Buy Now or Wait?

Don't miss photos waiting for the "right" camera.

There’s a phenomenon that happens every year around this time, as sure as the leaves changing, that certain chill in the air, and the freakin’ Christmas stuff on the shelves before we’ve even come down from the Halloween sugar buzz. Ahem. Where were we?

Oh, yeah, photography. Let’s try that again.

A few times a year, the camera manufacturers get around to announcing their new gear. While these announcements often coincide with major trade shows like Photokina and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), some announcements, like recent announcements from Sony, RED, Nikon and Canon, have a logic all their own. They also, as it happens, spawn an illogic all their own.

Go anywhere online that photo guys* congregate, and you’ll find some variation on the following: “Should I buy the [as-yet-unannounced] D800, the [also as-yet-unannounced] D4, or the D7000?” God love ‘em, they could just buy a flippin’ camera and get down to making photos already, but the possibility of a newer, shinier one has them just beside themselves. What if they buy a camera that exists, and the newer camera is… well, all like, new and stuff? It might be incrementally better!

Some of these same people will decide, on the basis of the same partial specs or even just a leaked name that suggests something might be replaced or upgraded, that the company in question has lost their touch, if not their collective mind. There aren’t even any test images, to say nothing of a real, live, functioning camera. On the basis of a handful of rumors, this must be the worst camera the company has ever made, and that forthwith they are going to sell all of their gear and buy a Sigma body and lenses.**

Let me take the Captain Obvious uniform out of mothballs again. If you have good options at your disposal already, why not take advantage of them? If the best camera is the one you’ve got, it stands to reason you can’t make photos with something you don’t own. Will the next camera have more bells and whistles? Undoubtedly, yes. Can you take photos with a camera that hasn’t come out yet? Do you really need me to answer that question for you?

Every generation of photographers, for as long as there’ve been photographers, had fewer gear options open to them than you do right at this second. What they had in common was that they learned to do uncommon things with their equipment, sometimes despite its flaws, and sometimes because of them. While it’s possible to take any piece of equipment to the limits of its capabilities, it helps to make sure that it’s the limitations of the gear, and not your own limitations, holding you back. Be honest with yourself, and be as willing to look in the mirror as in your camera bag. Before you complain, are you already using what you’ve got to the best of its, and your, abilities? If you wait for the “right” camera, you will always be frustrated.

But that’s just my $.02 worth. Tell me, what do you think?

*This is not a somehow sexist observation. Women don’t obsess over gear; they generally figure out what they need, get it, and use it, whereas if someone’s spending as much time bitching over their kit as using it, you can bet they could work up a respectable beard on a few days’ notice. Just saying.

**Lest you think I’m kidding, Ken Rockwell actually did this (minus the Sigma body and lenses bit) with the Fuji X100, declaring it unworthy to be a poor man’s poor man’s Leica prior to its release. Once the camera was out, his tune changed so radically that there was rampant speculation that Fuji had gifted him with one of the cameras.

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