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Should You Get a Camera Protection Plan?

Camera Protection PlanI'd have to lose all this gear more than once every 10 years
for a camera protection plan to be worth it.

Every now and then I get asked about a camera protection plan. You know, one of those photography insurance policies that covers against mechanical failure, natural disaster, fire, theft, accidental damage, meteors, sun flares, and the apocalypse.

I don’t have one.

I’m not a fan of investing in a camera protection plan. I think the customer will almost never come out ahead with one. How can they? After all, the insurance company is in business. They aren’t in business because they’re sending out big checks to their clients. And not only are the insurance companies coming out ahead, they’re coming out way ahead. Insurance companies are hugely profitable and their product is pretty much just peace of mind - it’s not even a product you can use!

Here’s another dead giveaway that these insurance policies and extended warranties are a rip: the people selling them really want you to buy. You don’t peddle products that hard unless the profit margins are huge. I swear there are more commercials for Geico Insurance on TV than every other commercial from every other company combined. They really want your business. They want it because it’s easy money.

Alright, alright. Maybe I’m being a little unfair. Not all insurance is bad. Auto insurance is good. Well...it’s good so long as you aren’t the one who made the mistake.

Okay, forget my logical idealistic embittered views on insurance. Let’s look at it logically.

A camera protection plan will cost you around 10% of the coverage cost per year. In other words, if you want to protect your $1,500 camera, you can expect to pay about $150 per year. So that means you’d have to lose or accidentally destroy your camera at least once every 10 years just to break even.

So what are the odds you’ll need to file a claim more than once every 10 years? I’m betting the odds are actually much, much lower than you think. People baby their gear. When you spend that much money on a camera, you tend to not be careless with it.

I’ve been shooting for 13 years and I’ve had the same DSLR for 7 years with nary a problem. I’ve never even come close to losing or destroying any single item in my collection. If I’d insured all my gear over that 13-year period, I’d be a sucker. And if I wanted to start insuring my gear now, I’d need to file 2 claims before the 20-year mark! I’m afraid I’m just not that careless!

So I say “play the odds.” What are the odds you’ll need to make a claim for the full value of the camera in a 10-year period? Looking back at your life, how many claims would you have made in the past 10 years? 20 years? 30 years...?

Be realistic about this camera protection plan stuff. Don’t let your fears dictate your decision. Let logic guide you.

Besides, you know how insurance companies work. It’s lots of fear mongering and promises in the beginning, but when it comes time to file a claim, oh you can bet they’ll find a reason you’re not covered for that kind of damage.

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First Impressions of Kodak Ektar

Kodak Ektar 100All images made on medium format Kodak Ektar film
Click any image for a larger view

I've historically been a color reversal film guy. I just haven't shot much with color negative film. I suppose that's a product of being a Galen Rowell fanboy. He was a Kodachrome and Velvia guy, so that's what I became (unfortunately Kodachrome was before my time, though).

But I decided to break out of my shell a little bit and give Kodak Ektar 100 a try because I've read great things about it and I've seen some beautiful colors from it. As far as I'm concerned, the biggest advantage to shooting Kodak Ektar over something like Fuji Velvia is the increased dynamic range and the ability to change the color balance after taking the shot. 

In the digital world, RAW and JPEG files have sometimes been compared to color negatives and color slides. That's because RAW files, like color negative film, have more flexibility in post-production than JPEG files. Much like a RAW file, I can change the "white balance" of my Kodak Ektar shots in the process of scanning. Also, I get a little bit wider range of tonality than on my trusty old Velvia. Velvia (and all color transparency films) are more like JPEGs - what you see is what you get, there's no doing drastic color changes after snapping the shutter, and the dynamic range is more compressed.

Having worked extensively with the "JPEG of film," I thought it was time to try the film equivalent to a RAW file.

So with my first roll of Kodak Ektar color negative film loaded up in my medium format Mamiya RZ67, I headed out to a local park at high noon. My goal was to create ultra-simplistic compositions of the overly-ordered suburban setting that is Irvine, CA. You see, Irvine is a master-plan community in Orange County, CA that might remind some of the Stepford Wives - the neighborhoods and parks are ultra-ordered, ultra-groomed, ultra-matchy, and ultra-artificial. Nice place to raise a kid, but it ain't exactly dripping with culture and variety.

These compositions aren't my usual high-contrast, high-detail landscapes that you might be used to, but that's the point. I wanted simple and ordered compositions to help highlight the artificiality of the community.

All in all, I felt that Kodak Ektar was a perfect match for this shoot. The wider-than-Velvia dynamic range allowed me to keep detail in the harsh shadows of midday and resulted in an overall softer contrast that suited this subject matter well. The vibrant yet soft color palette combined with the wide dynamic range helped me create the painterly look I was after.

I'm still working on testing this film on some of my more typical shoots - vibrant landscape photography - but I think it's safe to say that Kodak Ektar is a superb film that will forever remain in my arsenal of film stocks...well, at least until they stop making it.

Kodak Ektar 100

Kodak Ektar 100

Kodak Ektar 100

Kodak Ektar 100

New Work: Cress Street Beach

Sunset in Laguna Beach, CASunset at Cress Street Beach in Laguna Beach, CA
Fuji Provia 100F film - 30" at f/45
Click Image for Larger

I made the photo featured here back in January in Laguna Beach, CA. Laguna has some beautiful beaches, but in the summertime it's a circus down there. It makes shooting landscapes damn near impossible without getting a sea of umbrellas and beach towels in the shot. January makes this challenge a little easier.

But who am I kidding? Shooting at Orange County beaches is always aggravating. I guess my 6'2" frame, my giant tripod, and my enormous wooden camera aren't enough to let people know that "I'm taking a picture in this general direction so please don't walk through my frame." Maybe I should post a sign and police caution tape to finally get their attention.

Of course I'm not one of those self-entitled photographers that thinks the scenery belongs to me simply because I have a camera. I recognize that the beach belongs to all of us and no one should have more right to use it than anyone else...which is why I never say anything to anyone getting in my shot. But I mean come on, would it kill you, shirtless tourist, to take a 5-foot detour behind my camera as you stroll at a snail's pace along the sand? And don't get me started on paddle-boarders.

But enough ranting. Let me tell you about this shot.

I made this image on the beach just off of Cress Street near my gallery. I was pleased to see that the sand level was very low, revealing some beautiful boulders that I'd use in the foreground. And by judging the cloud cover, I figured the sunset would have some decent color to it, too. I made this image on Fuji Provia 100F film, but I wish I'd had Velvia 50 that night. Provia has a nice magenta tinge to it that worked well on this shot, but Velvia's color palette is much more vibrant. Oh well. I used a 3-stop split ND filter to hold detail in the sky and at an aperture of f/45, my shutter speed came out to 30 seconds. My Nikkor SW 90mm f/4.5 lens gave me the wide view I needed to include the rocks.

This puppy is also on display right now in my gallery. If you're in Laguna, stop in to Artist Eye Gallery and check it out. It looks nice printed up big.