Why You Shouldn't Buy New Camera Gear

Buying new gear often feels like the quickest way to improve your photography. This video by SLR Lounge explores why this isn't the case and offers a tried and tested road map as an alternative.

There is no doubt in my mind that you want to improve your photography. All too often, the allure of a little extra dynamic range, resolution, or slightly sharper lens is enough to convince us that buying the gear will make us better photographers. Personally, I believe we're susceptible to this way of thinking because it offers a quick, easy path to improvement. By spending X amount of money, we get 10 extra megapixels of resolution. The other method — investing time, money, and effort into learning and practicing can seem overwhelming and less tangible. Where do you start and what order make the most sense? When is it important to buy new gear? How much will I have improved my photography after investing this time and money into education?

I found this video and accompanying article to be a refreshingly succinct insight into the phenomenon of gear acquisition syndrome (GAS) as well as providing sound advice for a learning track. Even after 13 years of photography, I find myself reading up on the latest cameras and lenses, investing time that could be used to practice and refine my craft into pointless gear chat.

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28 Comments

David Pavlich's picture

We can put this into the every 'it's the photographer, not the gear article' pile. My guess is that 90+% of those that haunt F-Stoppers have seen, read, or written something about this subject time after time after time. We get it...really we do.

Edward Blake's picture

Has your 5DIV made you a better artist, David? Or for that matter, is there a single image that you have produced that you could not have produced with a 5DIII?

I'm not entirely convinced that you do get it.

Fair enough, you can buy whatever you want, but I don't think you get to play the 'I'm so sick of this, we get it already' card.

In any case, I absolutely agree with him, and I don't think it can be said enough; after all, the marketing machine is absolutely relentless, it's always present, and it is incredibly powerful and highly refined in its use of psychology.

Look at it this way, the world has enough garbage that the people have thrown away. And people have taken on enough debt to purchase crap they don't need and can't afford.

user-156929's picture

Here's a thought. Nobody gives a shit what you think. Do you get that? I'm not entirely convinced that you do get that!

Fair enough, you can act holier than thou and tell people what they should or shouldn't do and we can shake our heads, walk away, and do whatever we like.

Look at it this way, the world has enough people telling them what to do or not do. You're just one more and nobody cares. You're not saving the world. You're not saving anything.

Edward Blake's picture

Are you having a bad day, sweet child?

You can talk about it, Sam, this is a safe space.

But here's what I find really fascinating, you seem to be really quite upset by my post; nothing of which is at all contentious. Accordingly, I am inclined to wonder what that says about you, and I recognize two possibilities:

1) You are having a bad day; or

2) You are nothing more than another in an endless stream of talentless hacks; you believe that buying gear will enable you to produce images that have any redeeming features. Accordingly, you perceive my comment as an attack on your core identity.

Either way, thanks for the giggle.

user-156929's picture

First of all, "sweet child"? I don't fly that way and have no need for a safe space.

While you're analyzing me, I'm wondering who you were before canceling your profile and starting over as "Edward Blake". Now that's really pathetic. Sounds like you're the one in need of a safe space. :-/

Edward Blake's picture

Well you are acting like a child. It's not even remotely my fault or problem that you spat the dummy.

Incidentally, I assume you realize you can look at the history of an account, which has the attached dates of posting.

In fact, it would seem my first comment was on 5 September 2018, in which I responded to you and told you to fuck off. Apparently you aren't having a bad day, you're just a dick (and likely talentless).

user-156929's picture

I have no idea what "spat the dummy" means. I guess that's part of some counter culture lingo.

I CAN be a dick when it's called for and YOU call for it! I've never met anyone who's talentless but given your cynical view of people, I'm not surprised at any of your comments. I am, however, sorry for whatever sad event(s) occurred in your childhood, resulting in such a sad, pathetic existence. :-(

Edward Blake's picture

You could have just said that you have no idea and left it at that.

I'm aware that I can be a dick; however, unlike you, I don't spend a huge proportion of my time on some internet forum attacking random strangers for no other purpose than trying to prop up my own self-esteem.

And just an FYI, I don't always comment, and I go through periods where I don't comment at all, but I always read the comments. Your personality has not gone unnoticed.

Jonathan Reid's picture

David, new readers join Fstoppers all the time and make up a large portion of the total readers. For me personally, I try post articles that are for the long time readers most of the time, but occasionally, I like to post material that I think will be valuable to new readers. It’s a message worth repeating.

user-156929's picture

You can certainly advise people not to buy gear they don't need and it may even be good advice for some individuals. But not everyone buys gear to become better photographers. Some folks buy new gear because they just want to, or because they want to get into a different genre, better served with specific gear they don't have. For some people, new gear gives them motivation to just go out and shoot. Of course, that would require them being reasonable individuals, capable of deciding what's best for them. Why can't you give them the benefit of the doubt? And if they DO think it'll make them a better photographer...let them make their mistakes. That's the only way people really learn.

