Do You Own Too Many Lenses?

It's not exactly a secret that many of us photographers like to collect lenses, frequently having way more than we absolutely need. But when does that become a problem for your work?

Coming to you from Michael the Maven, this great video examines the drawbacks of owning too many lenses. First, there are the obvious financial drawbacks of having a lot of money tied up in things you don't use often enough to justify owning in the first place. That could be money that you could spend on something that would be of more use to your business and your work. On a more subtle level, however, having too many options can lead to a sort of decision paralysis, and in the long term, this can have adverse effects on your work, as it reduces your consistency and often your creative potential by forcing you to devote more cognitive resources to choosing equipment or even fulfilling a perceived obligation to use it instead of toward the creative process. Of course, that's not to say that this is the case for all photographers, but it's definitely something worth thinking about. Check out the video above for more thoughts on the issue. 

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24 Comments

Nick Viton's picture

The correct number of lenses to own is n+1.

Nick Viton's picture

(my latest +1...)

if I could id build my gear list only from sigma art lenses.
14-24
24-35
35
50
85
105
135

and add the tamron 70-200 G2

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Yes I do.

I would carry 8 Prime lenses covering 14mm -200mm around on shoots with me until I got sick of lugging all that gear around. Traded them for 3 zooms which cover 11mm - 200mm couldn't be happier :-)

Petr Svitil's picture

What lenses did you have? Did you actually use most of them on a shoot? Im curious because i use 3 primes (tried zooms, but dont fit me), and often even the 3 primes seem like too much? How did you have separate bag for all thr lenses?

William Howell's picture

Michael the Maven, another favorite! I have three main lenses, the 14-24, 24-70 Sigma, and the 70-200. And a nifty plastic fantastic 50mm. That’s it, but I do have twelve lights and 6 speed lights and a shit-ton of modifiers! I believe that is where it is at, you know to take photographs of people or things.

That’s a shit ton of light. And I thought I had a lot.

Mike Leland's picture

I'm in the same boat. I have four lenses and a lot of strobes and modifiers. Over 10kws of packs with 12 heads and every modifier that company makes. And a 1 ton grip package with a dizzying array of frames and fabrics. A lot of stuff... But if I need to, I can travel very light and be happy.

I recently upgraded to FX from DX and still have the majority of my DX lenses, including my 50-100 Sigma ART which I have no intention of getting rid of along with two D500 bodies. I owned a lot of gear when I shot film 30 years ago and I own a lot now. The bennies, I don't have to rent a lens to shoot something in particular. I also have options like if I need to shoot a really low light event I bring my D500 and my f/1.8 lenses.

You might have a lot of money tied up in gear but my mindset is that it is better to have it and not need than it is to need it and not have it.

Jerome Brill's picture

I did but then I switched to Sony so now I can't afford to have too many.

Timothy Turner's picture

I have a medium format camera I purchased in 2005 for $900.00, if I sold it today I would get maybe 200 for it. My point is, if you have a piece of equipment that you rarely use, so what, you use it when you use it. Did you notice he opened the conversation by selling a book.

Blah...so I am behind with leica, missing one body with Olympus, and about 4 or5 bodies with Canon ..but wait who cares?

Carl Irjala's picture

Hi
I have always been crazy about camera gears. But when I lost all my cameras and lenses in a white water adventure for a while ago (two Nikon bodies, three Nikon lenses and four Sigma Art lenses), I had to rethink how to move on with less. That year I couldn't afford to buy anything new.
2018 I purchased a new Fujifilm X100F camera + Tele Conversion Lens TCL-X100II. This winter I bought the DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone and now it actually feels like I do not need more. I also use X100F for sports photography. For wildlife photography I connect the camera to my cell phone and in this way it is easy to get nice pictures that would otherwise need a 400 - 600 mm lens.

This have forced me to be more innovative, but I can guarantee that photography has never been as fun as now :)
Kind regards from me here in Finland
Carl

Igor Butskhrikidze's picture

i have 50mm and 28mm and planing to buy something around 180mm

I don't think so I own a 12-24, 24-70,70-200 and a 50mm prime covers pretty much everything I need it to.

Chris 'stAn' Hargrave's picture

I just got another lens, so I was in that warm period where you think you have everything covered - 10-20mm, 24-70mm (x2 one for the crop sensor one for full frame) 70-200mm , 35mm prime, 50mm prime, 105mm macro.

And then my grandson turns up with a bird spotting book and now I 'need' a 200-500mm.
And possibly an 85mm prime

And maybe 2 more speedlights.
Definitely another couple of strobes.

Ooh look at that lovely new bag

and on and on and on

Marius Pettersen's picture

Maybe, but not really. I got a 17-40, 35, 40 (pancake), 50, 85, and the 100 macro. I could survive with only the 35 and 85, but I do like owing the other ones for the ideal circumstances.

Christian Lainesse's picture

And some time after you've sold a particular lens, you have a cool photo idea that requires the lens you've just sold and you think "oh yea, that's why I had bought it in the first place!" Now go to IKEA and buy some storage solutions for all your extra lenses.

This is the "GAS" confession zone... lol, I do have a few too many lenses but I culled quite a few of them a few months ago for insurance purpose. With a "new for old" insurance policy an old tatty 14mm f2.8 canon lens was adding £1500 of insurance liability for a lens that was nearly worthless. You really don't want to be under insured, depending on your policy there is a high chance they wont pay you anything if they discover the risk was higher than what you paid for....

Richard Bradbury's picture

I'm happy with my lens selection. They all have a place.

All Canon

35 F1.4LII
85 F1.4L IS
100 F2.8LIS
24-105 F4L IS V1
70-200 F2.8L IS V1

My good friend and 2nd shooter has a Tamron 15-30 F2.8 that I can borrow any time. He borrow's my 100 L Macro.

We shoot events and weddings together so little point in us both owning a macro and UAW lens.

Lee Stirling's picture

I feel like I have a pretty good middle ground with my lens collection. Many of my lenses are shared with my father-in-law who lives next door, so neither one of us always has all the lenses at once. Such a sharing lens arrangement has effectively cut our costs in half. Between us we have mostly Nikon lenses: 17-35mm f/2.8, 24mm f/1.4, 28-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 50mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.8, 100mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/4, and 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6.

But as I am the one one of us who shoots on film, there's my whole manual lens collection and my 7 or 8 film cameras at my house...JC!

Gordon Cahill's picture

Selling lenses? What kind of crazy talk is that? :)

Gordon

Linas Laukevicius's picture

I have only 3. 16-35 2.8 35 1.4 and 85 1.4 . More then enough :)