Ah yes… the magic of marketing.
Where else can you see/read/hear an advertisement and then impulsively find yourself shelling out money for something you probably didn’t need in the first place?
We’ve all been there and I’m as guilty as the next person. Going to Starbucks several times a week for a $3 coffee is my brilliant example. It’s ridiculous when I think about it. I can buy an entire can of Chock Full O’Nuts Coffee (Cuban Roast if you’re curious) for $9.99. It affords 90 cups of coffee for about $0.12 per cup. I choose to go to my local Starbucks though and plunk down $3 per visit.
I must be an idiot.
I’m starting to think the same logic applies to buying camera equipment. It’s the dangling carrot in my world. The thrill of the hunt… chasing technology… new cameras & faster lenses.
The reality is everything from a smartphone to a medium format camera will take good quality images these days. They all put an incredible amount of creative flexibility in your hands. With technology advancing at a break-neck pace, new models from every manufacturer are released on an annual basis. So much so, Apple brilliantly builds iPhone suspense around their latest & greatest upgrades which seem to take place every September.
This leads me to my technology delusion… or dilemma: How often do I upgrade my equipment? As a semi-professional, there are many items to consider. The most obvious are: cost, quality, sensor size, weight, megapixels and frames-per-second (fps).
Advertising doesn’t make the choice(s) any easier. Nikon is “At the Heart of the Image” while Canon wants you to “See Impossible.” Basically, both of these market leaders hope you upgrade your camera equipment on a regular basis.
The smartphone is unquestionably the camera of choice these days for the masses. This may not be the professionals choice, but I’d venture to say everyone uses it for wireless transfers and then posts to social media. So, while it may not always be your first choice in capturing an image, it’s certainly part of the process. Overall, it’s a brilliant camera despite its obvious limitations. Statistics seem to indicate there are more pictures taken with an iPhone every year (1.2 billion) than every other camera combined. Considering the iPhone didn’t even exist at the turn of the century, this is truly remarkable.
For the DSLR and/or mirrorless enthusiasts.. bigger is better. The larger the sensor, the better the image quality. Period. However, the new top of the line cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony will set you back $3,000-$5,000 each. Depending on the genre of your photography, this cost is a major financial hurdle. Gone are the days of travel assignments where you were well paid to shoot original content. Today, plenty of wire services (i.e. AP, Getty, Reuters, etc.) are selling regurgitated contractual photos for $5 each. Sadly, this has permanently altered the publishing landscape and the photojournalism industry.
Personally, I have a few different cameras in my bag these days. They all take good quality photos and tend to fill different needs.
iPhone 7 Plus - Everyday use - always with me
Holga 120N - Medium format film camera. Light leaks. Fun plastic camera
Sony Rx100 IV - Lightweight travel camera. Zeiss lens. One inch sensor
Canon 7D Mark II - Everyday use & sports camera. APS-C sensor. 10fps
So, as I look to add another camera body to the mix primarily for sports use, I struggle with what to buy(?). Sadly, the only full frame camera with great quality and adequate fps in the Canon line up is the 1Dx Mark II. It’s considered the professional camera and retails for about $5,000. There’s no doubt it’s worth every penny, but a far cry from the $1,800 price tag on the 7D Mark II. I’ve occasionally rented the Canon 1Dx Mark II for sporting events in which a full frame sensor was desired (i.e. Army/Navy football).
I may be the exception when it comes to upgrading equipment. I usually don’t feel the need to follow the ‘newer is better’ cadence so prevalent in the industry. Some advancements are truly ground breaking (i.e. film to digital, image stabilization, etc.); however, most advancements are minor refinements or slight improvements that truthfully won’t improve your creative vision or artistic ability.
This reminds me of the analogy about the golfer buying new clubs with a $1,000 budget. He would be well advised to buy clubs in the $400-$500 price range and spend the rest of the money on lessons. Sadly, the reality is they will purchase $1,000 clubs and take zero lessons. What is the end result? Yup… you guessed it… they now hook their tee shot a little faster and drive the ball an additional 30 yards into the woods. Blissful ignorance at its best.
In most areas of life, I’m very pragmatic. I’m under no false pretenses that a new camera is going to improve my photography skills. Similar to the golfer, if my pictures currently lack an inherent quality, a bigger, faster camera isn’t going to change anything. I’ll simply take more crappy pictures at an accelerated rate. Time to sign up for more workshops!
In summary… we’re always running after new technology. It will always be a step ahead of us. What to buy & when will always be a central theme. The psychological desire for bigger & better seems to be human nature (dare I say an American trait?); however, the grounded part of me will stay in my comfort zone. A few decisive factors will always include;
Buy what you can afford
In the meantime, it’s time to get outdoors and find some creative inspiration.
Thoughts and suggestions are always welcome (feel free to leave a comment).