Not simply gear in general, but the latest gear. Make that the latest-and-greatest and most awesome new gear! Especially new cameras.
Why cameras? Because every time we turn around there’s another new camera that’s rumored, on the horizon, or being released by one of the major camera manufacturers. It doesn’t matter if it’s Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sony, or some other company. New cameras, whether they’re newer (upgraded) versions of existing models or new models altogether, are frequently being released, announced, or rumored.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love gear. And I love being able to add more gear to my kit. Especially gear that offers me more latitude for shooting what I want to shoot and how I want to shoot it. Gear that makes my job easier and simpler also ranks high on my list of gear I’d like to have. There’s a good chance you feel the same way about gear. But there’s one type of gear I haven’t added to my bag too often, and that’s been new camera bodies. Whether that last statement describes you as well, I don’t have a clue.
WHEN YOUR CAMERA TAKES A DUMP
There are exceptions, of course, to my lack of interest in purchasing new camera bodies. For instance, I recently acquired a new Canon 5D MKII. When I say “new,” I mean new to me. That’s because the 5D2 I recently acquired was used. Make that “previously owned.” And the primary reason I acquired this “new” camera – other than a friend offering it to me at a price I couldn’t refuse – is because my old camera, my Canon 5D MKI, took – as we sometimes say in America – a dump. In fact, it took a rather full and complete dump. (Note: If you’re unfamiliar with the American slang phrase, “take a dump,” it’s a term describing what you often do while sitting on a toilet. The words can also be used in other ways such as “My camera took a dump,” meaning it suddenly became inoperable all on its own through age or excessive use or something else altogether.)
What happened was this: Right in the middle of a shoot, a personal project shoot, the mirror fell off of my 5D1’s shutter mechanism. This rendered my camera inoperable. In other words, it took a dump. A major dump! (Another Note: Dump protection in cases like this come in the form of backup cameras.
Backup cameras can be critically important, especially when you’re shooting for pay. Backup cameras can also be essential, with or without pay, when you’re shooting at a rather remote, exterior, location and a replacement camera is not easily or readily available. I learned that lesson the hard way but that’s another story– one I’m too embarrassed to tell, me being a so-called professional photographer and all.)
But I’m not complaining about my camera taking a dump! My 5D1 was 7 years old. It had just shy of 200,000 shutter actuations. Plus, I’m happy to report, the dump it recently took was the first and only dump it ever took in all the time I shot with it! It was, to say the least, a reliable workhorse for the better part of a decade and it did everything I needed it to do. (For shooting glamor photography, that is, which comprised the vast majority of all the work I performed with that camera.)
WHY IT TOOK ME SO LONG TO UPGRADE
You might be wondering why it took my primary camera suffering a major dump for me to purchase a new primary camera, which my 5D2 has become, especially considering my 5D1 had two upgrades in recent years, the 5D MKII and 5D MKIII. Well, here’s a few of the reasons why I did not purchase, nor seriously consider purchasing, a new primary camera body prior to my 5D1 taking dump:
- Did I need a camera with higher ISOs with less noise? Nope. Almost everything I shot was either at ISO 100 or 200. Mostly, ISO 100 with studio strobes.
- Did I need a big buffer and faster processor in order to shoot rapidly, for instance in a sprayand-pray style? No again. I’m almost always shooting in single shot mode when shooting glamor models or any other sorts of portraits.
- Did I need video capability like both the 5D2 and 5D3 have? Again, no. Not once did I need video recording capabilities.
- Were there any improvements to the 5D1 that showed up with its successors, the 5D2 and 5D3, that would have made any real and meaningful difference to my photography? No. Not really. And frankly, this reason, reason #4, was the #1 reason I did not upgrade for over 7 years.
Sure, I could have bought a new camera during those seven years, one with more pixels and higher resolution and more, but did I need any of those upgrades? I mean really and truly need them? Nope.
How do I know that? Simple. Not one of my clients ever, and I mean ever, complained about the technical quality, that is, the photographic quality the camera itself is mostly responsible for, regarding the images they hired me to shoot.
MY CLIENTS HAVE TRAINED EYES
My clients’ total lack of complaints were not because they didn’t know what they were looking at when they were looking at my images. You know, as in “untrained eyes.” My clients, you see, all have art departments or they hire professional re-touchers and graphic artists to process and edit the images I snap for them. Those people are all experienced professionals, generally well-paid, and possessing trained eyes. They most definitely know what they are looking at when they are looking at production photos, regardless of who shot them.
