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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Upgrade Game

Keeping your gear up to date is part of the business of being a professional in the digital age. The decision on when and how to upgrade comes down to determining how to make the most of what you have.

For many photographers, the dividends of the latest features may not justify the cost of an upgrade, however. Reed Hoffmann doesn't feel it's necessary to be on a constant upgrade cycle for your digital camera. “The quality and features of the mainline cameras have reached a point where it's probably not a necessity for most people to replace every time a new model comes out,” he says.

Don't forget you need to include lenses and other accessories in your upgrade plans. For lenses, it tends to be not so much about replacing existing lenses as much as upgrading your camera bag with new options. With other accessories, though, there's a need to upgrade over time. For example, with each digital camera upgrade, you may need to replace your memory cards to gain higher capacity due to the larger file size caused by increased megapixels.

Also, while it may not seem like something you need to replace regularly, your camera bag suffers from wear and tear and gets dusty inside. Eventually, you might notice dust spots on your images. The time-consuming task of retouching these spots can be avoided by having a new, clean bag in which you keep your gear and make lens changes.

An Upgrade Strategy

Perfect planning spells success, so think about strategy as you consider your upgrade plans. I recommend making a wish list that includes all the equipment, hardware and software you'd like to buy. Then sort it by priority in terms of the value it will provide. If you're like me, you might want to think of this in terms of the frustration factor. Which components will cause you the most frustration if you don't upgrade them soon? And, of course, you need to consider budget.

If you can plan for the future, you'll be that much further ahead of the game. Try to anticipate your needs, thinking about which tools in your arsenal will need to be replaced soon. Then estimate your costs and come up with a schedule that will enable you to have the tools you need (and a few that you just want) while staying within budget.

Photography has changed in so many ways with the introduction of digital, and for the most part, that has resulted in a significant benefit to photographers. The need to upgrade the various tools you use in digital photography has certainly introduced a challenge, but with a bit of planning, you can make sure you're getting maximum benefit.

Tim Grey is the author of a dozen books on digital imaging and publishes the Digital Darkroom Questions e-mail newsletter and Digital Darkroom Quarterly print newsletter. Get more information at www.timgrey.com.



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