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3 Good Reasons and 3 Bad Reasons to Upgrade Your Camera Gear

3 Good Reasons and 3 Bad Reasons to Upgrade Your Camera Gear

A lot of photographers spend a good chunk of time reading about gear and considering if they should pull out their credit card to purchase that fancy new camera or lens. Here are three good reasons to purchase new gear and three bad reasons to do so. 

Good Reasons for Upgrading Your Gear

1. Your Current Gear Can't Keep Pace With You

Are you missing shots specifically because of your gear? Perhaps the autofocus system is too slow or perhaps the burst rate and buffer are mediocre and can't get crucial action shots. There are certainly situations in which new gear can make a big difference.

It is important to be objective about your abilities and honest with yourself on this point. Are you truly missing shots because your gear simply can't keep up, or do you perhaps need to shore up your technique a bit or maybe watch a tutorial or two? Don't forget that often, a settings change can also make a difference, especially when it comes to autofocus. Most modern cameras have pretty advanced autofocus systems with intricate settings that can make a big difference with a little tweaking to match your specific shooting situation. Taking the time to dive into your camera's autofocus menu (or even the manual) can make a big difference. 

Tweaking your autofocus settings can make a huge difference.

Before you decide to upgrade your camera or lens because you think it can't keep up anymore, be sure you can articulate clear, objective scenarios in which and reasons why it can no longer keep pace with you and be sure that these are not due to needing to improve your technique. 

2. Noticeably Better Image Quality

No doubt, a new camera or lens can bring definite improvements in image quality. Perhaps you shoot weddings, and your current camera's high ISO performance just is not good enough to give good results. Or perhaps you need more resolution to produce larger prints for your clients (though you might be surprised how little you need). Or maybe a big boost in dynamic range would help you create more balanced and complete exposures. Or maybe you are still working with a kit lens that simply isn't sharp. Whatever the reason, if you will see major gains in image quality, this can be a legitimate reason for an upgrade.

That being said, there's a major asterisk here. Are those gains necessary to satisfy a need? In other words, if we just said better image quality was reason enough for upgrading, we'd all be out there emptying our life savings to buy medium format kits. Here, that gain in image quality has to be qualified by a need: are clients dissatisfied with your image quality? Are you not able to create the prints you want to sell? What's the reason you need better quality?

3. It Makes You Happy and You Can Afford It

Hey, camera gear is fun. I'll be the first to admit that. I love playing with the latest and greatest when I can afford it. If you simply enjoy the nerdy tech side of photography and it is within your personal means to buy that new camera or lens, don't let anyone on the internet shame you for wanting to enjoy it. Do what makes you happy. 

Bad Reasons for Upgrading Your Gear

1. You're Bored With Photography

Photography is a hobby that many, many people dabble in at some points in their lives, but like any other pursuit, many of them lose interest after a while. If you try to prop up that interest by buying a shiny new camera or lens, it will only be a temporary measure, and that same boredom will creep back in, leaving you right where you started, except with less money in your bank account. 

On the other hand, new gear can absolutely invigorate your creativity if you are in a bit of a rut or feeling uninspired. For example, I was in such a place a few years ago, so I went to the B&H store in Manhattan and picked out a rather unique 10mm lens. Seeing the world from such a new perspective effectively rattled me out of that creative rut, and I've had a lot of fun with that lens since then. Just make sure it's your creativity that's feeling uninspired and not that you're falling out of love with or need a break from photography.

2. You're Using It to Bypass Fixing Your Technique

Make sure your technique is rock solid first.

This is a trap a lot of us (myself included) have fallen into at some point. We can't get the photos we want, so we blame the gear, when really, it is our lack of technique holding us back. If you feel like it is your gear that is preventing you from getting the shots you want, I recommend finding a friend whose photographic opinion you trust and who has experience shooting whatever genre you do. Show them some of your missed shots and discuss the equipment you used and situation regarding the shot. They can likely offer you some useful feedback that can help you objectively evaluate where your skill level is and if it has outpaced your equipment's capabilities. 

