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Knowing when to upgrade camera gear can be a little tricky. Picking the right time to upgrade is about knowing who you are as a photographer, and who you want to become.
What makes upgrading tricky is the pace at which technology advances. New form factors, features, and capabilities will continue to be innovated over the years to come. It’s certainly possible that new trends could make traditional photography obsolete. For example, 360 degree photography is one new trend that has garnered a lot of interest.
If that wasn’t enough, the amount of money that companies spend on marketing their innovations is continuing to increase. This means that there are more deals, more packages, and more attempts to convince you that it is the right time to upgrade your gear.
So how do you know when you are actually ready to upgrade your photography gear?
Your needs and wants will be different from mine and from that of your neighbor’s so it’s difficult to offer a blanket “This is when you should upgrade” statement. But, there are at least five key things to consider when upgrading your gear.
It’s a good sign that you are ready to upgrade your gear when your current gear fails to give you the results you are looking for.
When this might be the case is if you are trying to take portraits of people with sharp focus in the foreground and creamy bokeh in the background. If you’re still using the kit lens that came with your camera, odds are the results you’re getting aren’t meeting your needs. In a case like this, buying a new lens might be worth considering.
When you decide to make the move from hobbyist to being a professional photographer, upgrading could become a viable option. Higher quality gear tends to be more durable and offers more flexibility, both of which are important in a professional setting.
As an added bonus once you start working professionally you will be able to deduct the costs of your gear from your taxes making the cost of upgrading more bearable.
While tomorrow’s technology will always make today’s look old, and upgrading to stay current is not usually the right choice – there will come a time when you gear does get so dated, that upgrading is actually your best option.
You may even be able to save some money by upgrading to generation body or lens that is a year or two old. This will still allow you to make a leap in terms of the technology that you are using, at a fraction of the cost of jumping to the current generation technologies.
Sometimes you’ll find out that the manufacturer has dropped support for the product you own. In cases like this, it might be time to consider upgrading. (Note: this means you ignored point #3 above and kept using your aging gear until it effectively died).
Finally, let’s say that your current gear does what it needs to do to achieve the photographs that you want, but it does so in a way that requires a cumbersome process or a jerry-rigged system. If there’s a solution available that would simplify your current process in a way that saves you time and frustration it’s certainly worth considering an upgrade.
New model releases are always going to tempt you into upgrading. Marketing teams do a fantastic job at showcasing the new improvements, and how they will enhance your photography. However, rarely will these improvements have a substantial impact on your overall photography. It’s not about whether the new features are better than the ones that you currently have, but will they actually impact the results that you can not achieve with your current camera.
More concisely – does the new model help justify one or more of the reasons listed above? If not, then it’s probably not worth upgrading at this point in time.
As if you need another reason to upgrade – your best photography buddy just did – so now you have to as well. If the reason you’re buying something is because you’re trying to outdo, or one-up someone you know – it’s the wrong reason to upgrade your gear.
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When have you felt the need to upgrade your camera gear? Let us know in the comments below.