None of that is to say I did not buy any new gear during the last 7 years or so. I’ve bought plenty of new equipment. Not always “new” new, but new to me. Sometimes, it was because I felt I needed it.
Occasionally, it was because of a new job or client and the requirements of that job or client. Mostly, it was either to make my job simpler and more productive, or simply because I wanted this or that. Yes, I’ve made a lot of impulse buys in the last decade. Sometimes they proved to be great decisions and worthwhile purchases. Other times, not so good. But that’s alright! The re-sale market for used photo gear is pretty good and I’ve yet to lose any serious money on anything I’ve bought and later sold. (Thank you, eBay!)
Most of my purchases over the last 7 years or so and during the time I was shooting nearly everything with my Canon 5D1, has been glass, lighting and grip, and a few accessories that caught my eye, accessories that convinced me, for one reason or another, I could make productive use of them.
Generally speaking, if you want to upgrade the quality of your images, especially for glamor
photography and portraiture in general, your best investments will be glass and lighting and not camera bodies. More important than glass, lighting, and perhaps a few accessories, the absolute best way to improve your photography, any sort of photography, is by improving your skills via learning and practice. Learning and practice will almost always do more for your photography than new gear, and certainly more than any new camera body will help you.
PRIORITIES AND INTERESTS CHANGE OR EVOLVE
Interestingly (or not), I’ve lately become somewhat enamored with low-fi digital photography. I’m
talking about my personal photography, not my professional work for clients. In order to realize my
low-fi ambitions, I’ve bought some gear that, in a sense, “dumbs-down” my Canon 5D2, some of it devolving it into a manually operated camera with manual focus.
For instance, I’ve purchased a Holga lens, a Diana+ lens, a Lensbaby Muse, and some older standard
lenses – inexpensive lenses with less than ideal optical qualities – most of which all have M42 mounts, i.e., screw mounts. I’ve also purchased an M42-to-EOS adapter because that’s the only way I can mount those M42 lenses onto my 5D2. Lighting wise, I’ve recently purchased a few additional speedlites, the most recent being an inexpensive flash from Yongnuo. My small flash instrument purchases are all intended to wean me off of big-strobe shooting (for my personal work) and to help me more easily accomplish some of the low-fi approaches to my personal photography. Also, to accomplish that with easier-to-manage and more portable lighting gear.
I’ve also been more focused on editorial-style and/or theme-driven images rather than the glossy, slick, glamor pics my clients pay me to shoot. Remember, I’m talking about my personal photography and not my professional work.
None of that is to say I no longer love shooting beautiful sexy women! I do. I absolutely do! And I’m
confident I always will love shooting that genre. But sometimes, I feel the need take my photography in other directions. Directions that provide other rewards, rewards of a more personal and artistic nature, rather than rewards in the form of pay checks and, to a lesser extent, ego strokes from viewers who love seeing photos of beautiful women in various stages of dress and undress. You might sometimes feel the same way, whether you’re paid to shoot or you’re a serious hobbyist. You know, regarding shooting what you normally don’t shoot or, perhaps, the work you get paid to shoot.
WHAT A NEW CAMERA WILL AND WON’T DO FOR YOU
Okay. Let’s (finally) talk about what a new camera will do for you. Make that, here’s some advice
regarding acquiring more gear, better gear, more versatile gear, however you want to define the gear you add to your kit, including camera bodies. The bottom line is this:
Regardless of what your goals are with your photography, I think it’s safe to say that of all the gear you might purchase, buying a new camera body will generally do the least good in terms of elevating your skills and producing better photos. The latest-and-greatest in camera bodies might be “better” in some ways, but there are many more elements to your photographs that trump technically perfect or technically “better” images. That’s not an argument against ever buying a new camera body, but it’s certainly an argument against continuously and regularly trading-up camera bodies, especially if your expectations for regularly (or semi-regularly) upgrading to newer and “better” cameras are that they will noticeably improve your photography with each new upgrade.
When you believe you’re ready for a newer or better camera, it should be because your skills, abilities, or perhaps the things you want to point your camera at, capturing better and better images of those things, have outgrown, gone beyond, or exceeded the capabilities of your current camera and not simply because some camera manufacturer released a newer version or newer model camera and you became excited about their enhancements, believing the new camera will make a real and meaningful difference to your photos.
Or, perhaps it’s because your old or current camera has taken a major dump.
Thanks for reading!