It was a curious video to appear on my feed last night from Mike Smith. There he talks about the marketing hype surrounding most new camera releases and what camera makers don’t tell you – basically, that the gear you already own is probably already more than enough or at least least 90% of you. Well, I think he’s right. I thought about it for a while.
Every time a new camera is announced there’s a massive marketing campaign, with countless YouTubers and yes, websites like this extolling its virtues and talking about how this or that new feature is (or potentially is). But the truth is, you have to consider the context and you can’t rely on just one source of information to know whether or not you should buy this shiny new piece of kit.
It’s an interesting topic and Mike makes some interesting points, both about the value of many of the “reviews” you see online and a number of other things he mentions in the video. He’s not suggesting that the critics are lying, but many of them buy into the marketing hype themselves. And even genuine reviews only give you their perspective on things, highlighting and promoting features important to them that may not be important to you. A reviewer may praise a camera because a new feature meets a very specific need it has while still being no better than its predecessor in almost every other way.
You should also remember that some feature changes can be both positive or negative depending on your perspective. Like the time Nikon chose to remove the built-in GPS from the D5300 when it repackaged it (with very few other changes) as the D5500. Some saw its removal as a bonus as it helped increase battery life. I saw it as a negative because it’s my favorite little scouting camera – only due to the inclusion of built-in GPS which doesn’t rely on my phone.
There’s also the fact that for at least the last decade now, digital cameras have come far beyond their 35mm predecessors and are more than adequate for the needs of 99% of the general public. More resolution, for example, is only a big deal if you need this high resolution. And if you’re not producing huge wall prints, do you really need a 60-megapixel sensor? Is the incredible high ISO performance really a problem if you always shoot with flash or during the day? Does it matter that your AF fires in 0.42 seconds instead of 0.47 seconds if you’re just shooting portraits, landscapes and other relatively static subjects?
That’s why my main cameras are still a handful of Nikon D800 and D7000 bodies. For my own needs right now, they always give me whatever I want. If my photography needs to change in the future (or if these cameras die), then maybe I’ll move on. That’s why when I switched to Panasonic for video in 2020, I bought two relatively entry-level GX80/GX85 cameras and three G80/G85 cameras from 2016 (even though their successors had already been released). And that’s why I only finally bought a Panasonic GH5 (I needed a box capable of 4K60) three weeks before the GH6 was announced (yes, I knew it was coming).
Sometimes good enough is good enough. And buying older hardware that still does what you need — or buying hardware on the used market instead of pre-ordering everything as advertised — will usually allow you to create what you want while saving you money. a lot of money. Of course, these specific features of the new gear will definitely benefit some people, but those people really know who they are. They’ve mastered their gear, they’re hitting real (not imaginary) walls, and the new kit overcomes a limitation of their current gear. But that’s a tiny fraction of camera owners.
It’s pretty rare these days for cameras (or lenses, or most other related gear) to offer a huge step up from their predecessors. And the last time I bought a brand new camera when it hit the shelves was the Nikon D300 in 2009 (it was a completely different type of beast than the D200). It is even rarer that these leaps benefit a majority of potential customers. Sure, there are standout features like 8K video or Canon reintroducing eye-control autofocus, but do you need them?
New equipment won’t make you a better photographer, and your images certainly won’t be better. The only thing that will do that is get out there and shoot and keep mastering your craft!
What’s the last camera you bought that didn’t live up to the hype?