Why Keeping Existing Camera Gear Can Make Sense

Major camera shows bring a plethora of new product introductions, and the accompanying ‘greatest thing since sliced bread’ commentary on many photography sites. All of this stokes gear acquisition syndrome in us, as it is always tempting to buy new equipment. This article discusses why keeping your existing camera gear can make sense.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 126 mm, efov 340.2 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-800

Often times we can become complacent about photography and it can take some effort to pick up a camera and actually go out to capture some images. It’s easy to blame the age of our gear for our loss of photographic enthusiasm. We think if we had new gear, it would provide us with new capabilities and thus motivate us.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-640

From that perspective our existing gear becomes a cop-out for our lack of motivation and creativity. In the short term having new gear can certainly increase our photographic enthusiasm as we play around with our new stuff. Unfortunately our enthusiasm is often short-lived after we discover that our new gear isn’t a magic cure for our ebbing interests.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 59.4 mm, efov 160.4 mm, f/4.5, 1/15, ISO-3200, extension tube used

After a while our new equipment purchase may simply get added to the rest of our collection of gear. Resting at-the-ready in a camera bag stashed away in a closet somewhere.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 49.3 mm, efov 133.1 mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO-3200, extension tube used

Even if we do end up using our new camera equipment, it takes a while to become familiar with it. There is often much to learn about new menus, auto-focusing systems, and other camera attributes. This is especially true if we buy into a new brand. The time we spend learning about new gear, is creative experimentation time we’ve lost.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 47.5 mm, efov 128.3 mm, f/8, 1/125, ISO-3200, extension tube used

New gear can also prompt us to purchase new software for post processing. That opens up an even bigger can of worms as we spend many hours learning our way around a new software platform. Again… time lost that could have been used to hone our composition skills.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 30 mm, efov 81 mm, f/6.3, 1/60, ISO-800

In many cases new cameras only provide incremental improvements from one model to another. Most folks don’t change out their camera bodies with every model change, but how often do we really need that nice, new camera body?

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 14.4 mm, efov 38.9 mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-400

At one point I owned a Nikon D7000 which was, and still is, an excellent camera. The sensor in the D7000 scored 80 in DxOMark testing. 23.5-bits of colour depth, 13.9 EV of dynamic range, and a low light score of ISO-1167. The body has a 16 MP APS-C sensor, along with some nice features including dual card slots. The D7000 was introduced in September 2010. (Note to readers: errors with D7000 scores in the original article have been corrected)

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 31.9 mm, efov 86.1 mm, f/5, 1/15, ISO-3200, extension tube used

If we fast forward 3 model updates with the D7XXX series, we have the D7500, which was introduced in April 2017. The D7500’s 20.9 MP sensor scores 86 in DxOMark testing. 24.3-bits of colour depth, 14 EV of dynamic range, and a low light score of ISO-1483. These were improvements over the D7000 scores, but according to DxO guidelines, these improvements at best, would likely only be marginally noticeable by most people. So, after 7 years there was only a very modest difference in sensor performance. No doubt the D7500 had advancements in many other areas.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/200, ISO-160

The fundamental question is whether investing in a new camera body will provide significant advantages for the type of shooting a specific photographer does, or not. Rather than spend money on new gear, another option is to use those funds to finance a photography tour that you’ve always wanted to do. That trip may fire up your photographic motivation a lot more than new camera equipment might.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110 mm, efov 297 mm, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-1400, extension tube used

Few of us really use the capability of our current camera gear to its fullest. Nor have we squeezed everything we can out of our current software. Both of these factors mean that for most of us there is a lot of untapped potential in our current gear. In essence, our plate may still be quite full.

Nikon D800 + 1 Nikkor 16-35 mm f/4 @ 35 mm, f/9, 1/20, ISO-400

Keeping existing camera gear can make sense if we decide to use that money to help us focus our efforts on developing our skill level, explore our creativity, and rekindle our photographic passions. And yeah… in the past I changed my camera gear a lot more frequently than I needed too!

Technical Note:
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held using camera gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

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Article is Copyright 2019 Thomas Stirr. All images are Copyright 2015-2018 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!

12 thoughts on “Why Keeping Existing Camera Gear Can Make Sense”

  1. Tom,

    You hit the nail on the head. Manufacturers will always drum up excitement over a newfangled thing, hyping up on things no matter how incremental the improvements may be, just to keep their market shares up. In the olden days, people were not kept from making great photos by the lack of bells and whistles. Of course, technological advances can benefit every photographer but only as long as he possesses the skills and creativity to tap into the potential of the equipment to translate his/her vision into an image.

    When I had to dispose off my Nikon bodies and lenses due to some life changes, I resolved to keep my next photography gear to a basic minimum, if and when I can start all over again. Sometimes, too much gear can get in the way of exercising your craft, of finding solutions to creative problems, or simply, to find time to practice the craft.

    Oggie
    http://www.lagalog.com

    1. Hi Oggie,

      Thanks for adding to the discussion! I think there will always be situations where buying some new, or different camera gear does make absolute sense. For example, if a photographer decides that they are going to pursue bird photography and to do the job they require a longer focal length lens, and/or a camera body with a faster frame rate and a much deeper buffer in order to get those specific types of images… then buying that different gear makes sense. That assumes of course that their current gear simply is unable to do that from a technical standpoint. Another simple example would be buying an underwater camera.

      Tom

  2. I find these to be some of the most inspiring images you’ve published. (I suspect this may have been your intention, and if so, you definitely succeeded.) Thank you. The only negative for me is the sense of embarrassment I have at not making more of an effort to follow all of your great advice 🙂

    1. Thank you for your very supportive words David – they are most appreciated! None of us can manage time… only our priorities. This brings natural ebbs and flows to different parts of our lives.
      Tom

  3. Thomas, when will I be receiving the booklet on Nova Scotia that I ordered about 10 days ago? Looking forward to receiving it. 🙂

    1. Hi David,

      Ordering an eBook and downloading it are two separate actions on our website. I checked the website and you have not yet executed your eBook download. Via personal email I have sent you the order confirmation message that you would have received after purchasing the eBook. This message provides a download link and instructions.

      Tom

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