This short article summarizes some of the feedback that I have received from seniors who have downsized their gear, or are thinking about doing so. The desire to downsize camera gear is not restricted to seniors! Some of the actions that seniors are taking may make sense for other photographers as well. It has been quite surprising to witness the number of comments and contacts that have occurred since my senior-related article, Senior Perspectives on Photography. I’d like to thank all of the readers who have contacted me and shared their personal experiences! Not only has it been an enjoyable experience to hear from all of you, but very enlightening as well. One of the common topics that these more ‘mature’ photographers wanted to discuss with me was their decision to downsize their gear. There was certainly a range of approaches that people have used to better align their gear with their photographic interests and their need for smaller, lighter camera gear.
Partial Replacement of Interchangeable Lens System
Only replacing a portion of their camera gear was a very common approach that has been used by many seniors. This was especially true of people who had an interest in bird and nature photography. Some have kept their full frame DSLRs and long zoom or telephoto lenses, along with their tripods and gimbal heads as they simply love the quality that this gear produces for them. Since they are still able to handle this heavier gear when used with a tripod it has made sense for them to keep it. They most commonly replaced some camera gear for other types of subject matter.
Other seniors have kept their full frame bodies and faster glass because of image quality considerations when photographing family events and specifically their grandchildren at school events and other such gatherings which are often captured in lower light conditions. They then used other camera gear for more general photography needs.
When seniors replaced a portion of their full frame DSLR camera gear many have kept a number of their lenses but switched to a smaller and lighter cropped sensor DSLR body such as the Nikon 5000 series cameras or models like the Canon SL 1. Some full frame Sony owners have added a cropped sensor bodies for their everyday photography and travel needs. Along with the addition of a cropped sensor body many seniors have added an ‘all-in-one’ zoom lens such as an 18-200mm or 18-300mm to simplify their travel kit down to one body/lens combination.
Initially replacing only a portion of their interchangeable lens camera gear with some smaller cropped sensor bodies appears to be one of the most common approaches used by senior owners of full frame gear. Many also acknowledged that this is likely only a stop-gap solution and that they may need to downsize further as they age.
Adding Travel Gear
Some seniors who are now travelling more have added a super zoom camera so they can travel with one camera to meet their travel needs. Others who do not need the focal length range of a super zoom unit or find them too large and bulky have opted for a fixed lens camera, most often with an optical zoom capability. Their selection of optical zoom range appears to be driven by the nature of their travel. People who mainly travel to city destinations and capture mainly street type photographs were more likely to choose wider angle zoom cameras. Seniors who more commonly traveled outside of urban areas seemed to choose cameras with optical zooms offering more focal length range.
Total System Replacement
Anecdotally, replacing their entire camera system doesn’t seem quite as popular as adding a cropped sensor body for many seniors. For those seniors who told me that they have switched systems completely it appears that one of two approaches was most commonly used. The first was to switch from DSLRs to a cropped sensor mirrorless solution. Quite often brands like Sony and Fuji were mentioned in this scenario. People that made this switch most often cited their need to maintain image quality with a cropped sensor body, but also shedding some weight by going mirrorless as their main determinants.
The second very common approach was to move to a Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) system. Seniors that took this route wanted to physically downsize their camera bodies as well as their lenses. Many of them mentioned that they thought that the image quality had improved with M4/3 sensor bodies making them now well suited to their current needs. Olympus and Panasonic were both mentioned frequently with Olympus appearing to be the more popular brand.
I also had quite a few people mention the Nikon 1 system. Realistically, I don’t think that the Nikon 1 system is nearly as popular as M4/3 and I likely got a higher percentage of inquiries and comments about Nikon 1 since many readers know that I shoot with it exclusively. Of the people who have switched to Nikon 1, or have an interest in the system, two basic groups emerged. The first group was bird/nature photographers who are specifically interested in a Nikon 1 V3/CX 70-300mm combination. The second group was looking for a small interchangeable lens camera to use primarily for travel. These folks tended to ask about the Nikon 1 J5 with a 10-30mm kit lens or with the 10-100mm f/4-5.6. Some of them also had interest in other 1 Nikon lenses like the 6.7-13mm, 30-100mm, and 18.5mm prime.
Of the many emails and calls I received almost half of them were from folks who are contemplating downsizing their camera gear but were very confused with how to proceed. Most seemed conflicted when it came to camera sensor size, or were caught up in the confusing but somewhat pointless DSLR vs mirrorless debate. Others viewed their plethora of available camera choices, i.e. interchangeable lens systems, bridge cameras, fixed lens cameras, as simply overwhelming. This conundrum ended up being the creative spark for an article I recently wrote for my photography blog that helps people create a camera buying decision matrix.
