Here’s why you probably shouldn’t update your camera gear (yet)

Feb 24, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Here’s why you probably shouldn’t update your camera gear (yet)

Feb 24, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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It always seems like everybody scrambles to get all new gear every year or two when the manufacturers announce the newest bodies in their latest release cycle. The same goes for lenses, too. We’re always striving for faster, quieter, sharper, with ever-wider apertures. But Gear Acquisition Syndrom (GAS) isn’t a great thing for you or your photography.

In this video, photographer Roman Fox takes a look at gear and when and why you shouldn’t upgrade your kit. In the interests of fairness, he does talk about why and when you should upgrade a piece of gear, too. Buying new stuff isn’t always just GAS, after all. Sometimes new gear can satisfy a genuine need. But, as Roman suggests, do make sure you need it before putting your money down.

The problem with the gear lust is that many (particularly inexperienced) photographers believe the gear makes the photo. It’s a common misconception believed by most anybody who isn’t actually a photographer. We’ve all been told at some point, “That’s a nice photo. You must have a lovely camera!”. Well, this is why they turn to GAS when they get into photography. They think better kit = better photos.

The reality is, though – and many of us who have been shooting for a while already figured this out – it’s not the camera. It’s the person. All the camera does is allow us to interpret what we see in our heads to make it visible to a sensor. There are definitely times when you may find yourself hitting the limit of your current camera’s capabilities, or it’s becoming unreliable due to use or age, but largely, it’s kind of irrelevant.

Buying a particular camera body or lens or even buying into a specific system just because “so-and-so on Facebook uses it and his photos are really good” is a really bad argument for choosing photography equipment. For a start, their level of experience is likely much higher than yours if your thinking is like this. If you handed them a potato, they’d still probably be able to create a decent image with it. It might not be the image they wanted to create due to limitations with the potato, but it’ll still probably be a good photo.

On the other hand, putting that photographer’s usual expensive high-end kit in your hands isn’t going to improve your photography. It doesn’t go both ways because it’s not about the gear. It’s about the person and the vast majority of people are nowhere near the limits of their current kit.

The truth of the matter is that people have been shooting amazing photographs with all kinds of cameras for over more than a century. Even fairly early digital cameras were pretty good and before the transition from DSLRs to mirrorless, DSLRs were already pretty close to their limits – which is why new camera models were basically minor iterative updates over the models they replaced. Thre are benefits to mirrorless, of course, but are they always needed?

If you’re buying from scratch today, then sure, go with mirrorless. But if you’ve already got a good, capable DSLR and a bunch of lenses for it, is it really worth replacing it if you haven’t even pushed it to its limits yet? What advantage do you think a higher end body or a completely new system will provide? Do you even know what real world (and not made up) benefits the higher end body offers over the one you have?

Gear Acquisition Syndrome can definitely become a problem. But try to look at your photography gear objectively. If you just say, “this camera sucks”, and can’t explain why it sucks, what walls you’re hitting and why it doesn’t give you the result you want, going to something more expensive likely isn’t going to solve your issues. It’s just going to cost you money, and diminishing returns is a very real thing!

When did you last buy new kit? What are you getting next?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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3 responses to “Here’s why you probably shouldn’t update your camera gear (yet)”

  1. Libby Sutherland Avatar
    Libby Sutherland

    I just pulled the trigger on the Leica SL2-s and 24-70 2.8 lens. Brilliant camera. I’ve had pretty bad GAS the past couple of years. But, I use it all, and after years of budgeting for gear, I am now lucky enough to be in a financial position to get what I want. My old stuff (DSLRs and Pen cameras from 2005-2013 or so) have found new homes and are now in the hands of budding shooters.

  2. John Beatty Avatar
    John Beatty

    I use the heck out of my gear and as a Canon user, they have made it easy to keep what I have since their R version are way $$$$ and can only use R lenes, I’ll keep what I have much longer.

  3. Bob Mendoza Avatar
    Bob Mendoza

    As a senior citizen, I’ve made the transition from film to digital SLR to now mirrorless. I spent years at each phase before moving on to the next. I completely understand the temptations of GAS, but I’m glad I was mostly successful at resisting those urges. When I upgraded from a Nikon D200 to a D810 my daughter asked for my D200 so I gave it to her. I gave her tips and advice on how to use the camera and I warned her that the results wouldn’t be very good until she learned how to properly use it and study the basic principles of photography such as lighting and composition. After awhile I asked her how she was doing with her new camera and she stated, “it takes poopy pictures”. I then showed her some of the award winning “poopy pictures” that I had taken with that very camera and told her there’s no such thing as a poopy camera, only poopy photographers.