I recently came across an interesting comment made by a participant in a photography forum: “You should only upgrade your camera only if it’s limiting you, not just because you have the money to.”
This is the explanation for how I grew out of my first body and kit lens, but also the reason why I haven’t upgraded my body for the past 7+ years since moving to full-frame.
Back in 2008, I started photography with the upper-entry Nikon D60 (APS-C body) and a kit lens. As I grew my interest in cityscape photography, I wanted to shoot wider by using a quality wide-angle lens, which led me to move up to the Nikon D610 (full-frame body) in 2014 (so that there is no more “crop factor”) and shoot with “true 18mm” using Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5.
I believe we all have such stories of upgrading our gear due to running into limitations. For example, you may have stepped up to a fast prime lens to shoot portraits with nice bokeh in the background or a long telephoto lens to shoot birds, which may be harder (or impossible) with the kit lens.
Since upgrading to full-frame D610, though, I’ve stopped upgrading my gear for the past 7+ years. Admittedly, D610 and 18-35mm aren’t the top-of-the-range combo in the market, but they’re decent enough, and I’m fairly satisfied with the image quality. In a way, I’m not “limited” by my gear, hence not feeling any serious need to upgrade.
That said, there is a concern here. While the aforementioned comment resonates with me, if everyone thought this way, camera stores wouldn’t be able to survive, especially in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic when they were ordered to close during the lockdown as being “non-essential” services.
When I saw this comment, one thing came up to my mind, which is “minimalism”. It has become quite popular in recent years by the likes of Marie Kondo and Joshua Fields Millburn + Ryan Nicodemus (the duo known as The Minimalists) who promote a minimalist lifestyle.
According to Joshua and Ryan, minimalism is “a tool to eliminate life’s excess, focus on the essentials, and find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom”.
Why do I know? Because I own their books, listen to The Minimalists Podcast and even watched a documentary film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. Probably I’m a bit of a fanboy!
In fact, I’ve been a minimalist since my teenage years, owning very few items (partly because I’ve migrated twice and more may come, so always wanted to keep my belongings light).
Minimalism surely helps simplify your life, but if everyone becomes a minimalist, our economic system will probably collapse, just like how COVID-19 is affecting those “non-essential” businesses badly.
By the way, some people may perceive minimalism as being stingy, but minimalism isn’t about money.
A minimalist typically lives with less stuff but of decent quality that he or she has deliberately chosen. If they buy (or don’t buy) something, that’s because it adds (or doesn’t add) value to their lives, not because it’s cheap or expensive.
Let’s get back to the main topic. My Nikon D610 was purchased more than 7 years ago, and I’m sure that new cameras today come with a number of features that are lacking in my model.
That said, none of those features (e.g. touch screen, flip screen, WIFI, better video, etc.) is enticing to me. As a cityscape photography enthusiast, the only thing that I’m interested in is shooting sharper photos. If upgrading my gear visibly improves the sharpness, that’s the time to upgrade.
What do you think? Should you only upgrade your camera if it is limiting you?
About the author: Joey J. is a photography enthusiast, avid traveler, and casual web designer/developer based in Singapore. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Joey’s work on his website and Tumblr. This article was also published here.
Image credits: Header photo by stux