Is the Next New Camera Body Really Worth Switching For?

All of the improved features of the Nikon D850 have prompted many photographers to sell their entire kit in order to completely switch camera brands. Do such modest advances in technology really merit a complete overhaul of your gear?

I couldn’t help but stumble across several blog posts from photographers who were so enthralled about the Nikon D850 features that they sold thousands and thousands of dollars worth of camera bodies, lenses, and other accessories in order to be able to shoot with the D850. After reading about the various ways one can rationalize the decision, I have to say, I don’t really get it. Sure, photographers are known for having bad G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) from time to time, but switching brands or selling all of your top-level glass in order to acquire the newest camera body seems a little extreme to me. This has nothing to do with Nikon versus Canon versus Sony versus Brand X, but everything to do with making smart decisions about investing in the tools we use to create our images.

New camera bodies may have improved features such as a more functional LCD screen, silent shutter capabilities, and focus stacking. Granted, they probably are marginally more fun to use. But the question we need to ask ourselves is will these features allow us to create significantly better images? Chances are, 99 percent of the images that we take with the next newest camera body won’t be that much different than those taken with its predecessor. We are highly skilled at justifying why we suddenly “need” a feature that we never really missed before. Sure, some features make cameras easier to use, and a small subset of photographers may really benefit from being able to shoot at an extra two frames per second. Personally, if the upgrade isn’t going to bring in more profits, I’d rather spend my hard-earned money elsewhere. Investing in the “boring” things like business education, studio management software, or a portable strobe might make a lot more sense than completely renewing your kit, and will likely leave a good chunk of change in your bank account when it’s all over.

New technology is always exciting, and we are in the business of selling our product based on the emotions our images invoke. But after wiping the drool off our keyboards while reading the specs on the next best piece of camera gear, it’s time to take a less emotional and more rational look at what we really need to do to become better photographers and better business owners.

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41 Comments

Richard Keeling's picture

Agree, even though I, too, often find myself caught up in the thrill of the new. I never really understood selling out of one camera system to get into another based the latest iteration of whatever. Especially when camera manufacturers tend to play leapfrog with each other and what brand triumphs in one year is relegated the next. As you say, energy is better spent mastering what you have and improving your artistry and other skills.

Anonymous's picture

The question we need to ask ourselves is, 'should I do what I want with my money and gear or do what somebody, who doesn't know me, thinks I should do?'

Cora Munro from The Last of the Mohicans (1992):
"I would rather make the gravest of mistakes than surrender my own judgment."

Lee Morris's picture

Sounds like someone bought the D850 ;). JK I bought one too.

Anonymous's picture

No. I actually agree with all his arguments and plan to keep my D810 for a while but don't like anyone telling others what to do. In fact, if enough people tell me NOT to get a D850, I'll probably go out and buy one! :-)

Matthew Saville's picture

I think that doing something merely to defy the advice of others is just as unintelligent as doing something based on the advice of a single stranger.

The "what to buy" advice is often asked for and received by folks who truly do need the input of another, for whatever reason. Often it is someone who is just getting into a new type of photography, or making any sort of very, very big leap in gear. And often, people buy the wrong gear because they take BAD advice. But, that doesn't mean that GOOD advice does not exist. Good advice can always be given if the advisor knows the needs, preferences, style, and of course the budget of the buyer.

Anonymous's picture

I ended my comment with a smiley face. I was joking. You may want to think about someone's entire post before commenting. Especially when commenting on their intelligence. :-/ <- This emoticon stands for frustrated. I used it because it's frustrating when people don't take the time to think about what you've written before commenting. It's particularly frustrating in this case because I don't need anyone's advice about what I should buy and don't care why others may need advice. ;-) <- This one means I'm kidding. Sorta.

Matthew Saville's picture

If you had used a winking face originally, I might have understood the faint sarcasm. :-)

Anonymous's picture

You're right. My bad. In my defense, I'm an old guy and, honestly, had to look up what :-/ meant. :-)

Matthew Saville's picture

BTW, I'm one of the nutjobs who is thinking of going against the flow just for the sake of going against the flow. The more I hear my Nikon friends talk about switching to Sony, the more I want to dump Nikon for a Pentax K-1. :-P

The internet is a wild place, I tell ya...

Anonymous's picture

Better you dump Nikon for Pentax than Sony or Fuji! I have nothing against the companies or their cameras but can't stand the smug attitudes of a lot of their customers. Kinda like people who drive Priuses or have iPhones. Not all of them, mind you.

