Musings on Photography

Upgrade thoughts

Posted in equipment by Paul Butzi on December 12, 2008

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For quite a while now, I’ve been happily using my trusty Canon EOS-5d. It’s the only digital camera that’s risen to the status previously enjoyed by my Leica M6’s and my Linhof Technikardan TK45s – a comfortable friend that did everything I asked of it, and more. The Canon EOS-5d, despite having flaws, is a camera that I like.

So now, here I am. I’m reading blogs, and I’m seeing more and more posts from people talking about having their EOS-5d mark II in hand. I got email from a friend, saying he’d snapped one up at a Best Buy in Arizona, for crying out loud. All the big photo sites are full of info about the 5d mk II. And yet, I still haven’t even ordered one.

Even worse, I’m still pondering whether I will order one or not. I’ve flipped back and forth several times now, and it’s not clear which way I’ll go in the end. Part of it is the cost, and part of it is that I’m not clear that I can see increased utility from the upgrade.

One plan might be to buy a 5dmkII and keep the 5d as a backup. But that’s a hassle, because I end up with two types of batteries, two chargers, and so on. And, things being what they are, you know that I’m going to put the wrong batteries in the bag. Or something. Even if I never actually do that, my OCD nature will have me awake at night, worrying that I might one day do it despite my cunningly implemented precautions.

And there’s uncertainty about how my existing support gear will fare, as well. I doubt my trusty Really Right Stuff L-bracket for the 5d will fit the 5d mk II. So there goes another $150 or so, plus waiting around for it, etc. What about my cable release? Canon have already changed connectors more times than I can count. Do I need to upgrade that, too? It isn’t just the cost, it’s also the time it takes to upgrade. Time to sort out the support accesories. Time to sort out the new control layout. Time to come to grips with the image qualities. New sharpening standards. New color issues. And it all takes time, and that’s time that, honestly, could have been spent actually making photographs with the camera I already have in hand.

Add to that the observation that I’m printing less and less. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but I spent a lot of time on a somewhat pointless participation in HP’s Early Bird evaluation program for the Z3200, and as a result, I’m less jazzed up about printing than I’ve been in I don’t know how long. I expect that I will get fired up about printing in the future, but it might be a while. Do I want to invest time and money into upgrading equipment when I’ll probably only see the difference in results when I print large?

Decisions, decisions.

13 Responses

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  1. John M said, on December 12, 2008 at 11:59 am

    I’m an occasional reader of your blog and felt compelled to reply to this post.

    Regarding your hesitation to purchase a 5DMKII, you wrote, “…part of it is the cost, and part of it is that I’m not clear that I can see increased utility from the upgrade.”

    No offense, but I imagine that you’re fooling yourself if you really think it has anything to do with cost. You’re a photographer, and judging by the equipment you appear to own — i.e. Leica M6, Linhof 4×5, Z3200 — you buy what you need in order to do your art. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    The heart of the matter is the bit about increased utility. We’ve very quickly reached the tipping point where the increased marginal quality of each new digital camera is too small to warrant an “upgrade,” so to speak. That’s why people I know are more interested in seeing improvements in areas long neglected by camera manufacturers such as camera interface, durability, portability, and, yes — system compability and protection from obsolescence. And when these people think and await about such improvements, eventually they realize that they’ve had these thing all along in their M6’s, Technikardans, FM2’s, K1000’s, and so on. 5DMKII? No thanks, I’ll pass. A 10MP full frame digital sensor in a Nikon F3HP body? I’ll buy two, thank you very much.

    I, for one, have been on a digital purchasing sabbath during which time I’ve sworn off upgrading ANYTHING and using only the tools I have on hand, which fortunately also happens to includes an assortment of very nice film gear. Trust me — life is simpler and happier once you remove the camera review sites and advertorials from your browser’s bookmarks.

    You say you’re printing less and less. Could it be that you’re in a rut? Approaching digital fatigue? My advice: stop pondering the Canon upgrade, head back to film to a while with the amazing equipment you have, and I bet you’ll be fired up again soon enough, just as you suspect.

  2. matt said, on December 12, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    ‘Time to sort out the support accesories. Time to sort out the new control layout. Time to come to grips with the image qualities. New sharpening standards. New color issues.’

    I’m using a 3 year old laptop that overheats after an hour, a 4 year old scanner and the first version of PS CS to do all my work for exactly the same reason. I could afford the money to upgrade, but the time . . . that’s just too dear. I know I’ll need to upgrade the computer soon, but I’m thinking about just virtualizing it in a new iMac, buying a couple of spare scanners from ebay and seeing how long I can keep this workflow going. After 3 years, I’m just about to get the hang of it.

  3. Tommy Williams said, on December 12, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    I have a 5D MkII (I upgraded from my four-year-old 20D) and, for me, there was a significant change in utility, image quality, and just the type of pictures I can take.

    But I’m not convinced there would be such a difference for someone with a 5D. Yes, the new LCD screen is fantastic and there is more resolution, but it’s hard to imagine it being worth the cost.

