Is There a Point When You Should Upgrade Your Photography Gear?

Is There a Point When You Should Upgrade Your Photography Gear?

Do you think about improving the contents of your kit bag? It’s expensive, so is it worth it? Let’s talk about upgrading your gear, or not.

Whether your hobby is golf, painting, sailing, SCUBA diving, playing or listening to music, or photography, specialist equipment is expensive. You get what you pay for. There comes a point where you no longer buy a piece of equipment, but it becomes an investment.

That isn’t using the word “investment” in the same way as you invest money for it to grow in value. Unless you buy vintage high-end cameras that once belonged to famous photographers, you are most unlikely to sell your used cameras or lenses for more than you paid, especially when you bought them new.

My use of the word “invest” is closer to the business point of view, where a capital investment is putting money into something because it will generate a return. In this case, it isn’t necessarily a financial return, although it may be if you are a professional photographer. Instead, it will yield, one would hope, the opportunity to take better photographs and more joy from using the equipment.

Although photographed with high-end gear, a shot like this should be possible with basic kit.

Of course, there is more to achieving good photos than having good-quality gear. After all, most of the equipment available today, even at entry-level, is superior to what was available to many of the great-name photographers of the past. However, there are two factors to consider. Firstly, although those great names from history were breaking boundaries and taking photography to places that hadn’t been considered, they have since been emulated many times. To break new boundaries now is far harder to do with obsolete and low-end gear. Secondly, the expectations of photographic image quality are usually much higher now than they once were.

It depends upon the level of photography you want to achieve whether the investment is worth it.

Shot in relatively low light, this photo would have been impossible with a low quality camera and lens that was slower to focus and  with poor noise control.

Upgrading the Primary Gear


For me, great-quality glass is most important, followed by the quality of the camera. I shoot commercially and my high-end clients have high-end expectations. For someone who walks around shooting snaps to share on social media, buying expensive equipment may not be a priority. Nevertheless, if you want to improve image quality, spending money on a new, higher-end lens will make a bigger difference than buying a new camera.

Recently, I was out photographing the same scene with two other photographers. One used a cheap kit lens supplied with the camera and the other had one that retails for around $1,000. Although the cheaper lens wasn't bad, the difference in image quality between them was staggering.

Shot with a standard quality lens eight years ago with a now 14-year old camera, it is possible to get acceptable images with older gear.

The reasons for these differences are manifold. Expensive lenses usually come with superior anti-reflective coatings on the glass. These coatings reduce light scatter, thus resulting in better light transmittance. Consequently, they enhance clarity and reduce glare. Also, higher-quality optics in expensive lenses have more accurately manufactured elements. They are made from premium materials, such as fluorite glass. They'll include ultra-low dispersion elements that minimize distortion, chromatic aberrations, and flare. That better optical quality leads to improved color rendering and contrast.

In more expensive lenses, there is greater precision in the manufacturing processes, which ensures optimal lens shape and alignment.

Furthermore, higher-quality lenses have faster and more accurate drive motors. Each manufacturer has its unique terminology for this: Direct Drive Supersonic Motor (Sony), Voice Coil Motor (OM System), Silent Wave Motor (Nikon), Ultrasonic Motor (Canon), and Linear Motor (Fujifilm), each of which has a slightly different design.

Sadly, most camera companies make lenses that only fit their own cameras. Furthermore, until recently, Canon monopolized their RF mount, meaning that people could not buy third-party lenses from other manufacturers such as Tamron and Sigma. However, on a brighter note, companies like MPB and B&H sell great-quality used cameras and lenses with different mounts.

A lens and camera system that's fast to focus and has a low F-number for its focal length is more important for capturing action shots.

The Camera

Of course, there are reasons why one might want to upgrade a camera. If you previously bought an entry-level model and have since outgrown it, as happens to many aspiring photographers, having a model with more sophisticated features and where you buy a separate lens that meets your needs, as opposed to a kit lens, maybe something to consider. Much of my previous article was about this, therefore I won’t dwell on it here. I teach a lot of people photography and after a basic six-hour workshop, many find that they are seeking performance beyond that offered by their camera, therefore always advise buying the best camera you can afford.

