If you’re like me and got into photography because of an inherent need to master a new (to you) skill, hoarding of equipment can occasionally be a problem. Gear acquisition syndrome can be difficult to overcome but thankfully I managed to get out the other side. I started with a digital camera I borrowed, then bought off the owner (cheers, Ross) and slowly upgraded until I had more kit than I really knew how to use properly.
The first problem I found was that I had “covered all of the bases”. I quickly learned that I did better work when forced to think more. Prime (fixed focal length) lenses helped that considerably. My zooms that I’d amassed became quickly redundant when I started concentrating on the feeling of the photograph rather than going the easiest route to a capture. I’d argue this would be the tipping point for me between snapshots and work I was proud of. Although they were mostly unused, they serve as backup and do help, especially once I wasn’t just the only one using my kit.
I don’t want this to come across as another “prime lenses are better than zoom lenses” rant, as it’s not. I’m more trying to get to the point that if things work for you, go with that. I know plenty of people who shoot their best work with zooms and others that shoot theirs with their “toy” cameras.
I’ve always tried to have a certain percentage of my kit reserved to being for play. It really helps me expand on what I’m comfortable with. I keep my core equipment as a base but have experimented with additions such as a tilt/shift or super telephoto. Every pocket camera that I’ve cycled through has fallen under this bracket (until I settled on the Ricoh GR) as well as every film camera I’ve owned. Playing with odd equipment makes photography feel new and interesting to me and that’s one of the ways I’ve found to stop it from getting stale.
I moved through kit based on how much cash was tied up in any specific addition to the roster versus how much use it got. Sentimental kit stuck. I have had pangs to repurchase occasionally but there’s usually been a good reason things haven’t stuck about. If you buy smart with “toy” camera equipment then it’s fairly easy to break even or thereabouts. I bought the 45mm tilt/shift because I wanted some autonomy for a college class that covered architectural photography. When I looked into rentals for the time period that I’d be wanting to use the lens for, I quickly realised that buying it was a better prospect.
The hole that most people seem to dig themselves into with gear is thinking that X will make them produce better work and Y will let them book more clients. It’s a bit like a sunk cost fallacy, the more you sink into it the more you’re worthy of success, in love, life or any endeavour. I had a recent conversation with a friend who wanted to upgrade their camera to the latest and greatest (I won’t go naming names). He’s a lot like myself in this regard and is a total nerd. I can see a lot of myself a few years ago in how he’s acquiring both equipment but also ability.
This post has sat for a few weeks unfinished because I don’t really know if there’s anything to say in this space other than not to overdo your budget, photography is fine to play with as a hobby as well as a skill and to take what you want to from it whenever you feel like it.