Apple unveiled its latest iPhone today, and it looks nice enough, I suppose. I have a first-generation iPod Touch and love it, even though it’s two generations obsolete.
But Apple executive Steve Jobs said something during the unveiling that caught my ear:
"This is beyond the doubt, the most precise thing, and one of the most beautiful we’ve ever made. Glass on the front and back, and steel around the sides. It’s like a beautiful old Leica camera."
I realize he’s mostly referening a Leica’s appearance, but he’s also trying to imply that an iPhone is made as well as a Leica rangefinder camera, and I can’t let that pass.
Leicas are among the best-made cameras in the world. I have a friend who has a pair of their rangefinders that are more than 30 years old and still work fantastically. They look far more beautiful than any phone I’ve ever seen.
But they aren’t the only cameras that hold up against the ages. I own three camera systems (two Canon, one Graflex) that are older than me, and they all work and take fantastic pictures. And unlike any modern phone, (or most modern cameras) they were made to last.
Apple can brag all they want about their latest contraption of steel, glass, copper and silicon being pretty and packed with new technology, but that doesn’t change the fact that these new iPhones will have been rendered useless within 5 years. Not only will their batteries lose the ability to hold a charge, but they will also be rendered obsolete by whatever new tech is released.
Meanwhile, my decades-old film cameras, and my 65-year-old typewriter, will still be working just fine.
To be fair, my film cameras were built after decades of innovation had reached mighty plateaus where new developments had leveled off, while Apple is competing in an industry where technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that their products are designed to be useless one day, while my cameras were built to last as long as possible.
But on another note, imagine if your Leica, or any camera, worked like an iPhone. For example, if too many people used their cameras at the same time in a similar area, they would start losing the ability to take pictures.
Instead of being able to choose which film went in your camera, you would have to choose from a limited selection of films pre-approved by the manufacturer and would only be able to buy it from that manufacturer. If, after you start using some film that’s been approved, the manufacturer decides it doesn’t like the film and changes its mind, it will take that film away from you, even if you’ve already started taking pictures.
Or imagine having to pay $100 or so a month just to be able to use your camera. They give you a certain allotment of frames for that money, but if you don’t take all those pictures, they just go to waste.
Finally, imagine if you took your own camera, which you’d bought with your own money, and you decided to modify how it worked so it took pictures in a different way (like digital infrared cameras). If cameramakers worked like Apple, they would instantly "brick" any modified camera so that it would never turn on, ever again.
I would never tolerate that sort of treatment from Canon, Fuji or any other imaging company. But Apple thinks it has the right to get away with that crap because they’re Apple.