However, there are also reasons why you might want to change the system altogether. Once you get beyond buying the entry-level with the poor-quality kit lens, it gets more challenging financially to let one system go and switch to another. When photographers have outgrown the basic camera, they usually know if another system offers features their current brand is missing.

It's a neat little entry-level camera, but it has limited functionality and is soon outgrown by enthusiastic photographers.

Other Gear Worth Upgrading


A long time ago, I used a cheap, aluminum tripod. I decided to upgrade when a strong gust blew the tripod over; I dived and caught it just before the camera hit the ground. However, it wasn’t until I tried a good-quality model that I realized how much difference it makes beyond stability. Its steadiness combined with lightness, the way the head stayed still when tightened, and the ability to position the camera to give a worm’s-eye view made an enormous difference to my landscape photography.

There's an adage that when buying tripods you must choose which two from three things are important to you: weight, stability, and price. To a certain extent, that is true, but I would add design and build quality to the list.

It’s worth trying tripods before buying. I have many pass through my hands and there are significant differences in their functions. Also, as a rule, I avoid new releases and check people’s feedback after they have owned a tripod for at least a year. Some popular, expensive models fall apart quickly, and long-term reviews reveal this.

I reviewed the Benro Tortoise back in 2021 and it's still the one I reach for first because of its build quality.


There’s much debate about filters. I’ve tried many and found some pretty disastrous ones out there, some of which have premium price tags. Low-quality filters degrade your image. Several people come to me because they are disappointed with their image quality. I tell them to remove their UV filter and suddenly the image is sharp. That degradation isn’t limited to solely cheap filters.

There are many people who get hot under the collar about UV filters and whether you should use them to protect your lens’ front element. I use a high-quality filter to protect mine from scratches, in conjunction with a lens hood that offers impact protection. I stick with Urth filters because I can’t tell whether the filter is fitted. The quality is first class and I like their ethical approach; they plant trees in rainforests with every purchase.

When I buy a filter, I rigorously test it to see if there is any difference when it's fitted. I find the best test is looking at out-of-focus reflections in the water, and the bokeh on a poor filter will show up unwanted artifacts such as doughnut rings or lines across balls of light.

Other photographers prefer Lee filters, NiSi, and Tiffen, which all have good reputations. The filters made by your camera brand should also stand up to inspection.

My preference is for Urth Filters, this one the ND1000.


Camera battery technology is much better now than five years ago. I can carry out photoshoots for a whole day before the battery in my camera runs down. Nevertheless, I also carry a couple of spares.

Many manufacturers restrict cameras so they only work properly with their own-brand batteries and their chargers won’t work with third-party versions. Historically, I have bought good-quality Duracell batteries that had a great life and were chipped so they had full functionality with my camera and its charger. They were also two-thirds the cost of the manufacturer’s battery. But, if you decide to go for a cheaper option – and given the cost of living crisis that is hitting many people, it’s an understandable decision – stick with a reliable known brand, such as Duracell, and buy those from a reputable dealer; there are unsafe fakes found in online marketplaces.

In Conclusion

For reasons creative, financial, and practical, you may or may not want to upgrade your gear. It's a decision only you can make. The choices of others might not be relevant to you, so do your research, and get your hands on the equipment you want to buy.

Are you thinking of upgrading? Have you upgraded gear in the past? Or, have you stuck with the basic entry-level kit and are happy with it? It would be fantastic to hear your reasoning in the comments.

Ivor Rackham's picture

A professional photographer, website developer, and writer, Ivor lives in the North East of England. His main work is training others in photography. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being. In 2023 he accepted becoming a brand ambassador for the OM System.

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The middle aged photographer at my nieces wedding showed up with an old Canon 6d (Mk II?) and a kid following him around with a softbox on a pole.
I knew from first glance he was going to do a good job. Sure enough his results proved out my hunch. Excellent photos!
Only the wet behind the ears guys show up with the latest greatest flashy camera gear... and they do a mediocre job at best.
The true seasoned Pro's know their gear, know how to use it and know the results they will get from it. They know the latest fancy AF system is hype and won't do anything but chew into their profits.
Only the inexperienced think the latest greatest gear will make them a better photographer. This is the myth that was sold by the trade rags before the internet ever existed. Now it is the websites selling this pipe dream.

