I have recently picked up more interest in photography. I took classes several years ago, but would like to start doing it on the side. I am shooting my friend's engagement shots in a few months and planning on building a portfolio. I have an older camera that I used to use when I was taking classes. It is a Sony A300. I believe it was released in 2008. I have been researching different models and have been leaning toward the Nikon D3400. My question is do I need to upgrade or should I just continue to shoot with the Sony? Would there be that big of a difference in my photos? Will a newer camera make that big of a different on the quality? I just want to compare the two really and see if it's worth the upgrade.
You don't need to. People were taking perfectly awesome photos a decade ago, and were very happy. However, you're talking about a camera body that's almost ten years old, there certainly have been notable improvements since then. Particularly:
- Higher sensor resolution: 10 megapixels was common in this class of camera in those days, and now you'll see 24. Megapixels aren't everything, but that's a significant increase.
- Less noise, especially at high ISOs. Back then, 3200 was often the maximum possible, and 800 was pushing it for practical use. Now, many people wouldn't think twice about 3200 or even 6400 if the situation calls for it, and maximums of 25600 or 51200 are common. Basically, that's the ability to shoot in a quarter the light, which is nothing to sneeze at.
- Everything will be faster. Time to turn on, autofocus speed, playback, lcd refresh. Again, ten years is a long time here.
The Sony A300 is a little too old, but the similar 2009 model is available for comparison with the Nikon D3400 on Digital Photography Review, where you can see some of these things. You can also find old reviews and look at samples.
Since you've been shooting with the Sony, you're probably aware of some of its limitations. You might consider renting a newer camera for a week or so, or borrowing one if you can, to compare how it feels after extended use and the results you get. You may decide that you're perfectly happy with the older camera and would be best served spending your cash on lighting gear or lenses.
If we were talking about last years' model, or the one before that, my advice might be different — But my guess is that 2008 is just so long ago in electronics-generations that you'll probably want to change.