Why It Is Generally Insane to Arbitrarily Switch Camera Brands on a Whim

Why It Is Generally Insane to Arbitrarily Switch Camera Brands on a Whim

If I had a nickel for every time I encounter a photographer who is preparing to sell all their gear and jump ship to another camera brand I would actually be able to do so myself. Except I wouldn't. Swapping out camera brands based on some ill-conceived belief that it is the brand of gear you use that is holding you back will do nothing more than lighten your wallet and force you to spend a chunk of time relearning a new interface.

The Grass is Always Greener

I get it, we all experience it. The other company does this better or that better in some wonderfully miraculous way that you just know will make your photos better. Really, its what is holding you back. How could Nikon not make any f/1.2 modern lenses? Or how could Canon not make a 105mm the size of a truck? It is preposterous! Obviously the other brand is clearly more connected with the style of equipment that you need to fulfill your photographic journey. I've got a secret for you: that's complete nonsense. Yes, each brand has slight edges in certain and very specific areas but I put a monstrous emphasis on the word "slight." At virtually everything all the camera companies are nearly on par with each other. The vast majority of photographers would never be able to tell the difference in final images let alone clients or the public. Even when looking at rankings on sites such as DxO who are renowned for being biased, there are only very marginal differences between equivalent tier cameras or lenses for each brand. The grass isn't greener, you are just too distracted by how green the grass is on the other side of the fence to notice the grass you are standing on is pretty much exactly the same.

But So and So Rock Star Photographer Shoots with Another Brand

I'm sure they do. I'm sure they are also amazing photographers. Do you know what I'm also sure of? Their skill doesn't have anything to do with the brand they shoot with. That rock star photographer is dominating their space because they are fantastically talented and work extremely hard. If they were to switch brands tomorrow, very little would change and they would still be amazing photographers. Don't chase specific brands because some other photographer who you look up to climbed to the top of the industry shooting with something else. The image quality is always almost wholly dictated by the individual pressing the shutter button, not the company that made the shutter.

But that Guy in my Camera Club Says this Brand is Best

I'm sure he did, we have all met someone like that: the die hard, elitist fan-boy. He or she is wrong; simple as that. Their love of their particular brand comes from experience of having that brand in their hands when they felt successful at their craft. It is confirmation bias. There isn't really any rational argument that could place any major camera manufacturer distinctly above any other. Don't let elitist friends, trolls, or mentors convince you that your camera brand is crap.

Did I Mention Expensive?

Switching camera companies costs a lot of money. Everyone thinks they can sell all their gear for most of what it cost to buy it so the switch isn't too expensive. What most people forget is to figure in costs such as taxes, shipping etc and you are dreaming if you don't think people are going to negotiate you down on the used market. You may very well earn back a significant portion but once the switch is over it will have cost you a considerable amount of money and time to end up exactly where you were before the switch.

So Don't Do It!

At the end of the day, simply don't swap camera brands unless you have an extremely compelling reason. Swapping camera brands is a waste of time, effort, and money that you could have invested in improving your photography. Manufacturers thrive on making everyone want to switch; they sell more stuff that way. But your goal isn't to bump up as many executive bonuses as possible throughout your photography career. Rather, you want to focus on continually making superior images. Swapping camera brands does nothing to help you reach that goal.

 

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45 Comments

Liam O'Brien's picture

I agree with your sentiment and pretty much the whole premise and although I've never changed brand I only read an article an hour ago on this site of why a videographer was changing his whole kit to Panasonic.
I think it's slightly disingenuous to assume a professional will change brand on a whim there's a learning curve and it's costly. They change for specific benefits beit work flow or dynamic range etc

I tend to agree, although I think DSLR muddies the waters a bit more. I was a Nikon shooter for a long time, but made the switch to Canon because we do both video and still and love to be able to travel with a single body. Canon was superior in every way for video. Until the D500 came out and gave us the opportunity to shoot 4K, and we switched back. Sure we lost a few hundred dollars trading in the gear, but the truth is, both moves suited us well.

I think from the pure picture mindset, the article makes a lot of sense. The new age of video abilities change that.

Percy Ortiz's picture

now I'm off to read why Lee Morris is considering dumping Nikon and switching to Panasonic ;) Love fstoppers

Ansel Spear's picture

...and one he admits that he hasn't even tested yet!!!! Crazy.