"In 2023 he became a brand ambassador for the OM System" someone has their fingers in the corporate pocket book!

Michael Schuch wrote:

"Only the wet behind the ears guys show up with the latest greatest flashy camera gear... and they do a mediocre job at best."


"The true seasoned Pro's know their gear, know how to use it and know the results they will get from it. They know the latest fancy AF system is hype and won't do anything but chew into their profits."

Is that really what you think? If so, I suggest that you get out and about more, where pros are shooting, before you publish a blanket, absolutist statement like that, which is obviously based on a very small sample size.

In wildlife photography, almost all of the professionals I know (and I know a lot) shoot with the latest flagship camera body of whatever brand they use, coupled with at least one huge supertelephoto lens that costs $10,000 or more. These are the guys getting their wildlife photos on the covers of all of the hunting magazines, and having their images licensed by Audubon, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Cabelas, etc, etc., etc.

If you want, you can PM me and I will give you a list of a dozen professional wildlife photographers who I know personally, and I will tell you what gear they use and give you links to their professional sites and places where you can see dozens of tearsheets from each of them. And then you will see that the statements you made are not entirely accurate.

Tom, it's another new account from one of the usual sad trolls who likes making digs at me. One day I might publish an article with all his comments, it makes hilarious reading.

That would be a very entertaining article, Ivor. Do it!

Perhaps the most difficult part of "upgrading" is not knowing how significant or insignificant a change the newly acquired gear will make in your shooting experience until you actually sink money in and use it.

I recently picked up a used kit that would be considered in many respects an upgrade from my current kit. However, it was also a different camera system and I found the controls and user experience to be so drastically different as to be unusable in tandem with my main kit for client work.

There's a lot to be said for knowing the gear you have inside and out. Most of my desired upgrades these days fall under the "want" category as opposed to "need".

That said, a very welcome upgrade I made recently was that of fast UHS-II SD cards - it has made a significant difference knowing I now have a bit of headroom for burst shooting.

I agree. The only disadvantage though is the amount of time culling.

I swore that I would not upgrade. Full confession, I was a total Canon fanboy since 1980. I didn’t go digital until 2014 with full array of L-glass. When mirrorless came out, I decided to stand pat with my DSLR gear. Then, I encountered the Fujifilm GFX 100s medium format mirrorless system. That was the trigger. I purchased the body and 3 lenses in 2023 and haven’t looked back. It is sheer joy to use this system after taking a few months to really learn it. I love this gear and it is exciting to use and to process the amazing raw files. The only drawback to this system is that it is heavy for an old dude (75) like me to carry. Nevertheless, I am running short on life’s runway and decided to go for it. I do mostly landscapes. I kept one of my Canon 5DSR bodies plus a 100-400 and a 70-200 to shoot wildlife occasionally. I don’t know if I am any better, but I am sure having a great time.

fantastic to hear. And a much more inspiring story than hearing the fstoppers journalists trying to convince us that MFT is just as good...

Now i am not a journalist or reviewer or am in any way affiliated to anyone, but. I have purchased a second hand MFT camera 2 months back and still getting used to it. While not on same level as my FF camera in neither AF or bokeh sense, images i get out of this camera have some quality i can not describe. Its different in same sense that MF photos have distinct look to them compared to FF. My MFT camera has its distinct look and im at loss for words to describe how in awe i am. I am not even sure i would know how to replicate that look on my FF camera. Would i use it for commercial photoshoot? No ... i have small pocket GX80 that is not meant to be workhorse, but still ... I am hard man to leave speechless and amazed and this camera does it day in day out.

It is so refreshing to hear of someone going from full frame gear to a BIGGER format!

I am growing so tired of the whole world trying to convince me that smaller sensors are better than full frame. And when I started reading your comment I assumed that is what you were going to say.

Pleasant surprise when you said you went up to medium format. Good for you! Makes a lot of sense if one is primarily shooting landscapes, as you are.

I would love to go up to medium format, but nobody makes the kinds of lenses I need for the things I shoot most.

