I've made a solid effort on pushing my current dSLR to the edges of its expected lifespan. And I know these little machines are rated for tens of thousands of shutter cycles, aggressive use, and a hard-knock-life of capturing moments in silicon. But it hasn't stopped me thinking about my next camera.
…it hasn’t stopped me thinking about my next camera.
I've been shooting with a Canon 40D for about four years now. My click-ometer just turned over to about fifty-thousand photos, a whole thwack of those shutter-clicks thanks to a year of daily photos (which, by the way, was the result of many, many, many more than a single shot each day). I'm also in the enviable position that I know my camera: I know it's ranges, limits, and capabilities. I can operate it without checking labels on buttons, and sometimes without even glancing down at the screen. I won't go so far as to claim some kind of “one-ness” with the little machine, but her and I have a solid relationship that has resulted in some great memories.
So, when a couple weeks ago, the latest model was announced… well, let's just say the question emerged in my head: to upgrade or not?
I mean, I'm not a regular upgrade kind of guy. I like to wait out the upgrade cycle by a few iterations. I like to see not just incremental improvements to the technology, but noticeable additions to the feature-set that make me sit up and say, “hey… here's something new I could do with that!”
The Canon 6D is on my radar, and it's got me spinning. I mean, the upgrade path is a no-brainer: I'm not invested at a professional-level in terms of equipment, but I've bought in to the Canon ecosystem with about as much disposable income as my marriage will allow at this point. Numerous lenses, a top-of-the-line flash, and various awesome little attachments have me well-situated for a modest-but-happy photography hobby. It would be a much tougher decision to switch away from Canon at this point.
The 40D technology is half a decade old at this point.
The 40D technology is half a decade old at this point. I don't think its even available for purchase anymore. It's older sister, the 60D has a nice features set, but again… incremental. Not enough to tempt an upgrade, really.
The 6D: it's stacked with features in comparison to my current rig. Full frame sensor, a wider ISO range with much improved noise reduction, a faster FPS rate, HD-video (which I still don't have!) and some other nifty gimmicky add-ons like Wi-Fi upload and control and GPS-based geo-tagging… these are the specs that burn through my head when I contemplate the upgrade. It's the natural next step for me.
But there is one sticking point: I'm at that threshold of hobbyist-investment. I've read it a hundred times already on other blogs, and I've had the same thoughts in my own head. There is an imaginary line in the sand. It exists somewhere roughly between $1500 and $2000 where, if you step across that line on a single piece of photography equipment… well… it has meaning. You're not just investing in a hobby anymore. You're not just calling yourself a guy with a camera. You are most-definitely defining yourself as a capital “P” photographer (or just some dude with more money than skill, but that's a different post) and you'd better be doing something with that equipment. You'd better be taking professional shots, or selling your prints, or entering more contests than you knew exist, or… or what?
At some level I can argue that the well-past-the-metaphorical-line cost of a new 6D, listed at just around $2100 by the way, would not go to waste in my care. I already do so much more than take snapshots. I already do so much more than randomly photograph one or two subjects and call it a night. Photography has taken a much bigger role on my blog, for one thing. I've reluctantly become the go-to guy with a camera for friends and family. And I routinely supplement my design and creative skills with that handy photography skill in reserve. But is that enough to justify it? Would I feel obliged to hang out a shingle and pimp my skills? The thing is… I don't know yet. I haven't decided.
Equipment does not make the photographer.
There is an alternative argument. In the last year I've encountered and talked to a number of awesome photographers with plenty of mature and intelligent insight into equipment. Platitudes abound from such conversations: Old cameras still take great photos. It's not the camera that takes the picture, it's the photographer. A camera is just a box with a hole for light and everything else is fluff to control that light. Equipment does not make the photographer, they would imply… and in a camera-phone world, I would wonder… wonder… wonder… and never really be too sure.
It's not a rush: I have many months of saving ahead of me, redirecting my small-but-fair-share allocation of our household's capital budget or other small collections of pick-up cash into a camera fund before I just go out and buy it…. not to mention that the new 6D is still not even available in stores. But, I'm seriously contemplating this one, fence-sitting but ready to jump. To upgrade or not: and I'm not one hundred percent sure either way yet.