money to burn. Wouldn’t you want to choose a company that’s always pushing the leading edge?

Steve Ballmer once jumped around on stage chanting “Developers! Developers!”. For cameras you’d jump around chanting “Pros! Pros!”. Don’t address the pros? Lose your market and the consumers (us) suffer. How many DSLR users do you see with the *ist DS or the 7D? Heck – Minolta invented autofocus and the number of Minolta DSLR shooters is vanishingly small. These companies used to be top dogs, but they stopped innovating or slowed down. There’s only so far brand loyalty takes you before you’re marginalized. And it really sucks if you’re in that marginalized group because your options of trading up or keeping your lenses and changing bodies just up and disappeared.

Bah. I’m pathetic. I’m getting depressed talking about this. How sad is that?


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  • Hey Allen,

    Its Shawn Klein from your Comp Eng class. I decided to give your blog another look through, since I find your writing to be strangely captivating.

    Anyways, I was wondering which CSE you are taking this term (if any)? Personally, I am enrolled in PHIL 100 (Introduction to Philosophy). Based on your writings, I have the impression that you might enjoy the course, since it deals with alot of the deeper issues of life. Just an idea.

    Anyways, I just wanted to drop you on a line on this. You were the first person I thought of when the course began.

    Keep writing,

  • Shawn!

    Haven’t seen you at all since the beginning of the term – glad to hear that you’re back :-)

    Hopefully I’ll write halfway decently this term…

    As for CSEs…well…you know the ECE rules. “Pick 1 from List A, 1 from List B – wait – MSCI 261 fills that, 2 from List C” and on and on… I chose STV 202 from List A – the only list I hadn’t chosen a course from yet. I’d hoped that it would give me a better insight on better design.

    The jury’s still out on that…

    PHIL 100 would be an amazing course to take – and yes – you’re right I would be really interested in it. I’m just curious – what are your impressions of the course so far? Is it thought-provoking? Do they encourage discussion? How is it?