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Scott's Column
Next Camera... And What To Do With It

March 1, 2014
By Scott Lewis

As long time readers know I have been doing photography as a side business for a little more than 2 years. The original intent was to earn enough money to buy camera gear. I am close to being able to buy a new camera for myself.

For 2016 I logged a profit of $106 on my income taxes. Initially I thought I was going to take a loss. I read that if you take a trip and do photography on that trip you can deduct 50% of some of those expenses. I had originally entered 100% of the cost of airfare, hotel and car rental for two trips on my expenses. Since both trips were for two purposes I went back and changed my expenses to be 1/2 of the air fare, hotel and car rental.

Without the trips I would have made a tad over 2 Grand.

As of the first week of February I am sitting at about $600 profit for 2017. Although, at the moment I am writing this I do not have any photography jobs lined up. I have one client that wants his car photographed, but we have not even tried to schedule. I have been in talks with someone else, but I don't know if he will pull the trigger and do it. I am also trying to start something with a restoration shop where I would stop by the shop once a week and get good quality photos of high end builds in progress. Then when the cars are done we would work together to print a book for the owner.

I am pretty sure if I keep my spending to reasonable amounts I should be able to make enough to buy a new camera this year. Though I do have my eye on some lighting equipment that could prevent keeping my spending reasonable.

Canon 5D Mark IV

The current camera of choice is the Canon 5D Mark IV. It currently lists for $3,499... for the body alone. Ouch! This camera has everything I need and then some. The 6 most important features to me are:

  1. Full Frame Censor
  2. Large boost in resolution (from my Canon T2i)
  3. Low Light Capabilities
  4. Very Good Auto Focus
  5. Built in WiFi
  6. Large improvement in FPS (from my Canon T2i)

There is no order to those features. I need them all. My T2i is an 18 mp camera that shoots at best 3.4 fps (frames per second), and is barely adequate at 800 ISO (I hate it).

The 5D4 is 30 mp (good enough), shoots at 7 fps (more than good enough for me), looks very good up to 6400 ISO, has built in WiFi and has a 61 point auto focus system (quite the upgrade from the 9 focus points in my Canon T2i).

The only downside to the 5D Mark IV is the price. At $3,500 I am wondering if there is something else out there for me.

Canon 7D Mark II

The 7D Mark II is a great camera, but still a crop sensor camera (not full frame). It shoots at 10 fps (Wow!) and has a very good 65 point auto focus system. It costs $1,500 for the body, which is very attractive. Alas, it does not have WiFi and is only 20 mp. I regularly print at 24x36, so I need more mega pixels. And I need WiFi so I can review the photos on the camera with my iPad... without touching the camera. My technique requires multiple photos and combines them in Photoshop. This means I can't risk touching the camera to review photos because the camera might move.

Sony A7R II

Next on my radar is the Sony A7R II. This is a 42 mp camera. That would come in handy for large prints. However, it's auto focus, even with 399 focus points, is slower than the Canons. And it only shoots at 5 fps, which I find terrible considering it is a mirrorless camera. I would assume without the mirror to move it should be easy to make it faster. List price is $2,900, so a good deal cheaper than the 5D4. Granted, I would have to buy a $400 Metabones adapter for this camera to us my Canon lens on it. So in the long run it will cost more (especially as I have to sell some Canon gear to buy Sony lenses). But the electronic view finder is very intriguing. Then again, why didn't Sony put a touch screen on this camera. The Sony is a conundrum all by itself.

Nikon D810

OK. If I were buying into a camera system today, the Nikon D810 would likely be at the top of my list. It is a 36 mp camera and is known to have the best dynamic range (making it great for low light). It shoots at 5 fps (Meh!), but has an excellent 51 point focus system. The D810 sells for $2,799. Unfortunately I have around $3,400 in Canon lenses. I would have to sell that (at a loss) and buy all new lenses to switch to Nikon. I would also have to replace all my remote triggers that are specific to Canon. Like I said, if I were buying into a system today, the Nikon would be at the top of my list. I just can't see making the switch.

Canon 6D Mark II

Canon is supposed to release the 6D Mark II this year. The current 6D (Mark I) is Canon's entry level "prosumer" camera with a full frame sensor. I know the 6D to be pretty good in low light. A friend has one and he has shown me some great photos taken at 6400 ISO. It has built in WiFi and GPS. Unfortunately it is neutered. It shoots at only 4.5 fps, is only 20 mp and worst of all has only 11 focus points. It's saving grace is that it only costs $1,499 for a full frame camera.

