With camera companies rolling out mouth-watering specs at a breakneck pace, sometimes, it’s hard to know just when to pounce on a good deal.
I woke up last week to the official announcement of the Canon EOS R5. Truthfully, I had a bit of a heads up as to what might be coming after an email from Canon PR the evening before, but the rumors have finally become fact. 45 MP sensor. 8K 12-bit raw uncropped video internally. IBIS. Unless it is the world’s most belated and cruelest April Fools joke, this will, by any standards, be an incredibly awesome camera.
This isn’t a review of the camera. I’m not nearly high enough in the pecking order to have gotten to test it out yet. But, I have no doubt that it is going to be a remarkable machine. Despite being a confirmed Nikonian, I have shot several big jobs with Canons over the years. My original film camera was a Canon. And prior to Nikon mirrorless cameras, I invested in a Canon EOS C200, which has served as a reliable workhorse for a few years now.
And that C200 is where I’d like to start. When I bought it, it was a pretty big investment for me. At the time, it was the most I’d ever spent on a camera. I’m sad to say that I have far exceeded that milestone since. However, that’s not to say that it wasn’t worth the price I paid. The logic went something like this. At the time, my main stills body was the Nikon D800. Awesome 36.3MP stills. I’d been a Nikonian for years, so I already had a litany of lenses and accessories. I couldn’t ask for more. Except that my clients were increasingly beginning to demand video.
My first step to address this problem was to purchase a D850, which came with very respectable 4K video, and I envisioned using it as a hybrid camera for years to come. Then, the portion of my business dedicated to motion continued to grow. And while I could do both stills and motion with the same body, I was consistently driving myself crazy flip-flopping between settings when going back and forth. So, I decided I wanted a second camera that would be dedicated to video.
At the time, the Z 6 and the Z 7 didn’t exist. More on that later. So, my choices were to get a second D850, which, while in my mind is still the best full frame stills camera you can buy, comes up well short of that mark as a video device. Or, I could, for the first time in over a decade, look to another brand. I looked at several competing DSLR and mirrorless cameras. I tried to forecast my clients' needs and what situations I would be using the camera in. I considered whether I wanted to get a competing brand’s DSLR/mirrorless with a new set of lenses. Or, if the sole job of this new camera would be to capture video, perhaps it made more sense to go all-in with a cinema camera dedicated to motion capture.
I ended up purchasing the C200, and it has more than lived up to its billing. I’ve used it to shoot advertising campaigns, interviews, documentaries, and everything in between. It brings to motion what my D850 brings to stills: dependability. Whatever you throw at it, the darn thing just works.
Then again, there is always more than one way to get a job done, and soon after purchasing the C200, I also found myself purchasing a Fujifilm X-T3, intended as a fun personal camera. I was quickly wowed by the video capabilities of that camera and began incorporating that as well into my video workflow. It wasn’t nearly as robust as my C200, but the video quality was darn good, and it was significantly easier to toss into my camera bag without a second thought. Simply due to ease of use, it started to take over many of the less demanding tasks from my C200 on those occasions I didn’t have the time or the need to mount a full production. It eventually took on so many tasks that I began to wonder if life would have been easier and I would've been much richer, had I just waited for the X-T3 to be released instead of buying the C200. I still didn’t regret the C200 purchase. But when you are a professional and your gear is a business investment, you do have to constantly consider your return on investment, which leads me to often evaluate and re-evaluate my purchases down the line.
So at this point in our story, once I am now knee-deep in three different camera systems with three different sets of lenses and accessories, Nikon finally decides to release their Z series of cameras with loads of video features. As a point of fact, I do still personally prefer shooting my stills with a DSLR over mirrorless cameras. But I was now saddled with not one but two dedicated motion camera systems. So, I didn’t rush out to purchase either the Z 6 or Z 7.
I definitely saw the benefit of having your stills and motion capture systems being from the same brand. As an artist that delivers both stills and motion for my clients, it’s important that both deliverables stay consistent, and having the same company control the color science of both cameras is a big benefit. But, I had just invested a lot of money into the other brands' camera systems, so I held off.
I held off until just a month ago when I picked up a Z 6 at an incredible price that made it too good to pass up. Of course, not only was the Z 6 much less expensive since its initial release, but it had oddly enough even become a better camera with the magic of firmware updates. Suddenly, I found myself with the perfect Nikon video companion to my D850 that I had originally gone in search of all those years ago when my dive into video first started. Finally, I had exactly what I wanted. A compact nimble camera bag with a Nikon for stills, a Nikon for video, and a single set of lenses and accessories to share between them. Again, like my experience with the X-T3, I was forced to wrestle with the question of how much I could have saved had I just waited.
Of course, you can’t always wait. And this essay is in no way meant to deter you from making camera purchases. I expect the Canon EOS R5 to rightfully fly off the shelf and up the ante for all the other camera manufacturers. I will no doubt, at some point over the next couple of months, allow my mind to wonder if there’s any way I could acquire one myself. I don’t expect that I will. And those yearnings will have to share mental space with my already nascent dreams of the rumored Nikon Z 6s, Z 7s, and a potential Z 8.
My mind will continue to try to manufacture a legitimate reason I need to shoot in 8K, despite the fact that I rarely deliver in 4K as it is. I’ll proudly compare my existing D850s 45.7MP to the 45MP of the R5, completely ignoring the fact that many of the images in my portfolio were shot with the already impressive 36.3MP of my D800 and I’ve been fortunate enough to win a number of prestigious awards as of late from an image I shot with the 24.3MP crop sensor X-T3.
The truth is that our desire to have the latest and greatest in tech and to have it right now is often driven far less by our actual needs and far more by our fear of missing out. It’s not that cameras aren’t, objectively speaking, getting better every day. And you shouldn’t be afraid to make a purchase because you are afraid of missing what’s coming next. I’m still happy with my C200 purchase, as it has filled its role to aplomb even though all these years later, I realize I could have saved myself a great deal of money had Nikon only released the Z cameras a few months earlier.
Instead, what the announcement of the impressive new R5 reminds me of is that, no matter what your dream specs are for a camera, if you wait long enough, there’s a good chance that the camera will come around. Despite my investment in and trust in Nikon, I went to other camera brands for video because, at the time, Nikon had no competitive solution. Had I waited, I might have gotten what I wanted for much less investment. So, while I am as enamored by the specs of the R5 as everyone else, I know that if I just wait long enough, Nikon (or another camera brand) will eventually match those specs and take them even higher. Then Canon will go higher. Then Sony will. It’s just the way technology works. It just keeps getting better.
Trying to stay ahead of the technology curve is as difficult, in the words of my favorite commentator Ray Hudson, as trying to nail jello to the ceiling. Like Ahab’s white whale, we are all destined to spend our lives lusting after the next great thing in technology. But it’s important to remember that whatever technology you are dreaming of right now, it’s probably just around the corner.
There’s nothing wrong with buying a new piece of camera gear. That is part of the fun of falling in love with photography. But remember that you don’t have to buy anything. It sounds obvious but is easy to forget. There’s a good chance that you have all you need to create your art right now, with or without that new technology. And sometimes, good things come to those who wait.