I’ve never thought is was appropriate for any of us to tell other folks what camera gear they should buy as it is impossible for us to really understand the photographic needs of another person. Carefully defining one’s needs, then evaluating our options against those needs is, in my view, the most prudent course of action.
If you’ve downsized your camera gear, share you experience!
Regardless of whether you’re a senior or not, if you’ve downsized your camera gear we’d love to hear from you! Tell us what you were using in the past, what you’ve moved to and why. And, just as importantly what your experience has been (both good and bad) with your new gear.
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You are absolutely right, at 57 years old I have modified my equipment and stopped the arms race…..
Previously, D300s+mb-D10, Sigma 10-20mm, Nikon 16-85mm, Nikon 70-300mm f5.6, Nikon 200-500.
Currently D500 with MB-D17 coupled to TC1.4e iii and Nikon 300mm PF F4 and
D7200 with grip and coupled with Samyang 8mm and Miccro Nikor 105mm F2.8 AF-S
Nothing else needed, I have for birds and game, for architecture and landscape and macro.
Your site is very interesting
I guess the short answer to your question is that while speculation may abound, only the Nikon Executive Committee knows for sure.
I personally do not think the Nikon 1 system will be discontinued as it makes no strategic sense to me at all…but that is only my opinion. I don’t have any ‘inside’ information on which my opinion is based.
I do know that whether Nikon 1 is cancelled or not, I’ll be shooting with my gear for many years to come! On Friday last week I added another V3 body to my kit…a good, used unit with EVF, grip and 10-30PD zoom. For all of the still photography needs of my wife and I, we now have two V3s and two J5s. We also have three V2s that are now used exclusively for our industrial client video business.
I’ve shot with Nikon APS-C and full frame DSLRs in the past, as well as having a brief flirtation with M4/3. Nothing meets my specific needs as well as Nikon 1 which is why we’ve tried to ‘future proof’ our system with multiple bodies.
Many folks seem fixated on sensor size and just ‘don’t get it’ when it comes to Nikon 1. As a result rumours of the system’s demise have been prevalent for years. Some people were very vocal with their opinion that the Nikon DL Series would be the death of Nikon 1. I was a ‘voice in the wilderness’ when I took an opposing view.
I find it odd that when people think about the risk of owning a camera system that may get cancelled they more often than not mention Nikon 1. Personally I think there may be more risk buying a Panasonic, Olympus or Pentax system.
At the end of the day, nothing is ever guaranteed. We all have to make the best decisions we can based on the available information at hand. The more I look at CIPA statistics, the more I feel there will be a place for Nikon 1…assuming of course that Nikon can generate contribution margin when it sells a Nikon 1 body or lens. If it does, there really is no reason for the system to disappear.
Sorry for the length of this reply….
Many thanks for your detailed reply, greatly appreciated. I have since located a number of UK dealers who have the J5 in stock.
Just one follow up question. I realise that the term quality is open to individual interpretation but how large can one “blow up” files from a one inch J5 sensor to produce good quality results? A3? A3 plus? A2 or would that be really pushing it?
Thank you again in anticipation
You’re welcome John – it’s always a pleasure to help a reader!
I agree that print quality is a relative term and open to individual interpretation.
Sorry that I don’t relate to international “A” paper sizes. I regularly print my Nikon 1 files at 12″ x 18″ (30.5cm x 45.7cm) image size and find them quite acceptable. I have also had good luck printing images as large as 16″ x 24″ (40.6cm x 61cm). These are typically J5 files captured in good light at base ISO. Keep in mind that I almost never crop any of my images that I would print. These sizes would be based on a full resolution, uncropped J5 file. We print in-house using an HP Z3200 12-colour DesignJet printer, using Epson Enhanced Matte paper.
I’m not a pixel peeper…so the enlargement sizes that I mentioned in my reply are based on typical viewing distances of 3-5 feet (1-1.5 metres).
Like many of the people commenting I too am looking to downsize having used both Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras.
I am very interested in the Nikon 1 system which I think will do everything that I need.
My one question is:- is it still a viable system or is it being discontinued. I cannot get a sensible answer from anyone here in the UK. Some retailers seem to be dropping the cameras from their listings
Any views would be greatly appreciated
Bought a D3300 w/35mmDX as a compllmentary walkabout/glovebox rig to the D3s/ FX lens armory. Quiet, small, light and competent. Love it to bits.
