Does Expensive Gear Really Make You Better?

It's the age old conundrum isn't it? If only you had better gear you'd take much better photos and be a much better photographer. But is that really true? Let's see what happens when it's put to the test.

"You get what you pay for." That's the line people (and manufacturers) love to peddle when it comes to spending and accruing gear and gadgets, especially in the world of photography. But is it such an axiomatic truth? In this video, Jessica Kobeissi takes her followers and YouTube commenters to task when they suggest that the only reason she can produce consistently good images is because of the expensive setup she uses.

How does she do it? She ditches her $5,000 body and lens combination and goes out and buys a refurbished Canon Rebel T6 with 18-55mm kit lens, as well as the nifty fifty Canon f/1.8, all for under $500. She then takes some indoor and outdoor shots with different compositions and lighting setups and shows you the results. She notes that using the 50mm f/1.8 was much better as the wider aperture let much more light in and reduced the noise that came with having to bump up the ISO on the kit lens. Overall, I think the results show that she did a pretty good job and proved that cheaper gear can still produce great results.

However, one comment she made towards the end confused me. She concluded by saying that you can take great photos with a beginner setup and kit lens, but of course her Canon 5D Mark IV takes better pictures because it costs a few thousand dollars. I contacted Jessica for clarification and she was gracious enough to reply in length. Here's part of what she said:

What I meant at the end is that yes, the quality and performance of a $3,000+ camera will be better, but it doesn't mean the overall photo will be good. Your lighting, composition and editing will not improve because you buy a more expensive camera. It's not the secret to becoming better. Just because you have the most expensive camera doesn't mean your images will be nicely lit and well composed, they will just be good quality images because you're using a camera with great technical features.

I have to say I completely agree with her sentiments here. In many hobbies and leisure pursuits we often see people geared up to the gills with all the latest and greatest stuff, yet they're absolute hacks at what they do. "All the gear and no idea" as the saying goes. Golf and surfing are perfect examples, along with photography, of course. As Kobeissi says, things such as lighting, composition, color combinations and so on will not be better just because you have the most expensive gear in your hands.

What are your thoughts? Where have you seen the biggest differences in your photography after investing in more expensive gear? Or conversely, what kind of success have you had with gear at the cheaper end of the spectrum? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Simon Patterson's picture

I had a cheap camera and was a terrible photographer. Then I bought a really expensive camera and my photos were all awesome!

The above statement has never been true for anyone.