Should you switch brands if new cameras are released with better digital image capturing technology or greater functionality by another manufacturer?
Many photographers face this question and the temptation to change when a better DSLR or mirrorless camera emerges from a brand other than the one they are already shooting with. In short though, if you are already using a top camera brand’s equipment, then the answer is NO. Stay with what you have and don’t risk making a change that may prove to be regrettable and perhaps costlier in more ways than one.
There are some instances where the brand you are using may have stopped releasing new cameras, stopped supporting the line of cameras you are using, or you have a need for a specific type of other camera. But in general, there are two main reasons you shouldn’t jump ship with the biggest issues being cost and familiarity. For some, the issue of cost, when one has already invested in half a dozen or more lenses from one manufacturer, stops one from switching. That alone is a good enough reason.
But I feel the other reason is equally as important. I have been shooting with Canon 35mm cameras for over 20 years. I have personally witnessed Canon’s technology evolve on their DSLR bodies from the start. And I have owned at least 5 of their 35mm digital SLR bodies, ever since the release of their first DSLR which appeared in 2000.
Many of my own shooting methods and techniques have a lot to do with how Canon cameras function. I can be extremely productive when shooting with Canon on an assignment as their cameras work so efficient and reliably. And changing settings is fast for me, practically instinctive at this point after such a long personal relationship with Canon already.
So a camera that can make one highly productive is far more important than switching to a newer camera from a different manufacturer simply because you feel it may produce slightly better pixels under a microscope than the brand you are already used to using and have been happy with.
This year Sony and Nikon have pulled a bit ahead of Canon on their newest professional digital camera bodies in terms of having greater video functionality, lower noise at high ISO, slightly sharper pixels, and dynamic range improvements to where their 35mm bodies are nearly on par with the quality of medium format digital cameras. Canon isn’t quite there yet, though.
But another reason not to switch brands, especially if you are already shooting with one of the top brands like Canon, Nikon, or Sony, is that they all eventually catch up to one another on technology. So one brand never stays in front of the others for long.
In fact, the last Canon that I bought in early 2016, the 5D Mark IV I am shooting with now, can no longer fully compete with the latest offerings from Nikon and Sony, as I mentioned. Yet, I would probably never give up Canon as a brand and switch to another brand no matter how much better other brands may become in terms of the technical quality of their pixels.
Canon’s 5D Mark IV pixels are superb in my view, very low in digital noise, and I prefer the way a Canon sensor captures skin tones and renders color as compared to how Nikon and Sony do it. These are subjective opinions of course, but buying any brand of camera is a heavily subjective decision to begin with, isn’t it?
It is also important to think about what is behind you rather than only what is ahead of you. What I mean is that my Canon 5D Mark IV is so much superior in so many ways to my older Canon 5D Mark II that I was shooting with before. So to me, I already have a much better camera in my hands now than I had 18 months ago before I upgraded.
I may buy one of the new Sony A7R III bodies at some point if I feel it might add something to my existing work flow. But more likely I won’t. If I do though, then I would plan to use it with my existing Canon lenses as I have a Metabones EF to E mount adapter already. This means many of my Canon lenses would work very nicely with the A7R III. I wouldn’t plan to buy any Sony lenses for it, nor would I plan to stop shooting with Canon, so I wouldn’t really be changing brands. This would also keep my investment limited to just buying a new body as opposed to switching brands and buying both a new body and lenses. I would merely integrate the Sony body for specific applications into my existing Canon system. But the Sony A7R III is still a big if for me, as I don’t feel I would even make much use of it at this point.
I see many photographers on the internet who talk about switching from one brand to another and then switching back to their original brand again later because they liked it better in the first place. So reading reviews, and articles about great camera advances from other brands is one thing, but it really comes down to practical use, personal taste, and there is a lot to also be said for the devil you know. You may find that the grass isn’t greener if you switch from a brand that you already really like over to a brand that you are yet to have any personal experience with.
So, as long as you don’t just look in front of you at what’s about to come along next, you won’t have a problem with wanting to always switch. Think about your own personal photographic needs because that is what truly matters most. Just because another camera is newer, and perhaps technically better in some ways, doesn’t mean you need to own it.
Hopefully, these points will help you to reduce the stress and temptation of switching brands in the future and give you some grounded food for thought if you are considering jumping from one brand to another at this very moment.
Mark, it’s not just “swapping brands” – it’s also “swapping cams”, when you don’t need to. Changing gear in an automobile is a lifestyle – changing camera gear isn’t, and shouldn’t be, because it comes at a hell of a cost and in many cases doesn’t achieve a thing.
When I bought my D810 it was “simply the greatest” – and the same company a few short years laters is singing the same tune about its latest offering, the D850. While I have no doubt that the D850 has features the D810 doesn’t, my response is threefold.
One – when your whatever-it-is, is as close to perfection as most of the top of the range cameras are (and HAVE been, for quite a while), any “further improvement” in performance is going to be so marginal that you’ll never see it. (I bet that one causes a few screams!)
Two – until I’ve exhausted the possibilities of improving my photography, using the gear I already have, there’s little point in buying more. Gear doesn’t make the photograph – I’M the one who has to do that.
Three – the upgrade is a lot of money, I wouldn’t get much for the D810 on trade in, and I can make far better use of that cash buying other gear that I don’t have right now.
Just to bash any trolls over the head before they do it to me – in terms of image quality, to see any dramatic improvements over the performance of my D810 now, I’d have to move up to medium format. The pros have been saying as much for years, and I think it’s quite true. A recent article showed how the MF format captures detail in the highlights that’s simply beyond the reach of any of the FF or smaller gear. And it doesn’t stop there.
It may not be much good for camera sales to say so. But if someone feels their photography isn’t as good as they want it to be, joining a camera club might be a better solution than buying another camera.
Thanks Pete. Those are very good points about upgrading bodies too often. I normally skip a generation each time with Canon bodies to avoid certain redundancies, as well as gaining only minor improvements in technology as you mentioned. I also normally skip the first generation of a new camera type from Canon, except for the fact that I bought the very first DSLR Canon ever released. So I started with a Canon D30 and then went to a Canon 10D (skipped the D60 in between). Then moved up to the pro bodies and to a 1DS Mark II (skipped the first 1DS and skipped the 1DS Mark III after it). Then to a 5D Mark II (skipped the first 5D and skipped the 5D Mark III after it) and then finally over to a 5D Mark IV. I also skipped the first generation 5DS a few years ago, but the 5DS Mark II (possibly to be released later next year) may be something I would consider.
Yep – I skipped the D800 & D800E – and I think I landed on my feet with the D810. Actually when all the hoo ha started with the D850 I sat & waited – some screamed about it, then a few pros gave a sobre comment and said pretty much what you just did. It’s not just the money – I seriously believe that the dancing in the streets is people who have GAS. At my age (75), if I start acting silly they’ll put me in a home! So I’m sitting out this dance, and waiting to see what they come up with next. If it’s “better” – and it’s getting increasing difficult to imagine how, since these cams are nearing perfection anyway, in terms of performance – I can either buy that one; or get a D850 in the end of model run off. Either way, I think I win by being patient. In the meantime, I still have my $5 grand in my pocket and a smile on my face. And I don’t even have to stand in line, in a queue, waiting to be able to get my hands on a D850, to do it. 🙂