Nope, You Don't Need That Fancy New Camera That Is Only a Touch Better Than Your Current One

Here we are, another year has gone by and we have just enjoyed the release of yet another camera that is "certainly" the most amazing thing since sliced bread. This new camera comes with promises of wondrous grandeur that are only cemented by the inevitable implication from its maker that it is the camera that will help you create truly better images than you did before. This is, of course, nothing more than marketing hype designed to get you to spend your money. 

If your camera bag currently houses a one or even two generation old version of a specific camera body and is still in perfectly good working order, you have very little to gain from upgrading to the latest tech. I know the new camera that just came out promises revolutionary change that will transform the way you shoot but that is never actually the case. Yes, the sensor is probably a little better with a smidgen more dynamic range and perhaps a few more pixels, but will either of those things really show up in your final delivered images? Probably not, unless you are already pushing your existing camera to its absolute limit. (Reality check: you probably aren't!) 

The difference between 24, 36, or even 46 megapixel images when printed for a photo album or shrunk for social media is virtually invisible. Even when printed large it is rare that anyone will be actually be viewing the photo from close enough to notice the better detail of the higher resolution image. The same is true of virtually every other new feature. Take, for example, shutter speed and frame rate. Cameras over the last decade have vastly improved in both regards but if you really think about it, have you noticed any change in the overall quality of action sports images printed in newspapers or magazines compared to half a decade ago? 

Upgrading a camera can certainly lead to benefits if you have a definable weakness in your current set up that is limiting you in a way that you cannot solve without superior equipment. To think that blindly upgrading to the latest tech for no other reason than because it overshadows your current camera on some arbitrary specs sheet is a madness that only benefits camera makers. Before you dump out your piggy bank, think long and hard about whether upgrading to the latest camera will actually have any impact on your work or if it is merely an expensive vanity purchase designed to feed your lust for new fancy gear. Invest in your imagination and technique instead, that is where you will find the transformative improvement you crave. 

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Frank Withers's picture

Was this published as a counter to the past 10 articles about how we need the new D810 lol

Fritz Asuro's picture

I don't know with you, but I need it's successor D850!

Chuck Tintera's picture

Maybe, but ... I'm worthy😀

Michael Dougherty's picture

Im entitled.

Alex Cooke's picture
Joel Cleare's picture

Every time I read a comment trashing any high end camera I think of this video.

Reginald Walton's picture

But who buys stuff they need? LOL

Alan Mayert's picture

Well personally I really like what Nikon has come out with like the D5,D500 and now the D850
Altho I still use a D3,D700 and D300,12 MP seems just fine to me
The main feature I think that tempts me to upgrade is the the focus ability of the newer cameras
I generally like older cameras and have been exploring Canon as well

Andrew Ashley's picture

Of course we don't "NEED" a "fancy new camera"... but we WANT it...
But I also WANT to learn wet plate processes... so what does that say about me?

Chris Ward's picture

Shhhhhhh...ignore this article!!!!
Buy the latest and greatest so I can happily snatch up your slightly used D810 for half of what you paid for it!

Mike Dixon's picture

It's always a balance between what you WANT, what you NEED, and what you can AFFORD.

Adrian Pocea's picture

Personally i am intrigued about the overlooking of the downsides that come with such a huge resolution. When Canon 5ds cane out, everybody was screaming, oh, 50 mpx is an overkill, huge file size, you need a stable hand , otherwise your pictures will be blurry, the mirrir vibration is gonna blur your pictures, even on a tripod you need to be really sturdy. Why isn't anybody talking about this now?

Christopher Smoot's picture

Because people hashed that out with the D800, which was replaced with the 810, and now 850. The people this camera targets are those who bought the 800/800E or the 810 - they're over it.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

Even funnier : many are disappointed that the D850 only have 45Mpx...
For these guys, NIKON should have released at least 100Mpx D8xx, as there is a rumor of a 5Ds MkII with 120Mpx.

And imagine, what you could do if D850 would have been a mirrorless 100Mpx body ? Why did not Nikon release such a revolutionnary device ? Ahem...

Nathan Wong's picture

The 100MP mirrorless could still come. The year, Nikon's 100th year, is still going.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

You should be ashamed. I spilled my morning coffee on my keyboard !
I stay amazed Nikon nor Canon still haven't released their 200Mpx 960fps sport camera. This D850 is a total failure in this regards.

Ryan Cooper's picture

I think Sandisk is going to have to invent some faster/bigger cards! ;)

Anonymous's picture

I also don't need another article telling me what I need or don't need. :-/

Ryan Cooper's picture

If you have to specifically go up close and pixel peep to tell the difference then there really isn't one to 99% of viewers. This is why billboards makers don't bother printing at 300 dpi. Sure you can go up close and see that it isn't perfectly upsized but no normal viewer ever does so they save money and print them at 40 dpi.

