Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: The Struggle of Getting Rid of Gear

Hello, my name is Hans, and I have too many cameras. I didn't want to admit to myself that I had a problem, but as I stood over my camera bag, looking at those shiny bodies staring back at me, I dreaded the backache I would feel the next day from lifting that sucker to my next shoot. As I heard my not-so-young anymore bones creaking under the weight of all that alloy, I knew the truth: It was time to let some go.

But how does one choose which of their children to be rid of? All of my cameras serve a purpose! Well, that's what I tell myself anyway. The truth is, there are some cameras that manage to regularly find their way into your hands and others that just don't. You want them to, but they just don't seem to ever make it. This problem is compounded when you're shooting film as great cameras can be had for cheap. A yard sale here, a deal there, and you're swimming in a bunch of bodies with no lenses that you swear you're going to use as soon as there's a good enough deal on the market to complete your system. 

I've found another issue with having so much gear is not that it takes up physical room, but that it screws with my process. I feel obligated to shoot with it, even though it may not be the best gear for the job. For instance, have you ever acquired a shiny new lens, and for your next shoot, you use it, even though you know damn well a different lens would have been better suited to the job? Uh, yeah, me neither. 

Having too much gear makes you prone to the old "bringing a knife to a gunfight" shtick. You want to use everything you have. I've done the same thing with flashes. I've overlit a subject because I just had to use that new strobe I got the other day. It's time to really evaluate your needs, your direction as a photographer, and start to focus on a working kit that does what you need it to without excess.

As an exercise, go grab your camera bag. Go ahead, I'll wait. Got it? Great. Now, check those nooks and crannies. Check the interior pockets. Unzip everything! Were you surprised by anything you found there? Did you find a lens that you forgot you even had? A set of triggers that have long been replaced? Chewing gum? Jimmy Hoffa? Check your shelves. Any bodies that haven't been touched in 6 months (besides your backup, of course)? Any lenses? Flashes? Light stands? Do you have a closet full of expired film that you intend to shoot but never will? Sell it! If you can't be bothered to sell it yourself, you can always use a vendor like KEH to offload your gear. You'll take a hit on the value that way, but at least it will be out of your hair.

It's time for a summer cleanse! Although it's sad to get rid of gear, you almost never regret it. And the stuff that you truly can't live without usually finds a way back into your grasp. I think I've owned something like 4 RZ67s in my life. I keep selling them and reacquiring them. Go figure. Hey, maybe if you get rid of some of your old gear that's just sitting around, you actually can afford that shiny new Nikon 105 f/1.4.

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Jeremy Strange's picture

This one hit home a bit

Scott Mosley's picture

I hadn't thought about it for a while, so I dug through the gear room today and counted 23 camera bodies! We are a 2 photographer team, time clean out the racks!

EDIT: Does anyone have eBay selling experience? I want to do a full purge now, feels great to know others will be able to enjoy some gear i no longer use. Is there a best time of day/week/year to list camera equipment that you have noticed? Have about 12 bodies and about 15 lenses i'd be happy to pass along and hopefully get some $ for some much needed toys.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

I usually try Craigslist first, a local all cash deal with no fees is quick and easy. just meet at a safe place and don;t go their home/office or let them come to yours. If it doesn't sell right away I adjust the price for another day or two. I recently sold 3 L lenses and a 580ex2 flash on Clist.
Then ebay but there are a lot of fees and picky buyers. Ebay sides with buyers when there's a complaint. I don't know if time, or day makes a difference, the product does. If it doesn't sell after all that KEH will buy some some things but at a wholesale price.

Scott Mosley's picture

I'm always worried about craigslist, maybe i will try adorama or KEH.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

First think I do if I want to sell something is ask my friends if they want it or know anyone who does. Second is CL. Ebay is my last resort but I will use it now and then. For me CL is the quickest and easiest cuz of cash, no fees and no shipping. But if you are selling 12 cameras and 15 lenses eBay may be better.

Joonas Nieminen's picture

Hit me a link to your eBay list once you have placed your gear there - might be interested in what you have for sale if they fit into my Canon family.

Scott Mosley's picture

Sorry Joonas, all of the gear is Nikon, so while it won't fit in to your canon family, perhaps its time you start a new family; a secret nikon family :)

Hans Rosemond's picture

Haha. Shady.

Joonas Nieminen's picture

I do have an adapter for my Canon body to accept Nikon lenses - nice try ;)

Ralph Hightower's picture

Sorry Hans,

But you're not talking to me. Even though I now own a Canon 5D III (December 2013), I won't part with my Canon A-1. I bought it in 1980 and at the time, it was "state of the art" offering aperture priority, shutter priority, program mode, manual, and stopped down metering. I added a few lenses, a motor drive, and a handle mount flash. I still shoot with that camera because it still works and film is still available. I had the motor drive and flash repaired in 2012. December 20111, I bought a used Canon FD 28mm f2.8 as a consolation when my wife wanted me to go digital; but I found her budget was a Canon T3i.

July 2013, on a trip home, I mentioned to my wife that a reputable used camera dealer had a used Canon New F-1 for sale and with accessories of AE Finder FN, AE Motor Drive FN, and two metering screens for $400. She asked "That's their flagship camera?" I answered "Yes, for the 80's". She said "Buy it".
I've added used Canon equipment: Canon Auto Bellows, and a rare Canon Macrophoto 20mm f3.5 lens (I don't know if B&H realized what they had with the 20mm f3.5), and a wireless remote.

I was given a Canon T-50 from a friend since she knew I love photography. The T-50 was owned by her father. In good conscience, I could not sell the T-50, but with two film cameras, I don't use the T-50.

Now, with two film cameras, the quandary of B&W or color film is solved; one is loaded with color and the other with B&W.

I do have three "bucket list" film cameras to buy: Mamiya 645, Mamiya RZ 67, and a 4x5 view camera.

My wife bought me the 5D III in December 2013. I think I'll keep her.

Hans Rosemond's picture

Sir, you are a better man than I.

Ralph Hightower's picture

Thank you. Heck, I've been enjoying photography for 36 years. Old habits are hard to get rid of. I do love the auto-focus features of the DSLR cameras. Film, digital: I enjoy both.

Deleted Account's picture

I just sold entire Canon kit and replaced it with a7rII with 3 lenses but I don't feel need for selling my old RB67 or 4x5. There is nothing that I can replace it with. Even though I use them no more than once a year...

Hans Rosemond's picture

Those RB's and RZ's are like family members... so hard to get rid of. And 4x5s are like heirlooms. I doubt ill ever be rid of mine

Jack Carbone's picture

OK, so I've had a Pentax 67 for years. Haven't used it much since I went digital. I decided I either needed to sell it or use it. So, I decided to use it. Before I did, I bought a 135mm lens for it...on-line...all the way from Japan. After it came I realized I just bought a heavily used 135mm when I already had a slightly used 135mm I bought brand new back in the day.

Then, since I decided to start getting into film again I went to my bag and pulled out a Canon EOS Elan 7/E I bought used just before I bought my first digital. It was almost new. Wow, I thought, this is pretty cool. So I went to You-Tube to catch some videos to catch up on how the 7?E worked. The guy on the video talked about a cool battery pack for it. So, I ordered a used one from B&H. Before It came I reached further into my bag and realized I already had one I bought with the camera. Set it back.

Don't want to mention the Mamiya Professional C33 that's been sitting in a bag for about 15 years.

Chris Himstedt's picture

Just 2 closets full..that's all. That's not too bad is it? It's taken over 30 years to accumulate....shouldn't it take just as long to get rid of?