3 Valid Reasons it Might be Time to Upgrade Your Camera Equipment

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Ludovic Hirlimann

By Ludovic Hirlimann

For all of you camera enthusiasts, lens aficionados and gear fetishists, hearts race and palms sweat when broaching the subject of camera equipment upgrades. Camera companies keep a constant flow of equipment releases coming to quench the insatiable appetite of those who are convinced they need the latest and greatest.

It’s important to keep in mind that just because the new iteration of your camera body or a new lens with an even longer list of acronyms outlining its features is released, it doesn’t instantly make your equipment obsolete.

All you savvy consumers should strive to be honest with yourselves and carefully consider the tangible benefits that you will enjoy from that upgrade. Certainly most of you will legitimately grow out of that point-and-shoot or entry-level DSLR, however, many make the jump too soon before you’re able to fully exploit the capabilities of your equipment.

Some good reasons to upgrade:

If you are reading this, you have likely purchased a camera (and possibly additional lenses and other accessories), in which case you are familiar with what could be called the Christmas morning feeling.

#1 Renew your enthusiasm or spark creativity

For photographers, an upgraded body or a new lens can be an important catalyst to revive waning enthusiasm. Many certainly see this as a thinly veiled excuse for coughing up the cash for some new equipment, but it can provide a needed boost to drag you out of the dreaded photographers-block.

For example, adding a large aperture lens – with an f-stop of f/2.8 or greater – to your stable reveals a whole new perspective, enabling you to further blur out backgrounds and isolate your subject.

Depth of field 1

Depth of field 2

Similarly, a telephoto lens will enable you to compose tighter shots from farther away, or experiment with closely cropped shots from a short distance. As focal length increases (and with it the distance to the subject), the narrower field of view makes background objects appear closer to the subject opening up new compositional opportunities.

Telephoto by Jeremie Schatz 1

If you are already shooting with a DSLR, depending on the lenses you are using, adding a teleconverter to your bag can be a less expensive option for increasing lens focal length. Teleconverters fit between the lens and camera, and add a certain level of magnification such as 1.5x or 2x. Many lenses are compatible with teleconverters, but not all, so be sure to check with the manufacturer before buying one.

Teleconverter by Jeremie Schatz 1

While some photographers can continue to produce compelling images with a basic body and a 50mm lens, many will discover a new realm of possibilities which unfold with the addition of new equipment.

#2 Your gear is limiting your progress as a photographer

Another way to legitimize an upgrade is if you recognize that your evolution as a photographer is being hindered by your equipment’s limitations.

One advancement which can be gained with a camera or lens upgrade is improved low-light performance. If you find yourself shooting fast-moving kids in your dimly lit house or indoor sporting events, you will quickly discover that shooting at high ISO settings at maximum aperture results in less sharp images riddled with color noise. Color rendition and saturation levels can also suffer greatly in these situations, especially in shadowed areas and with skin tones.

Unfortunately, other than the limited corrections you can make with editing software, an equipment upgrade may be a necessity if you want to get great looking photos in low-light conditions. Point-and-shoot and entry-level DSLR cameras sport better high-ISO performance than just a few years ago, but more advanced models show a drastic improvement in this regard and large aperture lenses can enable you to shoot at lower ISO settings.

In addition to better low-light performance, upgrading your camera body can put a bunch of useful features in your hands such as: a self-cleaning sensor, wireless uploading, increased pixel count, more accurate auto-focusing, faster shooting rates, dual memory-card slots, and more. Be sure to compare your current camera’s specifications with that of a potential upgrade and ask yourself if the added features will have a significant impact on your photography.

Memory card slots

Although it doesn’t go in your camera bag, upgrading your editing software can be a game changer for your photographic pursuits. Making the leap from using free editing software, to purchasing and learning Lightroom or Photoshop, can make drastic changes to your final images. These programs open up new avenues for stylizing your images, and countless plugins are available which can enable you to have even more control over the look and feel of your work.

Even if you have the software already, an upgrade in your understanding and ability to use it, can go a long way. Investing time in knowing how to use the software properly, may help boost the quality of your images.

Lightroom by Jeremie Schatz 1

#3 The equipment is no longer usable

A more utilitarian reason to upgrade equipment is that it is simply reaching the end of its usable life. Camera shutters are rated for a certain number of actuations, at which point the risk of failure and inaccurate shutter speeds increase.

Even the best lenses have many plastic parts, and most modern ones have internal motors with a finite life span. Stiff or stuttering zoom and focus rings, loud or slow focusing and loose lens mounts are a few indications that a repair or replacement is imminent.

This may be a non-issue for many who live by the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” philosophy, however, if you use your equipment for paying gigs or to document important events, you may end up regretting a potentially preventable equipment failure.

There are many reasons to make equipment upgrades and most of you will make that leap at some point, but it is important not to set your expectations too high as to what new gear will do for your photographs. Think about your goals and consider which is the most accessible path to take in order to reach them.

Sergio

By Sergio

I’ll leave you to think about this quote:

“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.” – Arnold Newman

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Jeremie Schatz is a freelance photographer, photojournalist, journalist, copyeditor and videographer for a variety of clients and companies in the United States and Thailand. Find his portfolio of colorful images and more of his writing at Exposed World Photography and on Facebook.

  • jumbybird

    What if you can’t afford to buy new stuff?

  • Jeremie

    If you can’t afford new equipment there are other options such as selling one lens to get another or trading equipment with other people. Of course, this website is an invaluable resource for discovering ways to maximize the creative potential of your existing equipment.

  • PMLPhoto

    “As focal length increases (and with it the distance to the subject), depth of field decreases”

    Not quite right. If you double the focal length (e.g. 50mm to 100mm) and then double the camera to subject distance (5 feet to 10 feet say) so that the framing of the subject is preserved, then the DOF is actually the same for both cases. However, the degree of background blur is greater for the longer focal length.

  • The article has been edited to adjust the wording which was confusing.

  • youknowme

    buy s/h

  • Jason N photography

    This is what I went through with my Olympus E-Volt 500 which is the camera I learned on. Great camera but it only had three auto-focus points. The highest ISO was 1600 and for shooting bracketed exposures I could only go +- 1.0 EV so any HDR shot needed a tripod. I recently purchased a used Nikon D5100 with a few different lenses and extra accessories. I think as long as you are I. The beginning stages of photography this is an inexpensive route to getting a variety of equipment. I should be able to sell all my Olympus gear for what I paid for my upgrade. Someday I will go brand new but for now this keeps me happy.

  • Andy Whiteman

    Buy s/h all the time – dealers and ebay – have bought all my kit s/h saves a fortune. I look forward to a new camera launch – say D7200 because D7100 price drops s/h. Same with lens prices.

  • Stoffers

    Don’t buy new stuff?

  • Larry Reemtsen

    I support all the reasons.

  • Jeremie

    Buying second hand can be a great option, especially if your needs don’t require you to have the latest equipment models. That being said, it’s important to know what to look for in order to avoid buying defective or damaged equipment. Being able to test equipment hands-on is always preferable. I have personally had mostly positive experiences buying many pieces of second-hand equipment over the years.

  • SteveR

    One thing that has saved me a lot of money on lenses is adapter rings. I have some very good lenses from film cameras, but none of them fit the mount on my DLSR. I bought some adapter rings online and tried them out. After the first ones worked so well, I bought additional adapter rings so I could equip every one of my good lenses with an adapter ring. This will only allow me to shoot with manual focus, but I always shot manual focus anyway. I can also use my Minolta bellows for macro shots with all of my Minolta lenses.
    If you are a convert from film, consider adapting your film camera lenses to your DSLR. If you don’t have old film lenses, some very good lenses are dirt cheap at pawn shops and second hand stores if you know how to evaluate the lens quality.

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  • Jeremie

    Great point SteveR. I think photogs should always exhaust the cheapest and easiest options, and follow the path of least resistance to meet their individual goals. A quick search around the web can yield many gear hacks and creative ways to manipulate equipment.

  • Michael Spivey

    This is a very interesting subject for me as I was brought up with film cameras.I lost interest in photography for a few years,& when I came back to it everything had changed to digital.I still have my old Canon D lenses.I was told by several “experts” that these lenses couldn’t be used on DLSR bodies but your post seems to suggest otherwise.Like you,manual focus is not a problem for me.It would be great if I could buy a Canon DLSR body & use my old lenses via an adaptor.

  • Edmund

    I think the most important thing (other than your talent as a photographer) is your glass (lenses). If you have an 85mm f1.2 or a 400mm f2.8 they will basically not depreciate much. If you have the latest camera body this will have dropped in value by 75% in only three years.

    Unless you are aiming for A2 enlargements or bigger you don’t really need more than 16MP and, let’s face it, most of us think A3 is a big thing to hang on the wall. With a bit of tidying in Photoshop you can get amazing results, even with an old camera. Where new ones are better is that they have more controls (read several extra hours with the handbook and general confusion when you come to shoot a photo) but they are pushing the limits of high ISO technology so, if that is what you need, splash out. However, consider fill flash and many other techniques recommended by DPS to get by on a lower ISO setting.

    So, if you feel the need to splash out, buy a serious lens. It will hurt your wallet but you can really regard it as an investment.

  • walwit

    Hello Darlene, there is still a correction to make:

    “Some good reasons to to upgrade”

    I think it should say:
    “Some good reasons to upgrade”

  • Yes typo, it happens.

  • Guest

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  • Ewien

    Thanks for this article … and I know since a couple of months I need to upgrade for some of the reason above. My ‘only’ problem is, that there are so many (good) camera’s out there these days, that it is hard to choose the right one for the money and wishes I have … Any expert out there who is willing to guide me through with some solid advice?

  • Marinus H.B. Vesseur

    It’s certainly true that new gear can revive the enthusiasm, but it doesn’t have to be the latest camera model. Last year’s latest technology is almost as exciting and often costs just half if you look out for it. The Panasonic GX7 was such a model that cost almost 1000 dollars until a few months ago there was word of a successor. Almost immediately the camera started to be offered for 400 dollars. Cameras are electronics and their innovation cycles are becoming ever shorter. Don’t get caught up in the hype and keep your hobby affordable with just as much fun.

  • Jeremie

    Ewien, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. A good place to start is determining what your budget is and that will certainly narrow down your options. There are so many options out there and the choice can be highly subjective.

  • Jeremie

    Absolutely right Marinus, there are just as many reasons for upgrading as there are photographers out there. Some empty their wallets because they want the latest gadgets (which is great if that’s your forte) but I’m a big proponent of people using their creative talents in order to get compelling images.

  • Mary45283
  • Theresa634563
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