Chris Jones's picture

Bob, the point Ryan is making here is that the quality of photography on a subjective level doesn't improve with every new, higher spec camera. He clearly states photography wasn't half as good in the years cameras had 12mp compared to devices with twice as much today. He's on point. It's true. Why take pictures on a 24mp device today if you know in two years you'll be taking them on a 40mp device? will the images you make today be half as good? practicing good technique will give you good images. I was once a scanner operator for a leading image bureau in london and we scanned 5x4 transparencies 240dpi for 8x10 and 300 for 11x14. The naked eye wont see the difference in resolution between 240 and 300 at 8x10. This was twenty years ago when images were inherently better quality technically and had an assured higher final destination. I'd take a guess that 90% of images created nowadays end up being viewed on a screen. Go on Flickr and see how many images created on 5D's through a 70-200, then mulched in Lightroom and spat out online there are. It's these folk Ryan is talking to.

Chris Jones's picture

Thanks Bob. The internet is at once both great and terrible at the same time. Great in that it democratises everything and and gives people a platform to voice their opinions, and terrible in that it gives people a platform to voice their opinions!

Camera websites are awash with technical specs, and even more forums with people firing broadsides at each other with their tech-spec knowledge. What Ryan is trying to get through is that this detail only makes sense in the tech-spec portion of the manual. What's truly important is getting out there and shooting.

My thoughts on this are that while we have these incredible devices and post production immediately available the skill required to simply use them isn't necessarily in abundance, as Flickr etc will prove. When you say a Sony is better image quality I deduce you mean viewed at full pixels on a screen, or backlit on a phone. I was talking about the craft and technical aptitude involved in making a great shot.

michael andrew's picture

Yes, its so funny, Nikon announces a D850 and breaks the internet with comments, which while great wont make but a 1-3% difference in the way I shoot.

Meanwhile Canon releases/announces Dual Pixel Auto focus for video which is absolutely remarkable and completely changes how i can shoot video as well as the new Perspective Control Lenses with Macro distance focus which are incredible game changers and every is like: whats the point?


Anonymous's picture

More people want the D850's features than those of the 5DMkIV. :-/ Enjoy your uniqueness. :-)

zeissiez lee's picture

Agree with you here. The 5D4 could have been more perfect with an articulated LCD screen though, that will allow shooting in high or low angles with that speedy Dual Pixel AF. I would trade the increase in pixel count, better high ISO for Dual Pixel AF. More pixels = more time-consuming, for my case.

Apurva Madia's picture

In my opinion there are some stellar reasons for upgrading to D850. Prime among those is its much improved AutoFocus system over 800/810 which will surely give higher percentage of well focused shots. Secondly it has a 1:1 crop mode and we film era guys have a real chance to shoot like a Rollei especially with its tilting screen!! Thirdly it has a spectacular viewfinder which has larger magnification and its super bright due to its coated lens elements, this will entail an exciting experience for the passionate dedicated photographers. Advancements are always incremental but this is how we progressed from Dagguriotypes to the current level of technical quality. Also joy of photography or any other art for that matter is about going through the process as much as the final result!

Joseph Anthony's picture

Sounds like someone is trying to talk themselves out of buying a new camera! :-)

Anonymous's picture


Ryan Cooper's picture

Ha, I will buy a new camera when my current one is worn out or if I am trying to do something and the camera is the barrier to my ability to do it.

Anonymous's picture

You're clearly not pushing your craft. ;-)

Ryan Cooper's picture

Or perhaps pushing the craft has more to do with edging towards creative limits rather than arbitrarily pushing camera equipment to its technical limits.

Anonymous's picture

I was kidding of course but, personally, when I see a camera with specs beyond my current capabilities, I think, "What could I do with that?" So, while I agree with you, I also think new technology can add to your inspiration. Measured doses, as they say.

Chuck Tintera's picture

Up close viewing of a print? I still recall doing that to an Ansel Adams print. What a disappointment.
I'm not prepared (yet) to dump my Nikons and my Fuji and all the lenses ... But I'm thinking about it and, seriously, can you tell? Say you set up 3 cameras - a 10+ mp, a 20+ mp and a 40+ mp, side by side and shot the same scene, a cityscape (lots of intricate details) could you tell which was which and would prints from each show obvious difference? Wasn't there a test like this done with a Phase 1 camera?

Ryan Cooper's picture

It could have been an issue with the print. Maybe created from a low-resolution scan or something. If it wasn't an original printed by Adams himself it's easy for quality to nose dive.

