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Monday, 06 January 2014


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The other takeaweay is to wait a little while when purchasing a new digital camera -- the "time to discount" seems to keep getting shorter and shorter. Some cameras don't do this, of course (see X100s, for example), but it seems like most cameras are discounted within a few months of being released.

This advice probably applies to cameras more than lenses. Also, too, I wish I would follow it myself more often....

When I started reading this blog I def never expected to see you, Mike, go through a process of mitosis before our very eyes. It's sort of strange and I hope it doesn't happen to my kids.

Do you guys ever walk to the store and share a bag of Cheetos?

I've had my D300 for quite a stretch now, but I'm seriously considering the d600/d610 for very soon..Just concerned about pro vs. consumer build because right now I have no fear with the D300..seems almost bulletproof ,and I, for sure, test the limits of my gear regularly. Im stumped cause I don't want to have step all the way up to the D800. It would put serious wrinkles in my processing hardware due to file size.

This is not going to be a popular idea with you, Mike, but the right thing to do, is to consume your cameras till the day they die, and concentrate on making the pictures in the meantime. Better still, you could follow my advice:
and just stick to film - it is already obsolete, so no need to upgrade anything !

The improvement curve has certainly flattened out. I held onto the Nikon D80 for quite a few years, and managed to sell it for enough to buy a used Panasonic G3, which was a clear jump in image quality. It did lose 75% of its value...fortunately I was more interested in image quality than with staying married to the Nikon system.

I still have most of the Nikon glass, just in case I can't resist the pull of a full frame sensor. That will be in addition to the m4/3 system, though, not a replacement.

Yes, I agree as well! I am in my fourth year with the Lumix GH-1 and now seriously consider an upgrade. Still rather on the early side according to your proposition.

See, thinking like this is the best reason why we can't ever have time machines...perfectionists would be forever going back and making slight corrections in their lives but never really living them as they happen.
To wit: Mike, I assume you found good reasons along the way to stay with the new cameras, and it is only when looking back from the perspective of half a decade that the road not taken appears to have been more desirable.
As always, the record is in the work, and all the rest is clutter.

Funny. I am packing the Sony A7R literally right now for return. It turns out, it is not a worthwhile improvement over the 5DII - for me, at that price point. So it seems that I will follow the longer route, wait and see what comes out.

Although I just found out how small the Fuji X-M1 is, and how good their 14mm seems to be, and the newly announced f/1.2 lens, and I am doing mental gymnastics with the refund from the A7R...

Your November, 2010 article about buying a Pentax K-5 sure sounded like Mike1, not Mike2 in control. If you had kept that one, would you have been 'allowed' under your strategy to start a separate 4-6 year upgrade timeline?


A really nice thing about waiting a few years to upgrade is how much of a difference you feel when you finally do. I've been using a Panasonic GH1 for almost 4 years, and just got a GX7 a few days ago. Wow, what a difference in both performance and features.

And to Ken's point, time to discount is definitely short these days. The GX7 has only been widely available for a few months, and I got my body from B&H for 25% less than the original selling price. A little patience goes a long way on your wallet.

Sound advice for most. We get too caught up in having the latest greatest gear, rather than the photo being our primary concern ( I SO wanted to use the word focus).
In my case I deviated too soon, but it was due to having some physical issue with carrying too much weight in the field. Got the E-M5 and an XE-1 , love the OMD, but want the E-M1 because it solves the only niggles I have with the E-M5, namely the small buttons. I've learned to enjoy the Fuji, but not for all circumstances. Still have the FF 5DII, but coming up on five years this May. I will stay where I am for now and take the six year or more approach., spending more time on my projects and shooting. The first gen Sony twins are nice, but still missing too much to make them tempting for me ( touch screen focus is just one of many features lacking, small fast primes and zooms another and most important), no gain in weight when I look at the size of lenses coming, let alone prices of said lenses.

I'm in the same position as David, I have owned a D300 since 2008, and have been craving an upgrade over the last couple of years.

