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The general rule of thumb with computers is that if you've owned one for more than a few years, it's likely obsolete and nearly any new model will vastly outperform it. Does the same hold true for point-and-shoot cameras?

I currently use a Canon PowerShot SD750, which still functions perfectly well. However, seeing as it is around 5 years old, I'm wondering if I should upgrade by default. Is virtually any newer point-and-shoot going to take superior pictures to my five year old model?

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Obsolete may have been a poor choice of word. However, my thinking is that an "obsolete" camera is worse than an "obsolete" computer. An old computer may very well perform the same tasks as a new model, just at a slower pace. You only get one chance to snap a photograph, and only get the data the camera you use is capable of recording. If people are getting hung up on the word obsolete, maybe the better question would have been "is a new point-and-shoot almost guaranteed to take better photographs than a X (in my case 5) year old model?" –  The Dodge 3 Dec 26 '12 at 3:33

5 Answers 5

It's true that technology moves very fast. I don't think we can apply a general rule, though, because good optics will stay good and brand-new cheap optics will always be poor.

Particularly, resolution and high ISO performance will get better, as will the anything that depends on processing speed. Other things, like the lens and the control interface, just don't change, and you could easily buy a brand new camera that's worse in theses important areas.

Three or five years seems like a good rule of thumb, but overall, a camera isn't obsolete until it's not useful to you anymore. If you're still happy with what you have, you'll want to look for a camera of equivalent level. (I'd take a five-year-old Canon G9 over any sub-$200 P&S today, even though it is "clearly" obsoleted by the current field of more expensive enthusiast digicams.)

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You can't find an "yes" or "no" answer for your question!

By today standards, your camera is indeed obsolete not good enough, also many smart phones may have better cameras than your Canon, but truth is it all depends on your needs.

If you think you need a higher resolution, better ISO performance, better flash, better lens and generally higher image quality and more freedom, then you should upgrade, but that doesn't mean you can't use your P&S camera and make great pictures with it.

I use Nikon now, but I still have my 6 years old Canon P&S, it's still working perfectly and some times it's more useful than my heavy and expensive DSLR!

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Smartphone, camera? A smartphone is a parody of a camera. In bright sunshine you can get a reasonably image out of them, the moment it gets dark, smartphones fall over quicker than old cameras. –  DetlevCM Dec 25 '12 at 20:52
1  
@Detlev, this may have been true in the past, but recent smartphones take amazing photos. The iPhone 4s and 5 have better low light performance than an entry level DSLR from a few years back. I was at a gathering a month or so ago, in a normal living room with just normal lamps, and the iPhone 4s took a very credible photo of the group. Make sure you don't base your opinion on obsolete technology. –  Pat Farrell Dec 26 '12 at 2:46
    
Are you really so sure about that? I have not seen any phone cameras perform well. Now maybe a low resolution image on a monitor looks similar, but when you pixel peep, the differences are huge. (Which can make an image printworthy or not) Add to that the horrid compression done by mobile phones... –  DetlevCM Dec 26 '12 at 12:44
    
Pat Farrell is right, just look for sample photos of iPhone-x or Samsung Galaxy S-x, phones like these are better than many P&S cameras, that's why companies are forced to make better P&S cameras, the new Full Frame P&S, Sony RX1, is the best example for this! –  Omne Dec 26 '12 at 22:45
    
The Sony RX1 is a specialist camera and probably shouldn't be classed in the same league as what most people would think of when someone says point-and-shoot. Most consumers probably (and I am indulging my own low view of human kind (myself included)) wouldn't know how to use a fixed focal length effectively. –  damned truths Jun 10 at 8:41

Obsolete is a funny word in this context. Its true that Moore's law is continuing its relentless march, making a 3 year old computer about 4 times "different" than a new one. And we can either have the same performance for a tiny fraction of the cost, or more realistically, the same price buys 3 to 4 times the performance.

I have something like 20 computers in my house. Many are servers providing web hosting on the Internet. Some of these computers are old, 4, 5, some even 8 years old. But they still work, so while they are economically obsolete, they are doing their jobs and are by no means "obsolete" functionally.

Inexpensive cameras, both P&S and entry-level DSLRs are little more than a box to hold a sensor, computer and a lens. Many P&S don't even have an optical viewfinder -- they use a view screen, the same screens sold in the hundreds of millions for cell phones. So the screens improve with Moore's laws, as to the sensors and CPUs. The box doesn't improve much, but who cares.

