Monday, April 27, 2015

Refreshed Post - Do I Really Need A New Camera?

This post was originally published almost 5 years ago.   Thought, it is relevant again today and could do with an update.

I get asked a lot about what camera bodies to buy or someone is wanting to upgrade their current camera or lenses and wants to know what model they should upgrade into. A lot of times this is unnecessary and people get caught up in the new model acquisition syndrome.
The following are a few things to think about before spending money on that new camera body/lens as the money might be spent better elsewhere or perhaps SAVED!

  • Have I outgrown my current camera?
    This is the first thing that you should consider. What limitations does the current gear have? What is it not allowing me to do or how is it holding me back?

    First, do not get caught up in having the newest and best. I still shoot using a Nikon D300. Yes, it does have some limitations for my professional work(I'll get into those in a bit), but I have used this camera for so long I know what it is capable of and not.
    You must think, “What am I primarily going to shoot?” and “What is my budget?”
    This comes down to NEED versus WANT. We would all want the very best camera, but that must be tempered with the very best camera WE CAN AFFORD. We'd all love to have an exotic sports car, but that is not always the best choice monetarily, situationally.
    If you have kids, then what is required from your camera is not the same as one might need for doing landscapes and macro photography. There may even be some attributes of a lesser camera or lens that can not be found in a higher end model(such as a higher speed x-sync of the off camera flash – my old D50 has a max speed of 1/500, while my D300 has only 1/250).

    So, think hard, how is your camera body limiting you? Not good enough low light performance, not enough frames per second in burst mode? Slow focusing? Need an in camera focus motor(for you Nikonians out there)?  Are you looking to go smaller and lighter, a mirrorless camera may be a good fit for you.

  • New body versus new lenses
    One of the major concerns is that a person needs better low light performance. This can be achieved in many different ways:
  • Faster glass – get a prime or zoom lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or faster. While this will give you a lot more light coming into the sensor, it also gives you more creative freedom as well. Do you love those images where the subject is in focus, but the background is blurred? Larger apertures are in your future. The good thing is, this option can be as expensive or cheap as you are willing to pay. The big two(Nikon and Canon) offer 50mm f/1.8 primes for ~$100, and other options in the wide to medium prime range for ~$400 and under. Mirroless cameras from Olympus/Panasonic/Fuji also have great value/performance primes out there.  Getting into zooms will cost you a little more, but don't be afraid to explore the used market. If you find a quality seller, you can get a steal on a used lens for sometimes 30%-70% off the new price.
  • Better ISO performance through post processing.
    Shooting at higher ISO causes digital noise to be introduced into the images you take. This is most prevalent with today's movern sensors at around ISO 3200 and above. However, all is not lost as there are a lot of noise reduction plug ins for Photoshop products(their full CS product as well as Elements). Even Lightroom can do a decent job at reducing noise.  These products have an almost magical behind-the-scenes algorithm that can help to reduce the sensor noise. I've been using Topaz Denoise for quite some time and absolutely love it. You can read about it here:
    The cost of this plugin is under $100.
    A lot of people are afraid of flash – because they don't understand it, which is human nature. However, there are a lot of great benefits to flash. I won't get into all that here, but you can learn more than most at just the following sites:

    Flash adds extra light to your scene and can also give you the added benefit of freezing motion! Generally, shooting the flash directly from the how shoe or camera at a subject does not give you a flattering light. The above links will explain that and how to get around all that.
    This option is getting into a lot more money, but the possibilities you'll have in image making have just ramped up. If you learn to use even a basic, off camera manual flash kit – the potential for your image quality to improve increases exponentially.

    Even spending ~$200 on a basic TTL hot shoe flash can make a huge difference.
    Going the off camera route can make a huge difference as well. To get started, check out and go to their “Strobist” section. They have complete 1 and 2 light kits from ~$200 - $500.
  • New body
    Ok, so none of the other options above interest you and you are feinding over a new camera. What to chose? Is the image quality hike on a more expensive camera worth it or will a newer entry level body be just as good? The best thing to do now is RESEARCH. Get out on Google, Yahoo!, Bing or whatever search engine you prefer and do comparisons of your camera versus what you want to upgrade.

    There is a lot of option out there between the 135 size sensors, APS-C and m43.  DSLR, mirrorless ILC and fixed lens ILC.
  • Marketing Hype
    Try your best to steer away from the marketing hype about sensor sizes, megapixels, etc.  Make a list of the options you really need to have.  I've used just about every camera system out there and they are all very capable - so long as you do your part to make the most of the equipment and learn how to use it to it's maximum potential.

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