Firstly the D700 was too expensive and no more pixels. Then the D800 is overkill for what I need, plus a PC upgrade. The D600 is too consumer, I want a more professional approach.

And now the Df seems perfect, but I think the price is too high for the build quality and the D610 internals. I went to try one in a store and was amazing at how light and cheap it felt. I know that's supposed to be a good thing but I wanted some metallic heft to it. And why the single SD card!?!

Maybe it's because I'm currently in my (metal) rangefinder year, it just felt so cheap compared to my film camera.

So I'll wait until my year is up, and then they may have reduced in price. It will be worth the wait, it looks like a very good camera indeed.

Mike, coincidentally I bought a Leica M4-P today, and I plan - contrary to your advice - to use it for more than one year. ;)

Pentax users, wait. I predict a full-frame K1 in 2014. Insider knowledge? No. But it does seem like a logical progression from the recent K5 II and K3 rollouts.

I bought a Canon 1Ds II in 2005. When I did, for a King's ransom plus interest, I justified the purchase by saying I'd only upgrade when it stopped working. Me and my big mouth. Eight years and over 100,000 frames of professional abuse later, the sainted thing is still works perfectly. In the meantime, the latest iteration of the camera shoots 4k video. We didn't even know what that was in 2005: video. I must revise my upgrade policy.

I used to upgrade my APS-C system every two or so years, which even in retrospect was a good, if perhaps not the most cost-efficient, approach. IQ and UI improvements were significant. Not so much anymore.

I moved to MFT with E-PL1 when it was clear MFT was closing in on APS-C quality of cameras which were good enough for me in the past. Now of course the IQ of MFT cameras is well beyond those of APS-C cameras which were praised for their IQ just a few years ago.

I moved to EM-5 when it was released mainly for a better feature set. I am now in your shoes: I don't plan to upgrade from EM-5 until years down the road. Image quality is good enough for all the needs I use digital for, and the form factor of a full MFT system, lens selection and IQ collude to make the perfect and flexible travel photography companion.

Buuuuuut if there's a killer manual focus feature in an upcoming O-MD update, that might compel me to change my mind.

On 2009 I bought a Canon XSi+50 1.8II. Not the best camera or lens, but I really enjoy them (amazingly) on a really really regular bases.

Last week I bought an Olympus E-M5 and 17 1.8. They're still shipping.
I don't know if I'lll ever get so attached to de Oly as I am to de Canon, but so far I'm a happy man.

Olympus, take notice and forget 24/7 Wall Street. I need you to still be around on 2017 to release my new camera!

the algorithm, I mean suggestion, may require some smarts. a solid 3-5 when the cameras are in a steady state of progression — tried and true models of the Canon/Nikon/Leica ilk — and 4-6 of the "omg, this system is being built up as we are talking", which includes your Olympus and Panasonic. provided, of course, that they don't go bankrupt.

Fuji... hmmm. the XPRO1 seems to be staying around for a while, if rumours to believed. also, the firmware updates have been aggressive in the bestest of ways.

of course, there is then the Monty Hall "what's behind door #3", which reduces the time to wait to nothing: for example, the E-M1, if one bought an E-P3 two years ago. a reasonable assessment is that the changes to the E-M1 can be incremental, and thus one makes the jump now (in this example, 2 years), and then wait the E-M1 for 4-6 years.

there must be some app to help with this.

Between your musings on the Df and the EM-1 sounds like Mike1 and Mike2 are having a serious GAS day.

I purchased my Canon 5D Mk. III shortly after it was released, at the eye-watering price of $3,500. I swore to myself that I would use the camera for ten (!) years, so the camera will have cost me $1/day to own.

I don't know if I'm going to make the full ten years, but every time I think, "I should sell the 5D and buy the new XYZ", I stop and reconsider for a bit and decide the 5D isn't going anywhere. If I'm honest with myself and look at the images I've actually finished and printed over the last 18 months or so, almost all of the best shots came from the 5D and not the other mirrorless cameras I'm constantly fiddling around with. It gets the job done, and I have no reason to believe it won't continue to do so for years to come.

