Thoughts on Upgrading your Gear: Three Dot Lounge for Photography for July 4, 2015

I am in the camp of photographers who believe that gear upgrades should be done with thought and planning. Too many photographers go out and buy things on impulse or grab whatever the latest hot toy is, and end up with too much gear that doesn’t really do that much to add to their capabilities as a photographer.

I am in the camp of photographers who believe that gear upgrades should be done with thought and planning. Too many photographers go out and buy things on impulse or grab whatever the latest hot toy is, and end up with too much gear that doesn’t really do that much to add to their capabilities as a photographer.

Coming out of the last few months where I simply haven’t had time to take the camera out and shoot, followed by losing Mom and having to deal with her services and now the estate, I was starting to plan out what I could of the next few months and make sure time got reserved for the camera, and I realized that I was effectively going to be rebooting my photography after this much downtime.

And that got me thinking about whether I wanted or needed to make any changes to what I was shooting, how I was shooting it, or the gear I was shooting it with. As they say, once you open up the hood, you tend to end up doing things you never would have planned doing…

I also decided that I deserved a cookie for dealing with the last few weeks, and I had some money stuck away I could spend on getting myself that cookie. But what made sense?

The first thing I think a photographer should do when the “Hey! let’s buy some gear!” idea pops up is sit down and have a long talk with themselves about whether they should spend the money on a photo trip instead. Most of the time, I think the answer to “which piece of gear should I buy?” is “None. Let’s spend a week in Yosemite instead”. Travel, however, not an option right now. Not sure when that’ll change.

I also have my awesome but aging Canon 7D. I bought it 5 and a half years ago, and it’s given me yeoman duty, but time marches on and so does technology, especially with camera bodies. This is the oldest piece in my gear kit, so it’s an obvious candidate to update.

There’s a bigger question though — is replacing one Canon body with another Canon body the right decision? I love the Fuji XT-1 and would love to shift all of my work over to one (preferably mirrorless) platform. Is the Fuji platform ready for this?

The short answer is, bluntly, no. Telephoto lenses stop around 200mm, and Fuji’s 200-400 lens on the roadmap isn’t planned for another year. So that’s not an option. Do I wait? That doesn’t seem to make sense.

Does it make sense to consider another camera platform? One thing I’ve considered is shifting the wildlife gear to Nikon, but I reject that because of cost. I don’t want to have to replace lenses at this point, it’s not a big enough upgrade to warrant (and no budget for that big a change). Ditto looking at the Sony A7R II — the A7R from reviews is clearly not up to taking this on, even though the longer lenses exist, and the A7R II isn’t out yet, and making the switch would cost too much.

And besides, I’m comfortable with Canon, even if I don’t think Canon is driving the industry right now.

Before you commit to buying something, you need to ask yourself if there are other things that need upgrading and if those are higher priorities. In evaluating my gear, the other change I’d like to make at some point is upgrading my Fuji lenses from the 18-55 and 55-200 to the Fuji 18-135, which wasn’t released when I bought my lenses. I do intend to update my gear bag to note that as a preferred option if you’re buying this camera. I’d probably supplement that with the Fuji 10-24 or 14MMf2.8. I think the kit lenses are fine, but the 18-135 hits me sweet spot, is weather resistant and allows me to combine two lenses into a single lens, since I rarely shoot in the 120-200mm range on that camera. I must admit that I was really tempted to get the 18-135 as well, but I held off.

One other option I considered but decided against: the Tamron 150-600, because I can always use more reach — but I quickly decided the new body was a higher priority.

So evaluating my gear, my priorities ended up:

  1. New Canon body for the birding kit
  2. Tamron 150-600 for the birding kit (and a gimbal mount)
  3. Lens upgrades for the Fuji landscape kit

So, new body. Which one?

My long term goal is to migrate all of my shooting off of Canon onto Fuji, or switch to a mirrorless platform that can properly handle the Wildlife/Bird photography, but it doesn’t exist yet. Sony has the better lens selection, the fuji XT1 with the new firmware sees much closer in terms of shutter lag and action AF, but we’re still a generation and a couple of years in terms of body/lens improvements to get there. Given that, it made sense to me to update the Canon kit.

I’ve long thought about moving from an APS sensor to a full-frame camera. I’ve thought about the Canon 6D, but other than the bigger sensor, it doesn’t buy me much in terms of image quality improvement or body capabilities. That got me thinking of the 5D Mark III, which is about a thousand bucks more than the 7DmII. And I must admit, it was tempting. Very tempting. Ultimately, budget won out. For what I do, I’d rather spend that extra money on a trip or two than the more expensive body. I just don’t need it.

So that’s how I worked through my buying decision — ultimately I updated the oldest piece in the kit with the next generation put out by Canon. Almost as if they planned it that way.. Which is the the choice I started out with, but it always makes sense to step back, slow down, think it through, and make sure you spend your money wisely and on what will help you move your photography forward. But don’t spend by impulse, and realize most of the time, the “I should buy this” impulse is probably the wrong thing to do.

Oh, and because I did go with the 7DmkII and not the 5DmkIII, I just made reservations to spend christmas with Laurie in Yosemite at the Lodge with the money I didn’t spend.

Quicklinks

About Three Dot Lounge for Photography

Three Dot Lounge for Photography is an email newsletter that collects interesting things that catch my attention having to do improving your craft with a camera and in the digital darkroom. Three Dot Lounge is written and produced by Chuq Von Rospach, a bird and landscape photography based out of Silicon Valley who enjoys exploring the western united states in search of his next favorite image. You can follow Chuq on twitter at or on Google+ or Facebook.