It's Time to Buy a Camera, Part 1

It’s finally time for me to buy a new camera.

I have had three DSLRs in the last six years. In the fall of 2006, I purchased a brand new Canon Rebel Xti. I spent the first six months or so believing that it was defective.  It took dark pictures and it was nothing like the pictures that others with a “fancy camera” had. Turns out, I had no idea what I was doing with it. I had been shooting in auto mode and didn’t have any understanding of how a camera meters light.

In January 2008 I bought a used Canon 20D off of Ebay.  I used it one time and was pretty sure I bought a defective camera.  The colors were really light and washed out.  I put it away and didn’t take it out again for many months. Turns out, I had no idea what I was doing with it. I was shooting in AV mode and had no idea that the previous owner had added a +2 exposure compensation (automatically bumping every image up by 2 stops of light, even when metering was done correctly).

In January 2011 I purchased a used Canon 40D.  I still loved my 20D, but the battery was giving me a few issues and I knew it was important to have a backup camera for if/when the time came that the 20D stopped working.

And now, I am hopefully just a few months away from purchasing another new camera. After a lot of thought and research, I have decided on a Canon 7D, especially as the prices have recently dropped.

The first two times I bought a camera, I did it for all the wrong reasons. When I got my first DSLR, I thought that it alone would help me take images like all the amazing photographers I saw online.  Boy was I wrong!  I learned the hard way that taking great images has a lot more to do with the photographer than with the camera! The second time I bought a new camera, I thought that it would solve my problem with dark photos and inconsistent results. However, I learned (again, the hard way) that shooting in AV (and shooting everything at 1.8!) would always leave me with inconsistent (and often blurry) results.

My third purchase was much wiser. I shopped around, compared prices, thought about WHY I was buying a new camera, and settled on a used 40D from Adorama. I still didn’t really know what I was looking for, but I figured it was an upgrade from what I had and therefore it would be “better.”

And this time, I know a lot more. I feel well informed and have carefully thought out my purchase.  And once I have my pennies saved up, a 7D will be mine!

So how does someone know when it is time for a camera upgrade?

These are my tips.  Go through these questions and answer them honestly.  My answers are in italics.

  • Are there specific things that my current camera can’t do/isn’t doing well? Do I know why it isn’t doing well? Can I be sure that it is the camera and not me that is the problem? Yes. My camera is showing great amounts of noise at ISO’s of even as low as 800, even when the image is correctly exposed.  The ISO range (only up to 3200) is often limiting. The nine point focusing system prevents the precise focus I am hoping to achieve, especially when using the outer focus points. I also want a camera capable of shooting video, something my 40D doesn’t do.
  • Have I made the most of the camera I have? Have I learned to use its features and now feel limited by them? Yes.  I feel that I know my camera backward and forwards and like I mentioned above, I am feeling limited by the camera’s ISO capabilities and focus issues. In addition to the limits of the camera itself, the age of the camera is causing other issues.
  • What am I hoping to accomplish with a new purchase? Is this something that a new camera will do or is it something that could be done by more practice?  A new lens? Better editing? I am looking for a camera that will be consistent for the next 2-3 years, first as a main body and then as a back up body. I am looking for a camera with much better ISO capabilities and more precise focusing. Pairing the new camera body with better quality lenses will also help. I am also looking for something in an affordable price range.  I refuse to go into debt for it (thus knocking out dreams like the Canon 5D Mark III).
  • Do I have the money for a new camera? If I am in fact limited by my current camera’s capabilities and yet don’t have money for a new purchase, is there a cheaper alternative? I am saving money for a new camera and should be ready to buy in June.  I am saving for a new body (rather than used like my last two purchases) so that I can be sure it will give me 2-3 good years. Before purchasing, though, I will look for any great used prices.
  • If I am planning to buy a camera that is more advanced than my current camera, do I have the time and willingness to learn about it and practice? Yes. Although I am very used order cipro to Canon cameras, I am excited and ready to learn about and practice more with a higher quality body.

If you go through these questions and you feel that a new camera really is what is needed, it’s time to start looking.  Be sure to come back for part two of this series where we look at a few tips for picking out the camera that is right for you!

And in the meantime, if you aren’t sure whether a DSLR or an advanced point and shoot would be a better purchase, check out an article I wrote a few years back.  The camera information might be out of date, but the pros and cons of a DSLR are still right on!