Despite what many people seem to think, and what many professional photographers want you believe, the easiest way to instantly get better photos is to invest in some new equipment. To take a good photo requires photographic skill and techniques and also good photography equipment, and if anyone ever says “It’s the photographer and not the equipment” to you they are only giving you half the story and talking rubbish.
As I have already said, if you want to capture better photos you need to invest in some better equipment such as a new camera or a new lens. This is all well and good but the million dollar question is “should I buy a new lens or a new camera?”
A new lens will result in better photos, providing it is higher spec than the lens you already use of course. Similarly, a new camera will also result in better photos. It stands to reason that either will improve your photos so you have to make a decision on what is best for you.
When I first outgrew my entry level dslr (a Canon 450d) and kit lens (Canon 18 – 55 zoom) and wanted to take my photography to the next level I had to go through the agonizing process of choosing to buy a new camera or a new lens or two. After a lot of research, reading, asking around and head scratching I decided the way forward was to invest in new glass.
The Canon 450d, whilst an entry level dslr camera was pretty good in its day and was capable of more than the Canon’s kit lens would let it do. The 18-55 kit lens is adequate to learn how to expose shots, how to compose shots and how to take basic shots, but that’s as far as it goes. If you want to capture fast action shots the 18-55 kit lens is no good. If you want to capture shots with a tack sharp subject against an intentionally blurred out background (i.e. shallow depth of field) the 18-55 kit lens is no good. If you want to take wide angle shots the 18-55 kit lens is no good. If you want to take macro shots the 18-55 kit lens is no good.
When dealing with entry level photography equipment it is the kit lens that is the limiting factor and not the camera body. The Canon 450d is capable of much more than the 18-55 kit lens allows, and all I needed to do was put some decent glass in front of it to get the most out of it. This is true of all entry level dslr cameras in that the bodies can deal with so much more than the kit lenses allows.
We have already established that kit lenses are pretty rubbish and will only take your photography and photos so far. You can attach a basic kit lens to the best top end camera body and the photos won’t be much better than the same photo taken using the kit lens on an entry level dslr camera. It is the lens that is the problem, not the camera.
If you currently shoot with an entry level dslr camera and a kit lens and want to get better photos your first upgrade should be a higher spec lens. When you upgrade your lenses you should buy the best you can afford and not scrimp to save a few bucks. Scrimping and buying second best works out more expensive in the long run (trust me on this – been there, done that and got that t-shirt) as you will only end up buying the better spec lens at some point in the future. Buy cheap, buy twice and waste a lot of money in the process, so it is best to go for what you really want in the first instance. You should see a lens as a long term investment that will pay for itself in time, so please don’t scrimp.
Using top grade lenses on entry level dslr cameras flips everything on its head and the limiting factor becomes the camera body. An entry level dslr camera body will not allow a top end lens to work to its full potential, hence you won’t get the most from it.
So back to the question of “Should I buy a new lens or a new camera?” the answer is as follows:-
If you shoot an entry level dslr and kit lens you should invest your cash in glass and buy some decent top end lenses.
If you shoot an entry level dslr camera and use top end lenses you should invest your money in a new camera. Don’t bother buying different high end lenses because your photos won’t improve.
If you shoot a top end camera along with top end lenses I recommend spending your money on some photography tuition to improve your skills. Spending money on more top end equipment is a waste as it will not improve your photos.
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.