If you want an instant improvement in your photos and take them to the next level without learning new skills there are two main things you can do. The first is to buy a new lens and the second is to buy a new camera body.
Whether to buy a new lens or a new camera body is best depends entirely on your personal and individual circumstances and what you are trying to achieve. So before you go and spend your hard earned money on a new lens or a new camera body you need to sit down, look at your own circumstances, take a good look at the photography equipment you already have and then carefully decide what you want to achieve with the new purchase.
Some photographers will argue that buying a new lens is the best way to quickly improve your photos, and that a specialized lens, a faster lens, a sharper lens, a lens with image stabilization etc. is worth more than having more pixels, low light sensitivity and the like.
For example, let’s say you want to capture true macro photos, i.e. 1:1 reproduction and the equipment you have is an entry level dslr (a Canon Rebel XSI for example) and a Canon kit lens (the 18 – 55). If you upgrade the camera to a full frame Canon 6D you still won’t be able to capture true macro photos. If, however, you upgrade your lens to the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens you will be able to capture true macro photos with any Canon dslr camera, including your entry level Rebel XSI. This example clearly shows that buying a new lens instead of a new camera body is the best choice.
Some photographers will argue buying a new camera body is the best way to quickly improve your photos. Some photographers believe that more pixels, greater ISO sensitivity, better low light performance and a faster processor is what you need. Okay, I agree there are times when this will lead to better photos but not always.
As an example, let’s say you want to improve your sports photography because your current entry level Canon Rebel XSI and Canon 70-300 kit lens aren’t doing what you want them to. If you upgrade the lens to the top end Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS your photos will improve but the improvement won’t be as great as if you upgraded your camera to the Canon 7D (with faster autofocusing and a high burst rate) and kept the Canon 70-300 kit lens. With the faster 7D you would hit more shots and they are likely to be sharper too.
The above examples are pretty cut and dry and choosing either a new camera body or a new lens is an obvious decision, however this is not always the case.
If you want to improve your landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes the decision on whether to buy a new camera body or whether to buy a new lens may not be so clear cut. A top end landscape lens, like the Canon 16mm – 35mm f4L IS lens, will improve your landscapes even with an entry level dslr camera. Similarly, upgrading to a camera with more pixels and a larger sensor will improve your landscapes even with the kit lens, because of the narrow apertures used.
There are other types of photography where choosing between a new camera body and a new lens is not an easy one, since both will lead to improved photographs. In these situations it is crucial to work out which one will lead to the biggest improvement and allow you to do what you want to do with your photography. This is where taking time out to stop and think about what you have and what you want to achieve will pay dividends.
I started off with the Canon 450d (which was discontinued many years ago now – although I still have it) and 18 – 55 kit lens. When I first started upgrading my photography equipment to take my photos to the next level I decided to buy new lenses in the first instance.
I wanted to do some proper macro photography so I bought a dedicated macro lens. I wanted to capture some wide landscape and seascape shots so I bought the Canon 16 – 35 wide angle lens. I wanted to do some close up wildlife photography (at zoos and safari parks) so I bought a Canon 70 – 200 f2.8L lens. I also wanted to have a go at bird photography, wild animal photography and motor sports photography so I bought a Canon 100 – 400L lens.
The Canon 450d coped with the macro photography, zoo photography and landscape photography, and whilst I definitely could have benefitted from more pixels I managed to get some pretty decent shots. Where I struggled was with the sports and wild bird/animal photography. The Canon 450d’s autofocus simply wasn’t quick enough and the 3 fps burst rate was too slow to consistently hit the shots. Sure, I managed to get some but I missed far more than I actually got.
Fortunately, sports, bird and wild animals were subjects I didn’t shoot much in the early days, so rather than upgrade my camera first and buy a faster and more powerful body I went down the lens route and invested in a selection of Canon L series lenses.
Before I bought the lenses I considered the camera body I was going to buy in the future (after the lenses of course) to make sure the lenses I was going to invest in would still work with the camera body I was going to buy in the future. For example, I knew I was going to buy a full frame camera in the future so to go and invest in a bag of EF-S lenses would be stupid. Whilst the EF-S lenses would work perfectly with the 450d I was shooting at the time they wouldn’t work with the full frame camera I was going to buy in the future, which meant I would have to invest in even more lenses when I upgraded the camera. This is something you need to be aware of.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.