The inessential nature of serious cameras

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So the holidays have come and gone and as expected your gifts were nothing too exciting. No big deal. It’s a new year, a blank slate with all kinds of possibilities. In fact, you’re so pumped maybe it’s time to buy yourself a gift. Maybe pool whatevers left of the gift money you didn’t spend, and get something you’ll actually use and cherish. Not a computer, too boring. Not a phone, too common. I got it, a really nice camera. You’ve always loved taking pictures and have been looking for a good excuse to get back into it.

After a quick google search you can’t find any reason not select one of the top rated cameras of last year. A few thousand dollars seems reasonable if you’re gonna use it as much as you’re considering, also this thing might actually make you money if this passion turns into a side gig. With potential and adrenaline flooding your brain you’re ready to click proceed to purcha-WAIT! Are you really about to buy the top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art digital camera when you’re only starting to consider taking up the hobby again?

I get it, as a society we’ve become addicted to the latest and greatest in tech. It’s not enough to just own an iPhone, you need the newest model within a couple months of its release. A tablet is cool but you can’t really show-off a generic model and definitely not one with a screen under 10 inches. These “reasons” are nothing more than prospect theory driving your purchase point sky high. In prospect theory your mind basically weighs the advantages and disadvantages of every choice, forsaking the final outcome. As your eyeballing the most incredible camera to ever snap a picture our brains get carried away thinking: Awesome pictures! Everyone will be jealous! I might become a professional photographer! I’ll never need another camera! Three grand stings but I’ll love it more than my first born.

The final outcome of buying the new Sony A7r III full frame, 42 megapixel, motion-stabilized sensor, HDR capable, Dolby Stereo sound creator with WiFi and NFC functionality is certainly an endorphin rush. You are buying the Maybach of digital mirrorless cameras, but who NEEDS to spend $200,000 on a car or $3,000 on a camera? Plus as you become caught up in your shopping spree there’s a good chance you didn’t realize buying a camera is only half –sometimes less than half– of the purchase. Fancy cameras like the A7r, Panasonic GH5, Canon 5D Mark iV, Nikon D850, and every other top shelf model require lenses, and for serious photographers it's not the sensor that matters to capture light but the glass used to frame it.

If you’re buying a $3,000 professional camera, the only appropriate choice is picking up professional lenses. Standard equipment for photographers is a 50mm, a 24mm or wider, and a zoom or telephoto lens. That cache of lenses will easily cost another $3,000, maybe $5,000. Plus nearly every manufacturer employs a different lens mount, thereby requiring photographers to either invest in a specific line of lenses or collect a gaggle of adapters and gadgets.

Okay so you’re reconsidering your gift to yourself. A camera still sounds awesome, but top-of-the-line is not a necessity. Well if you still want to look the part, look to lesser iterations of the latest and greatest. The Sony A7, Panasonic GH4, or Canon 6D Mark ii are half the price of their big brothers and close to no one will be able to tell the difference in your photos.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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