I had some bozo once tell me that I couldn't get credible images for real estate photography with my Lumix G9 MFT camera. His argument was that I needed a FF sensor to get credible images, He didn't have an answer when I told him that real estate photos need to be reduced in size no larger than 2048 x 1536 for MLS sites, and even my MFT images had to be reduced. Needless to say, I told him where to shove his comments regarding MFT cameras.

Yeah for real estate photography I see benefits in the smaller format. Less perspective distortion, less optical distortion, more depth of field. Makes all kinds of sense.


A smaller format also offers advantages for a lot of the herpetology photography I do, especially if using full frame lenses with the smaller sensor. For most herpetology imagery, I am looking for more depth of field. Also, I will typically never be enlarging photos of snakes, frogs, etc. up to 48" or more, and I usually have control over the lighting ..... so no need for quite the pixel-level image quality of full frame with regards to ultra-fine detail or with dynamic range.

Also, when using the full frame lenses on a crop sensor, I don't get any vignetting at all! I absolutely HATE it when the deep corners of an image are a little darker than the center of the image, and this happens all the time with full frame images, and also with smaller format cameras when they are used with the smaller format lenses that are designed for them. When I use a lens that was made for a bigger format than what I am using, then the dark corner issue just goes away altogether and I don't have to bother with the loathsome task of using software to correct the vignette.

I don't know why some people get hot under the collar about MFT like that, Willy. Perhaps it's personal insecurity or lack of understanding, or maybe they feel threatened by it. I spoke to a psychologist friend about it. They suggested that some people think the only choice they have made is the right one. Consequently, they fear being seen as having made the wrong choice. There are also those with no talent who will constantly take digs at other more successful photographers in an attempt to hide their own ineptitude.

As I repeatedly say, all the major brands of cameras produce good cameras - although there are a few duff models that fall to bits - and it's the photographer who makes the biggest difference. A skilled photographer having access to higher-performance gear that they enjoy working with is the best combination.

I think if you went back more than ten years, there was a significant reduction in image quality with the old Four Thirds sensors compared with 35mm and maybe there was some validity in their arguments against FT in some circumstances.

However, that has changed. Like all contemporary camera sensors, the most recent MFT sensors give far better performance than is needed in almost every circumstance. Coupled with good quality lenses, any good contemporary camera is capable.

I make my living using mostly MFT cameras and do work for some big-name corporate customers, local businesses, and magazines. None complain. My wedding and events clients are happy too.

That's the most important thing, Ed. Enjoying yourself. I have a handful of medium-format film cameras and love using them. It's a very different experience. Thanks for the positive comment.

This article came at a good time. I was debating switching systems again and decided to just relax and keep shooting!

Enjoy doing so. It would be great to see some of your photos in the gallery.

I have a 1DX MK1 and good glass, it will last me for years to come. Look at all the exceptional photos that has been taken with this, proving it's the photographer that makes the image, not the gear.

That was (is still) a fine top-of-the-range camera. I have a slightly different opinion. The photographer is the most important part of the system, but not the only important part. If you give a great camera to a great photographer, I think the combination is better than the sum of its parts, which is why the top professionals buy the top models.

I nearly bought a 5Diii that was released around the same time as your camera. Out of interest, what made you choose the 1DX and not the 5Diii?

Thanks for the comment and continue enjoying that fabulous camera.

most often, the difference between a good shot and a spectacular one is

light quality

and for some subjects, understanding, patience and vision

work on upgrading all of the above before upgrading cameras and lenses

I agree, Richard. We have plenty of articles here on those very subjects too.

Great read Ivor! I recently upgraded my kit after trying the GFX system, which sadly I couldn't afford, and then the cost of lenses I would need. After trying a few systems I ended up with Sony A7R V which gave me the best of both worlds, in terms of portability of the Fuji XT and a slightly decreased sensor size from that of the GFX system.

For me, it was a financial decision in the long term and yet a decision I'm not regretting in any way whatsoever. It's a tool that does the job I need and does it well for me.

Gravitating towards Architectural photography, I realised I needed a Canon or Nikon FF camera to make use of heir shift lenses, that were not available in the M43 format I was using.

