When discussing camera systems, the discussion somehow always slips into holy wars, it’s always one system against the other, and one must always choose one over the other system. But, it’s always smarter not to exclude, but to include.
Choosing one camera system has some easy-to-see benefits – the lens mount is the same, a lot of accessories are compatible, ergonomics is the same, or at least very similar, philosophy of the cameras and lenses are the same. One can reasonably expect to pick up the newest camera or lens and be instantly familiar with the basics of the operation – power on/off buttons are in the same place, zoom rings turn in the same direction, indicators are speaking the same language, muscle memory remains the same, cognitive load does not increase.
By adding another, different set of cameras and lenses, everything is completely different! Lenses cannot be mixed and matched, rings turn in weird directions, blinking lights might mean something completely different, and power buttons might not even be buttons, anymore. But the worst case is not a complete opposite difference, oh no. The worst-case scenario is having just some of the controls behaving differently!
Also, by having more than one camera system, one can expect to never be done with finishing all the systems, accumulating, and buying all the needed cameras, lenses, flashes and accessories. Secondary, or multiple systems are diluting the fanbase, as well. What would happen if, by getting into a different camera system, one decides that the new system might be a better fit for their needs? Does that mean the existing system gets abandoned? What about all those harsh words said against the other systems, what about all those praises for the existing system? How can someone change their mind after years of being a good fanboy!? That would be pure blasphemy!
I might joke, and I am joking about mindfulness of fanboyism, but I am certain a lot of photographers (and photographers) are not as far from that way of thinking as one would expect.
A smart, sensible, sane person can easily understand why locking themselves into just one, single camera system might not be the best, or the only way.
Instead of waiting for a favourite team, err, a corporation to introduce the camera or lens one is dreaming about, or making the camera just for the specific needs, if such a piece of hardware exists in the competing system, why not just adding that one specific piece of equipment? It might mean adding more than just that one single piece of equipment, for example, if that’s the lens, the camera needs to be added, and vice versa.
The logical fallacy behind competing systems is the conflict between systems. In fact, there is no conflict at all. If the need is fulfilled, there is no reasonable pressure to expand or invest in that additional system. Cameras and lenses are not Pokémons, there is no need to get them all.
Even if getting into a system for only one lens, if that one lens is fulfilling the need, it makes all the sense. There is no need to “fill the range”, there is no pressure of getting any other lens, except for, maybe, fulfilling the curiosity, but then again, there is always an option of renting or borrowing a lens.
For example, lugging a big full-frame, or even medium-format system on a trip is often a great overkill – a big camera with two or three premium lenses, two zooms and a fast prime, will usually weigh more than 2 kg, even more than 3 kg, depending on the lenses. That’s a lot of weight for travel that involves flying, and that’s a lot of weight to carry around. In almost every case, using a more compact system, with a crop sensor, where lenses are significantly smaller and lighter, can shed a lot of weight, and not lose visibly a lot of image quality. Smaller sensor systems with more compact lenses, many collapsible, even with multiple lenses; some systems with pro-grade lenses can weigh less than 1.5 kg. Not only it is easier to pack for flights, but it is also significantly easier to carry around. Even when not travelling, weight reduction is (almost) always beneficial, and the need for the ultimate image quality simply does not exist for every occasion.
Another – financial – example would be Canon’s solution for their RF mount long telephoto lens, Canon RF 800mm F5.6 L IS. That lens comes with a price of US$ 17 000. That’s 17 thousand US$, and that’s a lot of money. Nikon’s Z mount has a Nikkor Z 800mm F6.3 PF VR S lens that costs US$ 6 500. A top-of-the-line camera, Nikon Z 9, is available for US$ 5 500, meaning one can get both the lens and the camera for US$ 5 000 less than Canon’s lens alone.
Finally, buying used equipment should mitigate the cost of additional, non-primary systems, learning about the capabilities of another camera doesn’t require the latest and the newest gear.
Cameras and lenses are not Pokémons, there is no need to get them all.
Full-frame cameras are wonderful. Fast zooms are real marvels of optical engineering. The photos taken with a combination like that can’t be anything but excellent, and the prestige of carrying around an imposing, professional camera is just priceless, I fully understand.
I also understand back pain, neck pain, sore hands, and the annoyance of having to take care of your gear, not to be left behind, forgotten, or even stolen. Lifting a big chunk of a camera with hefty glass in front of it telegraphs everyone to take care, drop everything and try to look as good as possible. No candid photos!
In my case, deciding between taking my big, full-frame Canon 5D Mark II DSLR with 24–70mm zoom and 50mm F1.4 prime for low-light occasions, and my microFourThirds Panasonic GX7 with 14–42mm zoom and 25mm F1.4 prime, is easy – one option is taking a lot of space and imploring a significant weight penalty, while the other one can literally fit my jacket pockets. Although the wide angle is not as wide, adding a 9–18mm zoom takes just 155 grams; adding a 35–100mm telephoto adds mere 135 grams – that’s less than 300 grams for expanding significantly both wide-angle and telephoto over the standard range. Apertures in both cases are pretty dark, ƒ/4–5.6, but sensors available for the last decade are perfectly capable of controlling the noise, and slower microFourThirds lenses peak at the widest and close-to-widest apertures. Also, for low-light occasions, there’s an ƒ/1.4 lens waiting.
Exploring other camera systems should always be an option, especially if the current system is not fulfilling the needs. Camera manufacturers are big corporations, brand loyalty should not be a thing, waiting for some specific camera, lens or accessory that’s missing should not stop anyone from exploring the other available options – sampling, as Thom Hogan calls it. Who knows, maybe the grass really is a bit greener on the other side!