Future of Technology

Upgrading Kit for Upgrading's Sake: From 19th March 2012, Updated September 2021

Future of Technology

Future of Technology: This year so far has seen a number of updated electrical gadgetry that, for me, leaves a lot to be desired. It got me thinking about how we as consumers had become slaves to the upgrade.

All you need do is visit a technology forum and you will see post after post of drooling technophiles.

All desperate to get their hands on the latest "thing" despite the fact that they literally only just bought the previous version.

This trend seemed to start with Smartphone's. It then wormed its way into all the gadgets we seem to use in everyday life these days. I loved the iPhone when it came out but didn’t "give in" and buy one until the iPhone 4s was released years later. It just seemed worthy of my money at that point.

A couple more of the latest upgrades that spring to mind are mentioned in this article but the most recent at the time of writing was latest New iPad. They couldn’t even be bothered to give it a name (unless "The New iPad" is some marketing guru's idea of being smart).

People will believe anything (if you believe that)

It seems to me that this is a typical case of upgrading for the sake of it. To prove that point, I once saw a video on a techie site where they gave the iPad 2 to a bunch of people in a working office. They asked for their opinion on "this New iPad 3".

They were saying things like "Oh wow, yes, the screen is much clearer"! Or "It does feel a little heavier but very nice in the hands". Incredible, no-one realised it was the old iPad! It doesn't seem to have any amazing new features, especially if you already have the iPad 2.

Edit 2018/2019: I have been using the iPad Mini 4 for a number of years to fly my DJI Inspire 1 drone with. Great product lol!

Edit September 2021: That iPad Mini 4 is now far too slow for today's tech with regards to drones (although I still have and use it). My Inspire 1 got "taken" by the cruel seas during a TV ad shoot in December 2020. However, tech has made drones so much smaller now. The tech in the new Mavic Pro 3 far outreaches the behemoth drones of yesteryear!

Anyway...

Have we become so fickle and trusting that we hand over our hard-earned cash to these corporate giants at the drop of a hat. Recession anyone? I dread to think how frivolously we will be spending when we finally pull ourselves out of this financial mess we are in.

As I edit this in 2021, we are two days away from the new Go Pro Hero 10 being launched. For the first time I am hesitant about buying it because the price has shot up. We are looking at around $500+! Sure it has 5.2K @ 60fps, 4K @ 120fps and all manner of other upgrades but really? Huge price hike during these troubled times?

Being a photographer, I pay close attention to DSLR technology and always try to establish whether an upgrade is necessary or not.

For example:

The first DSLR I bought was the 6mp Canon EOS 10D. I had nothing to compare this to because up to that point, I had shot film SLR's. Therefore for me, this was an amazing camera in all respects regardless.

When the 20D came out, I jumped on the bandwagon and upgraded. I instantly saw a huge difference in image quality (including low light) as well as speed.

Image below taken on the Canon EOS 20D circa 2004 (click for larger version)

Future of Technology Taken on Canon 20D

There was a good and justifiable reason to upgrade in this case. The EOS 30D? I didn't bother but when the 40D came out, again, Canon had nailed it. They released a model worthy of upgrading but still I held back.

Then, the Canon EOS 5D came out and Bam! What an amazing camera:

  • Full frame sensor
  • Great in low light
  • Stunning images

Well worthy of my hard earned cash for upgrading from the 20D.

Canon EOS 5D Range

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II was announced a few years later. Just reading the specs had me foaming at the mouth. Almost double the pixel count, auto ISO PLUS the addition of 1080P HD Video. A real "no brainer".

Later, Canon released details of the new EOS 5D Mark III. I read review after review and I was struggling to justify the cost of upgrading as this camera was now twice the price of the 5D Mark II.

To me, there was nothing majorly different enough for me to want to switch from or add to the Mark II. That camera was one of the best cameras I have ever used. The new features of the Mark III I could either get from my other equipment or go without.

I honestly can't say that I think the Mark III would have improved my photography.

Sadly though, I did need a second stills body so I nearly bought it. HOWEVER, I rented a body for an upcoming wedding to "try before I buy" and didn't like it. To me the images were slightly softer. It doesn’t make a huge amount of difference to my working life, with both stills and video, or come down significantly in price, so I bought another Mark II!

Canon seemed to have slowed the pixel race in favour of creating sensors that work better in low light. Nikon and the D800 with its 36mp sensor on the other hand, seemed to fly right past Canon. They reached the pixel finish line thinking that packing as many pixels onto a sensor is still the way to go.

