We take a lot of pictures at iFixit. The place is crawling with camera junkies—including me. I’ve loved taking pictures since I was little, and I’m so grateful it’s part of what I get to do for my job. My skills have definitely improved over the years. But up until recently, one thing had not: my camera. I first discovered the family point-and-shoot as a kid, and regularly hogged the device. I wasn’t great, but I had lots of fun. I must have photographed every flower in the garden, and every pet in the neighborhood. Then just as I was starting high school, my parents (very generously) bought me a new Canon Rebel XSi. It’s been my constant camera companion ever since.
As I prepare to graduate college, my Canon Rebel XSi is now almost a decade old. By modern standards, it’s spartan. It has no touch screen or fancy swiveling monitor features. It won’t do Wi-Fi, has no video capabilities, and the primitive Live View features are of little use. But, in many ways, none of that has mattered. For years, my Canon held its own against models that are designed to leave it in the dust.
Canon built me a great camera all those years ago—and it’s still a great piece of technology today. It’s taken tens of thousands of pictures (several thousand of which were of my cat). Times have changed, of course: when it was new, my 1GB memory card was impressive; today I keep several 128GB cards on hand. Editing programs can do things with a couple clicks that were once only a dream. The technology surrounding the camera changed—I just never needed my camera to. Recently, though, I’ve started to reach a point where my skills and projects demand a more powerful machine.
I feel like I need to make these justifications—because, right now, there’s a fancy cardboard box sitting on my kitchen table: it’s a new camera. It came from Amazon yesterday. It’s one of the nicest things I’ve ever purchased, but I can’t quite bring myself to open the box yet. Because opening that box means bidding farewell to my old camera—a camera I feel connected to.
When I was shopping for my new camera, I couldn’t bring myself to sell my Rebel. Where would it go? Who would end up owning it? Would they take care of it? I have this horrible image in my mind of my Canon tossed—cracked and battered—into a dumpster somewhere. My camera probably wouldn’t mind. It’s just a collection of metals, plastics and glass. It has no feelings. Still, it’s an important figure in my life. I don’t have a name for the feeling—but I believe it is the same drive that often leads people to iFixit. I see the same attachment in people who reach out on our forums, desperately seeking to save their ancient iPod from the perils of old age.
I have a hard time imagining who I might be today if I had never picked up my camera. I don’t know if I would be doing some of the things that I do for iFixit today without it. Life is full of these unknowable mysteries, but my Canon has been a consistent and reliable machine through all of it. I think then, that—whatever the future may bring—this old device hasn’t outlived its usefulness yet. I’d like to say that I’ll keep using my old Rebel as long as the shutter clicks, but I don’t know that I will. But I’m sure there is someone in my life who would benefit from it. It may not be right for me anymore, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be someone else's first DSLR all over again. That my old camera can’t put someone else’s life into a different focus—just as it did for me.
That’s the paradox of what we do at iFixit. Prolonging the life of the technology we buy is crucial for many reasons, but eventually we do decide to leave some technology behind.
Sometimes this is easy. Other times not so much.