Nathan Wong's picture

I had the opportunity to stick my nose right up to an Ansel Adams print and spend as much time as I wanted. It's quite amazing the amount of detail he spent on minor things such as highlights and shadows (his claim to fame with the zone system). The print I saw was Tetons and Snakes. There's a highlight in the river that normally people will let blow out, but not in this print. He made sure there was detail in it. Same with the shadows. There were no crushed blacks. Just dark with the slightest amount of detail in it. Granted, one of his assistants may have printed the photo I was looking at but the man definitely approved it.

If you really spend the time to look at a print and know what to look for then you'll be amazed. If you just look at the print from afar and just look at it as a whole, then you may or may not be impressed.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Thats really an interesting point that a given photo may be aesthetically pretty boring when viewed as a whole but impressively and amazingly detailed when viewed closely. Though, it does bring up the question: Is such an image a great work of art? Or is it more akin to a great feat of mathematical engineering? Such a creation requires near unparalleled technical skill and attention to detail, presumably at the cost of deprioritizing imagination.

Chuck Tintera's picture

Well I'm about to retire from 50 years in this business and while I think I could tell a 30x40 from a 35 mm neg (Nikon) from a 30x40 made from a 120 neg (Hasselblad) (I had the opportunity to do just that) I have never had the situation occur where I had 3 digital files, sizes I mentioned, in hand to compare. We still have an Epson 9900 available and I was musing aloud what the results would be. Closest I've come to that test would be trying to make 11x14s from D100 files, ugh.

Timothy Hines's picture

I've missed a number of shots due to the autofocus on my D7100 and D750. After years of carefully tweaking the settings, I'm still frustrated with autofocus performance. The lenses do have an impact, but it seems to be a consistent issue with the camera bodies. I'm hoping the D850 I ordered will improve the situation slightly. Also my shutter counts are high enough to make me worried, so it's time for a replacement.

Joel Cleare's picture

Vast majority of photographers are hobisist. So yes an upgraded is NEEDED. Lol. Myself included.

Christopher Smoot's picture

I consistently push my gear to its limits. Its easy to do when shooting low light (and I mean REALLY low light) action (dance and aerial cirque performances being most common at the moment). Most recent shoot I did, I was around ISO6400 (or above) and 1/160th of a second shutter at f2.8. WAY too slow of a shutter for the action and a lot less detail than I'd ultimately prefer (though have come to accept).

The biggest limitation for my gear is actually autofocus. Timing helps quite a bit with the slow shutter speed, but the D600's autofocus ain't the greatest in the world, especially in low light. After that, I'd take another stop (or 6) of clean high ISO performance. A D750 would actually make sense for an upgrade.

That said, the marketing department at Nikon is pretty dang good...halfwaykindasorta considering a D810 I don't need because of the 850 coming out...

Deleted Account's picture

I skipped the D810 as it really was a relatively minor upgrade to the D800, but the D850 is much more of jump. Regardless, it's seldom about need, I'm perfectly happy to satisfy "want" as well.

Daryl Hunter's picture

It appears to me Canon is falling behind, I wish I wasn't so heavily invested.

chris bryant's picture

I very recently purchased a Sony A7 and a RX10M3 to replace my aging Olympus E-620, E-1 and E-3. I thought it was about time.

Nicolas KIEFFER's picture

Really hope that all the MILC fanboys and other techwhores read and understand this post !
But I think I already lost faith in mankind since a few years.
Ya know, without an EVF, you cannot make a decent pic anymore. And if a photocam does not have video autofocus, it is a useless PoS, even if you never use video mode at all !

Francisco Eduardo de Camargo's picture

Why do people change cars? Why do people switch houses? Why do people change their clothes for new ones?
You seem not to understand human psychology ...
For example with the new Nikon D850 will you have more facility for common photographic activities? Are these facilities positive?
You say what you said or not, people will change cameras, change their cars and change their homes. Do not be injurious.

Leif Hegdal's picture

I think this is a good point. Just because a new camera is out your current camera isn't bad
If you really want to spend money buy better lenses.

Roy Nierdieck's picture

Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy a new camera and that's almost as good.

Professor Une's picture

So true. It's not the camera which takes the photo but the person behind the viewfinder. And with the ever increasing resolution, our computers get filled up ever faster. A conspiracy for memory card makers too.

Robert Nuttmann's picture

Maybe it is best to wait until the production models are in the hands of a bunch of early adopters and see what they have to say about the 850. Frankly I think Nikon has knocked it out of the park with the new D850, but I will contain my enthusiasm until I hear more feedback.

Also, your post is too negative. Digital cameras do advance every few years quite a bit. It has been several years since the Nikon D810 and the D850 sounds like a generation bump to me. 1 stop better low light capability, tilt touch screen, 4 k over full sensor, lighted back controls, much better viewfinder, plus increased resolution are all pretty big advances.

But we only have to wait a few more days until the production models are in the field to hear about how they perform.