Camera Body or Lens Investment

As photographers we sometimes struggle with whether we should make a camera body or lens investment to further our creative journeys. Everyone has their own photographic objectives… so decisions will vary by individual.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 739 mm, efov 1478 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-2500, cropped to 3418 pixels on the width, subject distance 67.2 metres

Best dollar-for-dollar impact.

Logically, deciding whether to invest in a camera body or lens comes down to which represents the best dollar-for-dollar impact on our photography.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/10, -0.7 EV, 1/320, ISO-2000, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 375 mm

If investing in a new camera body will provide more computational photography technology options, improved resolution, or enhanced image quality then buying a new body may make sense. Of course that assumes that we actually need those particular camera body enhancements… and most importantly… that we’ll actually use them.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 mm f/4 IS @ 17 mm, efov 34 mm, f/8, -0.5 EV, 1/1000, ISO-200, handheld HRD2, full frame capture, focusing distance 1.7 metres

Sometimes we choose the ‘sexier’ option.

For some of us, buying a new camera body is a ‘sexier’ choice than adding a lens to our kit. Often there is more to chat about with other photographers in terms of sensor size/resolution, AI auto-focus options, and other potentially innovative features.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 57 mm, efov 114 mm, f/8, -1.0 EV, 1.3 seconds, ISO-800, handheld Live ND

Filling in holes versus adding innovation.

Adding a new lens to our kit sometimes involves filling a hole in our focal length coverage, or enhancing our capability in a photographic niche. The lens we add may be a pretty standard offering that is available from a range of manufacturers. As such there may not be a lot of bragging rights attached to it… which may… or may not be… important to some people. Filling in a hole to expand our photographic potential can be a wise investment.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 218 mm, efov 436 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, subject distance 6.4 metres

From time time some lenses are introduced that do extend the photographic opportunities available to us. For example, I recently met a photographer who had just added the Canon RF 10-20 mm f/4 IS STM wide angle zoom to his kit. A Canon full frame user may find that specific lens adds some unique capability to their gear… and enables them to create images not previously possible. The same thing could be said about the M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 Macro IS PRO for OM/Olympus users.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6,3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, -0.7 EV, 1/25, -0.7 EV, ISO-2500, full frame capture without any cropping, subject distance 2.8 metres

Achieving a good ROI (return on investment) when buying a camera body or lens really depends on being able to do more with our kit. A body or lens that ends up spending time in a gear closet collecting dust is a waste.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 373 mm, efov 746 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-640, cropped to 3024 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 7.4 metres

Are incremental improvements worth the investment?

Sometimes we need to assess the value of incremental product improvements, and whether spending our money on them is justified. Camera bodies by virtually every manufacturer have faced this type of scrutiny over the years. This is when it is important to keep our emotions in check… and look at the potential investment with some cold, hard logic. Incrementalism can be expensive.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 548 mm, efov 1096 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-1000, cropped to 3702 pixels on the width, subject distance 52.6 metres

This is when asking ourselves some fundamental questions can help guide us to the right decision. Questions like…

  • “How much difference will that improvement with continuous auto-focus frame rate actually make to my photography?
  • “How often do I actually get large prints done of my work to warrant buying a high resolution sensor camera?”
  • “Since I likely won’t be able to see any difference in dynamic range when there’s less than a 0.5 EV difference in test scores… do I really need to invest in that camera body?”
  • “How often have I wished that I had more reach when out with my camera gear? How many images have I missed as a result? How regularly do I miss images now because of reach?”

The number of potential questions we can ask ourselves will vary based on our interests, needs, and the configuration of our current camera kit.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 90 mm f/3.5 IS PRO with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/10, -0.7 EV, 1/125, ISO-200, full frame capture, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 265 mm

The need for continued growth and challenge.

Each of us can get into a rut in any number of paths in our lives. Continually looking for personal growth and challenge can be an important touchstone when making photographic investments. Buying a new camera body or lens can help expand our photographic potential… as well as add personal challenge to our craft. When they do… a door for personal growth can open. Doors can also open for us when we invest in photography tours, and other skill enhancement opportunities.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-800, cropped to 3999 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 51.8 metres

Investments warrant a commitment.

Regardless of the camera format or brand we may use… when we make an investment in a camera body or lens we need to make a commitment to use it… and push ourselves with it. Making a full commitment and diving in… is the best way to get the most out of our investment.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld with the camera equipment noted in the EXIF data. All images were created from RAW files or out-of-camera jpegs, using my standard process in post. This is the 1,381 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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