When a new camera is released, many photographers will upgrade almost at once. A new camera often promises more resolution, a larger dynamic range, less noise, and perhaps new functions. But it won’t promise a better photo. Or does it? Let’s take a look at a reason to upgrade or the lack of reason.
Recently, Sony provided me with the new Sony a7 IV, the much-anticipated successor of the Sony a7 III. During my time with the camera, I noticed the upgrade to be rather minimal. I will dive deeper into this in my review, which will be published soon. But it’s a great example of how a new camera won’t always offer the improvements that will result in a better photo.
The Sony a7 IV is just an example. I noticed a comparable upgrade from Fujifilm with the GFX 50S II. There were a lot of improvements, but it was built around a relatively dated sensor, which, in my opinion, rather obstructs a proper upgrade. This also applies to cameras from Canon, Nikon, and nearly every other brand. The new cameras may look like a big upgrade from a previous model, but in the end, it's just another camera. Despite the advertising by the manufacturer, a new camera won’t make your photos better at all.
Why a New Camera Won’t Improve Your Photos
This article is not about the war between camera brands at all. I believe… No, I know, for a fact, it’s possible to shoot amazing photos with every camera out there. Well, almost every camera because some produce real disguising results. But besides those extremely cheap, would-be cameras, the established brands will allow you to shoot great images.
A good photo is mainly defined by composition, plane distribution, and the use of light and shadow. It can be considered an art in many ways. A good photo is only partly defined by the image quality a camera produces.
A better dynamic range, higher resolution, or a lower noise level does not guarantee a good photo. If your photography work isn’t that good, a newer camera won’t be the solution. If your photography needs improvement, you will have to learn about composition. You will have to know how to use light and shadow or even to shape light itself. That is the only way to improve your photography, not by buying a new camera.
When a New Camera Will Improve Your Photos
Fortunately, there are also situations when the new camera will improve your photography. This is because not every camera excels in every kind of photography. If the camera you own falls short of your kind of photography, you may not be able to achieve the result you're aiming at.
A good example is the sports photographer who needs to shoot fast action. Certain camera models won’t keep up with the necessary speed, although a good photographer might be able to catch the right moment even with a slow camera. A dedicated sports camera will make the work easier because it's built for the job.
This is just an example of a good reason to upgrade a camera. Not because your photos are bad, but because the camera you own becomes the limiting factor. Another example is the wedding photographer who benefits from an excellent eye-AF system. That system won’t improve their photography, but it will make their work much easier. An upgrade to a mirrorless camera can be a wise choice. But the eye-AF benefit isn’t that big of a deal for a landscape photographer who perhaps prefers to shoot in manual AF.
Be Wise and Upgrade Only if There Is Need for It
It can be tempting to buy every new model camera that is released. Manufacturers often promise even faster autofocus, more frames per second, more dynamic range, or higher resolution. But ask yourself the following question: do you need it or is your present camera already producing the images you like?
If your camera allows you to create a great image, remember that the newer camera won’t make the images better. Be honest to yourself, and rather invest in a good lens or flashgun instead of a new camera. On the other hand, when your photography work is already good, but you run into the limits of your camera, the investment in a newer model can help you push the boundaries.
Better autofocus can help you track action and improve the number of keepers. Reliable eye-AF can help you with your work as a wedding photographer. A higher resolution may give the flexibility for cropping if you are a wildlife or bird photographer.
But these things will only help if your work is already good. It won’t be the answer to becoming a better action photographer, wedding photographer, or a better wildlife photographer.
If the old camera you've been using for years to your satisfaction becomes a limiting factor, you should be happy. It means you have grown in your photography and outgrown that older camera. It is a good reason to upgrade to the model that allows you to continue growing.
Keep On Upgrading Your Camera, Even if There Is No Need for It
The title of this chapter may sound silly after reading the article. But I know a lot of photographers who will continue to buy the newest camera model, despite if there is no need to. I just want to say keep on doing so. It keeps the secondhand market alive with a continuous flow of used cameras that often can’t be distinguished from new. This constant flow makes the often expensive cameras reachable for the less rich photographer, which is a good thing.
What do you think? Would you upgrade your camera even if there is not a real need for it because you just want the newer model? Please share your opinion in the comments below. I'm looking forward to your response.
"Fortunately, there are also situations when the new camera will improve your photography. This is because not every camera excels in every kind of photography. If the camera you own falls short of your kind of photography, you may not be able to achieve the result you're aiming at."
I have my bowl of popcorn ready. This is going to be fun! Just so you know, I agree with the above statement 100%.
If "you" article titles aren't any good, an editor or grammar checker will fix that.
spell checker said it was ok - and there is this sentence - "Well, almost every camera because some produce real disguising results." - must not be able to see the camera for the ... tripods???
I think it should be "disgusting"
Well, they would if there actually were editors, or if the writer reviewed their work to see what the grammar checker highlighted. But that does not seem to be the norm here.
"Keep On Upgrading Your Camera, Even if There Is No Need for It". I don't buy used but I like this chapter. You're a doctor, a lawyer or any one with too much money and feel $ will improve your skills, yes, we need you big time. Many people can profit from your "skills".
the new A7iv is a great upgrade. It’s like bulls eye to me. Definitely will get it if times are changing to better soon. If I can get it in the shop. I been waiting for years now, the higher pixel count is just what I wanted.
I can't get past the lead to read this article.
My gear is unlisted: a 7-year-old OnePlus One phone and a 10-year-old Canon PowerShot SX220 HS point-and-shoot camera. I wonder if my “photography” would improve…
A bunch of generic things that have been written about thousands times. Fstoppers, do you do any content moderation / editing? Looking at the title, it does not look like you do.
Angelino...I tried to reply directly to your post, but there must be something in the settings that won't allow the reply button to respond. To answer your question, depends on what you want to shoot. For stills like you have posted here, there might be marginal improvement due to better sensor technology. However, if you decided to shoot a tennis match or a raptor in flight, you'd probably need to upgrade if you want great results.
As I've said many times, you shoot with what works for you. What anybody else shoots with is inconsequential to your results. If you're happy with your work, then you've got it right.
Hey David, it was a kind of a rhetorical question, but I appreciate the reply. I'm pretty fond of taking nature shots, and it's been bothering me for years how much detail I'm losing due to a lack of megapixels. It immediately makes the shots less sharp, subtracting from the feeling of richness as experienced in reality.
I don't know if it's lack of pixels or just that the sensor technology has improved so much. If you crop a lot like wildlife photographers have to do, then pixels are a big deal. But for landscapes, cropping isn't as critical, so lesser pixels aren't as worrisome. I noticed it quite a bit when I went from a 5DIII to a 5DIV.....22MP to 30MP. It doesn't sound like much, but when you add in the newer sensor in the IV plus those extra pixels, I'm able to keep most shots at 12,800 ISO where before, it was a stretch to keep anything at 6400 ISO.
In the end, as long as there is enjoyment when out there shooting, everything else is in second place.
If the photos are no good, the problem might not be the camera because even a basic DSLR, or an advanced smartphone can take great photos.
You're right, one should upgrade if their current camera is slowing them down. I still shoot with a 2012 Canon 6D, and its AF is outdated. A modern camera with better low light AF and eye-AF would make me shoot faster than I do today.
You might have been more efficient if you had said: the only improvement is in AF. As for the obsolete gear price reduction, I don't see it fr years...