Knowing When to Upgrade Your Camera

Buying a new camera is a big investment and probably something you have been pondering for a while. In this video, I go over my three key decisions on if an upgrade is required or not. 

A great deal of anxiety can be created by wondering if you need different or better camera equipment when starting out in photography. For many, this can dog us for the next decade of our careers. For the first part of my career, I was obsessed with cameras. I owned a couple of matching full frame bodies, but I was constantly paranoid that clients would think they were not good enough or that my images were subpar.

A good few years later, I realized that most hobbyists have better cameras than me, but that I still get the shots my clients want and manage to pay my way through life with my cheap cameras (I use "cheap" very much as a relative term).

In this video, I go over my rationale for needing to upgrade a camera in a business sense. Now, if you have a wad of cash burning a hole and it's going to make you happy owning it, go and buy that camera!

If not, then this video may well be for you. It will help you rationalize both the need for an upgrade as well as how much money it is worth throwing at the problem. 

Having come from pretty humble financial beginnings, I am very aware of the astronomical costs involved in photography and the anxiety that is placed upon us as photographers by camera manufacturers to make sure that we are keeping up with the Jones. Hopefully this video will help ease that anxiety somewhat. 

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12 Comments

Rob Mitchell's picture

For me it's usually when the camera is written off the books and the accountant tells me to burn some cash quick before the tax man taketh away.

Scott Choucino's picture

haha this is very true!

Haha, for me it's much simpler these days, it's when the shutter dies the second time around or around 800,000 clicks. Ever since I upgraded to using Nikon D4 bodies and now D4s bodies, it's been easy. I love everything about them and they are perfect, with the D4s being arguably better than the new D5. I did try a D850 and it was amazing, but I ended up being correct in my first thoughts before I bought, that it was too much and would slow me down. So I sold it about 4 months after buying it, see I don't need more 16mp, but I must admit is was nice seeing large prints from that beast. I'm a lowly photojournalist so 16mp is too much and I don't crop much, because I have super-tele's, etc. I always laugh when people complain, because kids have no idea how good we have it right now, every DSLR or mirrorless that has come out since 2011 is amazing. I started out with film and in 1999 a Nikon D1, all 2.7mp of her hahaha. Funny thing is I made some huge prints with that D1 and they looked damn good!

For me when I can't resist GAS without burning thorough my wallets (I buy with cash). Just bought a gf 32-64 to replace my GF 63mm. Not a need, just a want.

Jokes aside, if your main income is not through photography business and you can get one in cash, nothing's stopping you. It could be a hobby too. Nothing to be ashamed of and overthink.

Photography can be extremely cheap to do even when you're not making money off of it. If you know how to properly inspect used gear and are a bargain hunter, you maybe even able to make some money when it comes time to resell the gear. I'm a professional and therefor can afford to buy things and write them off if possible, but still I often make a few bucks when reselling used gear I bought. Just this year I resold a used 400mm f2.8 VR lens I bought so I could upgrade to new version, I paid only $3900 for the lens last year and sold it for $4500. So I made $600 after using what was $10,000 lens for a year and to think people pay $400 a week to rent one lol. Idiots, haha. I used to work at a camera store when I was just a kid so I know how to inspect gear and also how to haggle and bargain my way into amazing deals people will not even believe. Sure I sometimes buy new or refurbished gear or even open box, but I have found used gear is where it's at. There have been countless times I have made money after doing the above practices I mentioned. Photography does not cost me a penny and sure you need up front funds, but if you figure in resell value, it does not have to cost you anything in the end.

Wayne Denny's picture

For me, it's knowing when to ditch the DSLR (Nikon D800) for mirrorless. It's easy to see the writing on the wall, and if I want to make any money off my lenses to apply to the next system while upgrading, I'll need to do it sooner rather than later. Even if I stick with NIkon, I'm going to want the new mount lenses, which is unfortunately slim pickings right now...

Scott Choucino's picture

I have an article on this very topic coming soon!

Wayne Denny's picture

Looking forward to it. I'm about to list a 24-70 with some ND Lee Filters on eBay. I shoot mostly primes now, so it's an easy one to get rid at the moment. I'm not sure if I'll upgrade the camera yet, but I have to get rid of the more expensive glass now, especially if I'm not using it.

Jason Connel's picture

I can relate. Great info. I made the switch to Sony from being a life long Canon shooter. I did so because of all the video options missing in the Canon unless you went to the flagship camera, and my gear was getting old. What was my new main body? The A7rII. I didn't feel there was enough difference to warrant the additional money it would take for the A7rIII. Now there is an A7rIV. I'm still happy with the camera and will before a while to come. Leaving me with more money for glass.

Vladimir Vcelar's picture

When my equipment stops working and the repair shop says it's cheaper to buy a new one. After all, my equipment is there to make money. I'm not going to buy new stuff simply because it's new; that camera has to pay for itself and someone has to feed the cat.

Depending on you intent, and whether or not the new features add or help to ease your work/creativity, otherwise I feel there are fewer and fewer reasons to upgrade ones camera especially given how many of what's out on the market today are basically on par with one another from image quality to, reliability, features and all around utility.

Yes exactly, kids these days make me sick and I'm not that old lol. I upgraded from using D4 bodies to using D4s bodies when the D4 shutter's broke the second time around which was about 800,000 clicks. I will do same thing with these D4s bodies and whats funny is the D4s is pretty much the same thing as the D4 lol, so upgrade, no why, the D4/D4s is the perfect camera. All DSLR's and mirrorless camera's released after about 2011 are more than good enough for me, I'm a photojournalist and while I arguably need a big professional built-in vertical grip camera...I don't need more than about 16mp. Sure even 20mp would be nice to have, but need, no and the Nikon D5 has worse dynamic range than the D4s, so why the hell upgrade? I can remember being happier than a pig in poop when I bought the Nikon D1 in 1999, soon after making huge prints from it's 2.73mp image sensor, which I remember looking amazing at the time. Sure things have come along way, but push come to shove and I could easily do my job with a camera much older than you would believe.