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The Update Dilemma

January 14, 2013

With the New Year upon us and Photokina‘s new offerings being launched onto the market, photographers are getting the urge to upgrade their cameras. This post applies to DSLRs. If your camera has served you well for the last few years and you feel you want to upgrade to the latest offering, here are the factors you should consider before spending any money.

Overall Budget
The camera body is a large, but still only a portion of the total cost of upgrading. New cameras usually involve an increase in resolution, which in turn requires several decisions.

Are your lenses adequate?
A lens that was matched perfectly to a 10 megapixel body, may show faults such as chromatic aberration, focus issues and poor sharpness when mated to a camera with twice the resolution. A change from a reduced frame camera to a full frame one will probably render all of your lenses redundant and will require the purchase of a totally new outfit, involving more expensive, larger and heavier lenses. Depending on your needs, this can involve an investment of up to 3 or 4 times the cost of the camera body.

Card, Computer and Software upgrades
Increased camera resolution requires larger capacity cards with increased speeds, to allow reasonable download times. Is your computer and software up to date and up to the task? Anyone using an older model computer with software that worked well with the previous camera, may find that they suddenly need major upgrades to video cards, hard drives, screens and software. ACR, Lightroom, Photoshop, Aperture, Capture One, etc. all rely on the latest versions to allow downloading images from new cameras. You will find that with increased resolution, there is a proportionate increase in download times. There is also a change from USB 2 to USB 3 which requires an investment in card readers and cables.

That camera bag that fitted the old camera perfectly, may require an upgrade for the new camera, along with flash, batteries, filters etc. Is your old tripod and head rigid enough to take advantage of the increased resolution and weight of the new camera? If not, you need to buy a new one.

In Summary
As you can see, the decision to upgrade a camera and/or change formats, can be far more complex and expensive than it first appears. The purchase of the camera can end up being the cheapest component. My advice is, to assess your needs and budget realistically. Be aware of the total cost of the outfit, not just the camera body. Make the wrong decision and miss match your lenses and accessories and you may as well have kept the old camera.

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