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Gear I Should Have Never Bought: 2023 Edition

Gear I Should Have Never Bought: 2023 Edition

It's true that I frequently test and use a wide range of gear. With numerous options at our disposal, not all gear is of equal quality. I'll readily admit that I've made some rather regrettable gear decisions. Reflecting on my inventory, I've chosen to revise the list of items that turned out to be poor choices.

Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6

This Canon zoom lens hails from the earlier days of EF USM lenses. Initially, it appeared to be a solid option, providing a broad focal range within a single lens and incorporating image stabilization to counteract hand tremors. All of these enticing features came with an affordable price tag of approximately $200 on the secondhand market. While I believed I had stumbled upon a gem, reality proved otherwise. The issue with superzoom and zoom lenses in general is their compromised sharpness — greater zoom often correlates with reduced sharpness. Moreover, the 28-135mm lens was designed for the entry-level market, not catering to professional users. My error was acquiring a secondhand lens with subpar build quality. This is a practice one should avoid, as budget lenses are prone to rapid wear and degradation, particularly if their prior owner wasn't gentle with them. Around 2-3 months into its use, signs of dysfunction began to surface. In certain zoom ranges, the aperture failed to close, triggering an error message in the camera. An examination revealed a broken flex cable connecting the aperture and the lens chips. I was forced to retire the lens after minimal use. It was replaced by the much more reliable 24-70mm f/2.8L, a lens I employ in every shoot to this day.

Canon 50mm f/1.8

I've expressed my opinion on the overrated status of this lens, and my stance hasn't changed. The 50mm f/1.8 is a rite of passage for many novice photographers, often owned without a thorough understanding of its potential or the capacity to truly appreciate its capabilities. Countless web pages are dedicated to photography with this lens, and let me assure you that most images bear striking similarities. One of the perks of being a novice photographer lies in the multitude of experimental opportunities with gear. Discovering your preferred focal length becomes much more manageable with a zoom lens. Over time, you'll likely realize that a substantial portion of your work is captured at a consistent focal length, even with a zoom lens. This realization led me to contemplate prime lenses — specifically, a 50mm f/1.4 or even an f/1.2 — given that much of my work revolves around this focal length. Nevertheless, investing further in full-frame lenses seems questionable, as the market offers enticing medium-format alternatives. To sum it up: refrain from splurging on primes when just starting out. Beyond the lackluster build quality of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8, its focal length also fails to inspire and bring anything interesting to a beginner photographer. With that in mind, there is an appeal of 50mm, and funnily enough, most of my work is done at around that focal length. Nonetheless, if you want to play around with various composition ideas, the 50mm is not for you. 


This remains unchanged from last year, and the years before. I still possess the Loupedeck I acquired in 2019, and it has gone untouched for the past four years. Initially, it appeared to offer an excellent solution for my editing workflow, allowing physical adjustments to every setting on an image. It seemed akin to an audiovisual deck. However, despite its promising concept, it fell short of my expectations for seamless adjustments. Transitioning from Lightroom to Capture One restricted the usability of the product, as it relies on simple keyboard shortcuts for incremental modifications—a functionality that doesn't seamlessly translate to Capture One. Even if I were to remain loyal to Lightroom, the basic adjustments facilitated by Loupedeck would still be limiting rather than time-saving. I've now streamlined my workflow by creating customized presets. The latest Capture One update features intelligent presets that consider aspects like exposure and temperature. This enables me to apply uniform adjustments to an entire shoot with just a few clicks in the software. I suggest updating your mouse and keyboard to get better results. Personally I use the notoriously unpopular Magic Mouse and Keyboard, and I love them. 

Manfrotto 1004BAC Light Stand

This is an anomaly for me, but upon revisiting the assortment of stands in my possession, the Manfrotto 1004BAC stands out as a particularly pointless acquisition. In straightforward terms, it lacks the sturdiness and reliability of a C-stand or the larger Manfrotto 007 CSU stand. While these stands do pack away neatly and are easily transportable to on-location shoots, the advantages end there. The 1004BAC stand is unable to reliably support significant weight. Placing a light with a precision modifier such as a snoot renders it quite unstable. This stand's sole practical use lies in supporting backgrounds or carrying a light with a small softbox. If given the option, I would readily exchange my 1004BAC stands for C-Stands anytime. If anybody is seriously interested, shoot me a mail. 