I use a Mix of Nikon D850, when I can use a tripod, with a set of Nikon PC lenses, or a Z7 with F lenses adapted via the FTZ adaptor, when I have to hand hold. I do have a Laowa 15mm zero D shift in Z mount too.

Sometimes a change in camera system is dictated by the availability of lenses. The smaller formats lack these professional specialist lenses.

I have just tried my Canon TS lens on MFT via speedboster and ... works just fine. Is smidge less wide (1-2mm) but is also not f3.5 any more but F2.5, so thats good. It just works. Its manual lens as is, so not much to go wrong using it like this.

If such big lens I had,
I'd shoot the moon instead
of shooting birds and deers
for hunter's magazines.

I wish there was so many good lenses for APS-C or MFT as there are for FF. I am still on Canon EF lenses and I think it would take me and my wife quite some time to switch to RF.

12/2.8 Laowa
24/1.4 L
35/1.4 L
50/1.2 L
85/1.2 L ii
100/2.8 L macro IS
135/2.0 L
200/2.8 L ii

16-35 IS, 24-105 ii, 70-200 iii, 100-400 ii, 1.4x ii, 2x iii

The price of those lenses is so low when buying second hand, yet when splitting the price between me and my wife.... Let's say I've got 50/1.2 for € wife paid for half. And using it on mirrorless is nothing but fun. EF-EOS R adapter with variable nd filter (1-7 stop)

Just thinking of upgrading one of our R6 for R5 when the new R5 ii comes out so we could have R5 for decent price.

Its hard to switch systems when we have so much gear, but if there was aps-c or MFT with lenses like 35/0.8, 55/0.8, 90/1.4 I'll be happy to go for something smaller. It's not fun to carry the FF gear around... Especially not for my wife

Nice collection. You should start a museum! With that many, I would spend too long choosing which one to use and never get out of the door.

With over 100 MFT lenses available, there are far more than I ever need. I limit it to one super wide zoom, one wide to standard zoom, one standard to telephoto zoom, one super-telephoto zoom, plus a macro lens. With that, I have every focal length from 7mm to 600mm covered. It's a different way of working.

I know Ivor, but I am not talking about landscapes only. You don't get lenses for m43 or aps-c in the likes of 50/1.2, 85/1.2, 100/1.4, 135/1.8, 28-70/2.0, 35-150/2.0 - 2.8 or 200/2.0 for FF.

There was such a boom when sigma released 18-35/1.8 and 50-100/1.8 for aps-c back in the days which allowed aps-c to get the look of FF standard zoom 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8

M43 is great for landscapes, but it's to limiting for portraits and weddings.

I use M43 for weddings, and have done photoshoots for royalty and household name businesses. Nobody has complained!

Gear doesn't matter...

... until it does.

Gear only matters when the photographer is capable of getting shots that the gear is not capable of allowing. Until the photographer can articulate exactly what property their current gear lacks that a new piece of gear needs to have that will allow them to get the shot they envision there's no reason to upgrade gear.

My next upgrade is a new computer. My laptop is 8 years old now, it hasn’t got any slower , but the modern day software is more demanding.

Hi Ruud. Yes, I finally had to upgrade my computer last year. Even more annoying is that Windows are abandoning v10, so for security reasons lots of people are going to need to upgrade.

I don’t have that problem, I’m a Mac user.

I personally have found that good lenses will easily outlast a camera body. I got a 7D shortly after it came out and L lenses. I waited several incremental body iterations looking for IBIS and ability to use my amazing R, FL and FD lenses. Including L FD.
The R7 matched exactly what I was looking for. All my EF and EF-S work 100% perfectly.
People have commented on the improved quality of the photos which I attribute to already excellent lenses coupled with a 32mp sensor (80+ mp ff). But letting several generations pass rather than chasing each new trinket.
Yes, some pros need to be cutting-edge but a vast majority of people do not.

I had R5s in my studio. Fell apart in a couple of years. I am not the only one. So we changed brand. Short term cost for long term saving.

In the studio it matters a lot. Cameras and lenses get a lot of use and need changing before they die. when they died too fast we changed brand which was a big upgrade.