Film Camera vs Digital Camera


My parents’ film camera and lenses work even after forty years. My digital camera broke down in about five years. Planned obsolescence, or a sign of the times?

Answer by: Girish Mistry, Photographer and Dean, Shari Academy

Your parents’ film cameras were built rugged, most likely having been made of steel, titanium, and aluminium alloy, among other such materials. Even the lenses were constructed using alloys. These cameras were built to stand extreme weather conditions, and had minimal electronics, which were heavily tropicalised for rugged use. Numerous war photographers owe their lives to the tough Leica. I can quote a personal experience of mine, where on an industrial shoot, I fell from about a height of fifteen feet with my Nikon FTN. I had injuries all over, but nothing happened to my camera or lens. Following the incident, I was able to continue shooting with the same equipment.

Today, cameras are built with polycarbonate, fused with lightweight aluminium alloys. A huge component includes sensitive and delicate electronics. The sensor and the shutter have a base life, and once you have reached their shelf life, they die on you. Moreover, the replacement and repair cost is extremely high, and a better option would be to replace them. Most affordable lenses are made of tough plastic materials, merged with lightweight metal alloys. Some elements are also manufactured using acrylic. Digital technology, too, brings so much change and advances in features that the camera you bought three years ago, would be outdated now. Keeping up with the latest technology is an expensive affair. So yes, I suppose it is a sign of new times.