Camera upgrade time?

Making Pictures with professional photographer John Enman

Photographer John Enman.

Photographer John Enman.

In the era of film cameras serious photographers would come to a point when they would consider upgrading from a 35mm interchangeable lens SLR camera to a medium format 120mm camera, or make the climb to a 4×5 view camera.

With those cameras it was all about the size of the film and bigger really was better.  I recall feeling bad for those people that had a friend photograph their wedding with a 35mm camera.  Only those photographers wielding medium format 120mm film cameras would be assured of quality final prints.  If one wanted a colourful, sharp, grain free enlargement then 120mm or larger was a must.

What do I now say to a photographer like the one that I talked to recently who is considering a more serious approach to photography?

I always begin with the question, “what are your interests and what subjects do you like to photograph?”

My short answer for that digicam user was, if you want to shoot sports, fast action, or wildlife, and want enlargements bigger than 8×10, then, yes, get a DSLR.

Wildlife and sports photographers prefer a selection of super telephoto lenses that can be changed at will, and printing quality 11×14, or bigger, enlargements are best produced with sensors that are considerably larger than what digicams provide.

I like digicams. They are perfect for intimate, candid shots of family and friends. The compact size lets one put them in a pocket and go, and if used within their limits they can produce excellent images.   However, if photographers feel they have reached their camera’s limits then it is time to move on.

I must add at this point, that with the entry of mid and full-size sensor mirrorless cameras there are new and exciting choices. I would like to discuss those at another time, and expect plenty of advice from readers on the best choices.

To simplify my discussion I’ll put DSLR cameras into two categories, amateur and professional.  However, the difference between amateur and pro cameras isn’t as easy as it was with film.

The most obvious difference, in my opinion, is durability.  Pro cameras feel sturdy, are heavy, and are sealed against the elements. When dropped, they bounce and usually don’t break, and even with hard use, the shutters will last a long time.

When the first DSLRs came onto the scene there was definitely a difference in the quality of the images between entry level and professional level cameras, but that is not as distinct now. The technology for sensors and in-camera processing has rocketed.

The latest entry-level model may well have the same sensor as the previous summer’s expensive pro model as the technology is transferred over.

The obvious difference may only be the weight and controls.

I know many are willing to argue about cropped frame vs. full frame, but I wonder if that’s more a personal preference than an upgrade.

New models are introduced every year and many previously great camera models will be discontinued and reduced in price, creating great opportunities to purchase at reduced prices.

As always, there will be a gaggle of megapixel chasers that change their camera with every new model upgrade, making used cameras available.

For those who are interested in purchasing used equipment, how does one know what is a reasonable price?  My way is to check out the sale prices at the big photography retailers for their new and used equipment and stay under those.

Know your prices before buying that camera and remember the money that you save can be put towards equipment like lenses and tripods.

Whatever the camera availability, my advice to those asking the “upgrading” question is to consider what kind of photography they want to do. Talk to other photographers about the cameras that are interesting, go online and check out the many photography forums to find out what others with your same interest are using, and absolutely attend some classes.

Using a new camera is always fun and I believe learning how to control the technology a new camera offers is like a shot in the arm that gets the excitement going and helps ultimately to make better photographers.

These are my thoughts for this week. Contact me at or Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. And if you want an experienced photographer please call me at 250-371-3069. I also sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment.