Author Topic: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life  (Read 31392 times)

Ron Scubadiver

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What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« on: November 22, 2015, 00:55:28 »
It is well known that two lenses of the same focal length but with a one (or even 2/3) stop difference in maximum aperture will differ greatly in price and mass.  This fact was highlighted by Nikon's recent release of a modestly priced 200-500 f/5.6 priced at one fifth of the 200-400 f/4 and about 1.3 kg less mass.  One may make all sorts of arguments in favor of the more expensive item but in reality will it really get that many more great photos than the already very good 200-500 which has range and handling advantages?  The same analysis applies to Nikon's excellent short primes, available in both f/1.8 and f/1.4 flavors.  Reduced depth of field is an often cited advantage of wider apertures but while shooting my 50 f/1.4 G (the least exotic of all f/1.4, 50mm or so lenses) at f/1.4 I have noticed the DOF is too thin for how I shoot.  F/1.8 to f/2.2 works best.

In Mexico I met another gringo who was shooting a D3.  He was saving up to buy a 200-400 and was an employee of the US government in Washington DC.  My first observation was he was not wealthy or a pro, but he chose to spend twice on a D3 what my D700 had cost.  The second observation was my personal philosophy is if you have to save up for something like that, you probably can't afford it.  OK, he and I both live in a free country where we can make these choices, but somehow I felt he was off course and letting his life be ruled by and uncontrollable desire for material things.  We have all heard of this.  It's NAS, GAS and so on.  Will your life really be better if you shell out big bucks for an exotic fast telephoto a 24mm f/1.4 or a Zeiss Otus?  In one forum some guy celebrated his purchase of a new 300 f/2.8 to photograph his 6 year old's soccer games.  I am certain those photos will be better than if a simple 70-300 had been used.   The boy will probably have to borrow an additional $15,000 to get through college because his dad did not put away $5000 in and S&P 500 index fund.  If the father's behavior persists across other potentially expensive activities it might be the difference between being able to pay for his son's education and his son being heavily in debt at age 22.  Student debt is rampant in the US.  Again, this is more a matter of values than of image quality.

There is a growing school of economists who believe in confiscatory taxes on the wealthy with redistribution to middle class citizens as well as the poor will stimulate the economy through consumer spending.  There are people who think we should eat crickets because the money spent on meat could be used to end hunger and less CO2 would be generated.  A Nobel prize winning economist tells us making more than $75,000 per year will not make you any happier.  He won the prize for some other work which is very signifiant if you know anything about economics.  None the less economics is the study of how people behave.  It's a social science subject to manipulation by those who are trying to justify a certain social result.

One last bit.  I believe Nikon is bringing out products like the 200-500 and f/1.8 primes to keep full frame DSLR photography relevant to a wider audience, not just those with deep pockets or incurable NAS.

elsa hoffmann

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2015, 05:49:03 »
Interesting post Ron.
"You don’t take a photograph – you make it” – Ansel Adams. Thats why I use photoshop.
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Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2015, 08:27:47 »
Expensive gear rarely, if ever, determine the photographic quality of the resulting images. Some people burn a lot of money before realising this fact, and some never learn at all. Photography is no different to other walks of life in this respect. 

One can make excellent deals on second-hand equipment because of these follies.

Hugh_3170

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2015, 08:36:42 »
The late Galen Rowell often used "consumer" grade lenses for his landscape and mountainering photography.  He was a long distance runner and often ran to his favourite sites and was consious of the weight penalty of heavier "Pro" lenses, especially when he needed to be at the right place at the right time to get the best light.  His approach was to determine the two or three best stops for image quality that he was happy with and stick to them.  I feel sure that he would have been very interested in the new 200-500mm lens.  Sadly he and his wife were killed in a light plane crash.
Hugh Gunn

elsa hoffmann

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2015, 11:29:31 »
The late Galen Rowell often used "consumer" grade lenses for his landscape and mountainering photography.  He was a long distance runner and often ran to his favourite sites and was consious of the weight penalty of heavier "Pro" lenses, especially when he needed to be at the right place at the right time to get the best light.  His approach was to determine the two or three best stops for image quality that he was happy with and stick to them.  I feel sure that he would have been very interested in the new 200-500mm lens.  Sadly he and his wife were killed in a light plane crash.
he had some cool shots. Sad to have died so young.
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simsurace

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2015, 12:01:48 »
I second the advice of not letting your life be ruled by anything of this sort. It's a good habit to try to be as rational as possible about buying decisions in general, even when certain aspects remain irrational or rather very subjective. Meanwhile, almost all my gear has been saved up for, I would not have it otherwise. At least while you're saving up money, you have time to think whether you really need it, and if you find that you don't, you still have some extra money. If you have tons of disposable income, I think it might be harder to resist the temptation to buy on a whim some expensive stuff you don't really need, but I can't speak from experience.

Here in Switzerland you can find pretty amazing deals on the used market because people go and buy full pro kits and then find that they are too complex for them. They rarely fetch the same price again even when the stuff is literally untouched, because the demand is not high enough within our small country and people often don't want the hassle of selling it to a foreign country. Education is not as dependent on the depth of your pockets around here as it is in the US, so I guess that their adventures should not compromise their children's education too much. Or so I hope.
Simone Carlo Surace
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Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2015, 12:06:37 »
We have free education over here in my neck of the woods so parents' whims don't influence their children to the same degree.

