Should I rent a DSLR to see if I need to upgrade? :: Digital Photo Secrets

Should I rent a DSLR to see if I need to upgrade?

by David Peterson 2 comments

Buying a new camera body is a big commitment and often time requires selling your current camera in order to have the funds to purchase a new one. The upgrade can be intimidating even if you've done it before. Our cameras become our best friends. Much like the relationships we foster with people, the connection you have with your camera is built over time as you learn its individual idiosyncrasies. So why not 'try before you buy' with your next camera.

Before buying a new camera body, your first or your next, I always recommend the try before you buy method. If you don’t personally know someone with the body you think you want or the bodies you are deciding between, renting is a great and inexpensive way to play with the camera’s settings and capabilities before investing. I personally like to rent because I never want to put my friends’ gear in jeopardy and many rental companies offer insurance in case something happens to the camera or lenses during your rental period. Purchasing a new camera sight unseen is much like a blind date. The potential for disaster is ten time higher that when you are meeting someone you know for drinks.

Cameras all feel different

Each camera has a different center of balance and weighs differently. Even cameras from the same brand feel different. This will change as you add different lenses but it is something you should think about before you make a big purchase. The grip where you hold the camera and where the buttons are located change as you switch models. You want something that is comfortable to hold and which allows you to change the settings without having to do a lot of moving or readjusting so you don’t miss the perfect shot because it takes too long to change your focus point or shutter speed. When I went to buy my last body upgrade I was absolutely sure I knew what I wanted. I went into my local camera store and picked it up. All my hours a research didn’t hold a candle to the fact that holding it was cumbersome. The model I was sure I wanted didn’t fit my hand, it was a little heavier on one side and all I could imagine was the hundreds of crocked horizons in my future.

But, but, but the research and the forum posts and the blogs and the reviews. Still I was sure I would grow to love it. Thus I decided to rent it for a week. At the end of the week, I had proven myself right. It wasn’t the right camera for me and I was happy I hadn’t made a $2500 mistake.

Each camera has strong points and weak points

Some cameras were born to shoot in low light while others were created to autofocus like their battery life depended on it. Likewise, each photographer needs different things from their gear. If you shoot weddings you are going to need that low light capability. If you shoot sports, you are going to want your camera to autofocus like a boss and have a high frame per second capability. Part of that is the camera and part of that photographer. Your ability to handle your gear comfortably paired with the cameras technical capabilities will make a successful partnership. Renting before purchasing will give you a preview of your joined performance capabilities. There is always a give and take. No camera or photographer is perfect but knowing those short comings before you make a decision will prepare you to compensate. In this case ignorance is not bliss.

Moving from a crop to full sensor

Making the jump from a crop sensor (like that in a point and shoot camera) to a full sensor is a big jump and will change the perspective of your photography. A crop sensor literally crops your picture. The amount of stuff you can capture in a single frame is smaller than with a full sensor camera. Full sensor cameras give you more options, especially with wide angle lenses but require a higher monetary commitment.

Many photographers wax poetically about full sensored cameras and for the most part they are right. Crop sensors censor your photography but they are also typically more expensive. Trying out a full sensor DSLR before you buy one can be one way to find out if you need to spend more money on a body or if the type of photography you do would benefit if you were to forego that expense and focus on your collection of lenses and accessories.

Lens compatibility

Often times, switching bodies means also needing to upgrade your lenses for a couple of different reasons. The first being that the newer, nicer camera highlights the short comings of your current glass collection. Imperfections become obvious as your megapixels increase. Additionally, many lenses outfitted for entry level DSLR cameras will not properly mount on a larger camera body. Usually this is because the autofocus mounts don’t line up or the internal mirror is larger and would strike or scrape the back of lens as it flipped to allow light to hit the sensor located directly behind it. Renting a DSLR will make those issues obvious. Trying your glass collection out will be an indicator of how much money you’ll need to spend to replace them with a compatible equivalent.

It's a Commitment

Buying a new camera is a commitment. You will have to take time to read the manual. To some extent it’s starting over as you learn the quirks, the right buttons to push and how to manipulate it to produce the image you yearn to create. Renting is an inexpensive preview. It’s a way to do a compatibility test without investing a lot of capital. Camera rentals cost anywhere from $20 to $200 a week. Compared to the cost of a camera body, it’s a small investment. Basically, it’s a good idea.

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  1. Ray Mitchell says:

    always useful and most enjoyable

  2. Roz says:

    Thanks for the idea! Can you recommend a rental company?

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