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Author Topic: Reality check  (Read 10336 times)
Stephen Best
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« on: February 08, 2006, 06:20:32 PM »
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Thanks Nick for telling it like it is. Time was when you could invest $5-10K in camera gear and you'd get your money back after 5 years if you looked after it. Now for the cost of about 5 Technorama's (!) you can get the latest digital plaything which is pre-destined to become yesterday's technology. Given most people's largeformat kit is essentially "free" (apart from ongoing film, development and scanning) and does much the same job, you have to wonder how many dilettantes there are around who will buy into this jewelry. Sure looks like fun to play with though :-).
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michael
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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2006, 06:31:37 PM »
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"dilettantes"? "jewelry"?

Well, I suppose that's one perspective, though a somewhat jaundiced one.

Anyone with the interest and the money can buy a P45, and more power to them. Why by cynical?

But for professonal photographers, shooting large format colour transparency film at $5 or more per exposure, the paypack time is measured in either months, or at most a year or two.

Seeing the world though ones own restricted experience is, regretably, one of the failings of many in our society.

Michael
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Stephen Best
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« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2006, 06:47:43 PM »
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But for professonal photographers, shooting large format colour transparency film at $5 or more per exposure, the paypack time is measured in either months, or at most a year or two.

I made four exposures last week, three of which were frame-able. Pretty damn good for a dilettante like me! I'm sure there are institutions that will see advantages in consumables though. But hey it's a free world and somebody needs to support developing technology.
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Anon E. Mouse
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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2006, 06:49:42 PM »
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Boy, did someone get up on the wrong side of the bed today!

I am glad someone could review the SW-D. I use an SW612 and was interested in this camera - but could never afford one. I think Horseman came out with an interesting product and it has some really wide lenses. Sales are obviously limited because of the price.

The Horseman lens units have always been expensive, not just for this camera. (They made a bad lens cone for the 135mm lens which vignettes the 6x12 frame - my pet peeve.) Unfortunately, Horseman does not have the demade to increase production to bring the price down - and they are near to impossible to find secondhand.
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Stephen Best
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2006, 07:35:41 PM »
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Boy, did someone get up on the wrong side of the bed today!

Sorry, it's just a reaction to continual talking up the capabilities of digital here (and elsewhere) and the blind eye that some seem to have to the sticker price. I've got expensive hobbies too but this is really over the top. Some for the invites to buy a H2D that land in my inbox. I think Nick has astutely identified the market segment for such a product and how restricted it is ... but more power to those who can afford to play here. I just wish the industry would make something I can see myself buying.
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2006, 07:57:11 PM »
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Sorry, it's just a reaction to continual talking up the capabilities of digital here (and elsewhere) and the blind eye that some seem to have to the sticker price. I've got expensive hobbies too but this is really over the top. Some for the invites to buy a H2D that land in my inbox. I think Nick has astutely identified the market segment for such a product and how restricted it is ... but more power to those who can afford to play here. I just wish the industry would make something I can see myself buying.
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the target market for both of these (p45 and horseman) are not hobbists (although i'm sure they'd take anyone's money).  the target market is professional... and most professionals who push a lot of film thru their studio ( measured in boxes per day, not sheets), will not have a hard time justifying the purchase.  there's a large industry specializing in architecure and indusrial photography that wouldn't have to think twice about buying (well.. they'd need to first make sure the quality and workflow was adequate)
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Kenneth Sky
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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2006, 08:43:29 PM »
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So now we can see how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Most of us mere mortals who participate on this forum could not afford or justify the expense of this equipment. What fascinates us is the look into the future of what technology will or will not trickle down to hobbiests. As the megapixel race approaches its useful end the sales of digital cameras are anticipated to level off and then drop. As useful, cost-efficient improvements slow down digital cameras will be commoditized and true value for the user will be realized. At that point the depreciation of digital equipment will stop its present rate of 100% in 3 years.
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2006, 05:03:57 AM »
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the target market for both of these (p45 and horseman) are not hobbists (although i'm sure they'd take anyone's money).  the target market is professional... and most professionals who push a lot of film thru their studio ( measured in boxes per day, not sheets), will not have a hard time justifying the purchase.  there's a large industry specializing in architecure and indusrial photography that wouldn't have to think twice about buying (well.. they'd need to first make sure the quality and workflow was adequate)
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I think you have slightly missed my point here. If a studio has invested in a P25 or other high end MFDB system and can get sensational reproductions up to, say A2, on what basis are they going to rush out and spend another $30K (maybe $20K after a trade in) to get A1 quality? What proportion of their work is reproduced critically at that size? If it is a high proportion, fine, but I would be surprised if 1% of work was printed at A1 in the average high volume studio. Catalogues, brochures, ads in mags, that's the bulk of the work and frankly a Canon will do that.

