Time waits for no man, and the same could be said of photographic technology. The moment you have bought your new pride and joy, it is supplemented by a newer, better model. Buying photographic equipment can be daunting, addictive and of course costly, especially in an age when products change seemingly on a monthly basis. So how can we make the right decisions on our purchases, indeed should we purchase at all? Today we are going to look at some fundamental thought processes that you should consider before parting with your hard earned money.
Beautiful but you need to think seriously about your need for it. Image by Henry Söderlund, on Flickr
1. Do I Need It?
This should be your very first consideration. A fantastic new model appears, it has great reviews, looks fantastic, you must have it? Or must you? Much of the march of modern photographic technology is actually driven by marketing, not revolutionary leaps in capabilities. The major manufacturers are in a war to get your business and very often they will simply add a few, minor additions to an existing model and let the marketing department go to town. As for those glowing reviews, always be prepared to question them. Magazines very often rely on advertising to make money. They are very wary of publishing negative reviews for the fear of major advertisers pulling their accounts from them.
Consult the discussion forums? Yes and no, whilst forums can be a valuable resource in finding out about new equipment, there are a couple of things to be aware of. Firstly, it is not unheard of for camera manufacturers to pay people to “big up” their products on forums. Secondly, those same manufactures will post negative comments about the competition’s products. Lastly if, for example, you are planning to purchase a Nikon product, be aware that people that belong to Nikon forums will often be very protective and dare I say it, less than impartial about Nikon products. The same is true for all manufacturers.
So to find out whether you need it, do your research, look over many different reviews, check out multiple forums and most importantly see if it brings anything significantly new over your existing equipment.
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Don't believe everything you read online or in a magazine. Image by Kim Seng on Flickr
2. Will it Make Me a Better Photographer?
You often hear photographers telling their peers, buying new equipment will not make them a better photographer. This to a certain extent is true, however with some caveats. For example, if your current camera does not have a depth of field button, the inclusion of one on a new model, may make you consider your depth of field in greater detail and in turn help improve your landscape photography.
The question you should be asking yourself is, does this new camera add features that will improve my photography? That will be very specific to your own style of shooting. For example, a wildlife photographer may well benefit from a faster continuous shooting speed or even just a larger image buffer, meaning he can shoot more images without the camera slowing down. This might seem a minor improvement to many but will be a major one to the wildlife photographer.
Analyze what you shoot and compare it to what the new piece of equipment can bring to you, but be realistic. We all get gear lust from time to time, rationalize your mental arguments, write them down and come back to them a couple of days later. Don’t try to justify a new piece of equipment just because you might need it some day.
A faster shooting speed may be useful to a wildlife photographer but not so much to a landscape photographer. Image by William Warby, on Flickr
3. Can I Afford It?
This kind of ties in with the previous two questions. You might think you need it, you might believe it will improve your photography but does the price justify the previous two? Are you selling some equipment to finance it and soften the blow? Can this new equipment make you money? Be realistic about this, the idea that you can make more money from new equipment is fraught with dangers, if only because it is an easy, if not always true way to justify a purchase. When considering a new purchase consider the resale value. For example, some professional lenses remain in high demand in secondhand markets, meaning they depreciate much less than a consumer level DSLR body. Lenses also have a much longer “technological” life than camera bodies, hence less depreciation.
Cameras are not cheap, can you afford a new one? Image by An Mai, on Flickr
In this marketing driven world it is very easy to be swept of our feet by the techno babble of the photographic companies. Whilst there are always some major improvements and advancements going on, there is often a lot of minor tweaks and adjustments under the guise of a new product. Think with your head not your heart, look past the marketing and do your research. If you find that having considered the questions above, you still believe it’s worth buying, then it’s time to look for the best place to buy and thats whole other story.