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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41 Comments

Robert Teague's picture

As a lover of the landscape and travel, I've stuck with Nikon most of my life; starting with an F2 and now using the Z 7. However, I do also shoot 4x5 which is a different beast altogether, but as I get older I find it staying home and the Z 7 has become my primary camera. I've never cared about the whole Canon/Nikon battle; I just use what I find comfortable.

Agree completely.

Robert Nurse's picture

I started shooting with Canon back in the AE-1 Program days. I then moved through the EOS-3, 5D (Mark 1) and ended up with my current 5D Mark III. Way back when, Nikon was beyond my wallet's reach. I stay with Canon mainly because changing systems would mean starting over with new glass. Again, my wallet takes a crippling body blow! I have nothing against the other brands. For me, it's merely a matter of economic convenience.

Daris Fox's picture

You echo how I use my camera, when I started with Canon it was either Nikon, Fuji or Canon. I went with Canon because the 10D was the only camera available that had the lenses I could afford, it could be tethered and a good eco-system. Nearly 20 years later I still rarely upgrade, usually when I have to, as I know the gear inside and out. That's not to say I don't use other cameras but the only other camera I own is the Fuji X-Pro 2 because it fills a niche Canon doesn't.

The point of cost of transitioning is something that's lost in the echo chambers of the internet, unless you're sponsored it's difficult to justify the cost of moving to a new system let alone the downtime to working out a workflow. Add into the fact I've learned to use the tactile interface of the Canon for it to be second nature, even in the dark, That kind of muscle memory is extremely hard to break especially with mirrorless eschewing many of the dSLRs design choices instead relying on a touch interface..

This one hits me right in the gut. I started with Nikon (well really Fujica, but that's besides the point), my first "real" camera was a Nikon F3HP, and I loved it, and I had about 4 lenses that I loved. And then I fell for a Canon with autofocus, so I sold my whole kit (lenses and all) and spent the next year trying to get used to a Canon with a couple new lenses. That year I didn't spend any time making better images or learning new techniques, I spent all of my time learning where controls were, settings, messing with this turns this way and not that way, and long story short, my next camera was a Nikon F5. I took a bath from the back to back trade-ins and I started building my lenses from scratch again (except for a 50 1.2 I still use)... What a total waste of money, I would give anything to have my F3HP back along with my 200mm macro. I have never sold a lens since. I hold on to each and every one of them, and I think long and hard about moving up. Is the current model really holding me back? I'm sure at some point I'll head for the Z series, but not for another few years. My 850 will keep me happy for at least another 3 or 4 years. And while the Z lenses look amazing, I'm not sure they will add anything to my photographs...

Robert Teague's picture

Great thoughts. The D850 is a great camera, no question. I looked at both the D850 and the Z7. I settled on the Z series due to its light weight and built in stabilization, but actually handling one is what made the final decision for me. I had been using a D800 until then.

The built in stabilization is the one difference that almost had my pockets turned out... the light weight is always nice, but a few oz between friends when I'm already holding onto 3 lenses and other "stuff" becomes barely noticeable. I play with them at B&H and Best Buy whenever I find myself in the neighborhood, I feel the grip on the Z after working with D series to be a little, weird feeling, almost too angular? Maybe that's not the right word. And yes, I was using D800 prior... Did you just get used to the grip, or what were your thoughts ergonomically speaking?

Sophie Charlotte's picture

I switched from the D5500 to the Z6 and although it is definitely a different feel, probably mainly the size difference between crop sensor and full frame in my case, I got used to it pretty soon. Its really nice to hold, a nice deep grip.

Robert Teague's picture

I did find that I needed to get used to the camera, after using a D800 with the grip. I struggled with the height of the camera, but adding the Lim half case has helped in that regards, and now I'm used to it. When I switched over, I started building out a Z lens set to go with it. Two trips since I got the camera - Greece and Germany - and made me a convert to the lightweight.

Andrew, I know of a few that have taken that road like you have. I started my photo career in 1980 with the Navy. As an E-3 my beginnings assigned in Ophthalmic and bio-med. There it was all Nikon. As I advanced to Studio work it was all Mamiya and Elinchrom. Moved to Event and Journalistic work it was all Nikon again. Guess what I purchased when I left the Navy to strike out on my own? Right, exactly what I used in the Navy! When I decided the need to go digital I had only one requirement. The camera AND lenses I chose HAD to be weather-resistant. I was to take a three-month road trip to photograph lousy weather. I chose Pentax. Pentax was the only brand that offered weather-resistant lenses then. When the K10d was released Pentax released their weather-resistant DA* lenses shortly after. My sister dropped a camera with the 50-135 2.8 in 25 feet of silty water. It stayed there for a few hours. Once retrieved, a rinse at the fish-cleaning table was all that was needed. My fleet of K10d and K20d cameras are still working today. Well over a decade with them I haven't looked at anything else. I get great 11X14 prints. That's all I need. That's all I want. They can keep those 6-grand cameras, I'll use that dough to fund another road trip instead. Plus I'm finding myself shooting and souping film more these days on my fleet of RB67 and Nikon F2 gear.

