With camera manufacturing companies constantly coming out with new and updated versions of models -with increasingly shortened life cycle periods – it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.

Do I need a camera with more mega-pixels?

Should I get a faster lens?

Should I upgrade to a camera with HD video capabilities?

The following is series of checkpoints one can use to determine whether or not is is time to retire your trusty old camera for a shiny new one:

* Megapixels

If the primary reason you’re considering upgrading your camera is for a boost in megapixels, save your money by not opening your wallet. The truth is that any digital camera made in the past several years has more than enough megapixels for photo usage on the web and for regular/large sized prints. Unless you take shots for the primary purpose of having them blown up and proudly displayed on billboards, it’s easily the most over-rated feature set for current camera models. In fact, in certain cases an increase in megapixels on a small sensor can lead to more noise (graininess) on your travel photos.

* Updated Model In most cases, a single update for a camera model does not provide enough of a features upgrade for it to be worth shelling out big bucks for the latest and greatest. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to wait at least two generations before considering an upgrade. In certain cases, the newer model is actually WORSE than the previous one. *Gearhead Syndrome

There are some people who are obsessed with having the latest toys at their disposal. If you’re buying a camera primarily because it’s new, put your credit card down. Taking great photo has a lot more to do with travel photography techniques than it does with the type of gear you are shooting with. Consider saving your money and instead investing your time into perfecting your craft and studying composition.

* Your current camera does not allow you to take the photos you desire

This is by far the most important consideration when buying a new camera. If your current model does not allow you to take the photos you want to take it’s time for an immediate upgrade. An good example, is an enthusiast getting into sports or wildlife photography.

If your camera suffers from shutter lag, has a slow burst mode or does not have significant enough zoom (either optically with a point and shoot or with an adequate enough telephoto lens for a dSLR) it’s worth considering buying a new camera.

If you have a strong desire to get into macro photography and you don’t have the right equipment to get sharp close-ups it’s time to pull out your wallet. Finally, as a last example, if you’re serious about shooting video and your camera does not have a video mode, it’s only common sense to find a newer model that does.

The take home message from all of this is that ought to have a big and specific enough ‘why’ in order to justify purchasing a new toy.

* The camera you plan on buying offers significant upgrades on a number of key features

Some folks spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get slight improvements over the current models they are shooting with today. I personally believe that one should only consider buying a new camera if significant core features are close to doubled in standard.

For example, if you have Camera A (7 megapixels, 3 frames per second, ISO 1600, no hd video) and can get Camera B (14 megapixels, 7 frames per second, ISO 3200, hd video) it’s well worth the investment.

* You know what kind of photographer you are and what tools you need to get the photos you want

I lied. This last point is actually equally if not important than having a camera that does not allow you to take the photos you desire. Knowing what kind of photographer you are really helps you narrow down the type of camera equipment you ought to consider purchasing.

If you want to take shots primarily of food you’ll need a camera with macro capabilities that performs well in lowlight situations.

If you want to shoot sports, wildlife and urban scenes you’ll need a camera that has fast frames per second and extended zoom capabilities.

If you’re looking to get more into video you may consider features such as HD capabilities, movie modes and features such as time lapse or high speed capabilities.

In the end, knowing primarily what kinds of shots you want to take is half the battle when choosing what kind of camera to buy.

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