Do You Crossgrade Camera Systems?

Do You Crossgrade Camera Systems?

The grass is always greener on the other side, or so the proverb says, and there is no denying that the latest offering from another camera manufacturer can be a tempting proposition. Are you a serial crossgrader?

It was the 50MP resolution, medium format sensor, light weight, and that fact that it looks so darned cool. My mouth salivated and slavered, but I couldn't bring myself to utter the four letter word — they who shall not be named! The sweetness of the technological offering was simply above and beyond what I was currently using. I kidded myself that there was a financial case for satisfying the sweaty urge to break out my flexible friend.

In the end I resisted, but felt the strong tug of crossgrading. With this in the back of my mind, it struck me that as photographers we are brand driven out of a desire to belong to a tribe, to be a part of a group of people who are like minded. This repeatedly occurs in all aspects of life, be it whether you are a Patriots fan, Hornets supporter, Alfa petrol-head, or Mac devotee. We identify with tribes, brands and, for some, there is a strong sense of loyalty. As they say:

Once a Mac-user, always a Mac-user!

Crossgrading is therefore a big deal. A really big deal. Someone changing from Nikon to C**** (I can't even type it!) would be like switching support from Liverpool to Everton or the Redskins to the Cowboys. It's one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals that there is no going back from. Which means that crossgrading has to offer significant advantages that can't be passed up in the short or medium term in order to be worthwhile. Is it a wholesale change to a lighter weight setup that you just can't get from your current system? Do you gain a competitive advantage in the form of a step-change in the body plus access to a lens range that is second-to-none? Only you can answer those questions for your own specific circumstances, but one guy who made the jump from Nikon DSLR to Fuji mirrorless back in 2015 was PhotoBizXposed podcaster Andrew Hellmich. Andrew outlined in great detail why he switched from Nikon to Fuji and was particularly drawn to mirrorless for the low weight of the system, coupled with Fuji's top-end manufacturing, high quality imagery, and reigniting a passion for shooting. Of course it wasn't plain sailing and he notes issues such as slow focusing, low light capability, battery life, and the LCD viewfinder amongst others. So all in all, a successful crossgrade... except it wasn't completely! When I caught up with Andrew he said he had had second thoughts and moved back to Nikon, before revisiting his camera systems and he now uses both Fuji and Nikon together. As he says:

For me, when working in low light, particularly with flash, the [Nikon] D750 just gets the job done.

Familiarity was a key aspect. "I pick up the Nikon and I can relax and focus on the moments and what’s happening than working to make my camera do what I want it too."

Would you crossgrade between Nikon and Canon?
Would you crossgrade between Nikon and Canon?

Even with Hellmich's not-so-positive experiences, there are plenty of photographers who have changed systems without problems (such as Bill Thornhill). However there are three other reasons why you might get another camera whilst not necessarily swapping out your main work setup. The first of these is because you need a complementary system. Like Hellmich, I liked the Fuji X series for the combination of image quality relative to the svelte size. I therefore purchased an X-M1 with 27mm pancake lens which I use for cycle touring, trekking, and anytime where space is at a premium. I also use it because it can print directly to my Instax SP-2 printer. It offers me things my work camera can't, but I don't need it for commercial jobs. In short, I've bought in to it because it can do a specific job and do it well.

The second reason for buying in to a system is because it's collectable. As a result you may, or may not, decide to shoot with it! For me, the pull of the little rod dot was simply too much. The build quality, smoothness of operation, and joy of shooting has taken on an almost mythical status. Oh, and also the price! I simply had to buy in to Leica. Or, to put it another way… it's the shiniest of the shiny things! There are many collectible cameras around, some cheap, some expensive, but all providing a reason to buy them, to collect them.

The final reason is when you choose not to buy in to a system. So when is a camera not a system camera? When it has an integrated lens. Usually these come in the form of specialized cameras, such as my uber-svelte Sony RX100. It enables me to always pack a camera. However there are plenty of other examples, such as shock/waterproof models, bridge cameras, or action cameras. They all serve a particular purpose, a specific niche.

There is actually a fourth reason, which as a variation on the second. Rather than buying in to a camera system because it's collectible, you buy in because… well, because you can! It's shiny, new, and exciting. In short, you buy in because of gear acquisition syndrome or GAS. We all like the new toys that invidious consumption brings, although I draw the line at posting an unboxing video! However, what's not to like about a brand new camera that shows off the latest and greatest technology? The downside is, of course, the price! And the fact that we end up with a large collection of kit we rarely use, that slowly (or rapidly) devalues. But hey, if you think of buying cameras as a leisure activity then it's fun. It also just happens to be pricey!

