Thoughts on upgrading to a better camera.     

 

In the previous era of film cameras many serious photographers would come to a point when they would consider whether to upgrade from an automated point and shoot type camera to a 35mm interchangeable lens SLR or to trade in the their well used 35mm SLR for a medium format 120mm camera, and maybe even to take the climb to a 4X5 view camera.

For film-based cameras it was all about the size of the film and bigger was better.  I recall feeling bad for those people that had friends photograph their wedding with a 35mm camera. The only way to get quality-wedding photographs was really only by photographers using larger film in their 120mm medium format cameras.  If one wanted a colourful, sharp, grain free enlargement then 120mm or larger was a must.

What do I now say to a photographer that is considering a more serious approach to photography?   I will always begin with the question, “what are your interests and what subjects do you like to photograph?”

My short answer for digicam and iPhone users is, if sports and fast action, wildlife or quality print enlargements are the goal, then, yes absolutely get a DSLR.    DSLR cameras don’t have shutter lag so sports photography is easy and action demands a camera (and quality lenses) that can adjust shutter speed and aperture. Wildlife photographers prefer a selection of telephoto lenses that can be changed at will, and obviously the best images are produced with sensors that are considerably larger than digicams and iPhones.

Digicams & iPhones are convenient for candid shots. Most of us have ’em in our pocket anyway. However, for photographers that are aware of the huge limitation of those tiny sensors and cheap little lenses the next question is, what is the best choice for a first time DSLR?

For this discussion I will put DSLR cameras in two simple categories, amateur and professional.  The difference between amateur and pro cameras has surely become hazy. If I were to offer a short comment I would say the most obvious difference is durability.  Pro cameras feel sturdy, are heavy and sealed against the elements. When dropped, they usually don’t break, and even with hard use will last a long time.  The amateur camera generally has lighter weight and smaller size.

When the first DSLRs came onto the scene there was definitely a difference in the quality of the images between entry level and professional level cameras, but that is not as distinct now. The technology for sensors and in-camera processing has rocketed.  The latest entry-level model may well have the same sensor as the previous year’s expensive pro model as the technology is transferred over.  The main difference is in the weight, substance, durability, and controls.

The new models are always being introduced, with that many previously great camera models will be reduced in price, discontinued and there are opportunities to purchase at reduced prices.  As always there will be a flurry of megapixel chasers that change their camera with every new model upgrade, making used cameras available.

Whatever the camera availability, my advice to those photographers asking the “upgrading” question is to consider what kind of photography they want to do. Talk to other photographers about the cameras that are interesting, go online and check out the many photography forums to find out what others with that same interest are using, and attend some classes.

So what are my thoughts on upgrading to a better camera? If it’s affordable, don’t hesitate, do it. Using a new camera is always fun, educational, and I believe the process of learning how to control and effectively use the unfamiliar technology a new camera offers is like a shot in the arm that gets the excitement going and ultimately helps one become a better photographer.

14 responses to “Thoughts on upgrading to a better camera.     

  1. Interesting post, John. Your last paragraph is true– I switched to a Fujifilm X-T2 mirrorless from my longtime Nikons and it has sparked a new level of creativity since it’s a new system to learn. I kept my D800 but it is getting lonely in the bag. Wishing you a creative and inspiring 2018!

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    • Thank Jane, I knew someone would bring up Mirrorless. Adding mirrorless just made the article awkward, but I am a fan of those little cameras. I have used the full frame Sony and had a week long tryout with the with a X-T1.
      I was very close to getting an X-T1, but my D800e is a dream to use. And I decided to get the new Tamron 150-600mm for Nikon instead. I expect to add a mirrorless (there than my tiny Nikon V) to my camera stable, but only as an additional tool. If I ever replace my D800e it will be with the new D850.

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      • I love my D800 full frame but it’s work carrying it– I have put in many miles with that baby. I am pleased with the results of the X-T2 and its light weight and small size is great for stealthy street work and hiking. Still learning– it has lots of bells and whistles like the Nikon but very different.

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  2. Good thoughts John.
    As I am getting a little longer in the tooth and have arthritis issues, it seemed a given to go smaller and lighter. My Canon 60D, 6D, and lenses including the 70-200 have served me well and will continue to use them in the future for in house and tripod type landscape shots, but just too heavy to be lugging around on extended trips.
    Made the decision after a long process and reading many reviews to upgrade.
    Not wanting to spend a fortune, I waited until the sales and was able to purchase an older, but new Fuji X-T1 complete with a number of extra kit items. After checking all the specs, I realized this was all I needed.
    Am now excited to learn a new way of capturing photos and looking forward to outings and travel with a new perspective.

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    • I know several people that have opted for the lighter mirrorless cameras. I am a fan!
      I excluded mirrorless because it was awkward in my article. I tried out that X-T1 for a week and almost bought one, but the lure of a 150-600mm for my Nikon was too strong…

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  3. Thanks for the well thought-out reasoning that separates “wants vs needs”, John. It’s really hard for most of us to take the emotion out of our equipment purchase decisions. Being an early adopter of the Fuji X system (x100s & xPro-1), I was all set to trade in my Canon 5D MKII (colour) and MK I (IR) for yet more Fuji gear. Since I still find just a tad of shutter lag (focus lag?) in my Fuji equipment, I retained my Canon gear for portrait work and action photography. My Fuji gear is awesome for landscape work and the lighter weight benefits are great.

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