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Amateur photographer looking to get serious. Own a Canon T2i at the moment with two kit lenses, 50mm f/1.8 and just bought a Tamron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC LD Aspherical IF Macro Zoom Lens.

My question is: Should I be more concerned with purchasing lenses or upgrading the camera to a 60D/70D?

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If you're just starting out and asking basic gear questions, you should probably be most concerned with practice time and gaining basic technique and understanding of exposure and post-processing. :D The problem now may be your gear, but your biggest problem is lack of enough experience/knowledge to determine if your problem is the gear (and what gear, precisely) or if the problem is technique. (See: Why are my pictures not crisp?)

However, assuming you have determined that it's definitely a gear limitation rather than a lack of technique that's holding you back, and you've narrowed the gear down to lens and body (vs. lighting gear, support gear, software, or computer hardware), then you need to ask yourself two questions.

Which gear solves my issue?

What is your issue? And which piece of gear will solve it? Sensors can have better high ISO performance, higher resolution, larger dynamic ranges, and smoother tonalities. Bodies can have more sophisticated autofocus systems, built-in processing features, and hardware UI controls. If your problem involves one of these types of features, then the body might be the better buy.

Lenses can solve issues of chromatic aberration, maximum aperture "speed", focal length requirements, and may be linked to autofocus speed performance. If your problem involves one of these types of feautures, then the glass might be the better buy.

If, however, your problem is something like, "I want to shoot birds in flight, but my lens is too short and my autofocus too slow", then you might 'need' to upgrade both the body AND the lens, as well as practice better field craft, and honing your own reflexes. Gear is not always a magic bullet that solves a problem all on its own, but is part of the solution in combination with other factors.

How much bang for the buck do I want?

Or, in other words, how much depreciation matter to you? dSLR bodies are digital electronics. Like cellphones and computers they depreciate quickly, and are often refreshed as models. While some rare folks can hang onto a dSLR body for a decade, most folks seem to regularly "upgrade" bodies as a matter of course to keep up with current technology/feature-greed/sensor advances. Just like cellphones and computers, how often do you move to a newer model? You may want to keep this in mind before "upgrading" a body: there will always be a newer, shinier one in the making. New products in camera land often get announced every six months (spring (Feb/Mar) and fall (Sep/Oct) being the most common times). Can your current camera last you another release cycle?

Lenses, on the other hand, are not regularly refreshed. While they have digital electronics in them, their main technology is optical, and advances in optics design don't move at nearly the rate of Moore's Law. Some lenses can last in a lineup for decades before being "refreshed", and unlike camera bodies, higher-end lenses will often hold on to as much as 90% of their value on the used market. In other words, any money you spend on any other part of the system is liable to stay with you longer than the money you spend on a digital camera body.

  • The fast product cycle discussed in your answer is typical of entry level DLSRs. But as you move up the chain, the product cycles tend to get longer and longer. Canon and Nikon both renew their flagship DSLRs on about a 3-4 year cycle. – Michael C Jul 12 '14 at 0:22
  • True. OTOH, 4 years is rare, and quite a few of the prosumer crop models in the Canon XXD and Nikon D90/D7000 lines have refreshed within two years. And how far you are from a model refresh does depend on where you are in the release cycle--with the staggered tier releasing, it pays to research when the last model in that tier came out. – inkista Jul 12 '14 at 0:58
  • I'm not totally a beginner but yes I have a TON of learning to do. I am currently taking a course in the fundamentals of photography. I have shot several weddings, engagements, and portraits and am constantly practicing what I'm learning. I am finally moving into using manual rather than just auto. I am using an external flash and Lightroom as an editing software. – Carol Chalfant Lewis Jul 12 '14 at 4:05
  • If by serious you mean pro, you'll also want to consider business classes, too. :) And if you're going pro, then I'd say glass before bodies just from the depreciation standpoint. But do not go into debt. Easiest way to tank a business is through gear lust. Suggest you work your way through Zack Arias's Q&A tumblr, starting with the gear he got started with. It'll give you insights into what a pro photographer's life is like. – inkista Jul 12 '14 at 17:46
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Generally, you should upgrade / add equipment to address specific limitations with your current equipment. There is nothing particularly bad about your current kit, and without knowing what you want to do, it's hard to make specific recommendations.

Do you have a good tripod and flash? If not, those will make a much bigger difference than a better camera or lens.

  • I do have a tripod and an external flash. I'm just wondering where my money is better spent. I feel I need a wide angel for weddings and a good macro as well. Just my thought. – Carol Chalfant Lewis Jul 12 '14 at 4:10
  • @CarolChalfantLewis: Generally, money is better spent on lenses because you'll be using those for a much longer time. A good fast wide angle lens certainly sounds like a useful addition to your kit. Concerning macro photography, you might first get some extension tubes as a cheap way to get started. And another factor: if you want to work professionally, especially on weddings, getting a new body and keeping your current one as a backup is a must - stuff breaks at the worst of times... – Michael Borgwardt Jul 12 '14 at 19:48
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Since you are totally a beginner I think you may consider buying yourself some books or just make a research for more information about basic photography just for a good start. After gaining some experience as a result of a solid foundation, you could upgrade and add some good lenses to your kid. I believe that you do not need another camera body or lenses, as you could begin your photographic journey with what you already have. I advise to not rush buying equipment that one day you may never or little use. For now read and experiment. You will see on your own what you are going to need while broadening your horizons over time.

I hope I helped you.

  • I'm not really totally a beginner and am currently taking a fundamental course, I read everything I have time to read and practice as much as possible. I'm just really wondering where my money is better spent. I need a good wide angle after shooting several weddings and a good macro for tighter shots. Don't get me wrong I have tons to learn. I thank you for taking your time to help me out. – Carol Chalfant Lewis Jul 12 '14 at 4:12
  • If you are not totally a beginner and you already know what you need to buy, then make a good investment on a wide angle, like 40mm or 50mm. I don't think you have to go down of this. – Morpho Jul 12 '14 at 7:24
  • For a macro lens, you have to consider a 1:1 magnification, like Canon 100mm f2.8. However there is one with stabilization and one without. I have the first one. It is a good investment for me. Although, you may want a wider angle of view, especially if you have a cropped sensor. Make a research on the Internet or go to a local store and write down options you are interested in. Later you can just google them and see what responds to your expectations. :) – Morpho Jul 12 '14 at 7:28

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