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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Upgrade Game

Keeping your gear up to date is part of the business of being a professional in the digital age. The decision on when and how to upgrade comes down to determining how to make the most of what you have.

On the software side, the main issue is features. Do you really need to upgrade with each new version of a particular software application just to get the latest features? For Reed Hoffmann, “It's important to remember that software updates are part of a company's strategy to earn money, not just add better and faster features to software. Since I do a lot of teaching and consulting, I try to stay current with software, but otherwise I'd put off upgrades unless I saw a definite improvement in speed, quality or usability in a newer version.”

George Jardine of Adobe Systems suggests new updates offer a significant value for photographers and represent a response to the needs of photographers. “We're literally in the infancy of the digital photography revolution,” he says. “We're learning volumes about user experience, software design and up-to-the-minute innovations and refinements in computer code. As we roll these innovations into our products, they just get better and better.”

John Shaw certainly recognizes the value of upgrading to the latest software. “New software offers much better solutions to digital problems,” says Shaw. “I'm thinking in particular of Adobe Photoshop CS3 with its Adobe Camera Raw 4.1, which amazes me.”

The bottom line: Evaluate the value you'll gain by upgrading to the latest version of the software you're using and compare that to the price you'll pay to determine if it's worth the upgrade for your situation.

The Upgrade Game The Camera

The camera is central to photography, of course, so it seems reasonable to focus on making sure you're using a model that offers the best quality and features. That often means upgrading your digital camera on a regular basis if the latest features actually add value for your work.

John Shaw appreciates what new digital camera features have enabled. “New cameras allow shooting in conditions we once just dreamed about,” he says. “I'll play the ‘old guy' here, but I certainly remember when Kodachrome 64 was introduced and we all couldn't believe there was a usable fast film. Good grief, ISO 64 a fast film! Digital capture lets me take photos I could never take before, and the new advancements just open more possibilities. But my wallet is definitely complaining.”

Besides being cool, the latest camera features actually can add value to your photography. When nature photographer George Lepp is considering the purchase of a new camera model, he thinks about the return on investment that camera represents in his photography. In talking about his latest purchase, he says, “Take the Canon EOS-1D Mark III. The 10 frames per second, higher ISO capabilities with excellent quality and live feed on the back LCD make it very important to me for wildlife photography, and I immediately purchased it.”


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