• Jeff Ascough

Do I really need a new camera?

Thinking of buying some new gear? Here are ten things to consider before handing over your hard-earned cash.

A 13-year-old Leica M8 used on the street last July

With the rumour mill hotting up with news of imminent camera releases, is it time for a new camera? Before spending a load of cash on the latest and greatest, take a look at these tips. They might save you a lot of money.

  • Tip 1. Is your old camera doing everything you want it to? From 2003-2008, every new camera release brought groundbreaking tech to our world. It made our lives easier and more creative. Since 2012, camera tech has only improved incrementally - maybe a slightly faster ISO, or a marginally quicker AF. New cameras are sometimes released just to showcase features which appeal to shareholders rather than photographers. If your camera is doing everything you want it to, then ask yourself honestly, what will a new camera bring to your photography?

  • Tip 2. Don't be taken in by Ambassador testimonials Ambassadors, Explorers, Artisans. Believe it or not, they are paid to promote cameras!! Trust me on this, I was a Canon Ambassador for eight years. Fortunately, some have professional integrity and won't promote stuff they don't use themselves, but many will take the cheque and say whatever needs to be said.

  • Tip 3. Purchase camera models which are coming to the end of their production cycle The average production cycle is around 4-5 years. Purchasing at 2-3 years into the cycle means lower prices, and any niggles will have been ironed out with firmware updates. You will also have access to a lot of information and test results on the internet.

  • Tip 4. Buy used A lot of photographers sell or part-exchange their old gear as soon as a new camera is announced. This ensures a healthy supply of older models hitting the used marketplace before the new camera is released. If you can live with the second-to-latest camera body, then bargains can be had. I've picked up some amazing used gear, although I prefer dealers to auction sites. One other thing to consider is that a lot of popular cameras are used for video. If you buy from a photographer you may see a camera with 100K shutter actuations. From a videographer, these will be a lot less.

  • Tip 5. The latest model isn't always better than the superseded model. Ahem...Canon EOS 6DMKII. I'll leave that one there.

  • Tip 6. Get your images printed. I have two 24x36" images in my living room. They sit side-by-side on the wall. One was shot with an 18.5MP Leica M9 (released in 2009), and the other from the current 30MP Canon EOS 5DMKIV. The Leica image is cropped heavily, and the Canon image is full frame. I doubt anyone would even suggest they were taken with two different cameras. In our dining room, we have a 50x35" print from a 10MP Leica M8. It looks amazing. On a computer screen at 100% magnification, it looks rough. See where I'm going with this? Photographs should be printed, not pixel-peeped.

  • Top 7. Hire the camera before buying. I'm amazed how many people don't rent a camera before buying it. A small outlay in rental fees could save you a fortune if you don't like the camera. Some manufacturers will allow a loan period for certain models. Take advantage of this.

  • Tip 8. Buy during your down time. New cameras always change the quality, colour and tone of the outputted file. It's what the camera companies call 'improvement'. As a wedding photographer, I call it 'a pain in the arse'. Switching camera models part-way through a wedding season is always problematical. I liked to buy new gear in my quiet months so that I could get to grips with the new camera and work out how to process the files.

  • Tip 9. The grass is always greener Don't become a 'switcher'. A new camera brand won't magically make you a better photographer. Give it a few months and your current camera brand will have something that matches or surpasses the model you are thinking of switching to. Oh, and if you do decide to switch, make sure you have the spare cash to buy all the compatible lenses.

  • Tip 10. Be honest with yourself As artistic people, we constantly evaluate what we do and how we do it. I'm sure many of us have experienced periods of 'burn-out' in our careers. That point when we second-guess our work, and everything becomes a little harder to do. How many of us have decided that the best way of dealing with this is to buy a new camera? I know I have. But what is really the issue? Too much work? Not enough creative work? Or something else? Before you click BUY NOW on that camera store website, take a look at yourself honestly and see if something else, like a workshop, or a change of genre, would better for you in the long run.


I hope you found these tips helpful. If you have any others, I'd love to see them in the comments.

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