On Gear Lust — Isn’t It a Perfect Digital Imaging World Already?

Sure, good photography is mostly about the photographer and less about what camera and what lens. Truth seems to be, however, that good photography is more and more about the gear one doesn’t have, isn’t it?

Gear lust, photography's great, yet delusive temptation.
Gear lust, photography’s great, yet delusive temptation.
Thanks to today’s post-processing options with CS, Aperture, Lightroom and so forth you can even make a decade-old digital camera shine. Better noise, better everything processing makes the buying of ever new gear redundant, right?

But how come that many of us geeks are more focused more on what’s next than what’s in our hands. Checking forums and rumor sites back and forth doesn’t make us appreciate what we already have. Photography, sadly, doesn’t improve the way imaging technology improves.

Fact is, the digital imaging world is already perfect. There is no way OM-D E-M5’s rumored pro successor will make you a better photographer than the masterfully engineered OM-D. Yet we’re anxious to upgrade, sacrificing a perfectly working camera for incremental improvements that may or may not even show in a photograph.

Holy gear lust. Crazy upgrademania.

Today, digital imaging tools exceed the potential of most photographers already by far. So at this point, however loud marketing praises this and that improvement in technology, any improvement in technology only theoretically leads to a photographer’s improved technique.

On the other hand, today less patience is required to achieve good technique. Well the camera does it all. But let’s face it. For many expensive gear has become something like… jewelry or handbags. The old 12MP camera was already providing more resolution than most ever need. Just know how to handle that old gear. Shoot, for instance, on a boring tripod. Now isn’t that image as pin sharp as from a 20++ megapixels camera?

D800? Overkill for many. A friend of mine has to relearn focusing properly again. It’s just too many pixels.

Older cameras offer less bells and whistles, but not less magic nor — in the end — lesser IQ.

Because the camera is now only part of the equation. Writes Kirk Tuck:

Even older tech is boosted tremendously by the continuous improvement of processing software. Converting files in Lightroom is a tremendous step forward for an already good camera. Now maybe I’ll look a bit harder at the software side of the equation next time I have the urge to upgrade. I’ve been testing the latest Capture One software with my Sony A99 lately and it’s an instant step up as well.

It’s a lot more complex these days than just choosing a body and a lens. Our physical gear lust sometimes blinds us to that reality.

  • Dalmat

    Oh how true…and sad at the same time :(
    I am definitely one of those with GAS syndrom as well as waisting countless hours on forums, blogs and photo-gear rumor sites…instead of using that time much better by actually going out more and shooting more. Guilty as sin!
    Funily enough, I also happen to own now a D800 which I partly funded by ditching my 2 year old D700 which was perfect in any sense for my shooting style and frequency, been kicking myself silly ever since :-( It was purely caused by gear lust, greed and peer pressure to own the latest and greatest.
    At the moment I’m going thru kind of a self-therapy where I set myself a goal to visit just one site a day at the end of the day before bed time for 10 minutes just to catch up quickly, it’s mostly always this site ;) …and that’s it. The rest of the time is now spent productively for shooting and post processing.
    So signing off in 2 minutes from now. I would like to hear from the rest of you guys that have the same ‘problem’ as myself, this posyt is a good place to talk about it a little and to air your frustration…here it is, I started it…you’re welcome to add yours.
    And for those new to photography, especially new to this ‘new-age’ Internet/Web photo-madness where many end up wasting their productive time by spending it on forums, blogs etc -stop now! Get your gear in thebag and get out of the house…shoot, shoot and shoot! And enjoy the photography for what it is, and as a photog with over 25 years snapping I can tell you with great certainty that the camera gear and accessories are the least that will make you a happy, content and fullfilled photog.

  • Roscoe Tanner

    Brother…both you and Theme touched the nerve. I’m pretty much in the same boat as you…not only I own a D800 but pushed by many internet reviews I ended up buying a D800E as well. Never mind that I now had to postpone a car upgrade for another 12 months or so, the car that has spent more time in the car service than in my garage and actyallu driving.

    Add to that a new addition of an infamous Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G lens as well as 85mm f/1.4G, just because people on the Web said “these are the lens no serious pro or enthusiast amateur should be without” …well you get the picture, so to speak.

    So with about $12k dangling in my fashionable, trendy and overpriced Lowepro Messenger 200 bag, I am not more content and happier photographer then I was with my D90 and single DX 18-105 zoom kit lens.

    Not to mention hours, days and weeks spent on rumors and gear review web sites. I don’t like where my “photography” (if you can call it that anymore) is going and by the looks of it it isn’t going to a hapy ending.

    Thanks for speaking out, I believe we will soon need a group therapist on this forum for this sort of ‘sickness’ ha, ha. I will try what you suggeted, a sort of self therapy and see where that gets me – will report back here on my progress!


