Do You REALLY Need to Buy That New Camera?

Maybe you didn’t get that dream camera for Christmas, or your current camera is looking a little sad next to the shiny new gadgets that are cramming up your news feeds. Camera equipment is like all other electronics: there’s always going to be something new to market tempting you to part ways with your hard-earned money.

We get it. So we’ve asked around and gathered a few tips to help you avoid the piercing looks of your significant other/financial advisor/wallet.

4 Questions to ask before you make the leap:

1) What’s REALLY out there?

Skip this one if you follow photo news on the internet at all. Before heading off with credit card in hand simply because your friends just upgraded, be sure you do your research. Compare what you have with what’s new and shiny. There’s a wealth of really great information and camera reviews on forums, blogs and review websites. Arm yourself with enough knowledge to make an educated decision on whether or not new equipment will really satisfy your itch.

2) Is there something coming soon that I should wait for?

Some camera companies pre-announce new cameras to build anticipation, and when they do the web will hear about it. Ask around, Google search, or just stop by your local camera shop and talk to a pro. Tech specs should help you determine if it’s something worth holding out and waiting for, or if you’re better off finding something now. You never want to shell out top dollar for something that gets replaced (and discounted) next week.

3) When I shoot, what am I missing?

Is your current kit honestly not up to snuff for the kind of photography you’re doing? Would a long telephoto lens fill a void in your kit bag? What advantage would having better ISO performance give you? Are you tired of hauling your DSLR and 30 lbs of lenses with you? Do you really need more megapixels? Try thinking about why you’ve got that hole in your heart and paring it down to what makes the most impact.

4) Can I change my perspective by using my existing setup in a different way?

We all have our favorite subject: our garden, our kids, our pets. If you’re like most of us, your galleries are full of the same image, different day. In some instances, new kit will help with that. If you’re always photographing your garden, a macro lens might be just the ticket. But in reality, your gear isn’t what makes the shot – your perspective is what really counts. Mix things up a bit and get out of that photography rut with a new angle, a different focal length, or a different theme.

Some Alternatives to Buyer’s Remorse

Rent your dreams

Renting equipment that you’re curious about is a great way to give it a test drive with minimal cost. If your local camera store doesn’t already have a rental service, check out online lenders like Borrowlenses. They’ve got a huge variety of lenses, bodies, lighting and other equipment that you can rent for one day, a weekend, or as long as you wish. Best of all, they’ll ship to your door.

Give gear a second (or third) chance

Just because gear has retired from someone’s bag, that doesn’t mean its life is over. A lot of photographers discover their dream gear isn’t that great a fit, or they’ve just outgrown its use. They’ll sell off well-kept gear and it’s a great opportunity to snap up great equipment at a reasonable price, especially if you’re just getting your feet wet in photography.

Try photography-specific forums like Fred Miranda or Digital Grin, two of many online communities that have entire specific areas for used equipment resale. Be sure to check the forum’s individual rules and user rating systems if you’re worried about receiving your gear or are uncomfortable sending money online. Never done this before? Here’s a few tips on what to look for when buying a new lens.

In Conclusion…

Above all, have fun! Adding to your collection is one of the joys of being a photographer, no matter what you take pictures of or if you take pictures for a living. Because we share that love, we’ve started a (growing) collection of gear reviews from our very own SmugMug cameraholics who rented their dream gear and documented whether they loved it or not.

Check out the first few tripod and lens reviews and keep your eyes on this space – we’ll share new reviews as we publish them!

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SmugMug brings you beautiful, personalized online galleries. We love photography and believe that taking pictures makes life better. We're here to help make it fun, enjoyable, and easy for all.

16 thoughts on “Do You REALLY Need to Buy That New Camera?”