Wow! Quite a story! And I totally understand. I am a little envious of your RB67's... I have wanted one since I was in high school. Came real close to a RB67 Pro-SD sometime in college, but never pulled the trigger. I look at used ones, but I keep asking myself what on earth I would use it for aside from collecting dust in a closet somewhere. I can still hear that distinct KA-THUNK of the mirror / shutter on that beast when I used a colleagues in the studio.
I think I still have a Pentax k1000 with a 50mm somewhere in my gear that my brother gave me early on. I kept complaining about needing another body to keep different films going, he had a Pentax laying around from a photography class and gave it to me. I am amazed at how indestructible they made those K10/20d's. I put my Nikon's through more than would be suggested by the manufacturer, I just try to do it in small doses, but I would never submerge one!

Tony Clark's picture

Good stuff, I remember buying my 8008s and then adding an F4s back when I started shooting models. The AF was not great when shooting nearly wide open so I focused manually. The 8008s was replaced by an F5 then I discovered medium format. It was a Mamiya 645Pro and then a RZ67 and the 110mm and 180mm lenses.

I went with Canon when transitioning to digital and swear if Canon made a body with just a sensor, viewfinder and USB cable I'd buy it. The kid in me is fascinated the tools and what I can do with them but not to the point of owning more than I need. However, I am guilty of owning a few of those L's.

Richard Bradbury's picture

Thanks for the article Scott.

I often wonder if these videos or posts titled " I Switched".. " 5 reasons ! Switched" are nothing more than them trying to get validation for spending all that money and time.

At this stage I doubt that I would ever switch from Canon myself. In fact been contemplating downsizing the kit to go back to just using the good old 5DII bodies recently.

Upgrading cameras within the same brand has brought improvements but its never the IQ jump you see like in format upgrades so switching brands it just dead money in my mind and yields little benefit.

Scott Choucino's picture

I reckon if you sold your higher end gear you could get a Phase One used :D

Richard Bradbury's picture

And loan it to you now and again Scott? :)

Don't give me ideas.

Main reason I am thinking about moving some bodies on is part financial and part to simplify shit again. Got a few things to figure out then will see.

But as always solid advice in the article.

Good article.
It is just business.
When I was young I dreamed of acquiring all the top gear and reveling in it.
Now that I have the top gear it is just stuff. It works well, makes my images that clients like but the fact is that any camera will give results like any other at a certain level.
The onus is on me to learn my craft to reliably create great images. Familiarity with the gear counts for far more than "features".

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks, yeah very much so. Id love to play with new cameras, if it were a hobby and I had bags of cash I probably would. But for me it isn't and I don't!

When I made the investment and went pro I choose Sony. I have no plans to change, but the first company to release a camera with a global shutter and at least 24 megapixels with decent bit depth I am all over it.

Scott Choucino's picture

Had to google global shutter. That would be a great upgrade to a camera!

Black Rock's picture

From a business point of view this is a very correct way: get as much out of your gear as possible. Get paid, get works done.

Scott Choucino's picture

indeed. Save those pennies and focus on the work.

Scott Choucino's picture

I've never thought about it like that. Not sure what I would have purchased if I were remote. In my current niche it would be Canon due to the lenses I need, but before I got super niche, I am not sure.

Ryan Davis's picture

I chose Canon because the 20D was the first DSLR with a startup time 0.2 seconds or less, and I was doing a lot of street photography in New York at the time. All the other brands just crawled, and this was what kept me still shooting film ( on my Praktica LTL, so M42 glass was irrelevant, digitally) If Nikon had been the first, I'd be shooting Nikon right now. I've never understood why people "fall in love" with a brand.

Scott Choucino's picture

As good a rational as any.

Good for you. I wish my needs were limited to the sensor and performance of the 5d2. As it is, I could not afford to miss a photo so I switched to a brand that allows me to work unobtrusively and without a blimp in many cases. I was using Nikon and was had an opportunity to invest in the z6/7 but their subpar af was a dealbreaker. Photography is like any business. You buy the tools that get the job done better than the competition.

Scott Choucino's picture

yeah I think if you shoot on film sets, then when Sony came along, there was a really good reason to jump ship. The same with weddings in certain districts in the UK.

Mark Russell's picture

My first camera was a Canon Ftb that my dad gave me when I finished the US Navy Still Photography A School in 1980. I've used Canon gear ever since mostly because it was compatible with what I already had. I currently have a 6D Mk II and a 5D MK IV, but I'm actively saving to buy a Toyo 4x5. The view camera won't replace my Canon gear, but compliment it. Had my dad given me a Nikon 40 years ago, I would have Nikon gear today.

Ryan Davis's picture

It's like who you're married to. It's dependent on events which are more random than people suppose.

Scott Choucino's picture

yeah it's hard to justify leaving an eco system that you are so heavily invested in, unless you are adding new formats to the line up.

You also don’t switch your article cover images - why pay a photographer twice even if it’s yourself ;) sorry couldn’t resist

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