A Day Later, A Dollar Wiser

Jim Kuzman
Live View
Published in
4 min readApr 18, 2023

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Despite the oft-repeated mantra that “gear doesn’t matter,” if you spend time on any of the top photography websites, peruse the photo forums, or subscribe to any photo-focused YouTube channels or podcasts, you’ll quickly realize that new gear announcements are a big deal. So great is our thirst for something new that it’s not enough to wait for official announcements; instead, we have entire websites devoted to creating, debating, confirming, and denying rumors about what’s next from all the major manufacturers.

In the interest of transparency, I’ll admit right up front that I love gear and enjoy keeping up with what’s new. Further, digging deep into the psychology behind our fascination with gear is another article for another day.

In part, though, it starts with the camera companies continually pressuring themselves (and one another) to keep up with the competition. Marketing departments love low-hanging fruit like bragging rights over megapixels, and no manufacturer wants to fall behind on the ever-shortening new product cycle. If a company goes more than a year without at least one major announcement, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were on the verge of collapse.

On the consumer side, each new camera release stirs up a flurry of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and has buyers checking their credit lines and pondering whether their abdomens are hiding any redundant organs.

Meanwhile, once a new model is announced, the camera that was everybody’s darling eighteen months ago suddenly goes on sale at a deep discount and floods the warehouses at KEH and MPB — and that’s where my strategy of deliberately staying a generation behind comes in.

My Nikon Z6, a model released in 2018 that I purchased in 2021 for two-thirds of its original price.

I had the opportunity to borrow a Nikon Z6 in late 2021, exactly three years after its release, and a full year after its replacement, the Nikon Z6 II, was launched. I was impressed enough to decide I wanted one of my own, so I started shopping.

At that time, the Z6 II kit — the body plus the Nikon Z 24–70 f/4 S lens — was selling for $2,600, the same price the Z6 kit sold for when it was released. Meanwhile, the Z6 kit — still available as brand-new merchandise — sold for $1,800.

What was I giving up by saving $800? An extra EXPEED 6 processor, a higher EVF refresh rate, dual card slots, 2 FPS more continuous shooting speed, a significantly larger RAW buffer, eye detect AF in the Wide Area AF mode, HLG HDR, a marginal increase in battery life, and the ability to continually power the camera from USB.

For some users, these are worthwhile upgrades. But for me, not one of them mattered one bit. By waiting for the Z6 II to launch, I saved enough money on the original Z6 to add the lovely Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 prime and the FTZ adapter to my cart.

While the addition of dual card slots wasn’t the only upgrade on the Nikon Z6 II, it was an important one for many photographers. But was it worth spending $800 more? Not for me.

Sometimes buying the latest model makes sense, and the higher price is justified, especially if there are significant (rather than incremental) improvements. Many m4/3 shooters felt that way about the new OM System OM1 body when it came to market late last year, and fans of Fujifilm’s X-Pro series certainly saw significant improvements over the X-Pro2 when the X-Pro3 was released at the end of 2019.

In the case of the Z6 compared to the Z6 II, many wedding photographers refused to consider the then-new Nikon mirrorless bodies until they had dual card slots. The Z6’s inability to run continually on USB power put studio shooters off. Sports photographers were discouraged by the Z6’s lack of eye-detect AF when using the wide tracking mode. For those buyers, spending $800 more is worthwhile and justifiable.

But for me, a hobbyist photographer primarily interested in shooting landscapes and for whom those features had no value, biding my time got me the camera I wanted at a price that was much easier to justify.

Of course, the decision to purchase a new camera often has nothing to do with dollars and cents, nor does it always have to make rational sense. Sometimes it’s nice to reward yourself; there’s certainly no shame in that. But if it’s a bargain you’re after, staying a generation behind just might make sense.

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