Patrick Hall's picture

As the other half of Fstoppers and one who is super resistant to change, I can see Lee's argument pretty well. Lee and I are both transitioning from being full time wedding photographers to only shooting a few weddings a year max. While we both still love photography and continue to push ourselves creatively through our personal projects, the truth is we simply do not need 4-6 DSLR cameras and can instead probably get by with 1 or 2 camera bodies and 2-3 lenses.

Almost all of our personal projects are supplemented with video work and most of the licensing we have done lately has been with video more than stills too. The truth be told, image quality and functionality from the stills side of photography is creeping along slowly with marginal advances in technology. Once the D800 was released, I don't think I've been excited by a single new camera released from a stills perspective.

Basically my thought is, "If you can't get the shot in your head or in the moment with today's camera, you need to change careers".

The same cannot be said about video though and that is where all the innovation is really happening (although slowly with some resistance). The three most exciting innovations in the photography world IMO are Drones, mirrorless cameras that shoot incredible video, and motorized gimbals. Nothing else note worthy has really happened in the last 3 years on the photo stills side of the coin.

So yes, I do agree with Ryan's article above for the most part (I'm sure Lee would to some degree too), this is the first time in 10 years that Lee and I have seriously considered building up a new system with another brand. If you are simply taking still photographs, I see no reason whatsoever to change brands once you have a lot of lenses invested.

Ryan Cooper's picture

To be fair, I would consider switching from being a still photographer to primarily video an "extremely compelling reason" ;)

Patrick-

You have some very good points about the innovation happening on the video side of things. I just have to quibble a bit with your assertion that "nothing else note worthy has really happened in the last 3 years on the photo stills side of the coin."

I think that the pixel shift implementation on the Pentax K-1 is an amazing leap forward for budget-restrained photographers working in the art reproduction and product domains. The increase is pixel level sharpness is quite noticeable, but an even bigger deal is the reduction in false color compared to other full frame cameras. The fact that it is available for roughly $2,000 is amazing. Pixel shift only works on things that don't move, but I can't help but wonder how much things might improve in the future.

As a sidebar, I don't think there will be an immediate threat to professionals in the art reproduction and product domains. The work is just so darn tedious, particularly when dealing with objects at a macro distance.

As a guy who worked in college at a PBS TV station in the 90s and did a lot of shooting on Sony Beta cams, some of the footage that the little Panasonic and Sony cameras can capture blows me away. I haven't always been impressed with the ergonomics of these little machines, but the quality of the files can't be denied.

Ricky Perrone's picture

I used to have a full, very expensive modern kit. Switched for another full very expensive kit. Lost a couple of hundred. Dynamic range is important to me and it was what drove the switch. The difference was incredible and changed everything about the way I shoot. Never looked back for a second, I'd do it again in a heart beat. Don't be afraid to change, while it is certainly not the biggest part, the tools are still a part of the equation.

Jim Wilson's picture

I agree with you Ricky. I switched from Nikon to Canon back in the days of film, largely because Canon's autofocus system pulled way ahead of Nikon's and that was important to my aviation market assignments. Sold a big Nikon system and built my Canon kit. Having just about everything Canon makes from the 800mm down, I never thought much about switching, until Canon couldn't bring their long promised large sensor body to market. Along came Nikon with the D800, not a fast body, but an excellent one for landscape and architecture. I bought two and a handful of PC lenses, along with a 24-70 and a 70-200. Then I upgraded to the D810 because I felt it was a significant improvement over the great D800. When Canon finally produced their 5DS and SR series, they sent me two to test out. I spent three weeks shooting air to air, landscape, architecture, product, portraits , everything that I shoot . Once I was convinced that the 5DSR was an exceptional tool, I liquidated my Nikon gear. As you pointed out, I didn't make any of these changes because I thought the new gear would make me a great photographer. I bought each new piece of equipment because I felt that it would allow me to step up some facet of my work, in a significant enough increment to make the investment worthwhile. In reality, if a photographer is fairly consistently booked, switching or upgrading isn't a financial stretch because even the most expensive piece of equipment is amortized fairly quickly.