It is precisely the sort of studio that you mention that should find it hard to justify the cost when they likely already have gear more than capable of performing the task at hand.

My point is not anything to do with the quality or even the price, it's the price related to it's worth as a business tool that I am questioning.

Look, I could go out tomorrow and buy one ( my wife would be speechless but I could...) I won't because I am a professional and my gear needs to earn it's keep. My 6x12 format stuff produces images that are as good if not better than any current MFDB, at a cost of only convenience.

Michael, at $5 per sheet that's 6000 sheets of film - does anyone shoot that much 4x5 in a few months or a year, or even two?
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« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2006, 07:12:22 AM »
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Interesting debate.

Some people buy 5 MUS$ cruising boats, and those are actually selling more than they ever did. It makes complete sense, the current mechanism of our societies tend to increase the income of a small fraction of the population to very high levels.

Let's face it, there are many people around for whom 30.000 US$ is peanuts. How many of those do photography, I have no idea, but good if they can afford them.

Now, as a viewer of images, the fact that the image was shot with a P45 or a LF set up is completely irrelevant. My only concern with the current trend, that I have voiced here before, is that I see a tendency to meaure more and more the quality of landscape work by the gear with which it was shot... and that can only result in photography going further down in the hard fought battle for recognition as an art form.

Finally, about the P45 vs LF discussion... it all boils down to shooting style. Anyone with even moderate LF experience can nail down the exposure of Provia 100F slides so easily that the histogram preview capability of a digital back brings very little actual value. It will just take a little longer to shoot 4*5, and the shooting autonomy will be less.

Speaking about time, once an image is previzualized, I can take it with my Ebony in clearly less than 2 minutes, the first 1/3 of this being about tripod setup and accurate framing, which needs to be done also with medium format digital...

There are advantages, but I don't see them worth the cost for normally slow paced fine art shooters looking for the best quality. Commercials shooters are probably different.

Cheers,
Bernard
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« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2006, 08:15:00 AM »
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You going to tell me if you spend $ 5.00 dollars here and $ 5.00 dollars there will be ok? even so you don't know if those shot are ok!
In digital you shot you look don't like it  you delet.  Film you shot go to the lab,(spend more money ) don't like it, you loose.   $ 5.00 dollars + are going for good.   Before you really don't want to shot 100, cost to much.  now you do ,,you pic and choose over 1000 shot.
I think it's pay off get intu digital.

BlasR
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michael
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« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2006, 08:30:59 AM »
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Nick,

For fine art photographers? No. It's a matter of want not need for them.

Commercial, products, fashion, architectural, industrial, scientific, yes, and more.

I know quite a few of these who will regularly shoot 400-500 sheets of 4X5 a month. For them a medium format back is a money saver, because after 12-18 months the savings start to escallate.

Add to that the capital depeciation vs the expensing of supplies, the savings of time running back and forth to the lab, the time and energy spent doing high-end scans, and frankly the equaition is a no-brainer.

I know of one commercial photographer who was "forced" by his accountant to buy a medium format back. Once the quality issue was settled the financial ones were so compelling.

