Photography is an expensive hobby. Depending on your camera system, a new camera is released every year. When there isn’t a new camera release, there’s a new lens that everyone is talking about. How do you prevent yourself from always thinking that you need the newest and most expensive gear? How can you make great work with what you already have? Let’s chat!
First, learn everything about your camera
When I was shooting with my Sony A7II, I knew all of the buttons and where everything was located within the menus. I could use my camera in the dark, which was really helpful in shooting .
Aside from the physical controls, I knew what my camera was capable of. I knew how to shoot in certain lighting conditions, when to manually focus, when to set the exposure manually and so on. From many months of constant shooting, I understood the performance of the camera and was familiar with exactly what I could expect with this camera.
I upgraded to the Sony A7III and everything changed. I still fumble with the new button placement. This isn’t a problem, but learning everything about your current camera is a good lesson in getting fast and efficient with your photography.
Determine what your camera’s limitations are
One of my biggest limitations with my old Sony A7II was the ability to shoot video. The A7II is clearly not a video camera, and it was a pain point in my journey to learn video. I also started a collection of batteries because the A7II is not efficient with power management. Lastly, not having two card slots slowed me down, as I quickly filled up a single card by shooting RAW and making time-lapses.
Video, battery and physical camera features were my three major reasons for wanting to upgrade my camera. It took a long time to determine what my pain points were. It took several full-day shoots and three or four batteries to feel the pain of the old-style batteries. It took a few days of shooting video and feeling underwhelmed by the results. Plus, I was totally confused by the AVCHD file format.
I had a reason to upgrade my camera because the A7III solved a problem for me. With your situation, take a look at what a new camera can do for you. Will it help you save time? Will it allow you to grow as a photographer? Is there commercial value - will you be able to sell more prints or book more shoots? These are all great questions to ask yourself when you feel the need to upgrade.
Create a budget: Limit your spending
Budgets are an important part of photography. Each camera lineup has a scale of low cost to seemingly un-affordable. You can get an entry-level Canon DSLR for about $500. You can get a pro-level Canon DSLR for $6,000. There are camera options for every budget and personal need.
When you’re trying to figure out which camera you want, it’s easy to want to upgrade to the next price point. It’s easy to add an extra lens or filter. It’s easy to get spare memory cards and a new bag. Before you know it, you’ve spent twice or even three times more than what you wanted to spend!
For me, I try to be practical with my decisions about what I actually need to buy. I only consider buying something if there was a point in time when I knew I needed it. For example, when shooting video outside, I’ve had to increase my aperture to compensate the exposure so many times. After a few shoots, I decided it was time to look into an ND filter to fix my problem.
On the contrary, I was going away for a long trip and bought a polarizer. I had space for it and thought it would be cool to remove reflections from water and other surfaces. The fact is, I’ve used that polarizer once in four months. It’s not that it’s a bad thing to have, but I could have used that money for other things that would have served a more practical purpose.
Know the difference between want and need
In my example above with the ND filter and the polarizer, that’s a classic want vs. need scenario. I needed the ND filter because it solved a problem and I wanted the polarizer because I thought it would be cool.
The same thought process can be applied to a camera body or a lens. If you’re thinking about getting a new lens, what will that new lens enable you to do that you can’t do with what you have? If you only have a 24-70mm kit lens, what will spending the extra money to get a 24-70mm f/4 or f/2.8 get you? You’ll get better quality and save a few stops in certain conditions. Is that valuable to you? If you’re looking for more range, something like a 70-200mm seems more practical. If you’re looking to shoot more inside, something like a 24mm or 35mm prime lens might be more what you’re looking for.
Find good deals and trade in your legacy gear
When you’re ready to make your next purchase, I always like to recommend finding something used. For cameras and especially for lenses, if the original photographer took good care of the item, there’s no real different between the product in new and used condition.
When you’re considering getting something new, sit on it for a month or two! This will allow you to watch the prices and ask around if you can find it used or even trade in your old gear for it.
I’ve been to several Sony events where they give you a cash bonus if you trade in your old cameras for a new one. In addition to the bonus, they have an additional discount. This is a no-brainer if you’re looking for that specific type of upgrade.
KEH is an excellent resource in looking for a new piece of gear. They’ll often run sales on cameras, lenses and accessories. I’ve seen 20% off of bargain items! I jumped on that sale and picked up a Canon 5D Mark II because the price was better than I’d ever seen before. Plus, I had been looking for that camera for a while to use with some Canon lenses that I acquired from a friend.
I hope my recommendations have provided substantial advice in considering your options when you want to acquire new gear and set budgets. There are lots of opportunities to consider need vs. want, and you can always find sales and attend events in order to get creative.