We need a good 20 or 24 DX from Nikon to fill the wide end, like the 35 DX…
When I was shooting with DX gear I also owned the 35mm f/1.8 DX lens and I also found it quiet, small, light and competent, just as you did!
I got my first SLR kit when I was a teenager, consisting of an old, even then, Edixa Reflex, with a ‘normal’, a short telephoto zoom (very rare then, in the 70’s), and a Görlitz TeleMegor 400/5.6 (a very nice lens, but heavy). That very heavy kit was eventually replaced by two Minox 35 EL, the smallest FX cameras ever made, but I wore them down, totally, so eventually I switched to a Konica Big Mini.
Then came the digital age, with a Konica KD-500W.
Then a few other digital compacts.
After a couple of years I was sitting with a very complete Pentax kit (two bodies for me, one for my wife, and close to 20 lenses, and a lot o other stuff), but I wasn’t quite happy with where Pentax was heading (like the K-01 weirdo), so when Steve Huff wrote enthusiastically about the Nikon 1 V1 I decided to buy one to my wife, but she wanted the E-M5 instead, so I got the V1 back! Bless her!
And that was the turning point for me! Since then I mainly use Nikon 1 stuff, and even my wife got a couple of Nikon 1 bodies, to complement her µ43 gear. As I joined this little group of Nikon 1 users quite early there were few lenses to choose from, I got interested in using F Mount lenses
(with help of the FT1 adapter, of course), so I got a few, and that led to a D3200 (as I had fitting lenses), which I didn’t get along with, and a D600, which I mainly use with small, light, lenses.
I got most Nikon 1 lenses there are, the 70-300 CX, by far, is the most used. With a body attached, it weighs under a kilogram, offering almost as good optics as the better 150-600mm lenses there are on the market (which, when used on a DX/APS-C body, offers a similar zoom range), and a marginally longer zoom range, to boot.
For a long while that was my kit, but an even longer zoom ended up on my most wanted list, so eventually I got a Sigma 150-600 Sport, which I planned to use with a Nikon 1 J5, which proved to be impossible; eventually I’ve got a D3300 to be used with that fantastic zoom, quite a different beast to the D3200, and I got it new, very cheap. And if need be, it can be used with the Nikon 1 V2, and a TC, or two (manual mode, then), giving me a reach equivalent to, in 35mm terms, 3240mm (my TCs are one Sigma TC-1401 — made for the Sport lenses — and one Kenko 300 Pro 1.4X, which together equals a 2X TC).
So my kit is much more versatile, with a couple of excellent lenses that work just as well on any of my bodies, and the N1 lenses.
So I now have a light kit for everyday use, a semi-stationary kit, involving the heavy Sigma, a beefy tripod, possibly a hide (with a stove!), and a small FX kit for studio, and similar, uses.
My wife mixes µ43 with Nikon 1 stuff, and is very happy with that!
If Nikon listened to me, they’d design a DX camera with IBIS & EVF, but that will probably never happen!
Thanks for sharing the details of your camera equipment journey! You have assembled a very interesting selection of gear that provides you with a broad range of shooting capability. Its always a pleasure for me to hear from another member of the little ‘Nikon 1’ club!
Let’s hope there will be a nice Nikon 1 camera arriving in time for the 100th anniversary!
I’d love to see both new J-Series and V-Series models.
I used to lug around a backpack full of camera gear which became a real problem as I got older. So I gave most of it to my son and purchased a high end point & shoot digital camera. After a short time I became disappointed with the image quality from the point & shoot camera and started looking for something better.
I looked at offerings from all the major camera manufacturers and finally decided on the Olympus OM-D series of Micro 4/3 cameras. I purchased an OM-D E-M10 camera on Black Friday because Olympus had some sweet deals. The camera and the 5 lenses I purchased weighs 2.4 pounds and it doesn’t take up much room either, and the best part; the images that come out of this camera are fantastic.
It sounds like your switch to Olympus is working out very well for you!
I bought the Panasonic Lumix GH3 maybe 4 years ago, and then about a year ago I got the Olympus M5 mark II. Of course the GH3 is considerably larger, thus I pause before I go out the door … do I take the larger one (heavier) or the smaller one?
Always nice to have the option!
thank you for the great read. I enjoyed reading the comments as well. Being new to Photography Life and not quite a senior (I’m in my thirties) I am right in the middle of a downsizing process. So I thought I contribute a couple lines.
Currently I am still using a Nikon D700. In the past two years I did own a Olympus OM-D and later on a Fuji X-T10 (which replaced the Olympus). I tried both models with the intent of finding out if they could replace the heavy Nikon gear. In contrary to most of the comments here, both of the highly appraised mirrorless cameras did not cut it for me. And even though I can only say that they are great and capable cameras, I just did not bond with them.
