I'm sure it's a question that we all have asked ourselves at some point!? And luckily, it's a really easy one to answer.. but you're not gonna like it!
So you've been shooting a while, and you picked up a 7d on the cheap to dip your toes in the water without breaking the bank. Maybe it was a Rebel T, or hey, we are living in the here and now, so maybe it's a 6d... I started out on a 20d to get my feet wet, but we are talking back in about 2010! To those of you not familiar with cameras, specifically Canon's, all these numbers and letters are just gibberish... and as a newer photographer, you too may feel equally overwhelmed with the specs and choice. So let's talk about Canon's, because that's what I know, so you're going to have to shift this over to your preferred brand. Maybe you're one of those guys that has more money that sense and jumps ship every year when there's a 0.0005% improvement from a different brand; or when everyone was obsessed with mirrorless before they were really any good and worth moving too. This advice could have probably saved you some hella money! Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there's some tech geeks who are in it for that latest innovation as much as the shooting, but they're not reading this, and when you have a catalogue of lenses and accessories, switching brands every five minutes will mean big holes in your bank account. Cameras are indeed tech, tech gets outdated, and the majority in the digital age will depreciate like a bad car.
So do YOU need to upgrade your camera? Well.. I don't know! ? Only you can answer that! I told you are going to hate the answer! "But Russ, I don't know enough, or i'm not sure enough, and i'm looking for clarification which is why i'm reading your blog" - in which case, no, you do not need to upgrade your camera! There's a huge difference between wanting to, and needing to, and of course we live in a world where products are pushed in our face 24/7 to prey on our insecurities and try and make us part with cash, but honestly, if you don't know and need to ask, you really don't need to upgrade. Simples! I remember both my 20d, and later, my 7d presented me with limitations, more specifically I was trying to get in to shooting a lot of live music having just finished playing in bands. I always considered it, hell, I still remember getting a point a shoot camera when I was a kid and the sheer joy of Polaroids, but in 2010(ish), I just wanted a new creative outlet, and live music was still my home, and of which the 20d was pretty useless! I soon learned this, and I upgraded to that 7. Meanwhile, every one who'd been around a little longer were on 5d mk ii's mostly. For the longest while, the 5d range was the daddy prosumer camera of the Canon brand... somewhat affordable (or the older models were easy to pick up cheaper on the second market), but with performance! I mean, a lot of pro's used it, and probably still use versions of it today.. I still use the 5d mk iii (insert "but you said pro's, Russ" jokes now).
Travis barker of Blink 182
If you are spec minded and fancy wasting a few minutes of your life, here's a comparison: https://cameradecision.com/compare/Canon-EOS-7D-vs-Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-III - but in short, not only was the 5diii a full frame camera and better in lowlight (critical for live music) amongst other stuff, It was of course an improvement on it's dad, the 5dii, which despite being older, was still a better camera than the 7! I knew I had to upgrade to be on an even keel, in fact, while it was still reasonably new to the market, I figured I'd future-proof my self a little and skip the mkii by buying the iii, albeit second-hand, and probably a grey market import as a result. I can still remember letting a 5dii user have a play at a gig, and him losing his shit when he saw the 61 point focus system. To put that in to context, the 7d had 19, and the 5dii, a poultry 9!
As planned though, and roughly 8 or 9 years later, she has served me well! I say she, because I let my nephews name my cameras back then, with the 7d being Velma, and the 5diii Georgina. The eldest would have probably been not far off the age of the time I have owned the 5d, so we'll let them off with dropping the ball on 'Velma'!
One of the first gigs I ever shot using my 20d and £80 50mm 1.8 - it's not very sharp, but I loved it at the time.. a set up that probably cost me well under £500
I would have done anything to have had my 5d when shooting Marina and the Diamonds. As far as live music goes, the light was decent, but it was probably just a step too far for my 7d, and Marina played up to the camera big time.
So here we are. 2021. And guess what? I know, I need to upgrade my camera again! It's something i've put off for the last few years because it's money I don't have, and cameras were seemingly all about video (which didn't interest me), all about 4k and the blogger (irony) community, and equally because Canon mirrorless cameras just haven't been worth the bother, so I was quite happy to rubbish them all, and be like, "nah, i'll stick with dSLRs cheers, and you lot can jump ship to the Sony AR7's and change your whole set up!"! However, 3 years later, and I love me a bit of video, something the 5diii is pretty rubbish at, or at least with everything going 4K (even YouTube), being able to crop in to the 5d's HD 1080p would be useful. It has no constant autofocusing, so you need gimbles, focus pulls, and excessive hard work that just doesn't need to exist in this day and age... and that's just for the basics of having a play with video.
Super old image, still shot on my 5diii back in 2013 - it's your eye that needs to improve, not your camera body!
The step-up in gear these days is a completely different world! Your camera body is never going to make you a 'better' photographer, but it'll sure as hell make what you do easier and more consistent. It's an old cliché that it's better to invest in lenses (and then not change your set-up every five minutes), which is true, as you can still take wonderful sharp photos on old bodies with decent lenses, but having technology that works with you, rather than you having to constantly manipulate it (obviously you need to manipulate your camera, we're talking stuff like the auto tracking, and then trying to outsmart its limitations for optimal performance), well, that's next level.
The Eureka Machines. If I remember rightly, I shot this on my £80 50mm 1.8 lens as my 24-70L was in for repair. In this sequence, I captured the spring of the jump, the landing, and this one... bang on the money - but it could have been sharper! That is the limitations of a combination of low light and poor tracking. If 10 points from the 7 to the far superior 5diii was worth the upgrade, i'm now looking at 20 point difference! A 73 rated camera, vs a 93 rated one: https://cameradecision.com/compare/Canon-EOS-R5-vs-Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-III. From 61 points, to 100% coverage (apparently 5940)! Over double the megapixels. Eye and movement tracking, where, YouTube hands on reviews have all suggested that a difficult fast moving person will be in focus 90% of the time, and that the other 10% are still useable, vs my 5d mk iii, which even in the studio and with pinpoint focus, will jump around and focus where the nearest contrast is. The dynamic range (what the camera can effectively render as detail between the highlights and shadows) is 3 points higher, about a 5th of an improvement. Better ISO (low light) performance. "Hey, don't bother buying a shutter release, use your phone as a remote". 14 more frames per second, aka, if someone's doing a one-second jump, you now have 20 choices over 6 for the optimal pose! An articulated touch screen (man i'm still living in the past!) In body image stabilization, which makes hand holding at lower shutter speeds possible, on top of pretty stable handheld video. The ability to buy lenses that have camera setting manipulation rings built in to them, or a converter for your current lenses with much the same built in. It's even 200g lighter to save your back! To be fair, with that last point, I gather that the RF lenses are heavier, and also the best glass on the market from research, which probably counters this a little, but I also read that the body gets that extra out of your EF lenses too in terms of quality!
OK OK, the clichés are lies, it will absolutely improve your photography as a working professional. 10-fold! The sheer consistency and hit rate will make event jobs half as stressful, and that's before you even consider what the improved ISO, stabilization, pixel count (allowing you to crop in), and dynamic range will do to improve those difficult situations. So, do YOU need to upgrade your camera? I don't know, but I know I do!