Why I've Never Changed Camera Brands

Why I've Never Changed Camera Brands

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. 

Saving Money

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. 

Saving Time

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. 

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Previous comments
Scott Choucino's picture

Have I used this one before? haha.

It’s the same as the one you posted next and they appear almost one after the other on F-Stoppers :)

Scott Choucino's picture

Got it sorted. Clearly not on it haha.

John Koster's picture

Stop making so much sense.

Timothy Gasper's picture

I started with Minolta but soon switched to Nikon. I also liked the Canon A1, AE1 and F1 but in those days Canon was using breechlock lenses. Sometimes the spring on the lenses would weaken and needed to be replaced. This was just one reason I never went with Canon, but also bc the viewfinder was brighter with Nikon and, after investing in lenses and accessories, I just stuck with it. I also have and love Hasselblad, Leica, Mamiya, Contax and Fuji. When I was repairing cameras I got to handle many different cameras and found many to be a joy to handle and experiment with. Good article sir.

Started with Canon around 30+ years ago. Bought an A7R when it was released in late 2013 and when I saw the files from my first shoot, I was hooked. Been with Sony ever since.

Nico Gees's picture

As already said - use the tools that rock the job. that´s the only smart reason. That´s maybe one of the difference that seperates the professionals from the rest. If you´re making money for living with your stuff, you mostly have a completely different look on it as it is your hobby. I was always a Nikon fan, loved my F5 and in older days there was a time that Nikon/Canon was like Apple/Windows and Canon was the "dark side“.
But Canon came out with the D60 and a friend of mine was one of the first photographers in germany who had one and thats the story. If six months later another friend of me had the D70 from Nikon, well, to late, my switch into digital was already made.

I´m working in a big studio in germany with many photographers in there, working mostly in interieur/furniture. In private, they are fans of Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Fuji, Leica etc. But on the job, they all have to work with the same gear and thats Canon. Sometimes they are wining about Nikon is better in this, Sony ist better on that, but no one ever think about changing gear because it makes no sense to throw away 35 Canon 5Dsr and all the T/S Lenses only because Nikon/Sony/etc. is maybe better in some areas …

I have changed a few times over the years. Usually with some sort of reason. A brief history for those who care.

1. In jr high I bought used Mamiya 500 DTL SLR first real camera, I was fascinated by seeing thru the lens!
2. In high school I changed to a Nikkormat given to me by a family friend. Then got Nikon F2 Stayed with Nikon for like 15 years.
3. Bought a Bronica S2 for MF, horrible camera sold it.
4. Bought a Hasselblad 500 c/m then and e/lx Stayed with Hasselblad for like 15 years.
5. Went to an auction and bought a Pentax 6x7 system, 2 bodies, 3 lenses, the fancy wooden grip and a Marty Forscher polaroid back for $200 I loved the 6x7 format! Sold off the Hasselblads
6. Turns out the Pentax 6x7 had chronic problems with mirrors detaching and the winding gears failing. I needed 3, one for the shop, one to use and one for the Pola back.Sold them off for...
7. The Holy Grail of medium format. Mamiya RZ67 fantastic lenses, rotating back and built like a tank.
8. Around this time Canon came up with AF, I talked to a Nikon rep and she said AF was a fad for and real cameras will never have it...I borrowed a friends Canon ?? and was hooked. Sold and or traded the Nikons for Canon
9. Stayed with Canon for 20 years.
10 Sold off RZ system (mistake) to finance Canon 1Ds and lenses
11. A few years ago I needed up grade the Canon lenses to Mk2 and the Canon bodies to modern bodies.
12. Sold off most of the Canon and bought into the Sony system, while not perfect up until last year the Sony sensor was miles ahead of Canon and Canon was still sleeping. Very happy with the Sony A7r and Zeiss lenses.
13. Just started playing with SX70 and a borrowed 500c/m
14. Forgot about 30 years with Norman strobes AKA "The Widowmaker" changin to Hensel. still have one P2000 and a couple heads.
15. 4x5 was Toyo from start to finish and 8x10 was Calumet bought at another auction. Sold those about 7 years ago
I still have too much stuff but that comes from closing a studio and becoming a location specialist.

I didn't take any baths except selling the RZ stuff at the lowest low point of MF cameras...

Desmond Stagg's picture

FAR TOO many adverts on this page. I didn't bother reading further. CUT the adds and I will return!!!!

Carl Irjala's picture

Thanks for a well written and very interesting article! I myself have been photographing with Nikon for three decades and when I entered the digital world, it felt natural to continue with the same brand.

A few years ago I lost all my equipment in an accident, so it became time to start from zero in terms of gear's.
One thing that I have not liked with Nikon in recent years is that every time they have made improvements in their products, they give as the only opportunity to access this by buying new products. Although it could have been done through a software update. Camera batteries had also to be bought new in the correct version, all versions physically exactly the same. So it didn't feel like Nikon was interested in me anymore, only interested to take my money.

At this stage, other brands began to become much more interesting. So I contacted importers to test: Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, Fujifilm, Olympus and Hasselblad. During the test period, National Geographic published a photo I shot with a Sony camera. I used the Pentax and Hasselblad camera for sports photography and the medium format images were of a quality I had not experienced before in my life, excellent cameras for sports.

At the end my wallet chose the Fujifilm X100F to start my new career with. My Fujifilm camera has been updated three times during the time I've had it. The updates have been of such a size that it feels like I get a new camera every time. The same service with Nikon would have given me expenses for two new bodies.

On my profile here at Fstoppers you can see how my story has progressed to today's gear situation.
Many greetings from me here in Finland!