camera thought experiment

This post is now going for the most comments ever in my current blog.  Since it is about camera equipment – that is no surprise.  However, so far the answers have been very surprising.  Let me preface this post with the following, to avoid confusion:

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Given the number of responses that are about reliability, that was not really what I was after in the thought experiment, and perhaps I didn’t make this clear:

whether you get a digital camera or a film camera, the Genie will make sure that it remains in working order for the rest of your life.  The point of the experiment is about the camera that you’d like to use for the rest of your life, not whether it is going to break down or not.  It’s also about the issue with digital cameras in that you are stuck with todays latest and greatest and can’t upgrade to the next model.

Good question regarding film.  Since this is about the camera you want to use, the Genie will make sure you have a supply of film for as long as you need.  He will make sure that the chemicals needed to process the film are around.  But he won’t develop the film for you.

And if you choose a Canon 5d II, the Genie will make sure to fix your camera if anything goes wrong within the normal period of say 2 weeks?.   Same for the mechanical camera.  But under no circumstances will he replace your digital camera with the next model.  That is the catch.  I would guess that if he would upgrade you as needed, then most people would go for the digital package.  And if they wouldn’t go with the digital package, then they should be using the film camera of their dreams today and for the rest of their lives.

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The original Post:

IF YOU COULD ONLY HAVE ONE CAMERA, and any lenses that fit that camera (as many lenses as you like), and you didn’t have to pay a dime for the setup, but you could only use that camera system for the rest of your life –  what camera system would you buy?  Would you even go for the deal at all?  In the thought experiment, if you are found using another camera, even if you have it hidden in a secret place, the camera genie will find you and do severe damage to you.  If this were a twilight zone episode, you’d lose your shutter finger. (Anyone remember that episode? No?  I think it was about a gambler in Las Vegas.)

Now – if you select a digital camera, it will not be updated when the next model comes out.  However, if you select a film camera with a digital back, that back can be updated when the next back comes out.

Would you go for the deal?  If so –  what camera system (remember you can also have as many lenses and accessories for that camera as you like).  I’ll tell you my answer after I hear yours.


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My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a fine art photographer working in New York City.

23 thoughts on “camera thought experiment”

  1. Dave, you ask a very serious and ominous question: Which camera and lens? Only one. Well … I like my Canon system and a 21 megapixel Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII with a 16-35/2.8L would be nice, but I think I would actually go for a Hasselblad 503 CWD with either a 65mm or 80mm lens, and the CFV-39 digital back. Yeah. That’s a killer camera! It’s okay to be square. –Brent

  2. A classic 6×6 Hasselblad!

    Last year, I attained my long loved and wanted Nikon F4… by the Spring, look forward to acquiring my first digital camera – the Nikon D700…

    But yeah, if it was free – a Hassy and all it’s prime lenses, a couple film backs, and even a digital one, and the Nikons would be discarded! 🙂

  3. Canon AE-1 with 50mm lens. Never mind the other lenses. I know, I know…but it worked for me for years through thick and thin, and I didn’t have to think about any other lenses or any other cameras. Ah, ignorance was bliss!

  4. Brent – you can have as many lenses as you like. I didn’t mean to say only one lens, but only lenses that will work with the camera system of your choice.

  5. As a NJ resident, I’m a little resentful that you exploited my adopted state to take photos of NY. I think there should be a tax assessed to photographers who stand on NJ soil to take pictures of NY.

    By the way, I received your doggie mug today and it was great, pure deep black and white. No magenta or anything else. I wonder if Zazzle’s processing is dependent on people who may or may not have had enough cups of coffee on the morning they produced the merchandise. I guess that’s what happens when production is out of the srtist’s control. Anyway, it’s a great mug.

  6. Actually, Dave, I like to shoot with a single lens or two. I often go out with a single lens. It forces me to work at getting an image, rather than standing there with a zoom, zooming in and out until it looks okay. It’s really a challenge to do it with a super wide like a 17mm or 14mm lens. –Brent

  7. For day-to-day use, I really love my Pentax LX. Would the camera genie ensure that it worked forever? No sticky mirror for all of eternity?

    I could probably live with my Pentax K20D as well.

    I recall the guy’s wife was missing a couple of fingers, too….. that ain’t gonna happen, is it?

  8. Yes, the genie will make sure that whatever camera system you pick – it won’t break down. (Yep, that’s the Twilight Zone I was thinking of. I could be wrong but I think it might’ve been Jack Klugman as the gambler who has to decide whether to make the bet or not).

  9. The most ironic Twilight Zone of all time was the one with Burgess Meredith, a bibliophile who survived the apocalypse but broke his glasses on the steps of a library.

  10. For me, it has to be a camera I’ve used, ’cause while I’m tempted to say a Leica M9 or some form of Hassy, I’ve never even held either one of the those. I DID rent a Contax 645 AF for a day, and shot some Delta 400 with it using both AF and AE (meaning I let the camera do the thinking for me, something I don’t normally let happen), and the images I captured through those Zeiss lenses just knocked me out. Even though I was fumbling with the camera the whole time.

  11. While I like my Nikon D 80 and Sigma 30 mm 1.4 I would go for the best, Leica M 9 with 50 mm 1.1

  12. I wouldn’t go for the deal. If I were a MF Hassy fan, then I would go with it and the digital back.

    But since I don’t want to go back to film, and since digital cameras improve every few years, unless there’s a 35mm film camera with a good digital back that is improved every few years – I would have to turn the genie down.

    I was wondering if anyone would pick a digital camera to stick with for the rest of their lives. That’s what prompted the post.

  13. I took many of my “Classic” pictures with a Canon AE-1 and a 50mm 1.4 lens. Funny that so many people picked that same combination!

  14. Right now there isn’t any camera, film OR digital, which I would be willing to marry (“forsaking all others” for the rest of my life — and at 74 that may not be so terribly long, either).

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