In many cases a change or an upgrade is more for the photographer than the end client. My clients love the product I produce for them and they may not even notice the difference in image quality from a 1DXII to a 5DSR, but I do. I notice it when I zoom up to 300% in Photoshop to retouch something that would be pixels from any other camera. I notice it when someone orders a 40" display print of an air to air capture. Many of my clients have become used to the fact that I arrive to shoot for them with the best of the best, and while they might not fully understand the capabilities, they feel good about that, and that's a plus to me. Truthfully, most photographers, successful ones, push themselves far beyond what a client expects, we shoot for ourselves, we continually try to best our own expectations. Like the Geico guy says..."It's what we do....!"

Did Lee steal your girlfriend in high school?

I think there are other reasons someone might change systems versus on a whim or thinking a new system will make them a better photographer (which I agree is not a very sound reason and frequently ends in disappointment). For instance, I am in the process of changing out a Nikon pro system (with over a dozen high priced lenses that won't bring back anything near what I paid for them) to an MFT system.

Why? I'm not shooting weddings anymore and don't need the low light capabilities as much now. I'm traveling more and want the weight savings of the MFT kit. with the Olympus 300mm I can now shoot 600mm with a lens the size of my 70-200 f2.8, and up to 840mm handheld with the TC. Many of the MFT lenses are exceedingly sharp and some have that magic quality that seems to make photos glow (the Panasonic 42.5 f1.2 Nocticron is comparable to Nikon's great 85 f1.4 in this regard).

There are frustrations. I miss minimal depth of field and truly astonishing bokeh, probably the biggest drawback for me. I am frustrated by the lesser capabilities in terms of tracking and capturing action, although the newest cameras have made great strides there. I do miss being able to shoot in the near dark and not worrying overmuch about noise. I wish RRS would make L plates for my camera when the battery grip is attached (which it is all the time).

I don't think this new system will make me a better photographer, in fact they may impede my current style quite a bit. But I'm actually looking forward to the challenge of figuring out how to overcome these shortcomings with new techniques, and eventually with newer, more capable MFT cameras.

In the meantime, if I want to I can walk out of the house with a range from 14mm to 840mm full frame equivalency with less than 10 pounds on my back, and I don't make the excuse of too much weight to leave my camera at home as I was starting to do with the Nikon. Learning a new system is both frustrating and fun, and in some ways it reminds me of the days when digital first came out and suddenly photography was a new and exciting medium again, with infinite possibilities to look forward to.

So, thank you for this article, as it made me really think about how my system switch is working. It's been difficult and wrenching in many respects (I truly loved my D4), and I've kicked and screamed many times, but by reading this article it let me realize that it's been the right move for me, and one that I should continue to approach as a fun challenge rather than an exercise in frustration over what I've left behind.

Diane, I think I know how you're feeling! I too, have just transitioned back to Olympus from Canon, finally going into M4/3rds. I feel that the gear, like any tool one uses, has to be the right "fit" for the job. Since I turned professional in 1976, I have purchased and used what feels like 85% of all camera and lighting gear made, and each time for the most part, have felt like it did the job I needed it to. After being with the Canon gear since 2010, I had gotten tired of the weight and size of the 1Dx / 5D3 (with grip) and the assorted L lenses, so testing was in order. I haven't found the Fuji or Sony systems to fit my hands or work flow, and knew I didn't want just a smaller camera body with the same full-size lenses.
Last November, taking both the 1Dx / EF600 f/4L and the OM-D E-M1 / M. Zuiko 300 f/4 out for comparison was an eye opener. (I also had the 1.4tc's for both) The obvious point was that I could easily carry the Olympus gear, and more importantly, I didn't need to lug a tripod! I have never had an issue with the image quality of the Olympus 4/3rd's system (used professionally from 2003-2010, E-1 & E-3) and have enjoyed the weather sealed ruggedness they have to offer.
Most of all, I enjoy them because they don't "get in my way" of making images, and I don't feel like I've been beaten up after a day of shooting! Good luck and congrats on loosing the gear weight!

Ariel Martini's picture

12 hours apart

Kevin Hatcher's picture

Ah you beat me to it :D

Usman Dawood's picture

I actually like the fact that authors disagree with one another on Fstoppers. It promotes a more open and genuine environment for discussions.

Hans Rosemond's picture

Keep in mind also that Ryan's article is referring more to arbitrarily switching, as in the title. In Lee's case, his needs as a professional have completely changed. I don't think the articles are sending mixed signals at all.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Do people arbitrarily switch?