I remember the exact same situation with a photographer friend of mine some years ago when the first Canon 1Ds came out at $8,000. We met on a shoot and he was using a 1Ds for the first time. He'd shot film only until then.

Knowing that he was poor as a churchmose, I asked him why he had just spent $8,000. His answer was that since he shoots 20-30,000 frames a year for stock, he couldn't afford not to. He paid off the camera in much less than a year with savings on film and processing, and after that was well ahead of the game. Once he'd accepted that the 1Ds gave him better image quality than film, the financial decision was inescable, simply from a financial point of view.

This is what a lot of Sunday photographers simply don't understand. $10 - $30,000 backs aren't made for them. They can buy them if they wish, and can, but the Leafs and Phase Oness and Imcons of the world aren't after their business. They are selling to the working photographers for whom these are tools, not toys, and for whom  these products are capital investments, not things to be hidden from wives.

These products aren't even sold in stores for the most part. They are sold by VARS who will visit a photographers studio, help develop workflow solutions, and so forth. It's a differnt world.

Michael
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alainbriot
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« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2006, 12:13:19 PM »
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For fine art photographers? No. It's a matter of want not need for them. Commercial, products, fashion, architectural, industrial, scientific, yes, and more.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=57781\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Michael is absolutely right.  This is the situation of everyone who shoots a lot of images and makes a living from photography.  The only thing I would add, is that there's another, "hidden" aspect of this when it comes to professional landscape photographers.  And that is many of us are not only photographers.  In my case I am also a publisher (website and essays) as well as the producer of various products. Personally, I use a lot of images for my website and for these various projects, images that are often landscapes but not always.  Digital provides an economical solution compared to film, as well as a huge saving in time since images are available instantaneously.

Calling these images "illustrations" is not far off the mark.  Often, they will be printed quite small, making 4x5 overkill.  For example, I am currently publishing a music CD, for which I am the producer and copyright holder.  I took the cover image and designed the cover and all the other materials.  By doing so I saved a significant amount of money and time compared to hiring a photographer and a designer and explaning to them what I want.  Of course, for one photograph that I used, I took maybe 100.  I also took the photographs inside the album, including some of me with the artist, which incidentally were taken by Natalie, my wife, since I was posing with the artist.  

This is another important point of digital.  Having the LCD screen means that I can be photographed yet see and evaluate the results on the spot, and have the photograph taken again until it looks the way I want.  Film just doesn't work for that, and the cost of retaking a unique photograph such as that one would be astronomical, provided it can be done at all.

I also take a lot of "scouting" photographs when I explore a new area.  After viewing these images, either in the field or in my studio, I later return with 4x5 to capture the images that I want to print large. This can happen the same day, or days or weeks later.  Over one year, this amounts to thousands of photographs.  My 1DsMk2 has over 10,000 images on its counter already, and is not yet a year old.  Just the cost of this approach, if it was done with film, would probably pay for the camera.  

Alain
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Alain Briot
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« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2006, 12:43:53 PM »
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.....10,000 images on its counter already, and is not yet a year old.  Just the cost of this approach, if it was done with film, would probably pay for the camera. 

Alain
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When you refer to "the" camera is it the 1DSMKII or the "Phase One P45 back coupled to a Horseman SWD camera body fitted with a Schneider 24mm Digitar lens" kind of camera?  If the later, it's still simple economics if the 1DSMKII gives you 99% of what you want, what's that last 1% worth? 20 - 30 - $40K?
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« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2006, 12:57:21 PM »
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When you refer to "the" camera is it the 1DSMKII or the "Phase One P45 back coupled to a Horseman SWD camera body fitted with a Schneider 24mm Digitar lens" kind of camera?  If the later, it's still simple economics if the 1DSMKII gives you 99% of what you want, what's that last 1% worth? 20 - 30 - $40K?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=57810\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I refer to the 1DsMk2.  I don't own or use a medium format digital back at this time.  To me, as you say, the 1DsMk2 does what I need.  For me, less resolution than the 1DsMk2 is unsatisfying, and when I need more resolution I switch to 4x5 and scanned film.  I also agree that the increase in cost is very high when measured "per pixel" although less so with the P45 than with the P25 or equivalent.  