Matthew Saville's picture

Exactly. I was active briefly in the Pentax user community, and they are a much more respectful bunch. I long for a day when I can once again just advise people "it's just preference, hold some cameras and pick whichever one feels right to you, has the buttons in places that make sense for your brain, etc." ...but for now, neither Canon, Nikon, Sony, or any other camera company for that matter, can be advised on personal preference alone. Certain systems are in fact truly superior to others, for certain shooting purposes.

Anonymous's picture

I'm a Nikon guy but there are times I wish they had certain lenses that Canon has.

Andrew Guo's picture

haha iPhones users are rarely smug, we would rather Android users just let us live our lives with our iPhones in peace instead of finding the need to tell us how our choice is "wrong" or that we're some mindless sheep lol

Anonymous's picture

Really? That's not been my experience at all but I suppose it all depends on your point of view and maybe it varies depending on where you live, etc...

Ricky Perrone's picture

Me three. My move from 5D mark3 to D810 was something I'd do again in a heartbeat. The improvements the D850 brings only makes the proposition of changing camera systems sweeter. In fact even though I have the D850 I'm finding it hard to say goodbye to the D810.

michael andrew's picture

Photography is a hobby first, and a profession second these days in regards to "professional gear" owned by people.

What I mean by that is 30 years ago very few hobbyist photographers spent their entire tax return on a lens or a new camera. Today it is mind boggling to me how much amateur photographers spend on gear. I cannot even begin to understand it. I have met people that have hordes of Super telephoto lenses and honestly do not even use them.

As a professional I rarely touch my working cases and bags of gear unless on a paid assignment. I leave all the L glass, and Canon full frame cameras, and Profoto strobes in the closet, and grab my Iphone and my fuji xt100 when I go out to shoot for hobby. If I did something else for a living I guarantee you I would not own countless thousands invested into gear.

Now I am curious how many of the photographers you mention who are "switching" are solely Professional? Because that would make very little sense to me. If they are hobbyist however, it fits right in line with the phenomenon.

Daryl Hunter's picture

I am a professional in the fact I lead photography tours for a living, if I had to depend on photo sales I'd starve. Now the qualifier is over, I am contemplating the switch from Canon to Nikon as in the game of leap frog, canon seems to have a broken leg. Since the Canon's D5lV release of the 30mg censor, 4 under the 810 and now the 850. I don't go out and get things right away, I get them when needed, my last upgrade in 2013. I have been waiting for the price drop of the Canon's D5lV and while waiting Nikon leaps again. I will likely keep a canon so I won't have to take a bath on my 500mm F/4L. It is my landscape work that could use that extra resolution anyway. I am lucky, my hobby is now my profession and my high end gear is with me always.

michael andrew's picture

You should just buy a second hand 5Div for 2800$ and a second hand 5Dsr for 2500$ and you will save on lens trade loss and have 2 stellar cameras.

Daryl Hunter's picture

My latest thinking is keeping a Canon body for my 500F/4L for a wildlife outfit and go to the 850 for landscape. For non-cloud users the 850 is going to be the last update Adobe is going to do on lightroom 6, no time for Canon to to come up with an equal camera for lightroom 6.

Jonathan Brady's picture

I think if it makes your job easier or expands your creative options, etc., then yeah, go for it. EVEN IF it doesn't mean making more money. Job satisfaction and fulfillment are important components of one's career, regardless of what your chosen career is.
The most confusing aspect of such conversations is... why do other people care? Let ______ swap systems if they want to.

Dan Watson's picture

Granted, I do shoot make money as a photographer and as a gear lover, I'm quick to make excuses for new purchases. But as a wedding photographer, anything that helps me get the shot or increases my chances of a successful capture is game for me. Decent framerate/buffer, quiet shooting, better AF (especially in low light), high ISO performance, reliability, ergonomics...are all things that I would absolutely consider switching if a different camera/system gave me noticeable improved performance in any of these areas. What actually matters less is general image quality as virtually EVERY high end camera with a skilled photographer can produce amazing IQ for my clients.

Vladimir Ambia's picture

If you can afford it get it.

Just because you buy a Ferrari does not make you a race car driver.

David Moore's picture

While I've never swapped brands (played with the idea of going from my Canons to Fuji but didn't), I used to get the newest body I could afford when stuff came out. Now I have my 5D3, and it does all the things I want. Maybe if it breaks I'll get a 4, but, eh. I love the glass I have, and I don't want to lose that, that's for sure.

Anonymous's picture

I think that the GAS syndrom afects much more the enthusiast as profesionals and the GAS its self inflicted. Many enthusiast become bored of photography and assume that whith the purchase of the newest (successful) camera or lens the hobby will get a new kick...

Jonathan Reid's picture

If I had thousands to blow, I would do it just because I want Canon to pay for their horrible business model. If enough people felt the same way, it might even make Canon take notice.