If the rumors are true that we will get a 6D Mark II this year, what would it be? Well, CanonRumors.com posted this just a few days ago as possible specs:

  • 24-28mp full frame CMOS
  • 45 AF points (all cross-type)
  • Dual Pixel AF
  • DIGIC 7
  • Built-in Wi-Fi®, NFC and Bluetooth® technology
  • Built-in GPS
  • Vari-Angle touchscreen LCD
  • 6 FPS Shooting
  • HDR Movie & Time Lapse Movie
  • Some form of 4K video
  • Movie electronic image stabilization
  • Dual SD card slots
  • 100% coverage optical viewfinder with some new features

I don't believe! Those are too good to be true. The original 6D was significantly held back to prevent loss of sales to the 5D line. These specs are too good.

Granted, I do expect an increase in megapixels, and 24-28 seems reasonable. But 6 fps with 45 AF points all being cross type. Not going to happen. I personally expect the 6D Mark II will sell for $2,000 for the body alone. If the improvements I want are in it... it will be the camera for me.

Canon, are you listening? Get it to 28 mp, and put in the the focus system from the 7D2. Heck, use the focus system from the older 5D Mark III.

What To Do With It

I actually want to talk about what I don't need in a camera. What? I have gear envy, but how much of that is needed. It is said that a good photographer can take good photos regardless of the gear. A poor photographer with the best gear in the world is still behind.

I have mentioned above that I starting doing photography as a business to help pay for more gear. Clearly I am waiting right now to make enough money to buy a camera.

The big question is... what will I do with the new camera?

Of course I will still be taking automotive photographs. I love cars and cameras and love being able to put them together. However, once the gear is owned, will I still want to deal with the hassle of working part time? I am thinking about dropping the business once I get the new camera. I would definitely still do some photography in the automotive area, but likely doing occasional jobs through word of mouth. I have a full time job and don't have the time to "drum up" business to expand my clientele.

I certainly do not plan on ever becoming a full time photographer.

So... what else do I need a camera for?

I feel my creativity is stifled. I want to take better pictures. But to do so requires spending time taking more pictures. After all, practice makes perfect. I definitely notice that when I take long breaks from non automotive photography the rest of my picture taking suffers.

I also feel I should be doing more to develop a style (again, outside of the automotive stuff). It almost sounds (in my head) like I want to be able to take more pictures that I can look back on and say those are mine, and are very good. I am almost imagining my photos in a gallery.

Whoa! Where did that come from? I don't know. I still haven't figured this out. I want to spark more creativity outside automotive photography, and want to be able to show my work. Weird.

So what do I need in a camera to do that? Nothing!!! Remember, a great photographer (not me, I am only good) can take great pictures with any camera. However, there are some real limitations in a couple of areas.

Do I really need the full frame camera? Yes. You get tighter control of depth of field with a full frame sensor. Granted, misused and tighter control turns into poorly focused photos. You also get wider angles that are not possible with a cropped sensor. By definition you multiply the length of the lens by the crop factor, so my 10-18 lens in really a 16-29 mm lens. The only way to get wider than 16 is with a full frame sensor, or a fisheye lens (no thank you).

Do I need low light? Absolutely. My current camera does such a poor job my photos suffer. I regularly bump up the ISO on my T2i to 800 (from a base of 100). I get disappointed with these photos. At higher ISO's it is much worse. I need a camera that has higher ISO capabilities. The plus side to this is that it automatically comes with any full frame camera I would ever consider.

Do I need more resolution? I only need it for the large automotive prints I am doing. If I cut down on that type of work, then I don't need more megapixels... just better megapixels (meaning I still need a full frame sensor).

Do I need WiFi? Yes, because I still want to use my iPad to review photos without touching the camera. Granted, I could just buy a laptop and shoot tethered. So I suppose the WiFi is a bit of a luxury. Granted, if I have it I will be able to pull photos from the camera to my phone for that instant gratification by posting to Facebook and Instagram while in the moment.

That leaves auto focus and speed (fps). Both of these are lacking in my current camera. Up to these two items, the Canon 6D met all my criteria. However, these are lacking. So, the biggest items I need from the upcoming 6D Mark II is better speed and better focus. I would use these mainly for track day events. It also comes in handy for indoor sports, such as volleyball and such. Something I have struggled with in the past.

Conclusion

I think I am going to rent a Canon 6D for my next track day event. I am waiting until a client of mine is going to track his new Ferrari. He bought large prints from me previously when I photographed him as track day events in his old Ferrari. In two of those cases, I rented a 5DsR and a 7D Mark II. The profit from the prints covered the cost of renting the cameras. I will do the same the next time I have the chance to photograph him on track.

Maybe I don't need the latest and greatest. But I need to know if the 6D is good enough, or if I need to wait for the 6D Mark II.

At that point I will reevaluate what I want to do with my photography. Time to start getting creative again.

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