When Technology Ship Dates Conflict With Your Vacation Dates

We all know that buying technology is about timing: the worst time to buy a piece of technology is right when the new version is about to come out. You’ll paralyze yourself if you keep waiting for the “next big thing” of course, but with products that refresh on a yearly cycle, unless the previous generation is being sold at significant cost savings, you want to get the new version to be one step further away from obsolescence. Sometimes though, the cycle of technology does not sync up with the cycle of our lives when it’s time to buy.

Case in point: off and on since 2002, I’ve been going to Mexico for vacation with my family (my ninth trip is happening next month). It’s a Dunn tradition, and given it’s usually the only vacation I take all year, I look forward to it with great anticipation. On January 23rd, 2012, I purchased a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 for my March Mexico vacation that year. A newer version of the Panasonic camera, the TS4, was announced on January 31st. I can’t recall if, four years ago, I knew that was coming or not, but I can tell you why I didn’t return it: many camera vendors announce in January but don’t start shipping until late March or early April. The first verified purchase review on Amazon was April 3rd 2012, but I couldn’t wait that long.

I’m interested in replacing my aging TS3 with an Olympus TG870 (pictured above), specifically for the raw support and the flip-up screen. It was announced at CES in early January, and Amazon will start shipping it March 28th. Guess when my vacation starts? The first week of March. 🙁  Every year it’s the same cycle, and I don’t want to buy last year’s model when I know this year’s model will be better.

In an effort to ensure that the previous sentence was, in fact, accurate, I went to the Olympus site to compare the two models and I was stunned to see that I was incorrect about the the TG870 supporting raw. In fact, other than some very minor tweaks including a 10% brighter screen and faster GPS lock-on times, the camera appears virtually identical. Using the Olympus model comparison tool, the thing that jumps out the most is the TG870 having more art filters. I kid you not. So after confirming that the camera doesn’t support raw, I’m left wondering if I want it at all. Looks like I can get raw with the Olympus TG4, but not the flip-up screen. Now I have to decide which is more important to me…better image quality, or easier selfies with my kids in the water.

The good news is that when technology doesn’t change much from one year to another, but the manufacturer still insists on releasing a new-but-not-really-improved version, you can buy the old one without missing out on much. I just love it when in the span of one blog post I contradict myself. 😉