  • Jorge Gonzales

    Wow, some of us would make field day for psychiatrists.

    I won’t even start, let’s just say I have now owned a new 5D MkIII (sold both 5D and 5DMkII) for 3 months and in the last 6 weeks took exactly NIL photos, although I am first to coment of photo forums sites and blogs, glued to a PC screen 4-5 hours a day. Not to mention photo/fujifilm/nikon/canon rumours sites, they should start paying me royalties ;)

    I’ll stop here..the rest you can probably imagine on your own and which I’m not proud of.

  • p4r4b0lic

    None of us need a brand new camera. Well most of us anyway.

    My D7000 is with me and will stay that way for years. It’s more than most of us can handle anyway, so why upgrade?
    As for the photography in general thses days, it’s being slowly killed by the proliferation of fake and idiot-proof “photography” and people that are more into instagrams, facebooks, mobile phone photos etc than the real photography as a process.

  • Wow some real honesty here. Everyone out there should print this post and the comments and post it on their wall or bulletin board.

    I passed on all of the new DSLR offerings for 2012. I have enough of them, and the only way I’ll buy another is if one breaks. Bigger, better, faster will not get me more clients. Nikon D3 and others do fine for me. I will get the OM-D in a couple of months – and now, will not even wait to see what the upgraded model offers, The OM-D is the one I want to round out my m4/3 shooting.

    While it’s fun to watch “what’s next” I’ve kind of gotten over the urges. What I did almost buy a few weeks ago was that new Belair 6×12 film camera. But I have 5 rolls here waiting to be developed. Heck I should get off this blog now and go do it! ;-)

  • And I thought I’m the only one… seriously:

    Can’t count the cameras anymore that passed through my hands since I sold my beloved Contax G2 with the three Zeiss.

    Looking back, which camera’s output is the most memorable? The old G2’s…

    I’ve had them all, big and small, but refrained from zooms and preferred mirrorless since it’s creation in 2003.

    So as a kind of self-therapy I prefer to have loaners these days. Work with them a few days, get the feel, but settling on a single system is really not what’s happening. On the contrary, became a multi-system user. Meaning there’s always a learning curve before going on assignment with yet another new gear, but that’s part of the fun and challenge.

    Maybe today I could settle for a single system. The A99 looks right down my alley, but so does the completely different Leica M… See?


  • Jorge, why not start 2013 with a bold new year’s resolution.

  • Andrew

    Yup, guilty as charged as well…own 3 pro DSLR camera bodies, and to make things worst from the two different manufacturers Nikon and Canon. The lenses…yes, also all the leading L-glass and Nikkor pro ‘gold-ring’ guilded glass.

    About $25k of gear sitting in my bags mostly under used, yet most of my time is spent in front of a PC browsing Internet photo sites. How sad is that :(

    I used to be a ‘normal’ enthusiast photo guy before this latest 2006-onwards digital photography explosion, over saturated with gear, meaningless and pointless photo blogs, review sites, forums and other web sites, oversaturated desensetized with zillion of lack-lustre bland photos being uploaded to flickers, photobuckets etc sites…yuck, for me it’s currently going all downhill… I better start selling some of my gear before I loose too much money on dead paperweights.

    Sorry for the rant…you kind of started it…I just added my own 2 cents.

  • Edina Gomez

    This issue seems to be more widespread amongs our community than I previously thought.

    Thanks for all of you who decided to speak out. I am also an enthusiast photographer that unfortunately spend far more money and time on latest and greatest gear instead of photography itself.

    Although I am only a slender girl in my late 20-es, I own 2 DSLR bodies (Canon 5DII and 5DIII), FujiFilm XPro-1 and X100, Sony RX100 and just placed an order for Sony RX1 full-rame compact. Also own 6 Canon L-glass, 3 flashes, 2 strobes and about 10 filters, 3 tripods (one full-size aluminium one full size carbon and one compact carbon for travelling), 2 monopods, 4 tripod heads etc…the list is huge. And I’m not even a pro photog.

    Hope to be able to change this as I don’t see myself being able to continue like that. I may try one suggestion someone posted here about self-therapy and going out more and shooting more and spending less in front of the comuter and web/Internet.

  • Pablo Ricasso

    Good God…a lot of like minded people here, I guess we could start calling ourselves “patients” soon :)

    This post/thread makes me feel a little better about myself and my addiction doesn’t seem that bad now when I see there are people that have a bigger problem when it comes with digital photo gear etc.

