There seems to be a flurry of “I’ve changed brand” going on again at the moment. I find the entire thing very alien, but mostly because I have never changed camera brands, and there is a good reason for that.
Before we dive into this, let me give you a bit of context. I am a commercial food photographer; before this, I shot portraits, weddings, and musicians. For most of my career, I used a Canon 5D Mark II. For me, photography is a career path. If you are a hobbyist and love cameras, I don’t think this applies to you. I have friends who love having different gadgets and bits of tech. It brings them lots of joy. For me, a camera if just an expensive box that I have to own in order to create the images I want to. I can’t paint or draw, so this seems like the best medium for me.
I know, this cuts people down the middle on Fstoppers; with a global audience, everyone has different tax options and obligations, but hopefully, this example is reasonably universal. Yes, you can write your cameras off against tax, yes you can devalue them through a limited company in the UK (not sure what the equivalent US thing is), and rightly so, they pay for themselves. But for me, if I have $90,000 of kit I purchased 5 years ago and it’s now valued at $10,000 of kit that's already paid for itself, I still want that $10,000 back if I can. Maybe that says more about how tight I am, but when running a business, every penny counts, and I could buy a lot of coffee with that $10,000. Every time you buy and sell kit, you lose the potential to have some money. Some of those dollars will slip through the cracks in the sales and procurements. Granted, when a business gets to a certain size, it's cheaper to write off the tax and bin the kit than it is to sell the old gear at the end of its life, but if you are a company like myself, which I assume most of you are where it’s me, my agent, and my warehouse studio, I would like to save every penny I can.
I have a friend who is so tech savvy that this just doesn’t apply to him, so if you are reading this and wondering what all the fuss is about, skip along, this isn’t for you. It took me eight years to fully understand the Canon 5D Mark II sensor and to be able to expose and light in such a way that I got almost 100% of what I could out of that little chip. When I upgrade to the Canon 5DS and rent the Phase One backs, I don’t get as much out of them; thankfully, the Phase One is so good that it’s still a better image (I know, this is a different brand, but I am counting it as a different camera all together and one I will probably never be able to buy, and it's more directed by my clients than it is by my own choice). The Canon 5DS is far superior for what I do to the Canon 5D Mark II due to the resolution. I am in the minority of people who actually needs 50 megapixels almost every day, but I am still getting to grips with how to expose the shadows when they are heavy on the red channel and making sure that the green and red highlights keep their tonality on certain items of food. The few times I have used Nikon cameras, everything is flipped on its head. I can't afford another few years learning how a different sensor and processor work. There would have to be a real leap in image quality for me to justify it. And in reality, for what I do, no such leap has been made since I started a decade ago. Lots of nice bells and whistles, but nothing really solid that changes the camera in any fundamental way.
Then, we have the lenses: I know all of the Canon lineup inside out from years of renting and owning the kit. Now, Canon has a particularly good lineup of technical lenses that I use; I am not aware of a 35mm camera system that can offer the same in this regard, but even if they could, a similar amount of time has been spent understanding how the lenses perform in a huge amount of situations and knowing exactly what was going to happen and how to combat any issues.
Why I Chose Canon
There is a lot of brand loyalty out there in 2019 that really were not options when I started out years ago. While many assume that I am a diehard Canon fan. In reality, I simply don’t care. I have Canon cameras because my friends had them and I thought it would be easy to pinch their lenses when I needed them. If they all owned Sony, Nikon, or Fuji cameras, I would have gone for one of those options. Back when I started, there was actually a difference between Canon and Nikon cameras, who were the only real brands to go for as a professional. Nikon was far better at low light and autofocus, and Canon had the edge in the studio. But in 2019, all camera brands are pretty much the same in all aspects. Yes, some have mirrorless systems, loads of autofocus points, or a high-resolution sensor option, but they are all too much in my line of work. If I were a sports photographer, maybe there would have been a different route. Although, through my career, I went from shooting bands to weddings, then I moved to portraits before finally finding my niche as a commercial food photographer. And although I didn’t always have the best camera for what I was doing (especially in the wedding years) there was never an issue with my final images, I found workarounds and got the job done. I also think I did a better job than if I were constantly changing brands and lenses.
Would I Ever Change Brands?
Yes, I am not so stuck in the mud that I wouldn’t change brands. There are a few reasons I would jump ship in an instant. If anyone developed a 35mm camera with a 50 or more megapixel camera with a higher color bit depth, I would be there in an instant. Or, if the current Phase One cameras drop down to a reasonable used price before this happens, I will probably jump ship to an IQ back and Schneider lenses. Although, that is probably six years away at the time of writing this.