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I've spent several hours researching camera options that would allow me to take great still pictures and reasonable quality videos.

Based on my research, I've determined that a mirrorless camera would allow for better video quality (please correct me if I'm wrong).

Focusing my research on non-DSLR cameras in my price range $500-$700, I've found Sony's a6000 to be well reviewed. Having said that, the camera came out in 2014, and, being new to camera world, I'm not sure if I should be buying something that "old," or waiting for the next model (there are lots of a6100 or a7000 rumors).

Q. What's the rule of thumb for cameras? Is buying last year's model as bad as buying last year's laptop model, or more like buying last year's car model?

  • This sounds like you're asking for a product recommendation which we don't do on Photo.SE. The reason is because today's answer won't count for a hill of beans in 2020. – SailorCire Sep 21 '15 at 16:57
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    @SailorCire, I've updated my title to alleviate your concerns. I'm not asking for a product recommendation. My main question revolves around camera model years and how the "camera world" works. Is that within the scope of this SE site? In addition, for new users, the tag equipment-recommendation (and tag description) is quite misleading. – James Hill Sep 21 '15 at 17:04
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    This question covers most of this: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/48100/… – vclaw Sep 21 '15 at 21:58
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It really depends on what you want to do with the camera. After all, there are many great photos that have been taken with older cameras, both when they were the hot new model and when they were no longer on the cutting edge. As with all equipment recommendations it comes down to the question of what do the technical demands of the photos you want to take place upon the tools you use? If the older cameras and, more importantly, lenses can meet those demands then they are just as good for you as the newest models. If the newest models have a feature or specification that is the make or break difference between being able to create a photo or not then you need the new camera. Until you get into photography and discover exactly what it is you want to do with it it is difficult to say whether a particular model is worth the wait and additional cost over an older current model.

In terms of general photography pretty much every current DSLR and mirrorless camera on the market will do an excellent job. Most will also do video at an acceptable level as long as they have the features you require with regard to video frame rate and resolution. In the price range you are looking at most manufacturers tend to update their product about every 12-18 months, but the improvements are mostly incremental and not revolutionary. For example, the biggest difference between the canon Rebel T4i introduced in the Spring of 2012 and the succeeding T5i in early 2013 was a change in the materials used to make the rubber grip after the T4i had issues with turning white and causing an allergic reaction in a very few users.

As one moves up the price range, the product cycles lengthen considerably. Canon's current flagship camera in 2015 is the 1D X, introduced in 2012. It replaced both the APS-H 1D Mark IV (2009) and the Full Frame 1Ds Mark III (2007). Nikon's D4s was released at the beginning of 2014, replacing the 2012 D4. The only major change was a newer data processor. The preceding D3 and D3s were released in 2007 and 2009 respectively.

Unless a new model hot off the assembly line has a feature you just can't live without, usually because you need it to capture a particular kind of photograph, there's no compelling reason to wait for the next release. This is true even if a particular model appears to be at the end of its product life cycle unless you are more concerned with how much you might be able to resell it for than you are about using it to take pictures.

Here's a specific example from my own personal experience:

The Canon EOS 7D was introduced in the Fall of 2009. I decided in early 2012 to upgrade my heavily used 50D (introduced late 2008) to the 7D. The two models were introduced less than a year apart but were sold concurrently until the 60D succeeded the 50D in late 2010. The 7D was a step up from the mid-range enthusiast model 50D to an advanced prosumer camera that offered a more sophisticated and configurable focus system as well as faster burst performance. Both features were important to the action and sports I shoot frequently.

By the time I bought my 7D in 2012, there were already persistent rumors of the impending release of the replacement for the 7D. These continued to swirl for the next three years! I pretty much ignored them. I didn't plan on buying another APS-C again. Ever.

At the time I got my 7D, I was also using a full frame 5D Mark II. It was, and still is, a great camera but just a little too slow for sports in terms of focus speed and burst rate. The 5D Mark III that replaced it, however, had a top of the line AF system and a fast enough frame rate that it just could do what I needed for night sports. And the image quality difference between the APS-C 7D and the FF 5D Mark III is significant, especially when shooting in low light. So once I bought a 5DIII I started using it more for night sports and continued to use the 7D when shooting sports or other action in better light. I used the 5DIII for pretty much everything else I shot.

Then in late 2014 the 7D Mark II was released. I still had no plans to purchase one until I read about a new feature introduced that might directly impact what I shoot the most: night sports under flickering stadium lights. I took a wait and see approach and read several hands on reviews from sources I trust to be sure the new feature actually works as advertised. Satisfied that it could make a difference in the specific work that I do, I got a 7D Mark II in August 2015 just before the beginning of the fall football season.

With the "anti-flicker" feature enabled, my keeper rate has gone up significantly. Every frame is exposed when the lights are peaking! Every frame has the same exposure and color! No more frames that are dark brown from being exposed when the lights were in the dimmest part of their cycle. No more frames well exposed on one side and brown on the other as the lights were on the up or down swing as the slit in the shutter curtain transits across the sensor! And because the shutter always opens when the lights are peaking, I can get about 1/2 to 2/3 stops faster shutter speed at the same ISO and aperture!

For me and the type of photos I take, the 7DII was just the thing I needed that no previous camera has ever offered. For someone not needing fast shutter speeds under flickering 120Hz lights (and restricted from using flash), it might be only incrementally better if even better at all than what they already have.

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    This answered my question and then some. Thanks for the well thought out answer! – James Hill Sep 22 '15 at 8:10
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The next camera will certainly be better but each moment you wait is a missed opportunity for photography. Improvements are incremental from year to year. Last year's model are almost as good as this year's but they are much better than those 5 years ago. This is on average and there were some years where the performance did not improve or even reduces within a range of cameras.

Once in a while they is a leap but you will not be able to tell ahead of time. The real question is to ask yourself is it good enough already? Speaking of mirrorless cameras in particular, they have now already had several leaps forwards and are usable for professionals in terms of image quality and speed.

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Each new camera has new features and capabilities. What features and capabilities are important will determine which camera you choose.

Take the a6000 you mention. It is a good camera, with a sensor that still rivals or exceeds current gen cameras from other manufacturers. The a6300 is the hot new version of that same camera. In terms of image quality, it is an incremental improvement. Why would you pay twice as much for the a6300? Features. Nice, magnesium body, video capabilities and above all, 425 phase detection points that give it a blistering fast auto-focus.

Which is right for you? Well, do you shoot action? Slow motion? If those are goodies you absolutely need, its a no brainer. If they are things you can live without, and you can get in focus with a more normal but still fast autofocus, your image quality won't suffer at all.

All cameras have specific features and qualities. There is nothing wrong with an older model, and years go by before the small, incremental changes add up to huge gains in image quality, and that time is just getting longer as the digital camera industry matures. Get a camera because it meets your needs, not just because it's newer.

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