I'm sure you're right, the quality difference will be negligible between the stills, but as soon as you try shoot 4K, you'll wish for the Nikon.

Daryl Hunter's picture

Canon, that is that printer company right ?

Richard Bradbury's picture

It has always baffled me also. I get that sometimes the switch and upgrades are justified for a change in work type or may be even a bad experience with one brand.

That said why the hell spend (may be waste) all that money and more importantly time switching to and learning a new system?

Many say they want the gear to just work and get out of their way yet chase the latest and greatest gear.

G.A.S can strike anyone, I have let it get me before now looking at the Canon 5Ds. WTF I do not need a 50mp camera.

I have gotten better in recent months and will run my current camera bodies in to the ground.

P.S Enough with the I switched from X to Y because posts... you already spent the money and are spending the time. Also you should of already justified the switch and spend so why are you looking for other validation?

Juan Carlos Ayala's picture

Gear is always fun to have, regardless of anything else. Also, for many, photography will always be a hobby so overall, if you can afford it, get it. For myself, I sold my D810 to cover about half the price of the D850 and put up the difference which felt like a can't-miss deal since I effectively got 80% of the current new price of a D810. Digital rot is a real thing so that factored into my decision. Having said that, the D810 is an *amazing* camera and is a really good option if stills are the priority (the enhanced video performance of the D850 is useful to have - AF sucks still, however the 4k footage (no crop) is really nice to have as is the vibration reduction in HD).

Now, in terms of new features, the focus system has already been really useful as has the higher fps rate and the image quality and better ISO performance is better, though not by a large margin. The swivel touch screen, however, is a revelation, and the battery life is noticeably better.

Tony Northrup's picture

"Chances are, 99 percent of the images that we take with the next newest camera body won’t be that much different than those taken with its predecessor."

^^ This exactly. None of us have seen 99% of Ansel Adams' images. It wouldn't matter if he had just kept using his first Brownie, for those images.

You don't need that new high-end camera for the vast majority of your images, but when you spend weeks, months, or years planning a shot, and the sun and clouds are perfectly aligned, and a V of geese flies through at just the right moment, you're creating an image that will define your career. Your great-grandchildren will point to it and say, "My great grand-dad was a photographer."

Some people spend $10k on gear and just take snapshots. If they have fun, that's fine. But for some of us, the cost of even the best camera gear becomes insignificant compared to a life of practice, planning, and patience creating the handful of images we'll be remembered by.

Fritz Asuro's picture

I sold my D810 (and my Trinity set) to get the D850 (and set of primes). Why? Because I think I need what the D850 offers versus what the D810 has.

MP - Really doesn't matter. More is appreciated, but not necessarily what I need.

D5/D500 AF Module - Though D810's autofocus is good, I've always wanted to have the same AF System that the D5 has (especially after I got to try it out)

7/9 FPS - This is something I truly want! I had to use DX mode (With grip and EN-EL18a batteries) just to unlock the 7FPS of the D810. And now, coupled with the new AF, I can be confident that I'll get more in focus rapid fire shots.

4K and 1080p Slow motion - I've recently doing a lot of video work and the new video features are a big welcome to my workflow!

M-RAW - despite some reviews saying that the M-RAW is compressed, as far as what I've learned about it, it has a different (and usable) compression compared to D810's sRAW. I really hope it works like a down sampled 46MP

TLDR: I want it at the same time need it because of its new features.

Matthew Saville's picture

At this point I don't think either Canon or Nikon should worry about convincing people to switch TO them, they need to simply worry about not losing existing customers.

Then, after Canon and Nikon both deliver a full-frame mirrorless competitor, we can start talking about which system is the most jump-ship-worthy of them all.

For now, the D850 is simply the best DSLR ever made, ...FOR Nikon shooters who are actually looking to upgrade one more time before they consider a Nikon FX mirrorless option. Which is to say, a pretty darn small pool of the population...

Daryl Hunter's picture

I love my pentaprism, never want a mirrorless.

Matthew Saville's picture

Hey, I'm right there with you, for some uses. You'll have to pry my OVF from my cold dead hands. But for many special purposes, the EVF is indeed a great tool that I cannot deny the usefulness of.

The other thing I can't deny is that I'm in the minority of folks who still prefer to view the world with their own two eyes in general; the rest of this generation is content to see EVERYTHING through a digital display.

Daryl Hunter's picture

Exactly

Howard Decker's picture

Nice camera, but I'm going to hang onto my Nikon F for a lot longer.

Louis Amore's picture

I'll start by saying I ordered it but I'm a Nikon user, but I've become so angry when I've read some advice on forums given to people who clearly have a lower knowledge about photography when asking about the D850, what they are told is to invest in thousands of pounds worth of lenses for the camera, but nothing about can they use it or anything about what is thier level in photography, so many gear heads in the industry, hardly anyone knows that the best investment in photography is lighting, but nope that's too boring to buy.