Peter Connan

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2015, 14:03:29 »
Thought provoking, and I am unfortunately a prime offender.

Thanks Ron

HCS

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2015, 14:15:03 »
While i do agree with Ron's statements about saving up for child school/college/university fees, i also offer another perspective.

I ponder every euro i (want to) spend on photography, yet i did purchase the D3s a few years ago to "just" photograph my kids around the house. Reason for me ... the emotional value of the photos i was able to obtain while i couldn't get them in the way the D3s could with other cameras (with flash). I did push the other cams and flash etc. first before spending the awful amount of money (for a hobby). But again, it paid for itself emotionally within 6 months.

Just a different view on the same topic. This may have been one of the drivers of the soccer dad with his 300 f/2.8.
Hans Cremers

Jan Anne

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2015, 15:39:20 »
In the end it all comes down to what I'm willing to pay for a certain experience or capability, as gear usually doesn't last longer than a year or two in the camerabag I'm more concerned about the depreciation than the price tag itself however.

For instance my D3s was bought new when released for €4500 and sold was for €3300 2,5 years later, though it was my most expensive camera ever it's depreciation was comparable with the D200 and D300 I had before (roughly €1000 in 2 years for each) and got a much better camera experience to boot, both with big tele lenses as well as with manual focus lenses (the latter didn't do well for me on the smaller Nikons).

I owned the 200-400/4VR for 7 months in 2009, bought it secondhand for €3900 to take it on the NG safari in Southern Africa and sold it again for €4250 including the RRS foot. Though I made a small profit I would have been OK with a loss as the lens provided me with an experience of a lifetime giving me memories and images I will cherish forever.

So, if birding or wildlife is your thing and it provides you with a lot of quality time in nature (something some us really need to stay sane) the depreciation of a few thousand bucks over the years on those big 200-400/4 or 600/4 lenses is more than worth it, both in experience and in the capability to capture memorable images.

Because I shoot less nowadays an unbalance was created in the money lost in depreciation vs the experience I got out of it so I've resorted to buying gear abroad for a lower price (less warranty but also less depreciation), buying second hand lenses (usually no deprecation) or buying lenses than can be used on multiple camera brands with adapters, so I can buy that Nikon mirrorless FX camera one day without the need to buy new lenses besides a native 35/1.4 AF lens (my main lens).
Cheers,
Jan Anne Offereins

Ron Scubadiver

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2015, 16:26:06 »
Many thoughtful replies.  Thom Hogan writes a lot about Galen.  It isn't just about kids college education and cumulative student debt of over $1 trillion.  There is an issue with retirement savings in the US as well.  Some economists say there was a drop in savings and an increase in consumption starting in the 1980's.  Most people at retirement age in the US are nearly broke and must continue to work, but at wages lower than they previously earned.  My view is there are things we need to take care of before we consume.  I understand the "if it is your thing" concept.  That's fine just so long as one doesn't approach every activity that way.  If one has four or five expensive hobbies, perhaps it isn't your thing.  Some of the folks I photographed at the Renaissance Festival remarked their friends criticized them for spending a lot of money on their costumes.  It really was their thing, and they wait all year for it.

My view is US centric.  Norway is very different, but I wasn't born there.  Here we are on our own.

elsa hoffmann

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2015, 16:29:17 »
Ron I get what you are saying.
For me - I dont save for photographic equipment. If I have the money - and I want it - I buy it.
I find however that the more my capital investments grow - the less I want to spend it.
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Jan Anne

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2015, 16:52:10 »
I hear yah Ron, the kids thing doesn't apply to me personally but I just bought a new house with the intend to make it completely self reliant on energy, water, etc in 5-10 years time and have its mortgage payed off by the time I retire. The aim is to have zero bills for my living accommodation besides insurance and an internet connection to the outside world 8)

But worrying about later too much while forgetting to live in the present is pointless, so as with all things in life a personal balance about priorities needs to be found...
Cheers,
Jan Anne Offereins

Ron Scubadiver

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #13 on: November 22, 2015, 17:00:55 »
Jan, that is a worthy goal.  Other than getting a mortgage paid off, it is close to impossible here to have a near zero housing cost because of high real estate taxes and insurance premiums.  The need for air conditioning exceeds the physical ability to generate solar power on site, and possibly violates architectural restrictions in the neighborhood.  One of the side effects of the flood rebuild is my house is better insulated and more air tight.  I have been upgrading to LED lighting which has become inexpensive.  We do have relatively low utility rates here.

Frank Fremerey

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Re: What is a Stop Worth, and the Meaning of Life
« Reply #14 on: November 22, 2015, 17:08:32 »
One can make excellent deals on second-hand equipment because of these follies.

Most of my equipment was bought second hand. Motto: Better buy a second hand Mercedes than a first hand Fiat.

Plus: I sell all equipment I do not use on a regular basis.

I am not a collector. I take photos. And that I can do with very reduced equipment.

Currently I use the D600, the X100T and two Nikkors: 1.8/50 ... 1.8/85

All the other stuff rests idle on the shelves, more or less, but it is needed for jobs and I am happy to earn money with it.
You are out there. You and your camera. You can shoot or not shoot as you please. Discover the world, Your world. Show it to us. Or we might never see it.