dante stella stories photographs technical guestbook

Dr. Zaius?
Enter the lemur.

The latest, cheapest digital camera, ready for action!
And it has binocular vision, too!

Everyone wants to think that he got the best deal: the greatest amount of technology for the money.  Take the example of the Nikon digital SLR.  When Nikon brought out the D200, people who bought them crowed that the D200 was 90% of the D2x at 50% of the price.  We heard arguments that you don't really need 12 megapixels, don't really need a high frame rate, don't need a 2,000 shot battery, off-center AF.

Well, what goes around also comes around, and when Nikon brought out the D80, its prospective owners bragged that it was 90% of a D200 at half of its price.  Sure, you lose things like a metal body, 1,000 element CCD meter, fast focusing motor, extra battery capability, AIS lens usability, standard CF cards, etc.  But a D80 fanboy (who never picked up a D200) would tell you that you don't really need those things.  After all, it's the same sensor as in the D200, and that's what counts, right?

Conventional wisdom is that for any given problem, 80 percent of the desired result is created by expending 20 percent of the total project effort.  A D80 is completely consistent with that maxim: it has 81% of the features of a D2x at 25% of the price.  You can, of course, repeat this exercise with Canon's line of digital SLRs.  Now wait... here comes the Nikon D40.

Everyone still following this? Now stop and consider evolution for a moment.  Genetically, a chimpanzee has 99.5% of the same DNA a human does.  And they are nowhere near as expensive as a person to house, feed and entertain.  Sure, you have to give up some minor features like toilet training, the ability to make tools using tools, and the ability to read or vocalize complex language (compared to human infant, not so bad...).  But you got quite a deal, didn't you?  99.5% of a human for a quarter of the price?  But wait, it gets better.  If you downgrade a little from a chimpanzee to a lemur, you lose only some of the higher brain functions - and the cost of ownership becomes even less.  Plus you get that really sporty tail with rings.

So you see the progression of this type of thinking?  You can always rationalize your way down to something cheaper by redefining the task as something less:

"Well, I really like this 'slightly used' Ferrari 360 Modena F1.

"But the Corvette is half the price and goes 90% as fast as the Ferrari. 

"But the Toyota MR2 is half the price of the Corvette and has most of the speed I need for my daily driving. 

"But thinking about it more, this rusty old Triumph is still a two-seater with a stick shift, and it costs so much less."

And so, in just four steps, you've dropped out on some fast dream car that you really wanted, which tears up the road and attracts (easy) women, to driving a bucket of bolts that scares children and small animals.  This makes you an "economizer."  When the winter comes and the heater breaks down, or you get dusted by someone driving an Escort, you'll be thinking about the MR2.  And then the Corvette.  And on.

I think that photographic manufacturers get a chuckle about the economizers.  They buy the cheapest thing that has the minimum capacity they imagine they need - with the inevitable results being self-doubt, insecurity, and lost money (both purchase price and depreciation) through continuous upgrades (DPreview: "uh oh, hate my kit lens - what monstrously expensive one should I buy?").  WItness the number of low-end SLRs in the used cases at camera stores.  The one (if only) advantage of buying a high midrange or top-of-the line item is that you don't waste as much time worrying about what you could have done with the next model up.  That's probably more destructive than simply spending the money.