  1. one good thing to look at is the current resale value of your old gear, I recently moved from a 5D mk II and a 7D that I never used to a 5D Mk III and it didn’t really cost me anything b/c of selling the old gear and i’m much happier with it

  2. The short answer is, nope. If I thought that through some miracle or magic a new camera would increase sales, or make me a better photographer, of course I’d spring for a new one. Even then, I never buy new. I’ve saved a ton of money waiting for someone else to upgrade their camera and selling their old one.

  3. A tripod and technique goes a long way.

    I have a Canon T2i and an S100. Every few months something new comes out, I study, occasionally rent, and have been unable to justify spending $1k or $2k on the new round of bodies. I had already figured out how to deal with the limitations I have. If I started different types of photography, I’d need different gear. But any change in gear would have to be driven by a change in photography, not just specs.

  4. Good tips! Most important are #3 and #4 because I believe most serious photogs do #1 and #2 already.

    I’m guilty of falling victim to the “I gotta have the new (insert Nikon product here)” mind trick…

  5. Play golf with tiger woods..he gets target clubs you get the best clubs made…who wins…. Exactly that’s what I think about upgrading camera bodies …I’d rather spend on lens with good glass…my next purchase is cannon L lens just trying to fiqure which one…cheers !!!

  6. Yup that old marketing trick really does make you tug at the wallet doesn’t it. I’m as guilty as the next person and I’m trying to make the case to switch from DX to full frame FX but which one is the question – a Nikon DF or a D610? Decisions, decisions but will it make me a better photographer I ask myself ??

  7. With wanting the greatest and latest ~ It doesn’t help, when you get Pro Photographer doing a Tutorial, on, lets say Night Sky Star Trial Photography and it’s a great tutorial and you see some amazing images, for him get to the end and says, “Well if you want to get these sort of shots, you need a (caveat) a Nikon D4s, you won’t get these crisp images on a Nikon D7000” (used the D4 for example purposes).
    This puts into the Amateur photographers mind straight away that they can’t make a good Star Trail without the ‘Latest & Greatest’ which IMHO is utter BS.
    As others have said, a lot comes down to the glass you have, but to outright say that a ??? Camera won’t get these images, is putting money into the Corporate pockets, and yes this Pro was sponsored by Nikon:-/

    1. When I was a teenager fifty-five years ago I had an old plastic P&S camera that had no glass left in the viewfinder. I don’t even remember where I got it. But I took a board, cut a couple of strips of other board and mounted the camera to the board. I then used a 2″ long strip of board that I mounted with a roofing nail to the main board so the short strip swivelled to keep the manual metal shutter release that was alongside the lens down. I then drilled two holes in the board and poked foot-long pointed dowels into them. Then I took the entire contraption to my neighbor’s back field, laid the board on the ground, poked the dowels into the ground to stabilize the board, opened the shutter and pivoted the “shutter keeper” to keep the shutter open. I then went back to my house a couple hundred feet away. A few hours later I went back to the camera, released the shutter, removed the dowels from the earth, and carried the contraption hope. A week later I received the developed film, and guess what? Star trails. Crisp? Probably not. But star trails that made me overjoyed none-the-less. As Nike says, “Just do it.”

  8. I am the only member of 3 camera clubs using Olympus. I currently use an E620 with kit lenses that came with E500. With all the talk about Canon or Nikon my response is at 78 years I can carry my lenses and flash in 1 camera bag with ease and no loss of quality. Caveat Emptor!

  9. I really need the Sony a7R.
    Ok just kidding.
    I don’t really need it… I just like the idea of having one. :o)

    And right now I have the Sony Nex7… it is a beautiful piece of work.

    My suggestion… aim to create “photo’ work (products/images/stock/portraits/books/whatever) to pay for your new “toys” — that way at least you will use the new gear-goal as an incentive to create and produce something valuable…

  10. I have a Sony interchangable and want to get my first DSLR. I want to go full frame in one go, just in case i will be tempted to upgrade next year. But new is too much, so I want to get a used one and save some $. Still, every day I ask my self the question in the title.. I even ask Google, hence ending up here… sign!!

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