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  • Writer's pictureIan Miller

Planned obsolescence

Hey, fellow camera enthusiasts! Have you ever wondered if your camera has a built-in expiration date? I know I have, especially when I see new models coming out every year with shiny features and improved performance. Is it possible that camera manufacturers are deliberately designing their products to become obsolete after a certain time so that we have to buy new ones more often? This is what some people call "planned obsolescence", and it's a controversial topic in the tech world.

Planned obsolescence is a way of designing a product to become outdated or unusable after a certain period of time, either by making it incompatible with newer software or hardware, by stopping software updates or support, by using low-quality materials or components, or by introducing artificial limitations or defects. The idea is to make consumers spend more money by buying new products more frequently, instead of keeping their old ones for longer.


Some examples of planned obsolescence in the tech industry are:


- Apple slowing down older iPhones with software updates, supposedly to improve battery health, but without informing users about it. This led to a $500 million lawsuit settlement in 2020.

- Android phones get only two years of software updates and one major version upgrade, leaving them vulnerable to security risks and missing out on new features.

- Nintendo released a new version of the 3DS with upgraded specs, making some games run poorly or not at all on older versions of the device.

- Laptops and phones have non-upgradeable parts or no expansion slots, making it impossible to improve their performance or storage capacity.


But what about cameras? Do they have planned obsolescence too? Well, it's hard to say for sure, but there are some signs that suggest they might. For instance:


- Camera manufacturers release new models every year with incremental improvements, such as higher megapixels, faster autofocus, better video quality, etc. This creates a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) among consumers who want to have the latest and greatest technology.

- Camera manufacturers discontinue older models and accessories, making it harder to find spare parts or replacements in case of damage or malfunction.

- Camera manufacturers use proprietary formats or connectors, making it difficult to use third-party accessories or software.

- Camera manufacturers limit the firmware updates or features for older models, making them less compatible with newer technologies or standards.


Of course, not all of these practices are necessarily malicious or intentional. Some of them may be due to technological limitations, market demand, or innovation. And some of them may actually benefit consumers by offering them more choices, better quality, or lower prices. But it's important to be aware of the potential downsides of planned obsolescence and to make informed decisions when buying a new camera.


So what can we do as camera users to avoid falling victim to planned obsolescence? Here are some tips:


- Do your research before buying a new camera. Compare different models and brands, read reviews and user feedback, and check the specifications and features. Don't just buy the latest or most expensive model without knowing what you're getting.

- Buy a camera that suits your needs and preferences. Don't buy a camera that has more features than you need or use, or that is too complicated for you to operate. You'll end up wasting money and being frustrated.

- Take good care of your camera. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for maintenance and storage, use protective cases and covers, and avoid exposing your camera to extreme temperatures, humidity, dust, water, or shocks. This will extend its lifespan and performance.

- Upgrade your camera only when necessary. Don't buy a new camera just because there's a newer model available. Buy a new camera only when your old one is broken beyond repair or can no longer meet your expectations or requirements.

- Support the right to repair movement. This campaign advocates for consumers' ability to repair their own devices or choose who repairs them for them. It aims to make products more durable, repairable, and recyclable, and to reduce electronic waste and environmental impact.


I hope this blog post has given you some insight into the issue of planned obsolescence in cameras. What do you think? Do you believe that cameras have built-in obsolescence? Have you ever experienced it yourself? How do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments below!

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