    To answer a couple of your questions, though: you will need new RRS plates but you will *not* need a new remote shutter release (the one I have used since the days of my D30 still works).

    Of course, there’s video, but I have already figured out that to benefit from what this camera can give you that you can’t get with typical consumer camcorder will require lots of training and practice. The possibilities are tantalizing but motion pictures are not still pictures and I have a hard enough time just doing a passable job with still photography.

  4. Doug Plummer said, on December 12, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Well, I could really use the added ISO capability, but I’m staying away for now, mostly because I’m hoarding my pennies. For what you do, I can’t imagine you’d see any benefit.

  5. Mike said, on December 12, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Paul

    You might benefit from the increased resolution, but unless you print big a lot it will likely be marginal. In my experience the 5D is already pretty capable of good high iso work if necessary – though they say the new generation are amazing.

    I’m fortunate to have access to a couple of very good dslrs in the 5D and 1Ds3, but recently I’ve shot more with my Zeiss Ikon and scanned some film than with the digital – the different experience and return to my roots has really encouraged me back to making some pictures again. When I pick up the slrs now they seem better as well. Maybe Matt’s right:)

    SoFoBoMo on film is my current plan, with a couple of ideas rolling around.

    Mike

  6. Hugh Alison said, on December 13, 2008 at 4:44 am

    I look at the upgrade – then I think that I could buy a second used 5D body for the same cost as upgrading. I really only use two lenses (35 and 135), so that would get me back to a two identical bodies, two lenses outfit like I had in the film days.

    No more lens changing, no more dust.

  7. Billie said, on December 13, 2008 at 9:01 am

    The thing that interests me about the camera is the higher ISO capability but I don’t think that alone is worth the cost of the upgrade. I am planning to wait until May 2009 and see if it is still on my buy list….besides the price may drop some by that time in this economy.

  8. Tyler Monson said, on December 13, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    For myself, I chose to stick with what I had and concentrate on the image-making. After 50 years of doing this, I am finally learning that the best equipment is the least equipment and what was important (for me) was making pictures.

    As for printing, I’ve just about finished discarding every print I’ve made since I started digital (1999) because the printing technology keeps improving and, unlike silver prints, all the creative effort is now in the digital file.

    Cheers,

    Tyler
    Seattle

  9. Mike Peters said, on December 13, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Well, first you will need photoshop CS4 unless you want to convert all of your raw files to DNG. The battery issue is a biggie, and you will need bigger CF cards, and more hard drives, and more batteries.

    Yes, it’s a hassle and an expense beyond the cost of the camera. I weighed the choices and for me it was worth it because of the additional freedom that it offered in terms of higher iso’s which I use all the time. The HD video is also a big deal for me, but that requires learning a new visual and audio language and a whole slew of new software.

    The up side is that image quality is remarkably improved from the 5D, as is white balance, color, AF and the viewfinder. Oh yeah, and the buffer seems much more capable of digesting raw files quickly and without bumping my head on the limits.

    In the end, it opens new doors for me and gives me an excuse to stretch my mind and my eye. I like to shake up the tried and true every so often, it’s like cold water on the face, jarring at first buy quite refreshing.

    That being said, all of my personal work is done with a 25 year old camera loaded with film. The original 5D is still and will continue to be a fantastic instrument to make images with. Do what makes you feel good!

  10. Alex Brikoff said, on December 13, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Myself being a Nikon fan from way back, I’ve had Nikons for about the last 25+ years. My current Nikon is a D200 which I’ve REALLY grown to like a LOT! It takes great photos and, so far, meets my needs as far as a DSLR goes, just fine. I, too, have thought about upgrading to a D300 or a D700. My conclusion is to question whether the additional 2 – 4 mp increase in resolution and the other incremental increases in functionality would really justify the added expense of buying a new camera body at this point? I think I’m going to hold off for now. But since I do like to print my images and I’m always looking for ways to improve the quality of the finished print, I think I will invest in an Epson 3800 printer with the K3 Ultrachrome ink set which promises more neutral monochrome images. Stay tuned… Film at 11 (no pun intended!)

  11. forkboy said, on December 13, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    I cannot speak to the features and benefits that you would enjoy with the Mark II over the Mark I, but I do find it ever-so-annoying that companies continue to update/upgrade equipment, but also force us to re-purchase tonnes of accessories, etc. simply because they wish to milk us of more money.

    I can’t afford to consider upgrading my Canon 40D, but the one thing that keeps me from even wanting to do so is the cost involved of re-purchasing so many accessories.

    They really do like to keep us over a barrel, don’t they?

  12. Joe Reifer said, on December 14, 2008 at 11:29 am

    I’m going to wait 6 months until the black dot thing is fixed and the price comes down. In the mean time, I’m not worry about anything but making good pictures.

  13. […] of upgrades, I’ve been reading with interest Paul Butzi’s recent posts on this topic – here and here. Like Paul, I’ve been avoiding upgrades, and not just upgrades to this blog. […]


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