Are you a crossgrader? Answer the poll below and see how you compare to other Fstoppers.

Lead image by Chuttersnap via Unsplash, used under Creative Commons. Body image courtesy of Pexels via Pixabay, used under Creative Commons.

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Martin Angelo Sunesen's picture

I use both Canon, Nikon and Sony. I do this because I need different cameras for different things. Canon for video, Nikon for Photos and Sony for both but in a lighter package.

JetCity Ninja's picture

just curious, but what do the canon and nikon bring to the table that the sony doesnt, requiring you to maintain 3 systems instead of just the sony?

Simon Patterson's picture

I have a full frame Nikon rig, an APS-C Sony rig and an APS-C Canon rig.

For top quality images, fast wide angle glass and affordable long tele zoom, I use the Nikon.

For a light travel kit or when I want a small kit, I use the Sony.

When I want to film video in decent quality for long periods on end without overheating, I use Canon (with Magic Lantern).

Martin Angelo Sunesen's picture

@Jetcityninja Sony’s mirrorless cameras aren’t fast enough unfortunately. They have a lag that dlsrs doesn’t have and that’s why I can’t use Sony for events. Nikon really delivers on the photography front but saddens me when it comes to video. When filming with canon the amount of color grading and correcting is far less than if I were to shoot on Nikon. Also canon has more options regarding fps.

Simon Patterson's picture

I have exactly the same, for the same reasons.

Tony Clark's picture

I shot Nikon back in the film days but waited a bit till I transitioned to digital. At that point, I went with Canon and have remained with them. Remember the days when you could buy a new Mamiya RZ ProII kit, a couple lenses, film backs and Polaroid back for the price of a new 1Series DSLR body? I grimaced this week as I read about the new Canon R 85/1.2 offered at nearly $3K, I paid less than half that for my 85/1.4LIS when it was released.

JetCity Ninja's picture

a pinch of inflation and a dash of R&D still doesn't fully cover the increase in price for what seemed like equivalent gear 30 years ago, in my mind. if i can't blame the manufacturers for near extortion, i'd have to fault my memory and i'm not yet ready to admit i'm going nuts.

Tony Clark's picture

I had to confirm the Nikon kit was sold and replaced with a 645ProII kit in '96. Then came a Pentax 67II then an RZ ProII about '01. The 1D was bought in '05 and I've transitioned to full frames after that so it's been nearly 20 years. It's a reminder that I should have invested in Apple stock rather than upgrades...

Guy Incognito's picture

I put a Nikon strap on my Canon camera once, does that count?

JetCity Ninja's picture

only if it was a Rebel, because irony.

JetCity Ninja's picture

you may be brand driven and so are many others, but not "we," and definitely not everyone. yes, we are pack animals, but not all people care for all packs.

for example, in my case, i shoot aps-c fujifilm, moved over from nikon, and feel a GFX-50S would better suit my preferred genre. it has everything to do with form and function and nothing to do with some third party's brand perception. i couldn't care less about what someone else thought of my preferred hardware. same with my computers; i moved from wintel to mac in 2008 due to poor customer service and refusal to honor the warranty against manufacturer defects, not because i burst out of my nerd-chrysalis as a hipster and felt my computer should reflect that metamorphosis.

Jason Frels's picture

I shoot Nikon because of a decision that I made a long time ago when a Nikon and kit lens was on sale. I am not rabid about it and would probably be just as happy win a Canon, but I can't see the hassle and money loss of selling lenses and cameras just to switch to another brand. It is silly to think that you can only take good pictures with one brand vs. another. I really don't understand the fierce loyalty over camera brands who aren't paying me. I also used to have a Ford pick-up and if I was buying a new one, I'd consider GMC or Ford; but they are priced like luxury cars these days.

Now I am rabidly anti-Sony because of some poorly designed, poorly supported, barely functional, expensive junk that I have with their name on it that I bought new a couple of years ago. They can shove it.

Alex Yakimov's picture

My experience with Sony is mixed, Vaio laptop from 2002 is dead, Handycam​ from 1998 is nearly 100%- functional, except the battery of course.

Owain Shaw's picture

I had the same experience with Canon. My first camera was an EOS film camera and kit lenses that was essentially being given away because of the push for digital. Then I already had two Canon lenses so when going digital it only made sense to look at Canon, and later upgrade to one of their cameras.