    Shall we start ‘Photo GAS anonymous’ group?! :)

  • Mike

    Well Mr. Theme, you seem to have kicked the hornet’s nest by starting with this very sensitive and tricky topic. Judging by the comments here there are unfortunatelly many a enthusiast photographers with the same or similar issue – the issue if not ‘cured’ soon it’s likely to end our photo-hobby as we know it, for the most of us.
    I would also like this whole *digi-photography on high-speed* phenomenon to slow down or stop completely for at least a year or so, and give us some time to breath and reflect on our photographic achievements in piece and quiet, allow us to review, process and print many more photos than we currently have been mainly due to this urge to keep with the speed of constant changes – gear, accessories and other cool up-to-date equipment, especially.
    Cameras ueed to be made a model in 10 years, than one in 4 (Nikon still sticks to this with their pro bodies and glass) then one in 2 (naughtly Canon and their pro bodies) to even one in under 9 months now. Just check Nikon and Sony with their mirorless cameras, they can hardly ‘last’ for a year now without being replaced with a new and updated model.

  • Should have titled this article “Confessions of…”

    Whether it’s in photography, golfing or whatever, the equipment quite often outdoes the owner. I’m not saying, am just saying that it’s high time to distinguish between marketing promises and real world benefits. To each his or her own, but next time you want to upgrade maybe give the newest version of Lightroom a try, and you’ll be astonished what’s possible even with a old-timer cam…

  • Andrew, did you ever think of going back to the basics? One camera, one lens only? For this money sitting idle, why not going Leica?

  • Maybe the RX1 is a slight overkill? I’d at least sell the X-Pro1… So many other combinations possible. The right tool for each job, isn’t it. Looks like you got all the gear for a pro — make it possible if you really want to!

  • Hmm, I’d like to write a follow-up post on GAS.

    I wonder how this syndrome does interfere with some photogs’ personal life, a.k.a. financially, relationship-wise and so forth.

  • Ray

    8 cameras in 48 years. Though plenty of turnover on the lens front. Money is not an issue and, I’m a gear-head. Of the 8 cameras, 2 were a waste, for me at least.

    And I criticize myself for buying too many cameras as, functionally, all I needed were 3 of the 8.

    There is a certain peace in not having to chase the latest model and a pride in really knowing how to use your camera and do post to its maximum ability. Bragging rights are replaced by explaining to those who constantly churn, how to use their latest acquisitions.

  • Can you be more specific, Ray, which three cameras were all you needed, and why? And which not?

  • Ray

    Minolta AL, Nikkormat FTn, Nikon FE, Nikon 950, Canon IXUS, Nikon D80, Fuji X100, Fuji XE-1. Sill have the FE and both Fuji’s. IXUS was no improvement over the 950, D80 I could have lived without. Have used extensively, NEX-7/CZ and D800 but took a pass on both. Favorite camera, X100.

  • Duds

    I think in reality what we all crave is that ‘perfect’ camera. Problem is, it doesn’t exist. Manufacturers don’t want us to own the perfect camera because they feed off people like us. It’s not in their interest to give us the perfect model, so they produce lots of near-perfect cameras often that we feel we have to have. Hate to say it, but like people here I think I’m addicted. I spend more time looking at sites with the latest gear than I do taking photographs.
    In response to comments about how it affects us: the wife has promised to leave me should I buy another camera.

  • And this just in:

    ‎”The fact is that relatively few photographers ever master their medium. Instead they allow the medium to master them and go on an endless squirrel cage chase from new lens to new paper to new developer to new gadget never staying with one piece of equipment long enough to learn its full capacities, becoming lost in a maze of technical information that is of little or no use since they don’t know what to do with it.”

    Edward Weston

  • philip a rigby

    I’m another one, but with a slightly different twist – I’m into retrospective gas. I have two camera bodies, Leica M8 and Pentax K5. Each compliments the other, in that the K5 does for me what the M8 can’t. But for me it’s the pesky legacy lenses. As soon as l see a lens that is pre 1960, l must have it. I even scoured the Leica underworld until l found a 35mm that left the Leica factory on the date of my birth !

    And l’m not immune from it with Pentax – l just have to have the FA* range of lenses. At least l get aperture rings.

  • amalric

    Well, I chose to become a Jpeg shooter, so I appreciate more DR OOC. But too much DR can make an image boring too. One should exercise restraint, and make projects. Not about upgrading, but about how to better explore reality with what one has, as the photographers of old. If you are a tech pervie, work on light and new modifiers.
    If you are into Street learn the psychogeography of your city. Play with chance. Today it struck me the incredible patience HCB mus have had to wait for a subject to cross the geometrical set he had foundin some part of the city. So you wait patently for the target, to collimate with the image you have in your mind.Nothing to do with gear.

    I think we are on the same track…

  • amalric

    I don’t think it is only about new software saving old cameras, it goes deep into the strategy of marketing in the final stages of a camera saturated market, akin to pushing dope on a daily base.

    Often the only interesting things I see among my contacts are simple chinese portraits and landscapes made with an old Seagull:


    It’s a matter of ‘ecology of the mind’, having a clean slate to begin with. Replace the photographer, not the camera.