Should you switch camera systems?
Considering switching camera manufacturer? We summarise the main challenges and benefits, so you can decide which option is best for you
Buying into a camera system is quite a financial commitment when you consider the intra-compatibility and modular nature of the technology involved. As you build a range of equipment, your dependency on the system increases proportionally, as your lenses are only compatible with one brand of camera. Even third party gear from companies such as Sigma and Tamron is tailored towards one host system or another, with lens mounts designed for the major manufacturer’s camera lines and flash units featuring the most popular hot-shoe connectors. For most amateur photographers, once they have bought into a camera system, they continue to use that make, largely because there are limited reasons to consider switching to another company.
For professionals however, there are more factors to consider. Sometimes another camera producer will release an accessory or camera model with a specification that better suits their commercial needs. Similarly, the corporate focus of a company may turn in a direction which currently does not serve the plans of the photographer to expand their system; the company may choose to allocate more research and development to their mirrorless camera, range rather than their DSLR lens lineup, for example. Inversely, you may find a greater variety of high quality mirrorless models in a rival range, that can support your need to travel light, but shoot publication-worthy files. In these cases, it may be more commercially sound to jump to another range. The key issues with doing so are varied however, with both short and long-term implications to be considered.
There are the obvious costs associated with replacing cameras, lenses and accessories to think about, not least because of the rapid devaluation of second-hand camera bodies. You may have hoped to swap to an equivalent model in the parallel lineup like-for-like, but within a year of usage even a professional DSLR will have depreciated in value by hundreds of pounds. Beyond this, you may have to replace non-tradable items such as spare batteries, of which you have acquired many, as well as investing in new memory cards, when your new camera uses a different type.
Aside from costs, convenience is another matter to contemplate. When you change cameras, you change RAW file format, which may cause immediate RAW converter conflicts and result in archiving issues downstream – you may go to edit two photos from the same folder and find they were made on different cameras, in two incompatible formats. Potential solutions to these challenges include the adaptation of current kit to your new system. Where possible, you can streamline your system transition or consolidate your mixed-system operation by using lens and accessory adaptors, that will allow you to use kit interchangeably.
You may have hoped to swap to an equivalent model in the parallel lineup like-for-like, but within a year of usage even a professional DSLR will have depreciated in value
There are lens adaptors to support most mount combinations, although you should always invest in high-quality adaptors to ensure maximum functionality. Expect to pay anywhere from £50 up to £700 for professional units. Flash adaptors are also available that allow the use of cross-system flash setups, however care should be taken that speedlights and cameras are voltage compatible, to avoid damaging the electrical components of each.
There are significant benefits of switching systems if the photographer has specific reasons to do so; if the costs will be offset by the commercial gain of capturing the desired images. However the decision to change should never be taken lightly.