So right now I am replacing the heavy Nikon zoom lenses (like the AF-S Nikkor 16-35 MM, …) with the Nikon f1.8 prime lenses (20, 35, 50 and 85mm). And hopefully I will be able to get a Nikon D750 by the end of the year. Altogether this should save approximately 2,5 Kg in my backpack. I am really looking forward to that.
Using a selection of Nikon f/1.8 primes is another good way to reduce weight…2.5 Kg is a significant weight savings!
Although I still use my Nikon D4 with big telephoto for wildlife pics, I now use small Sonys for traveling. From small-to-large:
iPhone 6s+ and ProCamera app. Always with me. Saves pics in either TIFF or DNG. Edit with ProCamera, SnapSeed, Lightroom mobile or Lightroom on computer.
Sony RX100m3. Excellent optics. Fits in jeans pocket.
Sony A6300 with Sigma 30mm, Sony 50mm, Sony 16-70mm, Sony 55-210. For “serious” pics.
All Sony gear plus Ultrapod II tripod, Rode Microphone, batteries, chargers, cleaners, filters, macro extension tubes, etc. fits into a Think Tank Change Up V.2 bag. This includes a small belt pack for batteries, remotes so I don’t need the bag when sightseeing. Sometimes downsize to carry only extra batteries and SD cards. Carry camera & lenses on belt using Peak Design clips and camera leash. Often wear either a multi-pocket ScotteVEST travel vest or lightweight jacket to hide camera and lenses and beltpack.
Bottom line: Everything but the iPhone fits in a single small bag, but then can sightsee with little or lots of gear without looking like a photo phreak.
Thanks for sharing the details of your photography kit! Keeping your D4 and big telephoto lens for wildlife, then using something smaller and lighter for other image needs is an approach that makes sense for many other folks too.
I have downsized but not eliminated my large gear either. My present DSLR is a Nikon D800 and I have a couple of the exotic telephotos that I have kept. I also went to f4 options at the wide end with the 16-35 f4, 70-200 f4 and the 300 f4 PF which I substituted for the older 300 f4. I still have the Sigma 180 macro, which I’m considering swapping out for the Nikon 200 f4 or the Sigma 150 macro.
A few years ago I acquired the Sony RX100 ii for a very portable option and then just last year I purchased the Sony RX10 iii as a light substitute for my Nikon and to carry when I’m kayaking or on strenuous hikes where I can’t carry the heavy full frame telephotos. I still prefer the D800 but have become a believe in that saying that the best camera to capture an image is the one you have with you.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with camera gear and how the Sony RX100 ii and Sony RX10 iii have fit into your kit!
By this time next year my 65th will be long gone. For a brief period in the early 70s I earned a living as a wedding photographer and still have the ‘Blad and twin lens Yashica in my collection, not to mention the Pentax 6X7. Now that was heavy, unlike the other two.
I bought a Fuji X-E1 when they came out because it had a view finder and I felt I needed one as my eyesight ages. Subsequently I bought a viewfinderless X-M1 not because I needed it but as a backup. Due to the size difference the X-E1 never came out of the bag again. Perhaps I gild the lily a little, the articulated screen on the M also allowed me to revert to my old habit of looking down into the camera or to hold it above my head, though the image being the right way round took a bit of getting used to.
I am now mulling the X-T2 / T20 conundrum. I want the 2 but experience has taught me I carry the smaller camera if the images are as good, and is APS-C really up to the job.
Perhaps like Julien I might go Sony A7 but the R and not the II version, however the SLT I bought to make use of my Minolta lenses doesn’t inspire and only comes out I feel I need to use one of those lenses. I still dig out the old Sigma SD10 if the occasion merits it and would carry a GFX 50S if the budget allowed. It’s the image that counts.
The thing about Ansel Adams was that in addition to his artistry and technical skill, he was there and he had his equipment with him.
Thanks for your comment and adding to the discussion. Sometimes the camera gear that we end up using surprises us. I resisted buying a Nikon 1 J5 because it lacks an EVF and I just couldn’t envision myself ever using a camera like that. Well…the new 20.8MP BSI sensor in the J5 and its improved performance proved too much for me and I eventually bought a J5. To my surprise I loved using the camera and within a week or so I bought a second one. Now they are the first cameras that I reach for when shooting stills for everything except birds-in-flight.
If you care about size think twice about the A7. The camera may be small but the lenses are huge, heavy and expensive.
Thanks Sylvain…remembering to consider lens size and weight is an important consideration.