However, all this being said, from a tax perspective there is an advantage to buying a P45 as an investment, at least in the US where you can deduct business investments from your income, thereby paying tax only on the remaining income.  Another reason why this type of equipment is more appealing financially to professionals than to amateurs.

ALain
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« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2006, 03:49:04 PM »
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I know quite a few of these who will regularly shoot 400-500 sheets of 4X5 a month. For them a medium format back is a money saver, because after 12-18 months the savings start to escallate.

Add to that the capital depeciation vs the expensing of supplies, the savings of time running back and forth to the lab, the time and energy spent doing high-end scans, and frankly the equaition is a no-brainer.

Michael
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I agree, up to a point.

As you rightly point out, the cost of the equipment upgrade is almost irrelevant to a working professional - if it earns more money than current equipment. If you save $40K on film and spend $30K on a camera of equal quality then you are right, it's a no brainer.

I also have no problem with anyone who simply want's 'the best'. There are people who drive Ferraris etc. It's still a car with 4 wheels that goes from A to B, but it's nice to own something so special and the performance is amazing, even if you can't legally use it to it's full 'potential'. People who buy these luxury items have probably worked hard to have plenty of money - enjoy it while you can.

However, it is precisely because we are working professionals that I would like to see future developments in MFDBs leaning towards things like high ISO/low noise, decent screen, faster shooting, better profiles, better software and so on, rather than just a push for more pixels.

I think Alain has the right idea, he uses the best tools for the job in hand- Canon for scouting and smaller image uses, 4x5 film when high res is needed.

The tax aspect is interesting. I'm not sure about the States but here in Australia I cannot claim camera gear over about AUD1000 as a tax deduction directly. It is a capital cost and only the depreciation of it's value can be claimed against tax. Or, if it is leased, the full lease payments may be claimed directly.

The tax office generally allows a 100% depreciation on camera equipment over 3 years ie 33% per year. The problem is that digital equipment has a shorter product cycle than previous camera equipment and the tax office has yet to catch up to this.

For dSLRs this is a problem because the value after 2 years is negligable and you still have a year to go on the depreciation. For MFDBs this is less of an issue as they seem to hold their second hand value pretty well. From an accounting POV, leasing a high end MFDB makes excellent tax sense as it is likely to have a higher value at the end of the lease period than the lease residual.

This is an interesting discussion, high priced gear is always going to spark debate over its true 'worth'. Regardless of the economics I would really like to see these backs becoming more sophisticated in operation than necessarily packing in more pixels to the exclusion of all else.
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Nick Rains
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Stephen Best
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« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2006, 04:43:58 PM »
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You going to tell me if you spend $ 5.00 dollars here and $ 5.00 dollars there will be ok? even so you don't know if those shot are ok!

This is what the ground glass is for.

My point was not whether digital makes sense (obviously there's lots of applications where it does) but whether there's a *need* for megadollar backs. As for the argument that there's savings on film etc, I know institutions were this would be the case. The fact that they could get away with a cheaper back is probably not a decision management would want to make lest they were caught penny pinching at some time in the future ... especially where the photographs are records. But as a digital printmaker I can tell you it takes a *lot* of work to finesse a print at 24x30 or larger, or even 20x24, which is where the files from these backs are destined. These aren't things you blast out so the argument for cost savings on consumables is tenuous at best.
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« Reply #16 on: February 09, 2006, 05:38:40 PM »
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However, it is precisely because we are working professionals that I would like to see future developments in MFDBs leaning towards things like high ISO/low noise, decent screen, faster shooting, better profiles, better software and so on, rather than just a push for more pixels.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=57824\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I am sure we will see all this, but the priority so far has been on resolution.  I also think that those improvements will keep the cost of MFDB at a high price when they are introduced, unless competitors come up with a complete package at a lower price which at this time seems unlikely.