Edward Blake's picture

Because people are stupid?

user-156929's picture

You don't get to make that determination.

Edward Blake's picture

Any species that invents money, which has no intrinsic value, and then destroys its own habitat chasing it is stupid.

Any species that builds enough thermonuclear weapons to destroy itself, and then points those weapons at itself is stupid.

I'm very much afraid that I do get to make that determination.

user-156929's picture

Well, I wrote a fairly scathing rebuttal but had to start over. I really don't want to get dragged down by you. I really need to let people be who they are and that includes you. At least now that I know who you are, I can ignore you again.

Edward Blake's picture

You can only imagine the depth of my existential distress at the thought that some bitter telentless nobody might ignore me.

Jonathan Reid's picture

I’m not suggesting never to buy new gear, but rather suggesting that the lure and promise of improving your work through the purchase of new gear is largely driven by very powerful marketing campaigns. The video specifically says that there is a good time to buy new gear. I think the advice is sound.

user-156929's picture

The only thing I question is the assumption, people think new gear will make them better photographers. I just think most people know the difference between being a better photographer, which new gear won't help, and getting *technically* better photos (noise, DR, bokeh, etc.) which new gear *may* help.

I wouldn't have commented at all if not for Edward's asinine reply to David. My response to you was designed to contrast my response to him, although I can't believe you gave his comment an up vote.

Jonathan Reid's picture

To be clear, my upvote was based on the marketing machine section of his comment.

user-156929's picture

I figured that. I wish there was a way to "line item" vote up or down.

Alex Yakimov's picture

New gear, payed online tutorials could both serve the same dopamine trap.

Although I am lusting after the a7iii (and one native lens) just for it's eye tracking, I have gotten over my GAS. Now I invest my $$$ in education. If I could do it over again, I would have diversified my investments more between gear and education. However, I am not sorry that I bought quality stuff... A full frame cam with dual card slots and awesome glass for it. I had to learn how to use a DSLR so why not learn on what I am going to use? It hasn't made me a better photographer or a worse photographer, but I can never blame my failures on my gear.

Alex Yakimov's picture

There is nothing wrong with opting for new gear or payed education online. I just believe that it is extremely hard to separate “needs” from “wants”. That is what businesses are usually feeding off. The internal need for knowledge or drive for excellence are not easily purchasable...

I switched from Nikon D800 to A9 system a couple of months ago. The investment has already paid for itself and I have captured photos I would easily miss with the d800 slow fps and bad af. The 100-400 is a killer lens along the entire range. 35/1.4 and 24-70/2.8 are also amazing and the 35mm 1.4 has often allowed me to get stuff in low light the 24-70 can't touch.

Nic Hilton's picture

First, why do comment sections always have so many hateful threads? You can debate without name calling and hate words.

Second, I think acquiring gear or timing for investing in new gear is all subjective. If you have been using the same gear for a long time, and it has paid for itself over and over then there’s nothing wrong with upgrading. Sometimes you may not have a backup, and investing in something new allows you to now have a backup. Sometimes you actually reach limits in your line of business or shooting that requires you to get something new. Example: if you shoot a lot of weddings, there is going to be a huge advantage with fast lenses, multiple card slots, portable flashes etc.

I think many comments here are just politely trying to tell beginners that better gear doesn’t necessarily translate to better photos.
They aren’t trying to say buying gear is bad. Everyone needs gear. Everyone needs certain gear for certain genres. But if you’re a headshot photographer, a 5d mkiv isn’t going to instantly deliver better results than a 5d mkiii.
It’s all circumstantial

Jonathan Reid's picture

That succinctly sums up the video. Thanks!

Hi, I compete in a very large market with some very talented people. the competition is stiff and like in the olympics any advantage (even hi-tech swimsuit or shoes) can make the difference between getting paid for the shot that everyone uses. It's why you don't see anyone on the sidelines with an fm-2.

So the moral of the story is new gear doesn't improve one's photography ? Then why is there no shortage of vintage glass ?

I’ve never regretted a camera or lens upgrade. Some might say the switch from 5dmkiii to 5dmkiv was an extravagant waste, but the wifi transfer to phone/ipad alone was worth it, saving a ton of time. The touch screen makes it easier and faster to set options. The screen itself is much better. The photos are definitely better... color, resolution, exposure, etc. i recently sold a perfectly good 17-40/4 to get the 16-35/4-is mkiii and the latter is way better in helping me get the shot and in better photo quality. Could I still take some decent photos on a 20D I had years ago? Probably. Would I want to and would I enjoy it as much, knowing how mich better and effective gear is today, absolutely no, and no. Lenses are a slightly different deal, with people owning a whole bunch they don’t use, now that’s a waste. I have 4 lenses and I’m about to sell 2 because I don’t use them. My tri-pod was expensive and I don’t use it much but for the blood moon the other night it made me glad I have it!