As @mattm said, its really your choice, is it obsolete for you. This is if you focus on your particular P&S. But as a larger issue, the concept of a P&S is essentially dead. People take photos with their smartphones. The old law that the best camera is the one you have with you holds. You have a smartphone in your pocket. To replace that with another camera, it has to be very special. So far, none of the pocket P&S are special.

There are two P&S with Android, and soon there will be more with full cell-phone data access. These have a chance to have better optics and larger sensors than will fit in a smartphone. But even if the product line stays alive, it will be an ever shrinking niche market.

My wife uses a Canon S95 P&S, and she loves it. She'll probably use it at least another 5 years.

So what does the word "obsolete" mean?

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Hadn't considered the smartphone as a replacement idea. I feel like a smartphone isn't yet a point-and-shoot replacement, although almost certainly will be in the near future. I'm a beginner though, so I'll definitely explore this option. As I stated in another comment, obsolete may have been a poor choice of word. However, unlike an old computer which can likely perform the same tasks as a new one but at a slower pace, you can't add information to a photograph taken by an old camera. –  The Dodge 3 Dec 26 '12 at 3:20
    
It also makes a big difference what you want to do with the photos. Most P&S are pushed to the web or printed at moderate sizes. A current smartphone will make great photos for this usage. Don't pay attention to megapixel claims, they are probably the least important thing. The skill of the photographer, lens quality, and lighting are far more important. If you are a aiming to make 8x10 or bigger prints, you really don't want a P&S anyway. –  Pat Farrell Dec 26 '12 at 5:42

What's obsolete?

Does it do the job for you? Yes, then it isn't obsolete. No, it might be. My laptop is now around 4 years old - and still doing well. OK, I got a more powerful desktop this year but it is still a perfectly capable computer (even for photo editing if you ignore Adobe's performance issues).

The same works for nearly any other piece of technology. Most compact cameras up to as much as 6 years old are still very much capable cameras. There is an old PowerShot at home, from December 2005 - 5MP but otherwise it works perfectly fine and shoots perfect images (in good light).

Companies want you to think you constantly need something better, but the truth is that most of the "equipment" nowadays is overkill and 90% or more of the people do not need (!!) the equipment they have - be it a computer, phone, camera or car. Now "need" is the key word here - because you might want a new piece of equipment, but you might not need it.

I.e. to sum it up: If it does the job for you then it is fine and you do not need anything new.

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Excellent point. One point I'll make is that with computers, you can likely perform many of the same tasks, but at a slower pace. I guess my thinking, and reason for the question is that with a camera you're taking a snapshot of time, so you only get one shot, and only get whatever bits the camera is capable of recording. You can't add information later (as far as I know). Obsolete probably wasn't the right word choice, but I think you get my point. –  The Dodge 3 Dec 26 '12 at 3:14
    
@TheDodge3 You have a point there, but then there is the saying "the best camera is the one you have on you". In many cases the whole scene is more important than the detail - and while 5MP -> 10MP -> 21MP is a huge difference, the difference between 5MP and 7MP or 10MP and 12MP is less clear defined. –  DetlevCM Dec 26 '12 at 12:46
    
@TheDodge3 Now there is the issue of noise in images where modern cameras have gotten a lot better, but then how good is good enough? One photographer might think the ISO 25600 on a 5D MK II is good enough if he ever has to get that shot, another might think he needs the 102000 from the 1D MK IV. Who is right, who is wrong? Because technology moves so fast there is no perfect answer - you need to find a spot you are comfortable with - by your own definition. –  DetlevCM Dec 26 '12 at 12:49
    
@TheDodge3 I will keep my 5D MK II for a long time to come - because I am the limiting factor. Is the 5D MK III better? Technically yes, does it make a difference? No. No difference at all. If I always chased the best, I could be buying cameras one by one - and never get there. (Besides the issue that I couldn't afford it.) –  DetlevCM Dec 26 '12 at 12:50

I would say about 5 years but I wouldn't say it's obsolete. In fact, I have an old digital camera by Canon (SD550), that outperforms my daughters newer Polaroid digital camera. If it's old and you like it, it's not obsolete.

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