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I think Alain has the right idea, he uses the best tools for the job in hand- Canon for scouting and smaller image uses, 4x5 film when high res is needed.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=57824\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I have noticed many professionals using the same approach.  I think it is "the best of both worlds, so to speak, when everything is taken into consideration.

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The tax aspect is interesting. I'm not sure about the States but here in Australia I cannot claim camera gear over about AUD1000 as a tax deduction directly. It is a capital cost and only the depreciation of it's value can be claimed against tax. Or, if it is leased, the full lease payments may be claimed directly.

The tax office generally allows a 100% depreciation on camera equipment over 3 years ie 33% per year. The problem is that digital equipment has a shorter product cycle than previous camera equipment and the tax office has yet to catch up to this.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=57824\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

In the US it's called section 179.  It used to be 20k maximum, but it was raised much higher a couple years ago.  In my eyes its one of the most important tax breaks made available to small businesses.  Plus, it encourages investing in one's equipment.   Finally, as you say, there's no point amortizing over a longer period of time than the equipment is going to last.  

Alain
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« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2006, 08:00:02 PM »
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In the US it's called section 179.  It used to be 20k maximum, but it was raised much higher a couple years ago.  In my eyes its one of the most important tax breaks made available to small businesses.  Plus, it encourages investing in one's equipment.   Finally, as you say, there's no point amortizing over a longer period of time than the equipment is going to last. 
Alain
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That is amazing. There is nothing like that here, just normal depreciation. That Section 179 sure is a good incentive to invest in your own business even if the end tax result is much the same.

This also relates to Bernard's comments about the richer you are the richer you become - a truism if I ever heard one.

If you are paying the top marginal tax rate (47% here) and you want to spend $30K on gear, and if you could claim it all as an expense like in the US, you would pay a net price of $15900. If you didn't buy the back you would be taxed on the $30K at 47% anyway, which leaves you the $15900 in cash.

The point here is only the higher earners pay top marginal rate; at the other end of the scale is someone paying the lowest rate of 20% and the back would cost them $24000.

Thus the more successful photographer is paying over $8000 less for the same gear whilst at the same time being more able to afford it.

Having said that, the richer photographer is also paying more actual dollars in tax overall so this tends to cancel out the apparent benefit. Still, it's an interesting situation.
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« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2006, 08:46:32 PM »
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This also relates to Bernard's comments about the richer you are the richer you become - a truism if I ever heard one..
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That is true.  And what is also true, is that if you do consistently well over the years, and invest appropriately, you end up having a huge advantage in terms of equipment.  Let's not forget that not all equipment lasts a year or two.  That may be the case for MFDB, but it isn't the case for computerized and laser mat cutters, board cutters, large format mounting presses, and many other types of equipment that remain unchanged as years go by.  

In the end this explains why it is so hard to get started.  There's an uphill fight to get to the level of equipment of those who have been doing this for a long time successfuly.  It also explains why it is so important to start early, since at some point time just runs out unless one can invest massively at once.

Alain
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« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2006, 07:43:41 AM »
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I can see the some people, only looking the cost.  I'm not a professional photographer
I got p25 with h1 and 4 lenses. I have canon 1ds with 5 lenses include 400do them I got
mac dual 2.7, 8 gb ddr and 30 cinema display.  I got the because I like it.  I didn't look the cost, as when I got to a restaurant, look what I want in I  get it.  I work for my money and I will get what I want when and when I want it.  If my wife have question I will answer her, She is my best friend, but she can't control my life and my happiness, as I will not control her life either.
I really thing the p25 give you an excelent imagess and you should not look the cost, and you should not look the cost of p45 either.  I pay $46,00.00 for a van as to much for my house. Why not to spend 30 plus for something the you like and wil be using and maybe get your money back?

BlasR
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