When Is It Time to Switch Camera Brands?

There's a lot made about switching camera brands, with comparison of specs and the latest features driving most of the discussion. However, this thoughtful video essay takes a much more pragmatic approach to the question, and it's well worth watching.

Coming to you from Sean Tucker, this great video takes a look at a common question among photographers and videographers and details both why he switched camera brands and his thought process behind doing so. It's certainly very interesting to hear the story behind how Tucker came to own three distinct sets of gear and how his desire to consolidate all that extra equipment into one set drove his decision, but it's the second half of the video that details his decision process and the philosophies that drove it that's especially worth applying to your own experience. Most of us are tempted at one point or another by the allure of the latest and greatest, and I'll be the first to admit that there's certainly a bit of fun in geeking out over the newest gear, but we have to be careful not to confuse that with understanding what the best tool is for our professional work.

Be sure to check out Tucker's book and prints as well.

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67 Comments

Spy Black's picture

I dunno, if I think a given camera will offer me some advantage, I go out and buy it. I don't need dump my existing system and investments for it. I have cameras from Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony, Fuji, and Panasonic. No, I'm not rich either. I simply make use of all my resources. I don't see the point of dumping investments and losing money for the latest toy from brand X.

Alex Cooke's picture

I mean, in fairness, that's basically what he did, until he had accumulated three complete systems of gear and he decided to consolidate.

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

And you don't consider having a camera that you don't use losing money?

Spy Black's picture

Just because I buy a new camera doesn't mean I stop using another one. I buy a camera because it allows me to do something the other doesn't, and vice-versa. No waste.

Matthew Saville's picture

Professionally speaking, that's called an emergency backup. So no, it's not losing money. It's a very, very cheap insurance policy.

As a full-time photographer, this is one of my pet peeves when it comes to "upgrading". For the 15 years that DSLRs have been "mainstream", I've seen countless photographers upgrade from one camera to another, only ever owning one camera at a time, but then they get into professional photography, (usually portraits or weddings) ...and they get in real trouble when they experience equipment failure.

Always keep a backup around. Sometimes it's good to even have a 3rd backup!

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

There are many sides to this, may it be backup, nostalgia to not get rid a camera you used for a long time or as Spy Black says every camera has it's unique offers and i cannot really argue with the last 2.

But considering from a purely economical point of view i would apply the principals of industrial production that is to utilize the expensive equipment as much as possible. If i have 6 cameras, from 6 different brand and i use them all equally then i "lose money" on the downtime of the cameras and lenses compared to only using 2 cameras from 1 brand. It is not only the money i spent in the first place, but also the decreasing re-sell value.
That just to explain my reason behind the "losing money" statement.

As a professional it might be very very cheap for you as the gear already paid for itself in it's earlier lifespan. But wouldn't it be more efficient to get the same camera (or at least same brand) twice and get rid of everything else and thus saving money on having two or more lens parks?

Matthew Saville's picture

Indeed, I gave the specific example that I did because that is the full extent of the philosophy behind "having a backup". If you own /six/ cameras, let alone all from different brands, then you're a camera hoarder who needs to get help. Or just find pride in the nostalgia / collectibility of owning that many cameras, if they're not worth much.

So, having /a/ camera that you don't use /much/ is still considered a backup, if you ever shoot in any type of condition where failure would be extremely, extremely undesirable. (paid or not)

It goes without saying that if you buy a 1DX2, a D5, or an A9, ...and then decide later that you bought way too much camera and all you really need is one 5D4, D850/D750, or A7Riii/A7iii, then it means, 1.) you're likely an idiot who doesn't understand how to buy the right camera gear in the first place, and, 2.) yes, you should probably just sell off that $4-5K camera, and buy 2 of the cheaper cameras that better suit your needs. Or, for example, just buy one D850, and one D750 as the backup, if you're on a (professional) low budget.

Either way, I think we get each others' points.

Tim Cray's picture

What I want to know is...what relevance does this article or his opinion have to do with photography? Furthermore, I don't see why anyone would care why he switched camera companies.

Alex Cooke's picture

People should care because he's a pragmatic and articulate photographer who gives some helpful guidelines that are particularly beneficial to beginners and newer professionals who need a little guidance before they drop a lot of money on camera gear.

Tim Cray's picture

I understand his point of view. I'm not being critical of him or his video. I just think it's not beneficial to a beginning photographer to confuse the issue by stating why someone switches camera manufacturers. It would be much more beneficial to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of a particular brand and how it benefits them than why they switched brands. While I own mostly Nikon equipment, I do have a Panasonic G9 that I use if I want to record video and the Sony RX10 IV as a pick up and go camera.

He touches both why he switched what are the benefits for him.

There are no brand benefits, IMO. Brand can produce amazing (for some purpose) camera, can produce camera that sucks - it all depends on perspective and specific model.

Tim Cray's picture

True, but the key words here are "benefits for him." Most people don't care how it benefits a particular individual.

If I'm in the same industry I may think if I can benefit from the switch as well.

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

That could be said about every single Youtube video or celebrity "new" that's floating around and i couldn't agree more. Why would one care what any of these people do.