Yeah, it's not sexy. But you gotta be reasonable about something, right? Right???

I have my own version of Mike 1 and Mike 2. Mike 1 shoots black and white with Nikon cameras and has been printing in a darkroom since 1970.

Mike 2 wants to play in the digital sandbox and did buy a Nikon D70 when new. Now it sits with less than 4k shutter actuations on it.

Mike 2 is lusting for the Leica M Monochrom even though he has no Leica glass.

Mike 1 thinks it would be better to buy lots of film and paper instead of the Leica. If it ain't broke, don't fix it kinda deal.

Digital can be so distracting....

Canon seems to be down with this plan - I'll be at five years in April and I'm still waiting for a worthwhile upgrade path.

Interesting concept. In the days of old and film based photography cameras were not updated
every second week of each and every month. Now
new devices (can't call 'em cameras) that can render images with a different method. As with many attempted to come to terms with the new device(s). Some of us never did, however reluctantly now have realized the method of processing film is disappearing one may well
convert to the new method, even if it doesn't qualify as a "camera." In my own case maybe some C$20,000 later spent on various of these new devices and have discarded them all still am not satisfied this is the "only" way.

However may have rcently met my match with purchase of slightly enjoyed Nikon D700 which
in turn renders images as full frame, the way
George Eastman intended although recorded
by this new method, the "chip." Not film but maybe a close facsimiie?

And my Nikon F100 is still available, if I do want to experience film, and the lack of affordable (most important) and available
E-6 colour slide processing.

Then too photography as a hobby should be enjoyable, if not, then maybe as the person with the device should place it and the
use of same on the shelf for now. It shall still be there when the desire returns, eh?


Remember what you said recently about your Exacta 66?

If you'd kept using that camera in the way you enjoyed, by now you'd have a great big stack of beautiful, satisfying, exhibition-quality prints.


I had an epiphany recently after receiving a 16x20 print made from a 6x7 Acros negative I shot in 2011 with my Mamiya 7ii and 80mm lens, during a traverse across three high passes from Makalu to Everest. The shot shows Makalu in the rear, with our campsite below Sherpani Col in the middle distance. The print - on Fomo warm-tone - astounded me with the clarity and depth; even the guy-wires on our tents are visible. The image will easily go to 20x24. The experience has really spoken to me about staying on track with the images themselves.

If you bought the GF1 in 2009 and went through 4 cameras, I don't think revising your target is going to help !
Personally, I like the 3-5 guideline. My goal is 4 years from a camera; 5 is better, 3 is acceptable, unless my needs change drastically (unlikely).
Another benefit of waiting to upgrade is that you never know what else will be available when the time comes. I can fully understand the difficulty with settling on a mirrorless camera, though. We all wanted one even before the Pen was announced. And there was pent up demand when the first generation hit the market. Next to our DSLRs, early ILCs were immature; second generation ILCs still immature. There are several on the market now that I think you could plan to use a few years, but I still think they all have their share of issues that need to be addressed over time. I suppose that's one of the ironic things about the supposed lack of innovation from Canon & Nikon: it's easier to pick something and stick with it. (Or at least it SHOULD be, Mike !) I bought my D7000 & Nikon lenses 2 years ago (replaced another brand, so I knew what lenses I wanted) and I'm just not looking at anything else. Not waiting for missing lens X or Y or jealous over something that brand Z has. I bought into a mature system, and if some want to complain about a lack of innovation, I'm enjoying what they've developed over past decades, rather than waiting to see if some new, innovative system gets fleshed out before it gets revamped.

Great advice....I agree. But as a wiser man than myself once said(Tom Petty), 'the waiting is the hardest part'.

