1. “Weather sealed” often means “Chucked in a few two-cent rubber gaskets”
Nature photographers often pay a lot more for a camera with weather sealing in order to keep dust and water out of the camera when shooting in harsh outdoor environments. Unfortunately, I think most photographers don't realize how little protection is in most cameras.
I've drowned enough cameras to know that sometimes it doesn't take much water to kill a camera. Other times, you can get lucky and use a camera in a downpour without issues.
The amount of weather sealing in most cameras is laughable. And if you realized what you were paying extra for, you'd likely be pretty upset. The weather sealing on most cameras consists of a small lip along seams and ports in the body that holds a tiny, thin, rubber gasket.
Often, cameras will have some ports weather sealed and other openings to the camera left completely open with no protection, all while calling the camera “weather sealed.”
I'm not saying weather sealing isn't important–it is! For me as a landscape photographer, I want every bit of weather sealing as possible. What I'm saying is that anyone who has ever cracked a camera open to see the weather sealing would likely be surprised at how little there is.
Some cameras are better than others, but none are great.
2. Version II lenses are not necessarily any better than version I
Obviously, some version II lenses are a huge upgrade from the previous version. Often, however, that isn't the case at all. Sometimes “version II” simply gets bolted on the old lens with very few changes, and sometimes the changes don't affect the optics at all.
Often Version II lenses change the body of the lens, or a focus motor, or features such as image stabilization without changing the optics.
Before you fork out the money for a new lens, do your homework and find out exactly what was changed on the lens. Often it's something that makes little or no difference to you, so you can keep your money. Similarly, when buying a lens, don't skip over the previous version of many lenses which may be exactly the same optically.
3. They use cheap batteries – even in your $3,000 camera
You never see the camera manufacturers publishing the mAh count of their batteries like the cell phone makers do. Why? Because they usually aren't great. If you go out on Amazon and buy a third party battery for your camera, you'll often find that the mAh count (how long the battery lasts) is often 20% higher–or more!
Why do they use cheap batteries? Probably so that we have to buy more batteries from them–often at $50 each!
Oh, and along with the cheap batteries, they specifically write in the warranty contract that the batteries are not covered under the 1 year warranty when bought new. They obviously wouldn't do that unless they were uncertain about the batteries lasting.
4. Mirrorless Camera Specs Are (Almost) an Outright Lie
This is not a “hate on mirrorless” post. I'm intrigued by the mirrorless cameras and fully believe that eventually we will all be shooting mirrorless; however, the way mirrorless cameras are marketed is almost an outright lie.
Here's the lie (I'm quoting Adam Collins who wrote in to me and expressed the issue very clearly): “Most Mirrorless cameras are marketed with false specs in which they rate the focal length as that of a full frame camera, but the maximum APERTURE as the actual f ratio. For example, an Olympus 12-40 f 2.8 is not equivalent to a full frame 24-80 f 2.8. It is the same as a 24-80 f.5.6, which is not worth $1000 and does not constitute a pro lens by normal standards.”
This is tough to understand for those who aren't particularly nerdy, but basically the camera manufacturers are picking and choosing the way they measure a camera's specs to make it look better than it really is.
For more on this issue, spend a few minutes with the awesome Tony Northrup (who recently joined us on the podcast) in this video where he explains it more clearly.
5. “Brand new sensor” usually means “Tired old sensor from last year”
Remember the Canon Rebel T2i from February 2010? Canon used that same sensor in the Canon Rebel T3i, and the T4i, and the T5i, and the 60D, and the 7D.
It costs millions of dollars to produce a new imaging sensor, so the camera manufacturers often take the same old sensor from cheaper cameras, spruce it up slightly (or sometimes not at all), and bolt it into a more expensive camera.
There isn't necessarily anything wrong with this, but often I see the camera marketing engines taking these new cameras and promising dramatically improved performance, when we all know it's the exact same sensor with a very tiny change to the way it's implemented.
Makes me sad when I see photographers save up money for a long time and buy a new camera only to find out that there is hardly any difference–often because it's almost the same sensor. There are plenty of other reasons to upgrade, but I think image quality is certainly the #1 concern of most photographers, and sometimes you don't get it even by spending more.
6. Using third-party accessories does NOT void the warranty
Camera manufacturers like to scare photographers into using only their batteries and accessories, which often cost twice the price of the third-party accessories. They do this by threatening to void the warranty if you use anything but their own accessories.
That's not true. While they certainly would not cover any damage done to the camera by the third party accessory, it doesn't mean that your camera suddenly has no warranty. Reading through the Nikon limited warranty card shows only the clause “This warranty shall not apply to any defects or damage directly or indirectly caused by the use of unauthorized REPLACEMENT PARTS and/or service performed by unauthorized personnel.”
However, it appears that while this is the policy at Canon and Nikon, other camera manufacturers like Panasonic are less forgiving.
7. Nikon looks for any excuse to not repair your camera
I have recently needed to send in cameras for repairs a number of times. On two occasions, I sent in cameras to Nikon for repair and they sent the camera back, saying they refused to fix the problem with the camera that I asked them to fix, because it could not be restored to “default condition.”
I pressed a few Nikon repair people as to what “default condition” means, and they said it means anything that they deem to be wrong with the camera. So if you send in a camera that can be fixed easily, and they can find any excuse to say there is something else wrong with the camera–they won't repair it. I pressed them about what was wrong and they said the body was cracked. Uh… checked it myself and there is not even a hairline crack to be found. And frankly, even if there were and it doesn't prevent the camera from shooting and functioning perfectly, who cares!?!?
To prove that the fix was simple and the camera was fine otherwise, I took the camera to a local repair shop that fixed the issue easily and inexpensively. Even in lab tests with Imatest, the camera shoots sharp and functions perfectly. The truth is, they are looking for any excuse to not fix the camera so you'll be forced to buy another one.
I am working to find out if Canon, Sony, and others have the same policy or not. I have had horrible experiences with Nikon repair centers. I have also had a negative experience with Sony repair, who refused to fix my new camera under warranty because they insisted it had been dropped, but it actually never was.
8. Cameras are shipped with only bare bones firmware
Just like how your computer has an operating system, a camera has firmware that determines what the hardware can do. Most cameras have far more capacity than the camera manufacturers give them.
All you have to do is try something like Magic Lantern for Canon or Nikon Hacker, and you'll quickly see a large list of features that the hardware is capable of doing, but the camera manufacturers keep out.
Timelapse mode on cameras that don't have it built in, HDR, video overlays, very long exposures, zebras for exposure viewing, crop mark overlays, faster frame rates, bracketing, and far more–all of this is possible with a free and simple firmware upgrade, but the camera manufacturers refuse to add these features.