Gear Fever: Why Do We CONSTANTLY Upgrade Our Cameras?

I gotta’ fever…and the only prescription is more…camera gear???

Yesterday I received a very polite and undoubtedly well-intended question on one of my Instagram posts. 

Adam Welch-Adam Welch Photographist-Shotkit-Canon 5D-Sony-Photography

In case you can’t make out the words here’s the text from the post:

Awesome to see photogs still using the mk3, i still have mine, why not upgrade though to the mk4?, is it because you already the a7r or do you just go for the mkiii look? Would love to hear your thoughts sir, ty

I didn’t expect this person’s comment to strike sparks in my mind the way it did. Neither do I suspect the gentleman who posed the question required or wanted a near novel-length response. One part of the man’s words stuck with me. STILL using the 5D MK3? That’s what set my mental gears grinding to grasp why I completely didn’t understand how a camera which was released in 2012 might be considered a relic after just six years on the market. Granted, the 5D MK3 isn’t my main camera body, that honor residing with my trusty Sony A7R MK1. The latter being released just a year after my secondary Canon body. Both cameras sport full-frame sensors, both cameras being enormously serviceable in terms of both image quality and function.

5d mk3-canon 5d-5diii-cameras-photography-photography gear-Canon

When looked at through the glass of shear technical specification, the 5D MK4 indeed does pack some extra features into its already estimable previous generational. Namely the ability to record 4K video and an 8 megapixel boost in the sensor. Aside from a nominal trim in body fat over the MK3 version there simply wasn’t a lot of difference between the two models. Both cameras even have the same number of AF points albeit the MK4 confesses to spread them over a wider area. So from the standpoint of the work I do, having no real need for increased video resolution or those extra 8 megapixels in my images, why would I consider switching to the MK4? Even if the Canon was my main squeeze instead of the Sony and I used it every single day, the thought to upgrade would not even cross my mind. Not even close…or would it?

Are we all sick?

As I sat stupefied at the notion of using the MK3 5D in this futuristic year of 2018 might be strange, it abruptly occurred to me that my thinking was dangerously close to straying into some sort of dim hypocrisy. After all, it wasn’t long ago that I was anxiously twiddling my thumbs and crunching the numbers which would determine whether or not I would sell my A7R and pump those funds into that sexy mirrorless beast that is the A7R MK3; completely bypassing the A7R MK2 and quite literally going for broke on the latest model. In the end, I never pulled the trigger on that beautiful mutant from Sony; which is all but unanimously heralded as one of the best digital camera bodies currently in existence.

Deeper still down the rabbit hole we tumble. From all angles it would have been a solid move for me to invest in the A7R MK3 which is twice refined from my 1st generation A7R. The upgrades were impressive and included a massively improved AF system, beefed up weather sealing, electronic shutter, dual SD card slots, increased megapixels, heated seats with Corinthian leather steering wheel. Needless to say, the A7R MK3 is a one sweet ass machine.

Why didn’t I upgrade? Well, because I didn’t NEED to. Not really. Even standing in the shining light of all those legitimate upgrades a camera simply wouldn’t improve my photographs or my shooting enough to justify hocking my beloved Sony and being left still having to cough up another grand for a new A7R MK3.  Sweet Jesus did I wanted to. But why? Was I stricken with such an infirmity of spirit that the only medicine would be having a fresh camera? In the case of the MK3 and MK4 Canon, the spread between the specifications wouldn’t even be a close call. Still, many people still would feel the need to move to the newest model.


Are we all infected with the sickness of gear envy? Is our longing for the latest and greatest just some atavistic programming that every human has tattooed on their DNA? I’m not sure. What I do know, and I suspect you know as well, is that whatever reason we all sometimes feel compelled to jump again and again into camera upgrades is partly due to the ready accessibility of our chosen poisons. The pushers? None other than the camera companies themselves.

“Hey, kid…you wanna buy some megapixels?”

I’m not here to point fingers at anyone or any company for looking after their own interests. Camera manufacturers are like any other company, they are in the game to make money and rightfully so. Simply put, keeping you pining for their next iteration of your camera is good business. Here’s where the photographic waters begin to take on a slight brown tinge. These very same camera companies who fling out upgraded models of their flagship digital camera bodies haven’t always had as much wiggle room to convince photographers they were due for an upgrade. Not even twenty years ago, 35mm film was arguably the King of mainstream photography. With most people employing such similar mechanisms to record their photos(35mm film) the upgrade war was left to be waged primarily between film manufacturers and less so with the camera companies. Back then Canon, Pentax, Nikon all produced camera bodies updates at intervals spanning much longer than their present day digital cousins.

analog-film-35mm-nikon-nikkor-fiml camera-35mm camera-film

In today’s photo-industrial climate, could it be that the blame for rampant GAS is carried by everyone involved with equal guilt resting squarely across the shoulders of both photographer’s and camera makers? The first being unable to say no and the second not wanting us to.

Learning to Love the Bomb

I think it was Sam Johnson who said “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” Fine words. In a way we camera jockeys may well grasp at new tools in the hopes that somehow, someway, these fresh accompaniments will make us better. So often we look to the illusory inadequacies of our gear as some sort of feint or dodge to conceal our own shortcomings. This problem is nothing new as we all tend to look for the easiest remedy to a complicated problem. If it were possible I would be willing to throw a little cash towards a newer camera in return for a concrete guarantee of self-improvement if I thought it would actually work. Which it won’t. Still, some among us will always miss the forest for the trees and trade their craft for their gear.

I expect no less than a full-bore tsunami of opinions to come hurdling from that great dark void of the world-wide web in response to this article. That being said, I earnestly want to hear them all.

*The internet is a greasy place and this article contains Amazon affiliate links that help maintain the madness that is this website.



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