I've been using my Canon 5DII since it came out in 2008. Pretty much (a few special applications aside) only used one lens on it: 24mm 1.4. For the first three years I wished I had bought a good 35 instead, but now it's hard for me to imagine using anything else. I bought a rangefinder (or three) and a view camera along the way for specific projects, but I've been using the 5DII for so long that I've wondered if I should buy another one.

Nah, might as well wait another few years.

I used a D80 for fifty-four long months. I bought it when Nikon was just about to replace it in 2008. While I used it, I sometimes hired other cameras for paid work. Much more often, I helped photographers use their new 5D Mk IIs, D3Xs and eventually D800s. I taught college students with cameras worth well over ten times its value. Every day, though, I went back to my D80.

Using it was sometimes frustrating (mostly because I often photograph in low light) but I finally reached the stage that you have often written about: I developed a deep appreciation of exactly what the camera can do and how little its limitations mattered. The result was that when I decided in December 2012 that it was time to upgrade my D80, more than six years after Nikon had released it, I didn't even look at a D7000 or a used D700 — I bought a new D90 (they're still on sale today, after more than five years) and it solved almost all my camera problems for very little money. My dodgy battery grip and my flakey lenses all worked and I suspect I could operate the thing with my eyes closed.

That's a long way of saying 'I agree'.

(I hope that Mike1, Mike2 and Me will be the title of your autobiography.)

Some people need to upgrade their cameras more frequently than that... iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S, 5, 5S....

"...advise others to keep their main digital cameras for 4–6 years rather than 3–5." I believe an important qualification should be added: "assuming you like that main digital camera."

In my case I went from GF1 to M-E5. I both love and hate the M-E5, in equal measures, and I don't want to wait another three or four years to exchange it for one that I'll mostly love.

Having missed the boat on the recent sales discounts for the Panasonic G5 ($250 no more), I've gone back to the camera I bought in 2009 (the G1) and am reminded that in reasonable light it takes pictures every bit as good as my finicky and annoying Olympus EM-5 (the one that keeps accidentally changing its focus point whenever the wind blows).

I feel digital cameras have already gone well past the point of fine enough image quality for what used to be called 'normal-size prints' - i.e. 8x10s. (I spilled my coffee when I logged on to a recent gallery for 'small-size prints' and found they were talking about 16x20s.) Spending $1,000 more on a 1-stop improvement in ISO capability, or having an f/1.4 lens vs. an f/2 lens, is no longer my cup of tea. In fact, my iPhone's color balance beats both my Oly and Panny and is now my go-to choice for most hobbyist work. I think Chris Mod's article is right on the mark. Time to move on from gearhead fantasies and focus on what makes good pictures.

Someday hipsters will be mining these old GF1s and D80s because of their "organic" image quality at high ISOs.... Urban Outfitters and Lomo will recondition them and sell them for an obscene profit.

Seriously, what you should have done was buy a second back-up GF1 and 20mm in 2013 so that you could continue to shoot a beautifully coherent and consistent body of work from 2008 and onward for another decade or so.

But now you're going to have to compare your old GF1 shots to the latest and greatest and, no matter how good the content or the emotion in the photo, you're going to fixate on the noise, resolution, and dynamic range.... even your greatest photos from the previous era are going to have that "not as good as now" stigma attached.

M Stanton

"Digital can be so distracting...."

How very true...

I've had my Pentax K5 for nearly five and a half years. I've reached the limits of what I can do with it, especially in low light with high ISOs. It has become eccentric in some ways, but I'm quite happy to stay with Pentax, probably with a K3 in the near future. I'll get the K20D serviced and fixed; it will make a fine second body.

I don't see a FF Pentax any time soon; they don't have enough lenses for it in production, and they already have the 645D which has plenty of lenses. I'm quite happy to stick with the APS-C format for now.

I've tried to avoid upgrading until the thing I like least about the current camera is significantly improved in the replacement. Starting back in 2002 with a Canon D30, my upgrade rate was shocking - probably every year for a while ... but the rate of improvement was rapid. As the cameras got better the return on upgrade diminished, and so my upgrade rate has slowed.

