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Tracking the Hottest Trends in Image Capture

(March 2007) posted on Wed Mar 21, 2007

A look at the latest trends in image capture and where the technology is heading.

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By Jeff Dorgay

Falling prices and rent vs buy
As I indicated earlier, the good news is that the cost of putting your hands on all this cool hardware has been dropping. Whether you are new to the industry or a seasoned professional, you can upgrade or retrofit your studio with whatever you need for a fraction of what the worst performing gear would have cost even a couple of years ago.

Today, with decent digital SLRs in the $1000 range and a plethora of 17-in. printers available for well under $2000, you can start a decent digital studio for less than $10,000.

Which leads us to a related course of action: rent vs. buy. When I started in the studio business, almost every photographer I knew owned their gear. Big city guys in New York rented, but that was the exception to the rule. These days, however, quite a few photographers I know all over the country own precious little gear; they often keep a minimum complement to shoot that last-minute job, but that’s it.

Interestingly enough, the rent scenario typically arises not just because of the cost, but rather because of the rapid change in technology. As these cameras become paperweights faster than ever, it makes more sense for a busy working pro to just rent. Granted, it does mean staying a bit more up-to-date on the technology, but the positive side is that instead of trying to depreciate equipment, you can take the rental expense as a straight write-off at the end of the tax year. I am curious though, once 16- to 32-Mpxl cameras become the norm, will this trend will reverse again?

My rule of thumb: If you can’t amortize it in 6 to 18 months, don’t buy it. The technology is changing too fast to consider any of this gear a long-term investment.