Have Yourself a Merry Little Acquisition

Last week my Internet friend Mike Johnston posted an article entitled "How to Buy a Camera (in Five Principles)" that dovetails tightly with my long-held thinking. Mike's thoughts are not only well worth reading, but extremely timely given that we're headed into the holiday buying season. 

I'm going to piggyback on Mike's discussion a bit, and simplify his five principles into three:

  1. Buy the best camera you can afford and will carry.
  2. Buy only the lenses you will carry and use most of the time.
  3. Use this kit as long as possible.

The reason I want to re-iterate what Mike wrote has to do with all the "should I sell my D850 and move to mirrorless" type of questions I've been getting lately. The answer for most people is no, you shouldn't ditch your D850. 

I'll reiterate that the D850 is still, to this day, the second best all-around camera you can buy. It might slip to third once I've had a chance to use and evaluate the most recently announced cameras, but there's little arguing that the D850 was definitely at the top of the heap at one point and remains very close to the top today.

Thus, Principle #3 comes into play for D850 users. You simply haven't used your camera as long as possible. Maybe in a couple of years that would be true, but I've been getting this question from people who have less than two years under their belt with a D850. 

Of course, it's imperative to the camera companies that they convince you otherwise, much like the auto companies want to convince you that you need to buy/lease a new vehicle every two years or so, even when the vehicles they build today are likely going to easily last a decade of constant use. 

The film-to-digital camera and the eventual gasoline-to-electric auto transitions are one-offs. There is indeed an implied benefit of moving to a system that doesn't require constant resupply of a critical and environmentally damaging element. But the DSLR-to-mirrorless transition doesn't have that same type of benefit: you're just moving to a different design. A bit like moving from a minivan to an SUV.

Moreover, the D850 may still be the best camera you can afford today. My #1 choice for all-around camera at the moment is the Sony A1, which is more than twice as expensive (and for a Nikon F-mount user would trigger additional costs in obtaining lenses for it). 

Simply put, you're not going to take bad or uncompetitive photos with a D850 today or even tomorrow. Unless, of course, you fail to master the camera or are sloppy in using it. So what's the real justification for wanting to move on? 

You don't need a justification to not move to mirrorless. You don't need to tell me that you don't like EVFs (you will when you move to them ;~). You don't have to tell me that you don't want to replace your lenses (you will when you move to mirrorless ;~). You don't need to tell me that you're fine with carrying a bigger, somewhat heavier camera (though you'd appreciate a smaller, lighter one that's as competent). If you own a Nikon D850 you have an incredibly competent and capable camera; you don't need any justifications to continue using it.

Which brings me to a worldwide problem I find I keep having to deal with in dealing with people: lack of self esteem. People spend far too much time comparing themselves to others and finding themselves wanting. Then they wallow in that and use that to make poor decisions.

Let me put that in personal terms. I'm not the best photographer in the world. I'm not sure that's what I'd pursue even if I thought that were important. I'm a darned good photographer who spends time trying to get better. I know my limitations, and I know what I need to concentrate on to move another notch upwards. That's what I pursue, not trying to be "better than [Fill_in_Photographer_Name]". I have what I'd call appropriate self esteem.

It's rare that equipment is the thing that's holding me back from making forward progress. That's because of Principle #1: I buy and carry the best camera I can afford. Now admittedly, I do this more often than I suggest you do, but my constant camera churn is because that's what drives my business (reviews and books). I'd actually argue that moving between cameras and lenses constantly holds me back from getting better as fast as I could. 

Ultimately, you shouldn't be thinking about your equipment while taking photos. It should become second nature. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons why I've stuck with Nikon over the years. As much as complain about things Nikon has or hasn't done in new camera designs, there has been a core consistency to their controls, layout, settings, and other aspects that make it so I can pretty much pick up any Nikon body made in the last 50 years and be at one with it very, very quickly. (And yes, that's one of my key complaints about the Nikon Df and Zfc: they violate that consistency, with no real payoff for doing so.) 

If you're thinking about buying gear this holiday season, I suggest you do something first: rationalize your gear kit. What do you really need, and why? What is failing you, and why? What are you really using of what you own, and why aren't you using all the things that sit in your gear closet? 

When you have the answers to those questions and have pared your current kit down to the essentials, move to Mike's Principles: what's the best camera you can afford that you'll carry? Note that some of you already may have that (e.g. Nikon D850, but it could also be a D7500, D500, D780, D5, D6, 5D Mark IV, 1DX Mark III, and so on). What are the lenses you'd really use 90% of the time? 

Which brings me to a tangential point: remember that you can always rent a body or lens for a one-off situation, such as a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We're talking today about the gear you own that you use all the time. At home, at events, at work, on three-day weekends, and most of your vacations. That's the gear you should own. The rest you can rent short-term if you need it when the "special occasion" arises. 

Most of you reading this should probably be spending this holiday season buying training, computer/software that enhances workflow, or rationalizing your lens kits by selling the lenses that rarely go on your camera and making sure you have the right two or three that you'd use 90% of the time and that are the best you can afford. Perhaps some accessories are an appropriate acquisition also.

But that's not what the constant stream of questions in my In Box look like. Instead, I get a constant stream of "I have a [Perfectly_Fine_Camera] and am thinking about buying a [Must_Be_Better_Camera], what should I get?" Well, now you have upper answer: nothing. ;~)

Of course, that won't stop you from buying something. So, when you do figure out what it is you're purchasing this holiday season, may I ask that you do it by starting with one of this site's links to our exclusive advertiser? (Oh come on, you saw that coming, didn't you? I don't use popovers, constant promotion, or other aggressive tactics, and I've even buried B&H's banner ad at the bottom of the site pages instead of the top. But for this site to operate it needs a revenue stream, and B&H has been a long-time ally in providing that. I'm going to promote them from time to time when it makes sense...)

 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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