My current 5D3 will probably last a long while as there is simply nothing I want to change. The next big logical step might be a 40+ mp body,but as this would put pressure on my lenses and computer, it would be the film equivalent of moving from 35mm to medium format ... not very likely! If someone told me I had to buy a new camera this year it would be another 5D3.

On the m4/3 front I went from a GF1 to an EM-5. Yes I like the EM-1 but I don't think it offers enough to justify moving from the EM-5.

There is of course the added benefit of hanging on to cameras in that you really get to know them well. I find that it takes me 3 to 6 months to feel as confident with a new model as I did with the old, even though the new model may be significantly better.



Here's an interesting take on how cameras have progressed over the years:


After 7 great years with the 5d mk1, I just said the hell with it in Nov. and went to the mk3. (Via TOP-B&H of course..) It's like putting Carl Sagan up to your eye... Or Carl Sagan meets Rube Goldberg. I'm sure it's the last of the Neanderthals, but what a Neanderthal. Just said the hell with it, not looking back. That New Yorker article was my progression too. Not lusting after anything... We're done here.

I think you're near the truth of why manufacturers love mirrorless cameras so much. They're unperfected products, compared to SLRs. There was nothing left to do with, say, a KM7D but improve the sensors and electronics inside. That might be a tough selling proposition at the retail level, where quality is difficult to demonstrate. But mirrorless offers benefits that are readily apparent, chiefly compactness. And those big, bright EVFs are sure entertaining, at first. By the time you begin to tire of their limitations of color response, low DR, motion tearing and the like, well, then there's another generation of cameras, slightly improved, to claim your cash.

Someday, there might be an EVF that makes me forget I'm not seeing an optical image. At that point, I might buy another serious camera. Until them, I've stepped off the karmic wheel of incremental progress to say my a850 is clever enough, the photos are good enough, and darn it, I just love using it.

Mike, you're absolutely right. Patience is the thing. I've got everything I'll need for at least the next three.... Sorry, gotta go. Nikon just released the 35mm f1.8 G FX!

I've taken to a new strategy -- I just buy the cameras I like USING, then only replace them when they break. Assuming that the results I'm getting are good enough, I've pretty much landed on a pretty decent combination of my Canon S95, Panasonic GF1, Pentax K-5, and Leica M-E. I don't anticipate changing any of those in the immediate future.

On reading the previous articles about the woes of Japanese camera companies, it got me thinking about Leica and their turnaround. It's pretty amazing if you put it against that backdrop of what's happening in Japan.


5D: 3 1/2 years
5D2: 3 1/2 years
5D3: one year so far, no desire to change.

Life is simple.

You miss that the DSLR is now the medium format of photography, big camera and lenses and lots of Mega Pixels, I use the Fuji X Pro 1 and it it feels like 35mm. Mike I think you liked the Nikon because it harkened back to another time, a better time of camera size and weight. (me a Nikon F2 Titanium, no drive, just a thumb) I eagerly await the new fuji 56mm f 1.2 to get even more excited about taking pictures.

My first real digital camera was the GF1 and I loved it. I purchased the 20 mm lens and the EVF to get more out of the kit. Later when the G3 came out I upgraded to that. My first digital camera had been a fixed lens Nikon 5000 and I loved the viewfinder and flip out screen and the G3 had both of those. Later, when newer cameras had been introduced and the G3 was discontinued and deeply discounted I bought a second G3. I had really found out how to get a great deal out of the camera, and didn't feel the need for a newer camera. We used to say that a camera was a capture device, and the real magic happened in the darkroom. The sensor are so good today you can say much the same thing. Today I spend more on my computer, just having upgraded from a 5 year old PC workstation to the Apple Imac 27. With two cameras alike, I might even wait until one of them breaks. Kidding right?

