When should I upgrade my travel camera? This is a question many of us ponder.
With camera manufacturing companies constantly coming out with new and updated versions of models -with increasingly shortened life cycle periods – it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.
Do I need a camera with more mega-pixels?
Should I get a faster lens?
Should I upgrade to a camera with HD video capabilities?
The following is series of checkpoints one can use to determine whether or not is is time to retire your trusty old camera for a shiny new one:
When NOT to Upgrade
If the primary reason you’re considering upgrading your camera is for a boost in megapixels, save your money by not opening your wallet. The truth is that any digital camera made in the past several years has more than enough megapixels for photo usage on the web and for regular/large sized prints. Unless you take shots for the primary purpose of having them blown up and proudly displayed on billboards, it’s easily the most over-rated feature set for current camera models. In fact, in certain cases an increase in megapixels on a small sensor can lead to more noise (graininess) on your travel photos.
* Updated Model
In most cases, a single update for a camera model does not provide enough of a features upgrade for it to be worth shelling out big bucks for the latest and greatest. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to wait at least two generations before considering an upgrade. In certain cases, the newer model is actually WORSE than the previous one.
There are some people who are obsessed with having the latest toys at their disposal. If you’re buying a camera primarily because it’s new, put your credit card down. Taking great photo has a lot more to do with travel photography techniques than it does with the type of gear you are shooting with. Consider saving your money and instead investing your time into perfecting your craft and studying composition.
When to Upgrade
* Your current camera does not allow you to take the photos you desire
This is by far the most important consideration when buying a new camera. If your current model does not allow you to take the photos you want to take it’s time for an immediate upgrade. An good example, is an enthusiast getting into sports or wildlife photography.
If your camera suffers from shutter lag, has a slow burst mode or does not have significant enough zoom (either optically with a point and shoot or with an adequate enough telephoto lens for a dSLR) it’s worth considering buying a new camera.
If you have a strong desire to get into macro photography and you don’t have the right equipment to get sharp close-ups it’s time to pull out your wallet. Finally, as a last example, if you’re serious about shooting video and your camera does not have a video mode, it’s only common sense to find a newer model that does.
The take home message from all of this is that ought to have a big and specific enough ‘why’ in order to justify purchasing a new toy.
* The camera you plan on buying offers significant upgrades on a number of key features
Some folks spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get slight improvements over the current models they are shooting with today. I personally believe that one should only consider buying a new camera if significant core features are close to doubled in standard.
For example, if you have Camera A (7 megapixels, 3 frames per second, ISO 1600, no hd video) and can get Camera B (14 megapixels, 7 frames per second, ISO 3200, hd video) it’s well worth the investment.
* You know what kind of photographer you are and what tools you need to get the photos you want
I lied. This last point is actually equally if not important than having a camera that does not allow you to take the photos you desire. Knowing what kind of photographer you are really helps you narrow down the type of camera equipment you ought to consider purchasing.
If you want to take shots primarily of food you’ll need a camera with macro capabilities that performs well in lowlight situations.
If you want to shoot sports, wildlife and urban scenes you’ll need a camera that has fast frames per second and extended zoom capabilities.
If you’re looking to get more into video you may consider features such as HD capabilities, movie modes and features such as time lapse or high speed capabilities.
In the end, knowing primarily what kinds of shots you want to take is half the battle when choosing what kind of camera to buy.
Why I upgrade my dSLR Travel Camera
(From a Sony Alpha A500 to Sony Alpha A65)
First off, please don’t laugh – I shoot with a Sony 😛 One of the biggest considerations I had when buying a new camera was what system I would be using. Since my older model is a Sony – and I already have all of my camera lenses that are compatible only with a Sony system – my first choice would be to stick with this system.
Luckily, they had a dSLR model that offered a feature set that was tailor made for what I was looking for.
I know what kind of photographer I am at this point in the game.
Although I love taking photos of just about everything (macro shots, landscapes, wildlife, architecture, etc) my bread and butter style is more towards street and candid portrait photography. For this genre of photography I need to have a dSLR body that can shoot at fast frames per second, so that I’m able to capture natural moments on the street. Moreover, I need a camera that has excellent live view capabilities that allows me to shoot in stealth mode from time to time. Finally, as I strongly desired to start creating more travel videos, I required that my camera be able to shoot HD videos with the ability to autofocus.
In the end, I knew what features I needed to get the shots I desired; I realized the model I would be upgrading to would represent massive increases in every key area; I knew what kind of photography I wanted to specialize in. In other words, I checked off all three of the points I listed above in the ‘when to upgrade your camera’ section.
This is what I got: (Use snapsort.com/compare to compare your current camera with the one you’re thinking of buying)
As you can see buying the Sony SLT A65 represented major upgrades in a number of features. The ones I cared about the most were the following:
Shoots Movies: Going from no movie mode to full HD movie capabilities
Faster Autofocus: The ability to capture candid moments far more easily.
Screen Resolution: Going from 230K to 921K represents a huge increase in live view capabilities.
Shoots Much Faster: Going from 5 frames per second (5 photos per second) to 10 frames per second (10 photos per second) was the king of all feature upgrades.
I’m curious to hear what you have to say:
When would/do you consider upgrading your camera?
Do you think I made the right decision to upgrade mine?
Please let me know in the comments section below: