When Your Upgrade Is A Downgrade

In any category of device – whether it’s cameras, or cars, or phones, or anything else – there seems to be a kind optimal sweet spot in their evolution.

At this point, the tool does the job better than it’s ever done before, and certainly beyond the limit of the user’s capabilities with it.

Beyond this pinnacle, it seems we’re only sold marketing gimmicks (barely) disguised as essential upgrades.

In fact, on many occasions, the “upgrade” actually degenerates – or sacrifices entirely – something about the previous iteration that was a highly valued attribute, so instead is perceived by the user (you and me) as a downgrade and we regret we didn’t stick with what we had before.

Then there’s the additional sin of most upgrades – adding more features and/or making them more complex to find and make use of.

Usually these are features that we’ll never use anyway, and then they just muddle and overly complicated the basic use of the device we require.

I’ve never been a slave of the upgrade parade with cameras, though I have had my share of used cameras where I’ve wondered why they had half the features they did, and without them the camera(s) would be far more direct and satisfying to use.

Especially when the cost of the extraneous features would be more wisely invested in a better lens or sensor perhaps.

What examples have you come across yourself? Which cameras (or other devices/machines) have you purchased only to find they actually downgrade the experience compared with what you had before?

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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10 thoughts on “When Your Upgrade Is A Downgrade”

  1. This is SOP for companies today: making a product so it actually does the job better has been replaced by making the product more impressive to the naive so it sells better. Or as we used to say “form over function”.

    1. Yeh, or style over substance, though some are not very stylish, and sometimes the problem is too much substance (features/options) and not enough style in how it’s been designed and delivered!

      I completely agree, there was a time I’m sure when designers would start out on creating a new product to supercede the old one, and their major motivation and focus was “how can we make it even better for the end user”?

      Even looking at the profit side, if the new model was significantly better, people would buy it anyway, for that reason. Now it’s all spin and jargon and gimmicks (and not just in tech, when I occasionally catch a TV advert for any kind of hair or beauty product it’s hilarious all the made up scientific sounding words they use!)

      1. So true. It doesn’t matter what the product is, the one you bought last week has now been superseded by the new and improved version with extra thingamawatchitismosis!

      2. The upgrade cycle of some products seems to ever shrinking too. I mean who needs to upgrade any kind of electronic equipment more than every couple of years at the very shortest time?

      3. Software updates are a clue to the problem, as they come far too often and usually there is no detectable improvement. In fact they quite often cause problems that didn’t exist before!

      4. True. My Chromebook seems to update most tines I open it up (three or four times a week). I’m not sure why stuff needs updating so often except because 1. they’re further “normalising” the upgrade process so we’re go along happily with it and/or 2. software is released way before it’s fully tested so users find bugs all the time which are fixed on the fly with the next software update. So everything is a kind of beta program in continual live user testing.

  2. Is there a way for you to post images on Flickr in a folder that doesn’t require signing in to view them full size? I’ve used Zenfolio for years, and it has always allowed me to control how and by whom images could be viewed. My public folders are accessible by anyone, and signing in isn’t required.

    The issue of upgrade/downgrade is exactly why I’m still using an original Canon 5D. For one thing, this was the last DSLR in the line that allowed the user to replace the focus screen. The accessory high precision screen in my 5D is an absolute must for accurate focussing of high speed lenses (f/1.4 and f/1.2). This is also the last 5D body that displays the ISO setting in the viewfinder when you press the button. Newer models require you to take the camera down and look at the rear screen. This is a *major* disadvantage for anyone who requires reading glasses. My vision of everything through the optical VF ((including setting info) is perfect, but seeing the rear screen requires glasses. So, to check ISO with the newer models (5D MK II, III, IV), I would need to take the camera down, fish in my pocket for my glasses, look at the ISO, put the glasses back in my pocket, then take the shot.

    I don’t know what they were thinking, but these lost features – for which I would have to pay much more than a spare 5D – have cost the company at least two significant sales by an otherwise loyal customer. I’m still shooting frames, but not with the bodies they were hoping I would buy. 🙂


    1. Thanks Jack, I realised that image was still set to Private, I’ve made it Public now so anyone should be able to see without logging in to Flickr.

      I’m not that familiar with the 5D but from what you’ve explained it sounds a great example of what we’re talking about here. It’s one thing to give the consumer additional options that they probably don’t need and just confuse things, but even worse when they also removed some of the core features that made the original version so good.

  3. This “more is worse” scenario is one I try to avoid. When/if considering a camera or lens I first rent the camera/lens for a weekend (Friday-Sunday). From my perspective, a few days is all I need to determine whether I would benefit. I rented the a few Fuji X, Sony a7s, and Olympus OM-D cameras before choosing my current camera, Fuji X-T2, which I purchased used.

    On the Fuji, I find the placement of control are just where I want them, on the camera body and lens, like they are with a 35mm film camera. Except for erasing the memeory card, I rarely use the camera menus.

    I think I have reached the point with my hobby where if I can’t think of a compelling reason to have a thing, I don’t buy it.

    1. Interesting, I’ve never considered renting a camera. I guess because the kind of cameras available to rent are likely to be really expensive ones I wouldn’t want to buy anyway, even if I liked them!

      I think I’m at a similar point with photography, aside from an ND filter for my Lumix FZ38 a few weeks ago, I don’t think I’ve bought anything photography related in perhaps 9-12 months.

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