Look Behind to Look Ahead

One common question I get is this: if I buy a BRAND_X# camera today, will it last me five years? Or ten years? Or n years?

Well, let's leap to the Lookback Loupe and learn its lesson.


Let's set the dial exactly five years prior to today…

Five years ago a top Canon user would have bought a 1DX Mark II (or maybe a 5DS). An APS-C user would have been a Rebel T6 or 80D. The 1DX Mark II and 80D hold up reasonable well against current cameras of their class, the 5DS and Rebel a little less so. Could you still be photographing with one of those and be relatively happy today? Yes. 

Five years ago a top Nikon user would have bought a D5 (or maybe a D810). An APS-C user would have picked up a D500 or D7200. Actually, all of those cameras hold up really well today. I still own two of them myself. 

Sony users five years ago would have been topped out with an A7R Mark II or an A6300. The former looks elderly now in terms of UX and focus performance, but still holds up well in image quality, while the A6300 is hardly distinguishable from current cameras until you dig deep. 

So my answer would be sure, a top camera bought today should have a solid five years of useful life in it where it's not going to be completely eclipsed by something new. 

There is a caveat here, though. Every once in awhile a "big change” comes along, and then all bets get shifted some. The introduction of mirrorless and the introduction of DSLR were two big changes that started to impact the previous generation gear, though in neither case did things change overnight. Five years of use is still a pretty safe bet.


Now let's look back 10 years to see how things stand up:

  • Canon: 1D Mark IV, 7D, 60D, Rebel T3
  • Nikon: D3s, D3x, D300, D7000
  • Sony: SLT-77 or NEX-7

Things feel a little more dated going back that far, though frankly I know people still shooting professionally with four of those cameras. 

As someone who drove his last vehicle 15 years before finally succumbing to modern auto technology, I got a lot of use out what I bought before throwing in the towel and getting useful things like a backup camera (and a whole lot more). The same is really true with cameras, too, assuming you buy a higher end one and treat it well. 


The fact that cameras are quite capable of providing years of use, of course, is part of the camera maker's difficulty, and one reason why I think Canon and Nikon finally decided to fully jump on the mirrorless movement. Mirrorless is enough different from all those older DSLRs that the camera makers can say "see, you're missing out on stuff," much like the auto makers did with me for 15 years ;~).

Are you really missing out on much, though? I'm not sure that you are in terms of the basic function of a camera—to take photos—because we’ve had very competent still cameras for some time now. I know that those five-year old and ten-year old dinosaur DSLRs are still taking photos that manage to sell, because I can find people doing just that with them. Heck, with Adobe’s latest Super Resolution function, those cameras may hang on even longer against the megapixel monsters of today. 

So what does that all say about the question you keep asking me? (If you can’t remember or have forgotten how to scroll back to the top of the article: "if I buy a BRAND_X# camera today, will it last me five years?”) The answer is yes, it mostly likely will. 

If you keep having FOMO on “the next camera introduction,” then you’re never going to buy a new camera, are you? At some point you have to say “this is enough to keep me going and productive for awhile.

I know Canon and Nikon want you to transition now. You don’t have to transition on their timetable. I know Sony wants you to snap up the latest and greatest Alpha that they’ve announced in the last 30 milliseconds. You don’t have to jump every time Sony says jump. 

That’s not to say that there isn’t a new camera out there that might entice you. Just that you should be in no hurry to fall prey to its allure. 

 Looking for gear-specific information? Check out our other Web sites:
DSLRS: dslrbodies.com | mirrorless: sansmirror.com | Z System: zsystemuser.com | film SLR: filmbodies.com

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