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."
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.