Nikon had a similar film camera I'm sure, but it wasn't as visible that day when I walked into that store having decided to buy an SLR with money from my part-time job. Later they had some excellent digital cameras when I bought my first one, and when I upgraded. I'm sure I'd have had a happy ten or twelve years shooting on Nikon just the same.

I own a Sony mobile phone but this wasn't a brand choice, it was one of the handsets available at no additional cost on my service plan. That said, right now it is doing better for me than my experience with iPhones which has put me off those for life, especially considering the premium price tag here in Europe but mostly because the two iPhone handsets I owned (one was a replacement) both consistently developed the same fault repeatedly over a short period of time and became far more of an inconvenience than the convenience they were designed to provide. I wouldn't consider myself anti-Apple though, I'd be interested in a MacBook or iMac but I shan't fork out for another iPhone.

Spy Black's picture

I've never understood why people wouldn't consider multiple formats for whatever. Get what you need, doesn't matter if you have two or more systems.

Deleted Account's picture

I use Sinar, Hasselblad and Nikon… since the first day… I am not a crossgrader
Different systems for different works and different results.
After all they are just instruments.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Does MF FUJI GFX justify keeping it alongside with Nikon d850? Or is it simply a GAS?

Mike Smith's picture

The Fuji was what i was thinking about the d800. In end i thought was GAS!

Deleted Account's picture

I cannot speak about what I don't know. Never used Fuji…

Alex Yakimov's picture

Canon broke on me multiple times and our service provider was far from stellar, so I went for Nikon.

Eric Salas's picture

I only shoot Sony bodies but I used canon lenses all the time; Nikon lenses just don’t adapt well enough and no reason to look at Fuji or the multifunction remote control makers (Panasonic or Olympus).

Jacques Cornell's picture

Minus one for the gratuitous and misguided slam against Panasonic and Olympus, both of whom were way ahead of Sony in many respects and deserve credit for pushing mirrorless and developing features that other makers are only now beginning to adopt. Sony's touchscreen and IS implementation are still way behind PanOly's.

Cristian Perotti's picture

I never crossgraded. I started with Canon because my mentor (as I like to call him) used Canon and recommended it to me. I like it, it is familiar. However, I have used different brands and I have been thinking about switching to Sony mainly because of Eye AF (I do mostly portraits). For some specific jobs (not often by the way) I rent either a Fuji or Hasselblad (both medium format) from 2 different guys. Unfortunately, where I live (Uruguay) there aren´t any rental places with Hasselblads or Fujis.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Using two systems is not necessarily "cross-grading". I've been shooting events with Micro Four Thirds for 5 years and recently added Sony 35mm-format with primes to my toolkit for specialized low-light use. I'll continue to use the two kits side-by-side, each in its area of strength, mainly MFT with zooms for flash work and Sony with primes for low-light no-flash stuff. I don't see any point in trying to make the new Sony kit entirely replace my MFT kit, since it'd be much more expensive, bigger and heavier, with not a big IQ advantage in many situations. Plus, my GX9 with 12-32 is, IMHO, the ultimate carry-everywhere camera.

Deleted Account's picture

Brand loyalty confuses the hell out of me. Why give a brand full control of the tools you're going to use? handcuffing yourself financially to one brand for life gives them the excuse to slow down innovation because they have less incentive to outperform the competition. If I saw a camera made by a different brand than the one I currently own I would jump ship in a heart beat. A camera has to inspire me to use it. I will admit that I don't shoot for clients and my work is more about personal exploration but the strength of second hand markets make it pretty easy to unload a camera system.

Also, your poll needs to be changed to a spectrum of "Absolutely Yes" to "Never" and then equal spots between the two.

Jon Dize's picture

Why call it CROSSGRADING, which makes no sense, when what is actually being discussed is CROSSBRANDING? These types of diatribe are like a toothache to me. I could add paragraph after paragraph of this for that, those when and then, dis, dat and demz too, but the fact is, the SENSIBLE conclusion is... USE THE BEST TOOL FOR THE JOB... even if you have to rent it, borrow it, build it yourself. Regardless of what name is on it... USE THE BEST TOOL FOR THE JOB! PERIOD! Why must photographers be so compelled to offer ESOTERICUSBULLSHITICUS on every single topic?

Daniel Lee's picture

I use both Canon and Sony. If my budget allowed it I would probably have a Fuji body too. I always find it funny when people fight over brands, having one of each is having the best of both worlds.
Aside from Fuji, I have never owned Nikon either and doubt I ever will. They've never appealed to as lenses wise, Canon arguably make the best and sensor wise that would be Sony. Plus the sensors in Nikon are Sony anyways haha.