Ross Autofocus's picture

I do understand people making the choice to switch, unless you are a professional and must try to have the best anyway, a great camera is just a consumer item, in a consumer world to most people. Nothing beats the thrill of opening that brand new box, taking it out for the first time, and the excitement of shooting images on that first outing - yet three months down the road, it is just a camera again, the seduction of that new 'thing' in your life begins to fade. Sure if you use it often, you will still marvel at the image quality, but ask yourself this, do you really make many large enlargements to warrant upgrading over say, a D810. I came at my own 'g.a.s.' issue recently by a different route. When I saw test images from the D810 a couple of years back, I decided there and then to upgrade to it from my DX camera. I saw an introductory video by Jim Brandenberg, a month with the D800, a year earlier which sold me on the line. So what did I do? Well, I waited. I saw the D810 at £3,300 body only, sitting there for months, The next time I looked, it had fallen, months later, to £2800. Over the next two years it had leveled out at £2400. Then, back in March, rumors of the impending arrival of a replacement began to circulate. The price continued to fall. It finally hit £1600 last month, brand new body only. That is a saving of £1700 on the launch price. Why did I wait? That much is obvious. I now had a D810, a 14-24mm f/2.8 and a 24-105 for less than I would have spent on the body only at the launch. So have I blown it by buying an old model? Absolutely not - the D810 is still a monster, the images it produces are incredible, and it is everything I expected it to be. A bonus is that the model is mature and any issues ironed out long ago, not that it had any - the D800 was a different story with green lcd and autofocus issues. Am I happy? Very much so. Will I upgrade to the D850? Absolutely, but, not for a few years - and only then if I find I need to. The switch from a DX was an easy decision - the law of diminishing returns will affect my decision on the D850 and it may never happen. That said, I am sure that towards the end of its life cycle, it will hit bargain prices, just as the D810 has right now. If you want a D850 but the price frightens you - take another look at a D810. It may not have all the bells and whistles, but, it is a great camera and will be more than most of us will ever need anyway. If I win the lottery, revise everything I just said, I'll order one the same day - but that aside, think before you blow thousands, and if you are already on a full frame DSLR you have to ask yourself some serious questions before getting that credit card out.

Tor Ivan Boine's picture

D50 -> D90 -> D610. It's time for an upgrade now. Hoping for the D850 next year.

Steven Houle's picture

I switched systems a few years ago and it was probably the best thing I could have ever done! I need all the dynamic range and clean high iso I can get and Canon just wasnt cutting it for me so I swittched to Nikon. Im a professional photo editor as well as Wedding photographer and I still have a few second shooters that use Canon and the image quality is night and day. Almost to the point where I dont want to allow Canon gear to be used by my shooters any more. Even with their new body the mk iv. Its still not close. You can read all the reviews you want but i deal with the real world situations and the ablity to push and pull the images is worlds better on Nikon thus allowing me to create much more dynamic images in post for my clients. If i had to choose today between a mk iv or a d850 it be nikon and it has nothing to do with being a fanboy. To me switching was not because I wanted new gear but because ill always go with the gear that allows me to create the best possible images. Im not brand loyal and wouldnt have an issue switching again to another brand in the future.

Allan Harrison's picture

Nikon have bad service and get 1 out of ten for build quality I have three bodies and they quite literally fall to bits..they "fixed a lens" and ruined it. Nikon are history as far as I am concerned.

I bought a Leica M4 in 1970 with a 2.8 collapsible Elmar. It cost £180 including the lens, I sold the body for £500 a few years ago and kept the lens. The body still looked like new. I bought a Nikon D300 when they first came available about 2006 and it's worthless now, held together with rubber bands and blue tac. The Leica lens is perfect the Nikon is f#=÷× from the focus to the glass and was rebuilt by Nikon a couple of years ago then not used until last year when it was sent back with my comlaint. They wanted another £380 to fix it for the second time in as many years. Buy a Nikon ? Never Ever Again.

I bought some Leica binoculars 20 years ago. I sent them back last year and requested a service. I told them they had been well used in the Sahara for many years got them back cleaned, no new parts required so the cost was zero. They only charge for new parts. That is what I call excellent, unbeatable, quality and service. Not that I expect this from Nikon but I'm not being ripped off twice. Nikon think they got away with it. I suppose they did but it was a costly mistake, much more for them than me. I also have a Nikon compact I'm now loathe to use. The sooner they all fall to bits the better. Take note Nikon here's one customer who won't be sh#= by you again.