3. It's New

New gear is fun! Buyer's remorse is not. A lot of us jump on the never-ending hype train that runs through the photography industry, only to feel let down and disappointed when the novelty of the latest and greatest piece of gears wears off after a few weeks of owning it. While new camera and lens announcements are definitely exciting, if you find yourself getting caught up in the hype easily or simply being impulsive, I recommend taking a week or so to sleep on the decision before you click the "purchase" button, especially if you don't need that piece of gear immediately. You might find that once the initial excitement dies down a bit, you won't feel as compelled to buy that camera or lens. 


Camera gear is not cheap, so when you decide to purchase some, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and not wasting money. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Doesn't that fall under #3 of the good reasons to upgrade?

There is one, and only one, reason to upgrade. Is my current gear not meeting my requirements?

Many people love the pleasure of owning new gear and nothing wrong with that at all but it won’t necessarily improve your photography or the quality of your images..

And in the long run, makes better equipment more affordable for those like me on a budget!

3 is odd, but, does even out with another 3 :P

What's odd about it being good to do those things you enjoy doing?

Just a joke :)

Actually, I agree. #3 part two does seem to negate #3 part one! lol

What about for maintaining value? I know a couple people who upgraded from the a7RIII to the IV just so their camera didn't drop too much in value.

That doesn't make any sense to me. All cameras lose value.

I have a friend who had the Nikon 810, upgraded to the Sony whatever-it-was when it came out, didn't love it so upgraded to the Nikon 850 a few months later, and loved it but felt compelled to get the new Nikon mirrorless and claims it's so much better because it's smaller even though she lugs a 600mm lens on it.

But she takes great shots and love the process and has the money, so it's valid if not unusual.

Meanwhile my two primary bodies (7D2 and 5DS) are dinosaurs by comparison. When Canon does a great leap forward I may switch but these two bodies serve my purposes very well in the meantime.


It might just be me, but buying new (to me) camera gear takes many months of research, deliberation and indecision.

I'll always give existing equipment one last go, watch another review of my existing equipment, a tutorial/advertorial focused around what type of photography I originally bought the kit for, as many comparisons on line between my existing kit and newer to me kit.

If someone at my local camera club already uses the newer (to me) kit I'm considering, I'll ask them how they're getting on with it, what will be their next upgrade (important one that as you're not asking if anything is wrong with their kit, but they'll end up telling you..) and if I could handle it.

I'll look at comparison reviews between the new kit and the previous version from the same manufacturer, as most reviewers lament some upgrade in technology they were hoping the new kit would have but is still missing.

Then I'll consider what amount of existing kit the newer kit could let me get rid of. For example I bought a highly rated third party 17-50mm F2.8 zoom, that let me get rid of my kit lens and a 24mm F2.8 prime. If the existing kit I can get rid of hasn't been used regularly, I question if the newer kit would suffer the same fate.

I look at Ebay, not necessarily because of the second hand prices, because some Ebay sellers will try to sell second hand for much more than current new price, but for the availabilty of good used equipment and the number of watchers. It also gives me some comfort that if I do end up buying and regret it, I can offload it.

Finally if I've decided to go for it, I'll look for 'like new, or excellent condition' kit from reputable resellers and only if the price is close to new retail or there is a complete abscence of availability will I buy new.

So far I've not bought a brand new camera body and only one of my lenses has been brought new.

I'm thinking of treating myself to a new camera system, it could take me several months.

I currently have a second hand Canon 7D mk2 and a 200D or SL2.

The 7D mk2 is heavy for my purposes, and the 200D or SL2 has been a revelation

Re: #3 part one. It would make me happy if I could afford it! lol

Never did figure out how to properly calibrate lenses for optimal performance on my DSLR gear. Now I don't have to on my new mirrorless bodies.