Canon 5D Mark IV

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

As a quick update, back in 2017 Canon brought out the 5D Mark IV. Whilst the video was not the best, as a stills camera it was superb so I bought it. At a highly inflated price I might add (£3600 body only)! I still use it today (September 2021).

Panasonic S1H Mirrorless

Panasonic Lumix S1H

I am now also well entrenched into the world of mirrorless with the amazing(!) Panasonic S1H. I won't go into detail here but you can read my full review of this remarkable camera below:

Megapixel race

Now, I honestly thought that (on paper anyway) the D800 slightly outshone the 5D Mark III. I had been a Canon user for many years but 36mp was a little strong at that time. Too much for video unless they released a firmware upgrade to allow the camera to output 2k video. 

Also, more megapixels means larger file sizes which means more expense on storage. Let's face it, how many of us enlarge our images to billboard size or larger? 36mp is good for creative cropping and I can't say how the stock agencies will work in the future with regards to file sizes. However, I can't see us needing that many pixels for the standard stock stuff. You know...magazines, websites etc.

Anyway, another example that springs to mind with all this is my lovely little Go Pro camera(s). I used the Contour HD (720p video) back in 2009 when I rode Enduro Africa and loved it. Then I saw the new (at the time) Go Pro Hero HD and thought it good enough for me to ditch the Contour in its favour.

New release 4 days after purchase...argh!

The Go Pro worked well in low light, had 1080p video and 720p at 60fps (good for slow motion footage). It also shot stills as well as having a whole host of other features so I bought it. Then LITERALLY 4 days later, they announced its upgrade, the Go Pro Hero HD2

Now, I wouldn’t normally pay attention but this upgrade was phenomenal. It had:

  • Way better footage in low light
  • 11mp stills as opposed to 5mp on the predecessor
  • The ability to shoot 120fps at DVD quality (I love slow motion and this slows footage up to 5x)
  • The ability to shoot ten 11 megapixel stills in one second
  • Better time lapse features
  • A port for adding an external microphone…a massive addition in my opinion worthy of upgrading on this feature alone!

No need to think about it so now I had two Go Pro cameras which I used quite a bit. However, I failed to now see how far they can take this little powerhouse whilst keeping the cost so low. Only better image quality would possibly entice me to upgrade in the future but I may eat my words in a year or two.

Words eaten

Edit 2018/2019: Didn't I just! Go Pro HD Hero 6 anyone?

So, where is it all headed? Have we reached a point or plateau with much of this technology? Are companies so used to upgrading they do it regardless of the fact that there are only minor changes?

Edit September 2021: We are now just days away from the Hero 10 being released with 5.2K video and a raft of amazing features. I have to say I love it but too pricey at $500+ right now.

The only things I would like to see added to various things that I use or am thinking of buying are:

iPad

I am still holding off from buying one as I can get by without one for now. However, I can see the benefits as a working professional photographer when showing work to clients etc. 

Still, I think I will wait for the following if it ever happens:

  • The ability to insert SD cards to upload, offload and store more "stuff" (edit 2021: still no way of adding memory...pfft)
  • A CF card reader and firmware that allow one to view and work on RAW images (yep, can do that in 2021)
  • The ability to run more powerful programs and perhaps a USB interface for a mouse (yes, I know I could buy a laptop but the outstanding benefits of the iPad over a laptop for me are the instant start up, silence, speed and sheer beauty of the thing). Update 2021: Bluetooth's a marvelous thing!
  • Slightly smaller version? Update 2021: Naa! We've got 12" versions now. Go big or go home hahaha!

DSLR's

To be honest, I am pretty happy with how they work at the moment. What we currently have available is fine, even with the ageing 5D Mark IV. I have plenty of video capabilities with my lovely new Panasonic S1h (2021). My current Go Pro 9 is for the fun factor so it would take a lot to make me sit up and beg for the latest upgrade.

As you can see, I am struggling with this one. These days when any company brings out an upgrade to something I either have or would like, I have to really ask myself a couple of things:

  • Will it make my life better (not just a quick fix)?
  • Will it affect the bottom line of my business?

Being honest, there has not been much released this year have I been able to answer yes to. Except maybe the Canon R5 or R3! Even with software I wait for two or three upgrades before forking out more money to upgrade.

The future of technology for me?

I am now going to concentrate on other sides to my business. Things such as the creativity I add to my work rather than thinking about the next big that could make me a better photographer!

How do you feel about all this? Are you an avid "up-grader"? Do you find it hard to justify the cost of upgrading sometimes or do you just go ahead and do it anyway? I would love to hear your thoughts…

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