Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Production Diary: Updaters Anonymous: I Sign the Pledge

I started with a Bolex 16mm camera. Over the years my Bolexes were accidently smashed or stolen and replaced, but effectively I owned the same camera for 35 years.

With video it’s a different story. I have moved from updating every ten years to five, three, two and finally, this year, a new camera every few months!

FILM—Bolex 16mm film: 50+-year lifespan—and still a current model. I’m shooting Bandstand in ’63.

I’m an addict and I need help. Unexpectedly, it came from my sponsor, George, who has kicked his annual new car upgrade addiction. George has made a five-year pledge. He’s been sober for three years—another two to go before he can trade in his Prius.

San Francisco Updaters Anonymous

Hi, I’m Stefan. I’m an addict.

(UA GROUP) Hi Stefan.

I make corporate videos and TV documentaries. Like anyone my age, I started with 16mm film cameras. I had two cameras: a Bolex and a more expensive Éclair.

Here’s the interesting thing. The upgrades in the days of film cameras came not from the camera manufacturers but from improvements in camera film stock. “Upgrading” consisted of buying rolls of the new and improved film stock; the cameras stayed the same.

My first video camera was an Ikegami HL-79A. It came out in 1979 and cost around $35,000. It wasn’t a camcorder, as it needed an expensive add-on videotape recorder like the Ampex VR3000.

Upgrade or Die

VIDEO—Ikegami HL-79A, from new to junk in five years. Jim and Simon at my facilities company in ’79.

In 1984 Sony brought out a revolutionary camcorder, the Betacam.

My HL-79 and its companion Ampex recorder were both impossible to update and became instant junk. Five years and finished.

The Betacam was the one-piece machine we’d all been waiting for. Sadly, its lifespan was even shorter than the HL-79’s.

How come? Sony changed the cassette tape formulation, vastly improving picture quality. The new tape stock couldn’t be used in the original Betacam camcorder. Bye, bye, Betacam, been good to know ya—long live Betacam SP. Early adopters were left with a two-and-a-half-year-old useless camera.

These days, Sony and other video camera manufacturers bring out a new model almost every year. Panasonic’s 2009 GH1 was out of date in a just a year. The GH2 had two years, outdated by the GH3 in 2012—and now, this year, the GH4. Trust me, there will be a GH5, 6, 7 and 8—but not for me.

Just Say No to Upgrades

I have decided that enough is enough. Today I am saying NO to upgrades.

VIDEO—The original Sony non-SP Betacam: scrap metal in less than three years.

This is my pledge:


I, Stefan Sargent, do solemnly pledge not to sell or replace my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 camera for a period of five years. I will not buy a GH5 (or subsequent upgrade) or any other still or video camera until 2019.

(UA GROUP) Yea Stefan!

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

Digital Video magazine recommends you keep your cameras up to date.