I think I'd add another bit of advice, which is to purchase the second iteration of most models (although that doesn't work for GF-1 to GX-1). The Pentax K-5 is the camera the K-7 should have been. The EM-1 is the camera the EM-5 should have been. And X100S the camera the X100 should have been. Mike I wouldn't buy that new very expensive piece of catnip that you want, until its been out for long enough to know whether it has any issues and long enough for a replacement model - so you can either buy the camera it should have been, or buy the original at a bargain end of line price.

What boring advice though!

I'm still using my first digital camera, purchased used in 2006.

Lots of very kewl shiny new cameras have been made since then but the Leica DMR still does everything I want from a camera: make photographs that make gallery owners speechless.

However I must admit that I'd be very tempted by an S2 with appropriate long lens if I could raise the cash to buy it.

I laid down very specific requirements for each major digital camera I've purchased and waited for someone to deliver:

Canon 300D -> Canon 5D -> ?

Fuji's X-E2 is closest to what I want next. If it had a full frame sensor, I'd jump on it like white on rice. Even still, I may jump anyway but I'm not in any hurry.

Canon 5D Mark 2 still going after over 5 years. Still very happy with the image quality of this camera when shot at base iso on a tripod. Superb gallery prints up to very large sizes if shot properly.
OTOH, I dove into M4/3, abandoned that and went with the Fuji X system as my second carry around/travel system. Happy with the Fuji's, not quite up to the 5D2 IQ, unless we're talking ISO above 800, then it's no contest, the Fuji's win hands down.

I'm using your principle. Well, in my own way, anyhow. Instead of buying every new camera coming out, I only buy every second one. Very proud of that.

Similarly, instead of buying every lens in a system, I merely cover the focal length range, in zooms and then in primes. Sometimes I have to compromise, because there may be different max apertures for the same focal length and of course I need them both, but heck, we're only human.

I think part of what bothers you about your parade of cameras is that you really liked the GF1, but also that you didn't take to the GX1 or E-M5. Had you gelled with either of them, I suspect Mike2 wouldn't be revising his advice.

That said I'm generally in agreement with your advice at this point, but things look a bit different now than they did a few years ago. I'd say that DSLRs became technologically mature for most photographic purposes around 2008 (the Nikon D90/D700 and Canon 50D/5DII generation of cameras, perhaps with other brands lagging by a year or two). Prior to that, the technological improvements with each new generation of cameras were bringing practical benefits that could well justify upgrading every few years. For mirrorless cameras, I'd say technological maturity arrived in 2011–12 (the E-M5 and NEX-7 generation of cameras). Once technological maturity hits, patience is the sounder course.

Of course that assumes you get along with your camera. My first system camera was an Olympus E-620 in 2009 (same sensor as the GF1), which was a bit behind technologically. While I liked a lot about it, in my shooting I found myself chafing against its limitations quite quickly. I nearly switched to Nikon (and pondered Pentax), but finances and my wife restrained me. I probably would have felt justified in switching then and the practical benefits of the improved technology would have been very real, but I'm glad I was made to wait. I preordered the E-M5 and though I have my gripes with it, it is far better matched to my shooting needs than a DSLR. What I've got is working for me and the technology is reasonably mature, so now I'm quite happy to sit out the current generation of mirrorless cameras. And since it's working for me, I'm far more interested in adding a complementary system with different strengths than in replacing what I've got.

Mike, pardon me the liberty, but didn't you get off track a little bit during this progression?
Seems to me that DMD was meant to be a secondary camera, a compact one. I would say the E-M1 is more of a primary camera.
Currently, I would nominate the E – PL5 for this or perhaps the Fuji F20, or of course the RX100.
(With the way M4/3 camera sensors have been developing and autofocus getting faster, there are now many fine Cameras to choose from.)

@ Myself: "I've had my Pentax K5 for nearly five and a half years."

It's my K20D I've had for nearly five and a half years. I don't even own a K5.

Perhaps my last post will make more sense now.

Thanks, Mike1, for hanging around the site and making me feel better about the *ist DS -> K100D -> G11 -> NX100 -> NX200 -> K-30 peregrination.

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