Electric gear under an abandoned passenger train car Fuji Superia ISO 100
Welcome to my first entry of what I hope will be a monthly or bi-monthly journal chronicaling a year of experiments, misfortunes and maybe epic wins as I strive to up my photography game this year.
Deciding to up my game entails breaking old habits and trying new methods and gear. Last month, while researching new cameras, it became pretty clear that for the moment, digital is not the way to go, at least for this first quarter of 2018.
The backstory here is that I have long been a Canon user. My departed uncle gave me his canon AE-1 SLR camera back in 1989. I grew loyal to the brand over the years as I amassed additional lenses and platform-specific gear. When I went digital between 2002-2003, I again went with Canon. Nine years back I bought a Canon scanner (a Canoscan 8800F) that could scan film negatives, so I could digitize a bunch of photos that are now in the older-dated posts in this site.
Naturally, when I finally had budget this last few months to look at newer digital cameras, it became clear that I would be better off waiting on Canon’s new DSLR products coming this spring. That did nothing for my newfound boredom with the status-quo of how I’ve been shooting photos these last few years. I needed something different. Different, at least for the short term while I await a spring DSLR upgrade.
Looking at all my old gear, and inspired by so many photographers who have gone back to film (or never left film) in the last few years, it became pretty obvious: my 15 year run of almost exclusively shooting digital would end, effective immediately.
I’ve already shot my first 3 rolls (two expired fuji 100 superias and a Svema 125), and developed a fourth ‘mystery roll’ that has been sitting on my desk for years. A fifth roll (of Kodak 2254) came out underexposed. I’ll ahve to work on this latter issue a little more, as it seemed specific to the roll of film and where I tried to use it.
Photo from the ‘mystery roll’ – Nepara plastics factory in Tuxedo NY – I believe in 2015. Shot on Clarkfilm ISO 200
Having no idea where to get C-41 film processed in NYC these days, I asked around on Instagram. The clear winner was Kubus photo service in Greenpoint, which came recommended by at least a half a dozen younger photographers who shoot a ridiculous amount of film. I dropped off all five rolls as soon as I could, and was super pleased to get them all back in around three hours. Funny sidebar here: the shop seemed to be staffed entirely by 20-something ladies. I wonder if that factored into the recommendations? I was just happy to get my negs back, uncut and processed correct. I elected to just get the rolls developed, knowing that I had my trusty Canoscan 8800f at home ready to scan a few shots.
Farm Colony, State Island NY. Svema ISO 125 film
This of course is where we get back to the topic of brand loyalty.
When I got around to cutting negs, clearing some desk space and setting up the scanner, my mac threw an error message. It just plain refused to open the MP Navigator scanning software. Ok, maybe it’s out of date? I google around, find the latest software, download, install and *boop* now I get a whole different error message.
Back to google, I find this rather horrible, desperate support thread on Canon’s online support forum. When Apple upgrade their OS this fall, Canon didn’t update the drivers for my scanner.
And it’s not just my scanner – the lack of an update affects seemingly hundreds, perhaps even thousands and tens of thousands of users – rending our printers and scanners obsolete. When a few people contacted Canon support, their answer was not one anyone ever wants to hear: “Unfortunately, Canon MG8150 is no longer supported with Mac OS 10.13 High Sierra, there will be no printer/scanner driver available for this printer, please click on the link below for more information;”
Gee. Thanks Canon. Fuck you too.
I mean, here I am, ready to scan some photos, with a scanner that physically works just fine, and No.
Let’s not forget Apple here. Fuck you too Apple. Your OS updates shouldn’t automagically break ‘legacy’ hardware. That is what happened here. You effectively broke my hardware. If I went into an apple store and broke some of your hardware I’d end up in jail, while you, as a big ass corporation currently under a republican administration, will never face any repercussions.
With those fuck yous out of the way, let’s take a second here and talk about the absurdity of it all: yeas, I’m trying to scan photos with a scanner I bought a few years ago. Yes, technological progress is usually pretty awesome. But when it comes to proprietary software and drivers… this is clearly not a good thing. It’s not good for customers, who will now have to make costly upgrades, and it’s not good for the environment, as I’ll eventually have to retire this perfectly functional scanner to a landfill.
I would argue it’s also not a good business model. Forcing consumers to abruptly make an unplanned equipment purchase doesn’t inspire confidence. Why on earth would I ever buy another Canon scanner again? (Answer: I won’t).
Would I pay Canon some cash if they simply updated their software and told me why they needed to charge whatever they would need to charge? Absolutely. It’s software. It can be updated, and for cheap too I would imagine. By not even giving customers the option to purchase an upgraded software, they are literally saying no to money.
Canon’s only answer seems to be in the form of some recycling program which again forces the consumer to make a choice we don’t want to make: dumping functional hardware and making an expensive, unplanned upgrade. NYC already has electronics recycling laws and locations, so this program does nothing for me. As a mostly hardcore hobby photographer, I can’t pass the bill on to anyone else for this upgrade. There are no clients who I can add a few bucks to their invoices to make up the difference. Therefore I’m absolutely not going to be buying a new scanner anytime soon.
This starts to call into question all of my future purchases with Canon. I’m soon going to be plunking down some serious hard earned money on a new camera. Canon was the obvious choice for me considering my lens collection… but now, for the first time since I really started as a photographer, I have to really question my brand loyalty. As a avid photographer who is going to be shooting until the day I die, I have to question the logic of any company that would want to disrupt my loyalty to their products – over such a seemingly minor issue as a fucking software update. I’ve had no problems with Canon cameras, but will I in the future? These are not thoughts any company should want their existing customers thinking ahead of a major purchase.
It brings out the environmentalist/socialist in me. We, as a people who currently only have one planet to live on, must hold these big corporations a bit more to task. We can’t keep sending perfectly functional equipment to landfills all because some big company wants to save a few bucks or more nefariously force consumers into new purchases. This should be regulated. If Canon and the like don’t want to update software, fine. They should be forced to make it open-source. Again: this is software, it’s not rocket science. I spent over a decade as a programmer. Don’t tell me it’s not possible to update code. If they don’t want to do this on their own, perhaps consumers will find some legal ground to file suit in court, or send copies of articles like this one to their elected representatives.
Jonah Levy & Hannah Frishburg, Farm Colony. Staten Island NY. Svema ISO 125 film.
For now, I’ve pulled an old laptop out of retirement. It still has an old version of a mac OS that supports the scanner software. I used it to scan all the photos you see in this post. I view this as a temporary solution for a problem that apparently will force me to make a heavily researched purchase decision on, or perhaps no purchase at all.
I spent an hour trying to figure out how I’d get to scan photos today. I spent an unplanned hour writing this. I also had to dust off the old laptop and instead of selling it next week, I’ll be hanging onto it for awhile (until I sort out if I want Kubus to scan all my negatives, if I want to get a new scanner, etc). This will cost me a few bucks in depreciation value. All told, the loss of productivity time and depreciation will probably run me over $225. Because of a scanner driver. Srsly.
So here you go Canon. Here’s my invoice. I know you won’t pay it, but on behalf of many of your loyal customers around the globe: fuck you. Collectively, you’ve cost us all tens of thousands of dollars in productivity. May the karma lawyers sue you into good behavior someday.