Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Computers, Cameras and Cars: Updating the Big 3 C's

A short time ago, Canon Cameras announced a major upgrade to their Canon 5D Series of cameras. The upgraded camera includes a 50.6 Megapixel full-size (35mm equivalent) sensor and lot of other new features. The new Canon EOS 5DS R is initially priced at $3,899.00 for the camera body alone, no lenses are included. This may seem more than a little expensive for a camera, but, as I have observed in the past, you can spend $45,000 on a Hasselblad H5D-200c camera body, so about $4,000 dollars does not seem extraordinarily high. But, if you come at the $4,000 or so price (tax etc.) from the other end, you can buy a perfectly adequate, 20+ Megapixel camera for about $100.

I use two levels of camera. At the high end, I am still using a Canon 5D Mark II. At the lower, lighter and more portable end, I have been using a Nikon L830. The Canon 5D Mark II is a 21.1 Megapixel full-size sensor camera. The Nikon L830 is a 16 Megapixel "point-and-shoot" camera. I doubt anyone who views my photo blog,, would be able to tell which camera took which picture.

If I were to get into a similar discussion with computers and cars, there would be exactly the same price range and similar considerations upon purchase. Obviously, purchasing an automobile is more of a major concern than purchasing a camera, unless you buy really inexpensive used cars and like very expensive cameras. But even at $45,000, the Hasselblad camera is only getting into the average price range of new cars in the United States. I could also buy a perfectly adequate computer for under $500 including a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Then again, I could also spend tens of thousands of dollars on a computer. If I decided to buy the top-of-the-line Apple Macintosh Mac Pro, with all of the add-ons, I could spend just about $10,000 for just the CPU without a monitor or keyboard.

What do all three of these products have in common? They wear out and also become technologically obsolescent. If you haven't purchased a new car for a while, you might not be aware that buying a car is becoming more and more like buying a computer. You also need to be aware that the new cameras are really sophisticated computers. So what does someone who "keeps up with technology" supposed to do as new "advanced feature" products come online?

I just decided to upgrade my Nikon to a Sony HX400V/B 20.4 Megapixel camera. It is getting to the point that calling this sophisticated camera a "point-and-shoot" solution is inappropriate. I am still debating the option of upgrading my Canon 5d Mark II. I am also facing the prospect of upgrading my iMac, probably not to a Mac Pro.

What has this to do with genealogy? Almost all of us use cars, cameras and computers and all of us that do use these devices will have to face the prospect of upgrading them from time to time. I have written about upgrading in the past, but it is always a currently relevant topic. How and why you upgrade is a highly personal choice and decision. But one thing is certain, you will upgrade or stop using the equipment at some point in time. Cars can be rebuilt, maintained and kept far beyond their normal years of use. Computers and cameras are not in that category.

What we don't realize quite so graphically is that what we learn and know as genealogists has a product life. Just a few short years ago we did not have the expansive Internet where we can all go for almost instantaneous answers to questions that would have very tedious to answer in the past. Documents and records are available at the click of a mouse or trackpad. The technological world is evolving more rapidly than we can easily manage. We are not like mechanical/electronic devices. We cannot be easily upgraded nor can we purchase a new model to replace the one we were born with.

We can face these challenges are threats or as opportunities. We can decide that we are "too old" to change and learn or we can simply dig in and start learning. As Samuel Butler wrote,
Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb. See Butler, Samuel, Notebooks, 1912 (often attributed to Winston Churchill).
The changes in electronic devices are only one evident symptom of the need to constantly adapt to change.

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