Upgrading Kit for Upgrading’s Sake – 19th March 2012
All you need do is visit a technology forum and you will see post after post of drooling technophiles desperate to get their hands on the latest “thing” despite the fact that they literally only just bought the previous version.
This trend seemed to start with Smartphone’s and then wormed its way into all the gadgets we seem to use in everyday life these days. I loved the iPhone when it came out but didn’t “give in” and buy one until the iPhone 4s was released years later as it just seemed worthy of my money at that point.
A couple more of the latest upgrades that spring to mind are mentioned in this article but the most recent is the New iPad…they couldn’t even be bothered to give it a name (unless “The New iPad” is some marketing guru’s idea of being smart).
It seems to me that this is a typical case of upgrading for the sake of it and to prove that point, I recently saw a video on a techie site where they gave the iPad 2 to a bunch of people in a working office and asked for their opinion on “this New iPad 3“.
They were saying things like “Oh wow, yes, the screen is much clearer” or “It does feel a little heavier but very nice in the hands”. Incredible, no-one realised it was the old iPad! It doesn’t seem to have any amazing new features, especially if you already have the iPad 2.
Have we become so fickle and trusting that we hand over our hard-earned cash to these corporate giants at the drop of a hat…recession anyone? I dread to think how frivolously we will be spending when we finally pull ourselves out of this financial mess we are in.
Being a photographer, I pay close attention to DSLR technology and always try to establish whether an upgrade is necessary or not. For example:
The first DSLR I bought was the 6mp Canon EOS 10D. I had nothing to compare this to because up to that point, I had shot film SLR’s so for me, this was an amazing camera in all respects regardless.
When the 20D came out, I jumped on the bandwagon and upgraded and I instantly saw a huge difference in image quality (including low light) as well as speed. There was a good and justifiable reason to upgrade in this case. The EOS 30D? I didn’t bother but when the 40D came out, again, Canon had nailed it and released a model worthy of upgrading but still I held back.
Then, the Canon EOS 5D came out and Bam! What an amazing camera…full frame sensor, great in low light, stunning images. Well worthy of my hard earned cash for upgrading from the 20D.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II was announced a few years later and just reading the specs had me foaming at the mouth. Almost double the pixel count, auto ISO PLUS the addition of 1080P HD Video…a real no brainer.
Earlier this month, Canon released details of the new EOS 5D Mark III and I read review after review and I am still struggling to justify the cost of upgrading as this camera is now twice the price of the 5D Mark II. To me, there is nothing majorly different enough for me to want to switch from or add to the Mark II as that camera is still one of the best cameras I have ever used…and the new features of the Mark III I can either get from my other equipment or go without.
I honestly can’t say that I think the Mark III will improve my photography.
Sadly though, I do need a second stills body so it may well come to the fact that I will buy it BUT, I am going to rent a body for an upcoming wedding to “try before I buy”. If it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference to my working life, with both stills and video, or come down significantly in price, I will simply buy another Mark II.
Canon seemed to have slowed the pixel race in favour of creating sensors that work better in low light. Nikon and the D800 with its 36mp sensor on the other hand, seemed to fly right past Canon as they reached the pixel finish line thinking that packing as many pixels onto a sensor is still the way to go.
Now, I honestly think that (on paper anyway) the D800 slightly outshines the 5D Mark III…and I have been a Canon user for many years but 36mp is a little strong. Too much for video unless they release a firmware upgrade to allow the camera to output 2k video plus it may cause problems with stills too, especially if you go for the “e” version with no low pass filter.
Also, more megapixels means larger file sizes which means more expense on storage and let’s face it, how many of us enlarge our images to billboard size or larger? 36mp is good for creative cropping and I can’t say how the stock agencies will work in the future with regards to file sizes but I can’t see us needing that many pixels for the standard stock stuff…magazines, websites etc.
Anyway, another example that springs to mind with all this is my lovely little Go Pro camera(s). I used the Contour HD (720p video) back in 2009 when I rode Enduro Africa and loved it. Then I saw the new (at the time) Go Pro Hero HD and thought it good enough for me to ditch the Contour in its favour.
The Go Pro worked well in low light, had 1080p video, 720p at 60fps (good for slow motion footage), it shot stills and so on so I bought it. Then LITERALLY 4 days later, they announced its upgrade, the Go Pro Hero HD2…
Now, I wouldn’t normally pay attention but this upgrade was phenomenal. It had:
- Way better footage in low light
- 11mp stills as opposed to 5mp on the predecessor
- The ability to shoot 120fps at DVD quality (I love slow motion and this slows footage up to 5x)
- The ability to shoot ten 11 megapixel stills in one second
- Better time lapse features
- A port for adding an external microphone…a massive addition in my opinion worthy of upgrading on this feature alone!
No need to think about it so now I have two Go Pro cameras which I use quite a bit but I fail to now see how far they can take this little powerhouse whilst keeping the cost so low. Only better image quality would possibly entice me to upgrade in the future but I may eat my words in a year or two.
So, where is it all headed? Have we reached a point or plateau with much of this technology? Are companies so used to upgrading they do it regardless of the fact that there are only minor changes?
The only things I would like to see added to various things that I use or am thinking of buying are:
I am still holding off from buying one as I can get by without one for now although I can see the benefits as a working professional photographer when showing work to clients etc. Anyway, I already have the iPod Touch 4g and iPhone 4s so why would I also need the iPad?
Still, I think I will wait for the following if it ever happens:
- The ability to insert SD cards to upload, offload and store more “stuff”
- A CF card reader and firmware that allow one to view and work on RAW images
- The ability to run more powerful programs and perhaps a USB interface for a mouse (yes, I know I could buy a laptop but the outstanding benefits of the iPad over a laptop for me are the instant start up, silence, speed and sheer beauty of the thing).
- Slightly smaller version?
To be honest, I am pretty happy with how they work at the moment and what we currently have available, even with the ageing 5D Mark II. I have plenty of video capabilities with my Sony PMW EX1 (which incidentally had a pretty poor upgrade itself a couple of years ago) and the Go Pro’s for the fun factor so it would take a lot to make me sit up and beg for the latest upgrade:
- Even better low light shooting (most important for me as a wedding and stock photographer)
- Perhaps a few more tweaks to the video capability as even with the new 29.99 minutes recording time, it is still fairly restrictive
- Remove the direct print button, face detection and any other whatless features that are there for the sake of having them there
- Maybe better durability and full weather proofing
As you can see, I am struggling with this one.
These days when any company brings out an upgrade to something I either have or would like, I have to really ask myself a couple of things:
- Will it make my life better (not just a quick fix)?
- Will it affect the bottom line of my business?
Being honest, there has not been much released this year have I been able to answer yes to. Even with software I wait for two or three upgrades before forking out more money to upgrade.
I am now going to concentrate on other sides to my business and the creativity I add to my work rather than thinking the next big thing will make me a better photographer!
How do you feel about all this? Are you an avid “upgrader”? Do you find it hard to justify the cost of upgrading sometimes or do you just go ahead and do it anyway? I would love to hear your thoughts…