Apr 2, 201883 views

When do you upgrade the body?

Whenever I see someone ask if they should invest in lenses or upgrade body, it's always followed by an avalanche of conventional wisdom dictating that money should always go to glass first. (And second, and third, ...)
So my question is... when do you upgrade your body? How do you know when it's time to trade up?

Last year, I bought my wife a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 as a gift. The Nikon 24-70 was already her favorite lens and she often rented it when she had paid gigs. She already had one 50mm full-frame prime lens. Toward the end of last year, as she started getting more paid gigs, she made the decision to upgrade from her old D3300 to the D750. (The D750 is more affordable than the D850 and according to reviews it seems to perform a little better in low-light... which is most of the gigs she gets.) She loves the new body, and she feels like it was a big step up in IQ. What surprised her the most, however, was how more comfortable it feels in her hand. Just this past week, I myself upgraded from the X-T1 to the X-T3. I already have basically all the glass I want, but was growing increasingly frustrated with the display lag of the X-T1. I wanted the X-T3 mostly for the lag-free EVF, but as it turns out it actually solves ALL of the little annoyances I had with the X-T1. The way the dials lock is more intuitive, the EV dial doesn't get bumped as easily, the built-in Bluetooth makes geo-tagging seamless and allows it to automatically transfer JPEGs to my phone, I can recharge the battery via USB (no need to pack a separate charger), and the list goes on. The more I use it, the more I discover improvements that were made since the X-T1. Even the tripod mount is in a better position than it was on the X-T1 (aligned with the optical axis, and not so close to the battery door that attaching anything will block the door from opening.) It has been all that I expected from the upgrade and more. For now I'm hanging onto the X-T1 as a backup body. Converting to IR sound like an interesting option.
Couple of different examples: Nikon D70 was my first dSLR. I soon bought a D70S, to replace the D70. This was still a D70, but with ONE important change (for ME), the D70S had a wired remote shutter release. Why, because the IR remote shutter release on the D70 was a PiA to use. This is what @BF_Hammer was talking about. I owned and used the D70S for the next 12 years, and was quite satisfied with it, with no need to upgrade. Only when the D70S died, was it replaced with a D7200. On the D7200, I got a 70-200/4 pro lens, and the image quality instantly improved significantly over the general purpose 18-140 kit lens. I could easily see the eyes of the sports players clearly, where it wasn't as clear with the 18-140. So clearly, the D7200 could deliver good image quality, but was limited by the kit lens (18-140). Putting a better lens on it, improved the images. But FX pro lenses are expensive. So YOU have to evaluate if you are being held back by the camera (1st example) or the lens (2nd example). Or if you have GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). In which case you want to replace both camera and lens :-) One major caution is the DX/APS-C to FX/FF jump. If you upgrade from a DX camera to a FX camera, most/all of your DX lenses will also have to be replaced by FX lenses. This is essentially a system switch, unless you already have FX lenses. The cost of this upgrade/switch is what holds back many DX shooters (including me) from upgrading to FX, or investing in GOOD/expensive DX lenses.
In my case, when a new body offers you something you want but don't have in your current equipment. I last upgraded from a Nikon D80 to a Nikon D7000 several years ago. I don't feel any urge to replace the D7000 yet. Of course Nikon has updated that body since then but I am good with what I have now. I have been upgrading my lenses in the past 2 years instead.
Load 1 more comment
The D80 was (still is as a backup body) pretty good. I did not like the ISO noise I got at 400 and higher. The viewfinder also did not show the full frame of the actual image you were taking.
D7000 offers a usable ISO 400 for me, and even higher up to 800 is serviceable. The viewfinder shows 100% of the image taken. In addition were some other upgrades such as HD video mode (I was using a Lumix for that capability, D80 has no video), much improved auto-focus similar to the pro bodies. The controls are improved with more things you can turn on/off with buttons and selector dials instead of navigating through the setup menu. And the 2 SD card slots work perfectly for me shooting RAW+JPG with the RAW files landing on a larger, faster SD card and the JPG files writing to older, slower SD card in the other slot. It makes my importing to PC folders neater and easier.
For a future upgrade, I still have the DX vs FX debate going like I did when I bought the D7000. I'm invested in a lot of DX lenses, but I do have some telephoto FX size lenses in the mix. I always am after lower ISO noise and FX would be a way to go for that. Basically I believe it will be when I feel I am ready to make the jump to a pro-level DSLR body. There will be a lot of money to invest in that and I am not ready to do it now.
Hey, since it is now a year since this thread started, I have purchased a new Nikon D750 FX body in the past 5 weeks. Nikon had an instant rebate going to where the kit price with the body and 24-120mm f/4 lens was nearly exactly the amount of my tax refund this year. That was how I got that final push to move from DX to FX. Not a cutting-edge D850 or Z-mount system, but for sure a relevant camera body still. I still have the D7000 and I saved a pair of DX zoom lenses for that camera. I traded a D80 body, several accessories I don't use anymore, and 3 DX lenses in at the store to offset the cost a bit more and clear space on the shelf I keep gear. I still retain one beat-up (cosmetic only) D80 body which I intend to send to LifePixel (or a leading competitor) for a 720nm IR conversion. I also retained an original 18-55mm zoom to use with that IR converted body and have the focusing tuned for. After that is done, my 3.3MP Coolpix 995 IR-conversion will be redundant and may be shopped out at my local camera store or else ebay. I also picked up a 50mm f/1.8G used because everybody needs a fast normal lens, and down the line I am looking at a Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G, which should pretty much cover my needs as I see them now. I already had in FX format a Nikon 70-300mm, Tamron 90mm f/2.8, and Sigma 150-600mm for all my telephoto/portrait/macro work.