There are many good reasons to switch camera brands. Especially when an exciting new camera has decent specs, and a good price point. Plus, if the camera has unique features, it’s usually worth a closer look. However, there are also a few not so good reasons, as described in our article on choosing a camera.
After all, there can be a thrill associated with something new. Plus, there’s the excitement of jumping on a powerful trend wave. It can even just be a distraction from the daily grind that makes brand-hopping an attractive decision.
However, for professional shooters who buy gear as part of an upgrade strategy, some thought is required. While reducing a tax liability — you can eventually hit a wall with a camera brand. After a certain point, it can seem like you own every reasonable lens and accessory for your camera body.
But the truth is, you don’t actually need a good reason to switch camera brands. Buying new gear is fun. Technology is exciting and is rapidly changing. Whether we care to admit it or not, deep down we’re all gear-heads. That’s why you’re reading this article right now, rather than out there using your equipment to make art.
Gear shopping is intoxicating. Plus, switching camera brands has all the allure of mystery, a new identity, and maybe some new friends. With that in mind, there’s definitely a lot of new toys to play with.
Will your lenses work with your new camera?
Just because you’re changing camera brands, it doesn’t mean you necessarily have to change lens brands. The old adage of “invest in glass” applies now more than ever thanks to third-party lens adapters.
Before you bite the bullet, think things though. For one, take a moment to ensure that there’s an available lens adapter that goes from your current lens mount to the mount on your anticipated new camera. In addition, camera brands themselves have different lens mounts. Finally, not every lens in a lens system is compatible with the adapters.
For example, Metabones makes a few adapters for Canon EF lenses. These can be used with Sony E-mount cameras and Micro Four Thirds mounts. However, only a select handful of Canon EF-S lenses are compatible with certain adapters.
Also, there are adapters that connect some Nikon lenses to Canon cameras, but not the other way around. And if you’re looking to use your Sony or Panasonic lenses on Canon or Nikon cameras, you’re out of luck.
It’s not just an issue of APS-C sized sensors versus full-frame versus Micro Four Thirds mounts. It has a lot to do the flange distances between lenses and sensors. Plus, there’s a process of hooking up the proprietary electronics between cameras and lenses made years apart.
At the end of the day, if you want to take advantage of everything that your new camera offers (like autofocus and autoexposure) then you’ll most likely want to get native lenses made by the same manufacturer. That does make switching camera brands a lot more complex and time-consuming. This is especially true if you plan to sell your old lenses to fund the new native lenses.
Will your accessories still work?
Camera and lens accessories can quickly add up in expenses. So, if you can hold on to your current accessories and only spend money on a new camera body and lenses, then you’ll fare much better.
For the most part, anything that’s not electronic will work just fine. That includes camera support, quick release plates and lens filters, as long as the filter diameters are the same.
Some physical changes between camera brands can mean accessories like camera straps, hand grips and eyecups may not be compatible.
Some physical changes between camera brands can mean accessories like camera straps, hand grips and eyecups may not be compatible. Lens hoods are also often specific to the camera brand and lens.
If you shoot video and like to rig up video accessories, such as a microphone and preamp, an external monitor or an on-camera LED light, you may want to look for a custom camera cage. These are made to fit a specific camera with precise openings around the A/V ports and battery tray.
And of course, electronic accessories such as hot shoe flashes, battery grips, A/V cables and batteries and chargers themselves are most often not transferable to other camera brands. Keep that in mind.
Your memory cards are also something that may work on paper. Yet, you may find they don’t agree with a new camera or camera brand. Memory cards are constantly going through new iterations.
So, even if they use the same format — like SDXC or CFast 2.0 — the actual card write/read speeds may determine whether they work with specific cameras. Plus, manufacturers often publish their recommended media. With this in mind, check around first before you find you have to invest in hundreds if not thousands of dollars in new capture cards.
How will your computer handle the new files?
For photographers, switching camera brands doesn’t usually change your media organization or editing workflow. This is due to standard image formats like JPG and RAW.
However, video shooters will need to pay close attention to the codecs and wrappers used by different camera brands. Some heavily compressed codecs require wildly different computer workflows, and possibly upgrades to your hardware in addition to software.
Sometimes it’s just downloading a few drivers from a manufacturer. Other times you may need to upgrade your editing software. This may require an operating system upgrade, which itself may require new hardware. And then you’re looking at an entirely new computer, along with the time it takes to go through a major upgrade.
How is the upgrade path different from your current camera brand?
Switching a camera body is never just buying a camera body. Manufacturers know that once you buy into a camera, you’re joining an entire ecosystem. That new world involves native lenses, camera accessories and of course, future upgrades within the same camera brand.
It’s good to look at a brand’s lineup and ensure that you have some room for growth in the future. You may also want the ability to buy a cheaper camera body for backup.
If you buy into a camera system that’s on an island, it could eventually be abandoned by the manufacturer. For example, Sony released the A99 II DSLR only two years ago. It uses A-mount lenses, but nearly all of the lenses in Sony’s lineup are made for their E-mount cameras.
Will switching camera brands really change the way you shoot and create?
In the end, you may find that once you actually have the new camera in hand, all the marketing hype and the thrill of new gear quietly die down.
There are many expected changes — as well as unexpected surprises — that can come with switching camera brands. What seems exciting during a shopping trip may turn into a technical headache later on.
In conclusion, before jumping into a new system, it’s always recommended to give a new camera a trial by renting it first. A week or weekend rental is an affordable and low-pressure way to try before you buy. Plus, some camera rental houses offer a discount on gear if you choose to purchase after your rental period.