“New cameras are coming.” “Exciting new camera announcements.” “New camera launching soon.” Do you feel like you’re drowning in headlines like these? Every camera maker uses them every time they have a new camera to sell (which seems to happen with startling frequency). These are the headlines that greet you at your favorite photo gear website when you’re shopping for memory cards, and at the camera rumor forums you peruse just to keep current on things.
Reading about and looking at all those new cameras can be a little dispiriting, leaving you feeling like your old camera is suddenly utterly inept.
Of course, it isn’t.
But if you’re overcome with despair over the perceived obsolesce of your digital camera, here are five ways you can give your old camera a new lease on life.
Make Sure You Get the Firmware Updates
Keeping your camera’s firmware up to date is probably the single most effective step you can take to ensure it operates smoothly. Firmware updates address everything from fixing bugs to improving autofocus speed and accuracy.
But keep in mind, not all firmware updates are created equal and some camera companies are much more progressive (and aggressive) in this area. A major firmware from such a company might add enough performance enhancements and new feature to make your old camera feel new.
Additionally, check to see if there is a firmware update available for any of your lenses. Improved lens performance + improved camera performance = a happy photographer.
Upgrade Lenses Before Bodies
Speaking of lenses…this is where you can make the biggest impact on your shooting experience.
Even if you have an old, slow camera that’s not necessarily a barrier to top notch image quality. The lens plays a far bigger role than the camera, which is why I always echo the good advice about investing more in good glass rather than blowing your budget on the top tier camera body or upgrading every time a new body is released.
While I’m not one to bash kit lenses outright (there are some good ones), there’s no denying that you can attain greatly improved image quality upgrading your glass.
Such an upgrade can take various forms — a brand new lens, a used lens, an old manual focus legacy lens, a prime lens, a constant aperture zoom lens. Whatever route you take, new glass (even new-to-you glass) will likely revive some of the excitement you used to feel when you picked up your camera.
Talking about camera accessories leaves some people with the impression that style is more important than substance, but that’s not necessarily true. If your goal is to make your old-ish camera look or feel new, then there are a few accessories that will help you achieve that.
- Camera strap. I don’t care what camera you have, the strap that came with it is terrible in every way. If you’re still using that strap, it’s time to ditch it. You can buy a new camera strap that is far more comfortable and much better looking than your factory issued strap. Your neck, shoulders and camera will thank you.
- Flash. A simple but effective way to expand your artificial lighting potential is to use a flash/speedlight. This doesn’t have to be a bulky unit, there are plenty of compact options available. A flash will open up a lot of creative opportunities, especially if your camera’s sensor isn’t great in low light or if you don’t have fast glass.
- Battery grip. A battery grip serves two purposes: (1) Allows your camera to hold multiple batteries. (2) Provides a more substantial, more comfortable grip. Of course, a battery grip will add some bulk and weight to your camera, but for the improvements you gain in power capacity and tactile experience, this is probably a worthwhile tradeoff.
Being the owner of a digital camera that is a generation or two past its prime doesn’t mean you can’t still make great photos. Most of the time, it’s not about the gear at all; you just need a spark of inspiration. Start by browsing photography related websites/forums; there’s no shortage of creative people doing creative things with their cameras, and you’re sure to find others who are using the same camera you’re using.
Once you’ve absorbed a bit of encouragement from the work of others, all you really need to do is pick up your camera and go do something cool with it.
Your camera might feel old, but it’s fine. Don’t become preoccupied with upgrading unless you have a legitimate need to do so. Great photos owe their existence to the sharp eye of their creator, so spend more time and energy developing your creative vision and you’ll be able to make a good photo with whatever camera happens to be in your grasp.