Time to Step on the GAS?

GAS stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Over the years, photographers have been on and off again with their gear buying patterns. Sometimes the foot is on the GAS pedal, sometimes it's on the credit card brakes.

With Nikon DSLRs, for instance, there was a big surge early on with the D1 generation that was then turned into a flood with the appearance of the affordable D70. Nikon GAS tended to turn off with the D2 generation cameras (D2h, D2x, D200, some low-end consumer DSLRs). There was a perception during that four year period that Nikon wasn't matching what Canon was doing (though I believe that perception was an overstatement). 

Then the D3, D3x, D300, and D700 hit in quick succession, and Nikon GAS was back on for a few years, this time mostly in full frame. But later a lukewarm D300s update and a rapid succession of consumer bodies turned off the prosumer GAS for awhile, while the 2011 quake and flood slowed Nikon's release pattern and completely turned off the GAS for a bit when Nikon mostly started pushing Nikon 1's out of China instead. 

I'm not going to get into the gory details of every on/off mood the Nikon-buying crowd has gone through, nor am I going to document the same thing for the Canon side, which has had similar ups and downs. I just call attention to those swings so as to point something out: we're in another buying market again, at least for full frame cameras.

On the Nikon side, the D850 kicked this off, but the Z6 and Z7 have now added to the excitement. Truly, these are incredible cameras, and the Z's are getting some excellent lenses to match. Indeed, pretty much every FX lens Nikon has put out in the last few years has been an extra-base hit if not an outright home run. If you don't have Nikon full frame GAS right now, you'll never have it. 

On the Canon side, the execution has been more even in DSLR, so we didn't get as wide a full frame GAS swing from the red-hatted crowd. Still, the 6Dm2, 5Dm4, and 5Ds/r must have seriously interested the Canon full frame crowd, and now the R and RP are pushing the buy button again for many. And those RF lenses look every bit as mouth-watering as the Nikon Z lenses in terms of performance.

We also now know what Panasonic and Sony are doing in the full frame ILC market, and both have really nicely defined products to consider. 

So this is a good time to make a decision: are you in or are you out? (Of full frame cameras, that is.) Because if you're in, you need to send a signal to the camera makers that you're still in their corner. As camera and lens sales volume continues to decline, the camera makers are making winnowing decisions, as in "hmm, not as many bought X as Y, so let's drop X and concentrate on Y." Moreover, as the camera makers winnow, we'll start losing other important elements we count on, like camera dealers and accessory makers.

Some of you are saying, "but if I buy now I might miss out on the next thing." True. But everything you can buy in full frame today is excellent, so do you really need some esoteric feature or a few more pixels? If you're waiting for perfection, you'll be waiting for a long time. Moreover, we can pretty easily predict what's going to happen next in full frame across the board:

  • Canon EF: a top-of-the-line 1DXm3 is certainly coming before the 2020 Olympics. Some more EF lenses will still come, and that's partly because the Cinema cameras use the same mount. So really the only folks that should be waiting here are the 1DXm2 owners.
  • Canon R: an entry model (just introduced RP) and a top high-megapixel model (later) are coming. We finally have a bit of an RF lens road map from Canon, plus the patents and executive commentary so far are pretty suggestive of what's coming, and it all sounds good to me. 
  • Nikon F: Nikon surely must have a D750 replacement coming. Everything's in place for that now, and that camera still sells decently despite being four years old. The tricky part is price point. A D760 would sell differently at US$1600 than it would at US$2000, given all the competition now. A D6 is also almost certain before the 2020 Olympics. The new lens pipeline seems to be plugged at the moment, but what we have is really, really good.
  • Nikon Z: Probably no new full frame mirrorless camera coming until after DSLR updates, and none is necessary: firmware upgrades can keep the Z6 and Z7 fresh. The lens road map is well-known and looks good to me. Would have been nice to get early third-party lens support, but well, that's one of the things we give up being Nikon users.
  • Panasonic: That's the camera line up folks: S1 and S1R. Given their volume, I can't imagine them doing another any time in the foreseeable future. The lens road map is now published, and the Leica and Sigma lens offerings will supplement that nicely, I think.
  • Sony: Come on now, you can't figure out what happens next? We're missing an A7Sm3, and then we'd be expecting an A7Rm4 at some point next year. The A9 looks like it will get better just through firmware for the time being, and some of that will roll into the A7m3 and A7Rm3 to give them legs. Sony continues to roll new lenses at a regular pace, so it's now getting difficult to point out a gap (hint: 135 to 300mm primes).

So what is it you don't know that's stopping you from buying?

As I wrote earlier, it's time to make a decision: are you in for full frame or not? If you are, then the choice on the market is wide and excellent right now. Nothing you can buy today can take bad photos unless you make it do so. And everything on the list should be a camera that lasts you years, not months. 

Time to step on the GAS. Or not. Your choice.


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