It’s the photographer who makes the picture, not the camera, right? Right—up to a point. As cameras go up in price, they often go up in sophistication; costlier models boast features that can tackle shooting situations entry-level models simply can’t. And, of course, a better camera can make taking great pictures easier and more enjoyable.Is it time to step up to a higher-level DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable-lens compact? Here are 10+ ways an upgrade could give your photography a boost.
Gain More Control
More expensive cameras tend to have more dedicated buttons, dials, and switches, plus more options to customize settings to suit your shooting style. Some mid-level and higher-end DSLRs and ILCs sport joysticks for faster autofocus-point selection. Not to mention the dual command wheels, present in models in the mid-range and up, which make manual shooting smoother.
Higher-end bodies have the latest output ports, such as USB 3.0, or even Ethernet in the most expensive DSLRs.Certain camera features get ampedup when you step up, too.
Higher-end cameras allow a wider range of exposure compensation and let you shoot at plus or minus 5 EV rather than the 3 EV found in entry-level bodies. Pricier models may allow more shots per bracket when auto-bracketing. And you can make multiple exposures of up to 10 frames with some pro-level cameras, while lower-end cameras might limit you to two, if any.
When it comes to DSLRs, their phase-detection autofocus systems can have as few as 9 focusing points or well over 100. But the number of focusing points doesn’t tell the whole story.
That 9-point system might only have one cross-type focusing point (think a plus sign instead of a minus sign) in the center that can handle only lenses with an f/5.6 maximum aperture or larger. At the other end of the spectrum, Nikon’s high-end D5, for example, has 153 AF points, all sensitive to f/5.6 or larger, 99 of which are cross-type and 15 of which allow maximum apertures as small as f/8. If you use long telephoto lenses with teleconverters, you may end up with a lens that is the equivalent of an f/8 maximum aperture. Sometimes a better camera body can mean the difference between being able to use AF or not.
The distribution of those AF points also matters, especially when you’re trying to track a subject. Nikon’s D500 uses a full-frame AF system in an APS-C format body. As a result, the AF points reach further towards the sides, top, and bottom of the frame, thereby extending the areas of effective AF tracking. It also keeps you from having to lock focus and recompose, which is best avoided if you’re shooting wide open with fast glass.
When it comes to ILCs, there’s less variation in capabilities, but you’ll typically find the fanciest systems in the pricier models. The hybrid contrast/embedded phase-detection systems do sometimes include more phase-detect points, or more selectable areas, in pricier bodies. They also push the sampling rate faster to speed up the focusing process.