It seems there's a plethora of new toys imminent. If you read the countless blogs and sites that predict such things it becomes quickly apparent that both Canon and Nikon are about to announce new gear that is guaranteed to get the pulse of even the least ardent gearheads racing. But should they really get excited? What exactly is the fuss likely to be about? More megapixels? Maybe better low light ability? How about a better build? Or maybe even a faster frame rate? I'll leave video aside for the moment as I'm a stills photographer so haven't dabbled in this esoteric - to me at least - branch of the imaging world).
Hang on a second. Are more megapixels necessary? Currently you can get above 20mp with a number of cameras including the affordable Sony A900 and A850. Then there's the Canon 5Dmk II as well as the more expensive 1Ds mk III and the Nikon D3x. Okay, so maybe you'll cry poverty and say that even Sony's offerings are too expensive. I'd argue that 20+ mp isn't actually necessary in any case. The 12mp D700 performs incredibly well even above A3+ print size (I've had a 5m wide mural printed from a 12mp file and last year shot my biggest assignment was shot on a D700 - the format of the book was A3 landscape and there were a number of full bleed images in it). Suddenly we realise that the current benchmark is around 14-16mp in enthusiast and even entry-level DSLRs. The Nikon D7000 is quite frankly incredible. The Canon 7D is one of the best cameras I've ever held and shot with. Then there is the aging but wonderfully versatile Nikon D300 and the more than serviceable Canon 50D. My favourite of course is Nikon's D700 which also ticks the low-light performance box (I've shot events happily at 3200 ISO and even punched up to 6400 without any serious issues).
Ah, the thorny issue of build quality. Well, we already have it in spades. Nikon's enthusiast range is practically bomb-proof and Canon is no slouch either (although I'd question their entry level build to be honest). Build quality is not going to improve for any of the entry-levels in any case, and is pretty much state of the art in the professional grade cameras already. Similarly frame rate is only really going to affect the pro bodies.
Now it's practically guaranteed that video performance is going to improve. As I mention above this doesn't affect me. I suspect that it doesn't really affect a great number of photographers out there. For a brief while the DSLR has reigned champion in the shallow depth of field camp for videographers. Now with the introduction of several APS-C format sensor video cameras I suspect that better video performance in a stills camera is going to be less exciting for videographers.
As photographers we have never had it this good. There is really isn't a single digital SLR out there that cannot produce top quality imagery given the ability of the photographer. Quite frankly it isn't the gear that makes great images, it's the photographer. Buying a new camera isn't going to suddenly improve one's abilities. I freely admit that I will be amongst the ranks that have mop up my own drool when the new glut of cameras start being announced in the coming two months. Will I actually go out and buy them? Maybe if my current setup breaks, then yes. I have it good right now. This is just a guess, but I suspect a good one nonetheless. A vast number of buyers who dish out money for the new equipment will already have perfectly good gear on hand right now. what comes in the next short while is not going to revolutionize the average photographer's work (unless of course the manufacturers bring out a paradigm shifter of a camera...which is highly unlikely). So get to love what you have...a smile broadly when you can buy a D3x or 1DsmkIII for peanuts secondhand when some well-monied photog believes that the new whatchamacallit is going to improve their images.