Anonymous's picture

they do. I'm guilty of it myself. GAS is real!

Brian Schmittgens's picture

The only time I ever seriously considered switching was when I was shooting with the 5DmkII. The AF on the camera was beyond embarrassing, and I needed a second card slot. If they hadn't knocked it out of the park with the 5DmkIII, I'd be shooting Nikon now and have a couple grand less in my bank account.

Dave Kavanagh's picture

It was while shooting with a 5DmkII that I did make the switch to Nikon D810 and its the best decision I've made. It would be crazy to suggest that that the Canon wasn't capable of producing some amazing images, but the fact of the matter that it had some fairly noticeable hardware limitations. I certainly wouldn't call switching to another model/brand that did not have these limitations a "whim" decision.

Ben Solo's picture

Not sure how I feel with this one. I've actually changed camera brands several times over the past few years. I went from a Canon 7D (which I had for many years) to a BMPCC, to a GH4 then back to a Canon SL1, to a Panasonic G7 and finally to a Sony a6000. Over that time I've sold most of my lenses but kept one EF lens which I use with an adapter. Although most of my gear is used for video, I think if you're happy with a certain camera than that's what you should use. Not so much the brand but the actual camera body. I've actually had some great work on all my cameras but only kept changing them because I wanted something that I would truly be happy using. This was over the course of 2 years and landed me at the Sony a6000 because it meets my current needs and I really enjoy using it. However if you're just changing brands because of others than you're a dang fool.

Anonymous's picture

I shoot Nikon and Canon DSLR's but to be honest, I'm culling out the Canon gear. I'm not insane. I make a pretty good living.

Buy what ever gear floats your boat and don't pay attention to what others want you to do.

Reginald Walton's picture

I actually shoot both Canon and Nikon myself, been a long time Canon shooter and just recently purchased a used D810. I will still primarily be a Canon shooter, but wanted to get some experience with the Nikon. I agree that it's not something that everyone "can" do, but hey, if you want to switch brands, for whatever reason and you can afford it, knock yourself out. I do also agree that you shouldn't switch just b/c you think one brand is better than the other - when it's all said and done, it still pretty much comes down to the person behind the camera.

Michael Yearout's picture

Ryan: I couldn't agree more.

Michael Rapp's picture

Although I agree with the article 99%, I do have to admit that in fact I did change sysems last year. after more then 25 years.... :-)
Coming from the Canon side (why? because I felt at home with the dials and menu handling, that's all), I was about to upgrade to a 7d Mark II (better performance in ISO and autofocus in low light situations), when I listent to a talk from David Hobby at Photokina. He got me thinking, about what I was doing. What and who I was shooting, and so on.
So I left the Canon train and jumped on the Fuji X-T1 bandwagon. For me, smaller is better, and when doing portraiture with non- professional models, being aimed at with a (semi) pro DSLR and a long lens may indeed feel like being at the receiving end of a firing squad.
So I downgraded in size, while upgrading in performance and casual-ness, and havent't looked back since.

Chris Adval's picture

I personally plan to switch to Sony, but still use what little lenses I currently have on my canon, which isn't much, more like 2. Plus I'd prefer the canon over the sony lenses for now due to costs. But who knows... I may keep my canon DSLRs for backups too.

I am making the purchase for a Sony A7s ii to even further advance my natural light portrait work and low light portrait work with much cleaner ISO ranges. And may as well invest into the A7R ii too but that'll be much further down the road, maybe when the 3 or 4 is out. As well getting much cleaner video shots without the need in very expensive video lights.

I highly suggest trying a Sony out first before deciding to switch. I had similar feelings and bought a used a7rii last summer thinking I could just use my existing Canon lenses with an adapter. Turns out most of my lenses didn't play well with the adapters I tried and even though image quality was higher (which isn't something I care about that much), there were a number of things I didn't like about the system. I would have lost a lot of money if I had committed to switching without trying the system out first!

Chris Adval's picture

I'd love to know what you didn't like? I agree, the ergonomics didn't feel right holding one myself at PPE 2016, but I could use to that I'm sure.

Chris Adval's picture

Funny how this article came out around the same time Lee's article about going to Panasonic! lol

Ryan Cooper's picture

Complete coincidence, but ya, funny timing. The text for this article was written before the Panasonic Announcement (thus well before Lee's post was created)

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