THE ART OF THE UPGRADE

At least once a year, usually during springtime when the weather improves and the birds start coming out, I get it in my head that I should completely ditch Nikon, sell all of my camera gear and switch over to the Fujifilm system.  Now, normally this knee-jerk desire to upgrade can be attributed to a severe case of GAS (“Gear Acquisition Syndrome”; a very real, very serious affliction affecting most photographers, musicians and anyone else whose hobbies involve purchasing expensive electronics; not to be confused with CTAS, or “Compulsive Tool Acquisition Syndrome”, which applies to wood-working tools). 

However, this time around I am contemplating a switch more seriously than usual. I currently shoot with a Nikon D7000 body, which is starting to show its age and is beginning to exhibit some troubling issues, especially in regards to focusing. While I am not yet ready to upgrade (I’m hoping to get at least a few more years out of this body), the ever-looming inevitability of having to purchase a new camera body has me really thinking hard about which approach to take. 

I am currently contemplating several options, all of which are expensive, none of which I am ready to fully commit to. This is why I am writing this post, in the hopes that some of my photographer friends might be able to share some insights and provide some advice. 

For some context, I currently shoot with the aforementioned D7000, which is a DX crop-sensor camera. I use the Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR (which is a DX lens), as well as the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G (FX) and my newly acquired beast, the Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (FX). I primarily shoot landscape, nature and wildlife (especially birds), although I love travel/street and architecture photography, which I usually do on larger trips. I have shot several weddings and several family photo sessions along with a few events, although I do not typically do portraiture (it’s something I want to try my hand at a bit more though). 

The majority of my everyday photography is done for work at my day job, where I use my images on posters, brochures, fact sheets, other marketing and advertising and on our website and social media accounts.  

The current upgrade options that I’m contemplating are as follows:

  1. DX

The DX option is currently my most likely course of action. I would likely upgrade to the Nikon D500, which is essentially Nikon’s highest-end crop sensor camera. While this is an expensive body, it wouldn’t necessitate any changes to my current lenses. Additionally, the D500 would allow me to keep the extra “reach” of a crop sensor while upgrading me to faster autofocus, better sensor and professional build quality. 

As far as funding this option, I would have to just save. The meagre amount of money I would likely get from selling my D7000 wouldn’t make too much of a difference towards the cost of a D500, but every little bit helps. I wouldn’t sell any of my lenses to fund this body upgrade because all of them would work well with this option. 

  1. FX

The FX option would see an upgrade to full-frame, which is something I have wanted to do for a long time. This means a bigger, 35mm sensor which is incredible for low-light, insane detail and all-around amazing photographs. The trade-off here though is that the camera bodies are bigger, they can be more expensive, but most importantly you need to use better glass on these bodies which means I would have to also upgrade one of my lenses. The 16-85 is designed specifically for DX (crop) sensors; while it would technically still work on an FX body, it is not ideal and would essentially be a huge waste of the upgraded body. I would most likely consider the Nikon D750 (or possibly its successor depending on when I actually pull the trigger on one of these upgrade options). I would also consider purchasing a pre-owned D800 or D810 if the deal was too good to pass up.

 To fund option 2 would require saving quite a bit for the new body itself; I would definitely sell the one lens here as well and use it to fund a suitable replacement that would work on full-frame (likely a 24-70mm f/2.8 from Sigma or Tamron, as Nikon’s own offerings are priced so far outside of any realm of feasibility). This option is just as expensive as option one at minimum, but will likely end up costing a bit more to help offset the cost of a new lens, even with the sale of existing equipment. 

  1. Fujifilm

This is the most drastic, and possibly unrealistic option, but also extremely exciting. I have always admired the legendary colour profiles of the Fujifilm system (inspired by their legacy of incredible film stocks). Fujinon lenses are famously good (as well as famously expensive). The cameras in the Fujifilm system are smaller, sleeker, well-built and extremely tactile. Most of the controls have dedicated knobs and dials, which would likely require a steep learning curve, especially after how many years I have spent within Nikon’s ecosystem. 

I would also have to research more about the mirrorless system Fuji employs with their cameras, as well as figure out which lenses would offer the best coverage similar to what I am currently working with. A good telephoto for bird photography would be a must.

If I were to go the Fujifilm route, there is no doubt in my mind that I would go for the X-H1. In order to go this route I would have to sell all of my Nikon gear to fund it, as well as likely put in quite a lot of extra money to get the lenses I would be happy with. 

  1. Both  

Now I know what you might be thinking, but hear me out. One of the most appealing aspects of the Fujifilm system is that the cameras and lenses are smaller, lighter and more compact. This means that in theory, one would be more likely to carry it around with them as opposed to the heavy, gigantic and fatiguing ordeal that carrying around large DSLR equipment is. 

This option, however, could be an interesting compromise, although it would be very expensive long-term. 

You see, I am intrigued by the Fuji X-100F, which is a premium compact camera. It has all of the sleekness, tactility, optical quality and the same legendary Fuji colour profiles as the X-H1, however it is a fixed-lens, non-interchangeable camera. It features a 23mm f/2 lens that doesn’t zoom. This option would offer the portability and quality of the Fuji system while also introducing new creative challenges (such as the requirement of zooming with one’s feet and thinking more compositionally). 

If I were to go this route, I would likely work toward introducing this camera into my existing lineup sooner rather than later. Long-term this makes things expensive because I will still eventually have to upgrade my existing body. I would also likely offload my 50mm prime lens to help fund this camera, as it would effectively replace it as my “prime”. But all that being said, the money that I would put towards this small camera could go towards the upgrade of my primary body. So like I said, long-term this is the most expensive option. But I also feel like it would give me the best of both worlds by allowing me to play with Fuji without giving up any of the experience I have working with Nikon, which would remain my workhorse system.

As you can see, I have a lot to contemplate over the next few years, and there will likely be new models and new systems and new upgrade options between when I post this blog entry and when I am actually ready to upgrade. But because of the expense of this endeavour, I want to make as much of an informed decision as possible. I also compulsively research anything I am interested in purchasing. If you were to look at my recently watched YouTube videos, it is a sea of camera unboxings, tutorials and reviews. 

Anyways, thanks fo reading this far, and if you are a photographer, please feel free to email me your advice or leave me a comment!

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Photo: Cascades Conservation Area, September 2016 
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