Why i like Sean Tuckers videos is, that he has a very philosophical approach to his video and goes into a lot of detail what his reasons are. For me that provides somewhat of an inspiration to my own thoughts on how to develop as a photographer (not talking about gear now).

He evens says, that nobody should just go ahead and copy what he does. But then again he's earning money from Youtube and a lot of people on Youtube are crazy for gear recommendations.

Tim Cray's picture

The only Youtuber I really listen to is Chris Nichols of the Camera Store and now DPreview. Not only does he know what he's talking about, but gives it to you straight about the gear he's reviewing. However, I don't base my purchases on his opinion alone. If I'm uncertain, then I'll rent the equipment for a week or two and try it myself.

Tim Cray's picture

An addendum to my previous comment would be that there are many "pragmatic and articulate" photographers out there, Alex. However, most consumers, whether beginning or newer professional photographers, are intelligent enough to research the various offerings from camera companies before they part with their money.

Jon Kellett's picture

I wouldn't be so sure :-)

I've lost count of the number of folks I've seen with entry-level dSLRs and really poor technique. To me, that suggests that if they haven't researched how to even hold the camera, they probably haven't researched the pros and cons of one brand over another.

This leads on to a theory of mine: People (rookies) buy SLR cameras because "that's what the pros use", therefore that's what they need to take better photos.

From my own observation, well over 50% of smaller SLR owners have poor technique. This backs up my theory that rookies are buying SLRs by price and perceived usefulness of the tool, not by brand or research or skill level improvement.

Tim Cray's picture

I certainly agree with you on the technique part of your comment. I think every beginning photographer should take at least one photography class if they don't know how to operate their equipment.The same holds true for me as well. Had I taken a few classes, I could've learned how to use my equipment faster and better. I learn something new everyday. I'm not a "fanboy" of one brand over another. In fact, I own Nikon, Panasonic, and Sony equipment. I use the equipment that best suits my needs for a given situation.

Jon Kellett's picture

I started shooting on film and when I finally moved to digital, I thought that I'd learnt all I was going to.

Rookie move. I learnt as much in my first month of digital shooting as the five years prior film experience.

If I'd taken a photography class back in the film days, I'd not have done any better, however now that new photographers tend to use digital that's not the case.

I agree that in the age of digital photography, taking a class if you're a rookie is probably a good investment. You'd save yourself a ton of time and frustration.

Tim Cray's picture

I tend to agree with you. As I mentioned before on this website, I'm by no stretch of the imagination a professional photographer. I consider myself an enthusiastic enthusiast photographer. In fact, I didn't even own a real camera until about 3 years ago. Now, I take photos every chance I have free time away from my plumbing business.

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

The big crowd are sheep. If a Youtuber tells them this or that gear is the best they go and buy it.

I've recently seen people buying a D850, just because it's "the best", then only shoot JPEG and complain that the pictures are not exposed properly and so much worse than their old D90.

Or overhearing a salesperson in a big electronic store recommending a 5D or 6D to a customer who literally said he never held a camera before just because "it offers full frame quality images". And consumers go for that cause they trust these people for some reason.

To sum up, most consumers are stupid, that's how the market works.

Tim Cray's picture

I wouldn't go as far as saying "most consumers are stupid." A more accurate description would be that most consumers are misinformed or mislead or influenced by camera company sponsored Youtubers. I rarely purchase my camera gear from a big box retailer. And when I do, I don't need the salesperson to pitch to me concerning the equipment I'm about to buy. Because most of the sales people haven't a clue of what they're selling or how to operate it.

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

And yet these big retailers exist.
They have higher prices than the web-shops and, as you agree, low quality of consultation (for the most parts).

Agreed. I rarely purchase anything that is a little more complex and expensive without doing thorough research, but i doubt the majority of consumers acts like that.

Tim Cray's picture

True. Many people make their purchasing decisions based on "so-called" experts opinions.

Aaron Walker's picture

I found his video to be more philosophical and don't think it was aimed at beginner photographers. It seemed to be aimed at photographers with more experience and gave food for thought for "why / when" to switch if it was something a more experienced photographer may have been considering / struggling with.

Dave Kavanagh's picture

I've done it twice in the past few years. In both times the decision was quite easy. I wanted to upgrade my camera body to avail of technology advances which opened up shoot possibilities, not available at the time from within the brand I was using. In both cases I did my research about what it would cost. I weighed up the realistic cost of selling my current equipment to fund its replacement and for me it was worth it. Its never been a case of whether or not a client can see the difference. Its more that some shots available to them, simply wouldn't have existed with the previous gear I was using.

user-156929's picture

While that's certainly possible, and I have no reason to doubt your case, I think that's a rarity these days when even mediocre cameras are pretty phenomenal.

E.g. my switch from Canon to Nikon was for 2 reasons:

- mediocre dynamic range (with associated to that banding noise in recovered shadows, which existed since Canon s40)
- non-existent spot metering on a focus point, only on the center point (that’s important to have it when you shoot artistic performances with always changing light)

So, for me Canon just didn’t help me to produce phenomenal results.

user-156929's picture

I've never used a Canon before. I've heard of the DR thing but always thought it was overblown. I'd never heard of the spot metering issue. Is that with newer midrange and better cameras, also?

Spot metering on focus point was not available on any Canon SLR except the 1D “tank” camera.

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