shutter_btn.gif     
A camera dial, signifies the modern camera design concept. By the way, it is not made of metal anymore - mostly polycarbonate material. A lot of people still classified it as "plastic"...




Someone has raised this thoughtful question - How long can or should a camera last ? Every now and then, we heard about camera broke down and went for servicing or repair, are modern SLR cameras more fragile than the older cameras of yester-years ?

A subjective question and may be quite difficult to answer. If the "durability" is reflected by a time factor, virtually any cameras, if not used, presumably would be just as good and will remain operative 20 years from now - provided they were given a little workout now and then, serviced about every five years, and follow every safety precautions how to preserve a camera.

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Actually, safekeeping a camera while not using it may be quite misleading, we should use "exposure cycles" to interpret how lasting a camera can it be: The number where you calculate many times does the camera mechanisms advance film, the opening and closing of the shutter curtain, provide the proper exposure, and rewind before the electronics and mechanism inside the camera wear out beyond repair.


<<<<<<------- EOS-1v was the first Canon SLR camera that has officially announced incorporating a shutter which will support a minimum 150,000 exposure cylces.

Many of the older camera such as those produced by Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta, Leica or Contax have always been synonymous with durability and reliability which we often think we missed those elements in today's modern cameras; So we used some of their camera models as a reference (doesn't mean cameras of other makes are not that durable). In this case, I would select Nikon and use their much published official "media" reference for comparison. In most of these claims, Nikon said 150,000 cycles can be achieved for all their F-series professional models (F, F2, F3, F4 and F5). While conceded a level down to serious amateurs SLR cameras (such the FM series; FE series should also provide a comfortable figure of 50,000 or so in terms of exposure cycles.

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Many of those oldies mechanical SLR or Rangefinder cameras, definitely are not designed or able to withstand modern standard target of 50,000 exposure life-cycles with their shutter units. BUT older camera has one absolute element which is heavily missed in today's camera i.e. the robust construction of the camera body structure which usually made of metal. <<<<<<------- Nikon F of 1959, now a collector's ht pick - with its dedicated F36 Motor Drive will still go with heavy shooting.

Human nature would always lead us to believe meal should be more rugged than plastic... but unfortunately, a camera is not made entirely of shutter unit, there are also many other associated components in and around the shutter unit - what about mechanical aspect, winding, rewinding or mirror flip mechanism, precision on shutter speeds etc..? Most of these component are substituted by electronic circuitry which sometimes do have their advantages especially in precision of timing and programmability of functions.

In a direct conversion, 150,000 cycles will interpret as 4,166.67 film rolls of 36 exposures. averaging about 11.42 rolls per day (around 80 rolls per week) on a 365 days cycle while 50,000 cycles means 1388.89 rolls of 36 exposures and averaging 3.81 rolls per day (26.67 rolls per week).

Thus, IF you are just taking an average of one film roll per week, those professional camera model which claimed will able to deliver those enduring figures should last you around 80 years and 26 years for any amateur model which claims to deliver 50k exposure cycles (direct conversion from those statistics)!

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Anyway, these figures are mere mathematical, these are NOT a promise that the cameras will operate flawlessly without needing service or repair or in any situations. While those were the days with older manual focus camera days where every announcement of a camera model from any major camera manufacturers was a big event in the photo community - however, three or five years cycle can be considered quite a long span of time for modern camera development (most often, the rate of introducing new models with updated AF technologies are faster than I was changing girls friend during my "hey day"...).

<<<<<<------- Nikon F2, a clear favorite among pros, also a hot pick among collector - many of them are still used by serious photographers worldwide.
But a question will still linger here for you and me to think about: Do we actually bought just one camera model for our next 10 or 15 years ?

Even if you do, you might not able to withstand constant media bombardments from those camera manufacturers because they will do whatever in the advertisements to lead you believing your camera model that you have bought six months ago is a stone-age model by now...

I have been using a Nikon F3, which I bought back in 1982 and it is still functioning flawlessly and rarely gave me any hiccups It took me almost 1-1/2 decade later to consider getting a entirely new camera model for my personal photography. primarily, I also need to update and catch up myself with a a little hype on the autofocus bandwagon.

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I have never been a serious photographer while I have no complaints whatsoever with my old camera; in fact - I always thought I have been under utilizing the full capacity of what the camera were originally made for. The confidence level which built around the Nikon F-signature over the 2 decades and quite a number of older optic that I have invested probably has a lot got to do with my falling back to Nikon when I changed to AF.

<<<<<<-------My Nikon F3, finally showing signs of age...

Over the years, although I have not been using any autofocus camera but I did monitored over its development since the launched of Minolta Maxxium; current autofocus SLR camera, from my observation, is quite stable now before the next big leap in digital SLR revolution.

Now, let me ask some of you regarding this - are those statistic comfortable enough for anyone of you to lay off the question earlier ?

For many full time photojournalists or anyone who depends on their camera & lenses to earn a living, reliability in their tools are often considered an important tools but may not be a top priority for the rest of us. Most of us are usually leads by technologies and most often fall victim as a followers to brand names.

To those who actually serious required a camera with all the flexibility to setup the camera for any specific jobs function or assignments will usually fall back to a professional camera model. Not to mentioned most of these bodies usually have a host of system accessories that built around the camera. You can find high-speed motors, Multiple choices of film back options, interchangeable finders, focusing screens etc. useful features such as mirror-locked up capability, depth of field preview control, allowances for complex multiple flash setup, remote control for unmanned photography, backward compatibility with lenses etc.. and still need not have to worry about HOW durable can the camera be (like closure against penetration of moisture, electrical-shock etc. for its computer circuitry) ad many more...... well, there's every reason for the pro-orientated model to be around for specific people. While most of us - with a little spare cash to spend on our hobby, usually will paid a little extra premium for it with the thought - if it is good for those shooting at the war zones, it must be good for me too.... Errr..

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I'm sure there are many of you have your favorite oldies such as Pentax K1000, Spotmatics or the superb Pentax LX, the Nikkormat, other Nikon classics, Olympus OMs, Canon A and F series pro models or may be the Contaxes and not to mention others fine camera makers such as Leica etc...

<<<<<<------- Pentax K1000, always known to be a dependable workhorse camera, was finally retired from service and replaced with a auto camera P30.
You've used them for years or may be even decades, many of these fine classic will still able to take great pictures, they are highly dependent bodies, I do hope hope camera manufacturers can paid more attention into the built quality and rewarding consumers with better made hardware; after all - new cameras are not that cheap anymore, justification has to be take into consideration before any investment.

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