Camera Sling Bag

This item arrived in my mailbox, and although it seemed viable, it ultimately proved fairly impractical. It's possible that my camera isn't an ideal fit for this type of bag, but the concept of a sling bag appears to be inherently inconvenient. Such a bag, draping across your body, disrupts your appearance and accommodates fewer items compared to a conventional backpack. Presumably, when purchasing a sling bag, the intention is to carry a small camera, which, by itself, can be managed without a bag. After all, if you're shooting with something compact like a Leica or Fujifilm, carrying the camera without a bag is often simpler. A backpack offers greater practicality, even if it's slightly larger.

That concludes my list of poorly curated gear purchases. While the items themselves are not necessarily bad products, and there are markets for all of the ones mentioned in the article, they just don't work for my current setup. What are some gear acquisitions you've come to regret? Share your experiences in the comments!

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.
LIGHTING COURSE: https://illyaovchar.com/lighting-course-1

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Mate, just walk me through that rant about the Canon 50mm again ?

I have a couple of backpacks for digital and film equipment.
But when actually walking at a festa or other places I use a small Domke sling bag with 2-3 lenses including the 100-400mm L. Depending upon what I anticipate needing.
The camera never goes into it as it's always around my neck.
Far quicker and easier to get a lens to change than a backpack requiring dismounting it.
The backpacks are in the car or hotel room when the room is close to where I am shooting. Has worked extremely well.

So, what is it that you regret buying?

50mm f1.8

Thank you for clarifying. That was not at all clear from your initial comment.

You are correct.

Illya asked,

"What are some gear acquisitions you've come to regret?"

The thing that comes to mind first is the 70-200mm f4 that I bought in 2007. I very quickly learned that a midrange zoom with a zoom factor of only 3x did not fit my shooting style at all. I often wanted to go wider than 70mm, and then a few seconds later I would want to go much longer than 200mm. I tried carrying another body with me that had a 100-400mm on it, and then have my 24-105mm in my jacket pocket, but with wildlife on the move there was never enough time to put the one camera down and pick the other up. I needed one lens with enough range to cover a wide variety of image types. So I ditched the 70-200mm and never, ever missed it. It held me back by being so not versatile due to covering such a limited focal length range. I honestly don't understand the popularity of 70-200mm, unless you're shooting people portraits or something. Meh ... no interest in shooting that whatsoever.

Another item that comes to mind is the Canoin 5D "classic" I bought in 2008. I bought it new at a bargain price from B&H. But a year later I saw used ones going for several hundred dollars less, because the 5D Mark 2 had come out. So even though that 5D classic served me very well for years and years, I wish I had not bought it, but that I had rather waited a year and bought a used one for significantly less money.

I just placed an order at B&H this morning, for 10 different items. I sure hope that I don't end up regretting any one of them.

Good luck on your purchases. I agree on the 70-200mm. When I went from DLSR to mirrorless, I wanted to eventually replace my EF lenses to RF versions. I sold the EF 70-200M first as I rarely used it with the DLSR. Great lens but it didn't have the reach I wanted, either direction. Overtime I settled in the RF 15-35mm and the RF 100-500mm. Now I all need is for Canon to make that 24-300 L lens they recently submitted a patent!

Yep, the 50mm/1.8. Always had it never used it. I bought 3 in my life. Dust catchers. I do use the 50mm/1.2 though, quite alot. Can't explain what's happening. As soon as I'm mounting the 1.8 my creativity, inspiration goes MEH! Might be psychological. Don't know.

Always thought the 50/1.2 was too heavy, too expensive, and went for the 50/1.8 as my first prime lens. Woohoo, that was a fun ride of creativity. Then I upgraded to the 50/1.4, which was ... ok, but ... the fun was gone. Of course, the 50/1.2 is way different, and when my eyesight vanishes I'll buy one for the EOS R, as the RF version is too big in contrast with the EF version, and on the modern R bodies the focus mostly gets nailed, at least that what I've read. Till then I enjoy the Voigtländer 50/1.0 ASPH for Leica M on my R6 (well, one has to correct the vignette, it's way too strong, much better on a Leica body).

Camera and lens size and weight determine whether photography is fun or not?

absolutely. I am not prepared to carry around a medium format body and lenses day to day. Hence, yep, size a weight make a huge difference

I have found that small light cameras are nice for carrying around. But when it comes to the actual shooting, larger cameras are much more comfortable in my hands and much easier to navigate thru settings and controls.

My biggest complaint with the new mirrorless bodies is that they are too small for comfortable use. The Canon R3 is an exception - that is large enough that it feels really great in my hands. But it is way way way too expensive at $5,000 or $6,000 or whatever it costs.

My hope is that someday soon someone will make an AFFORDABLE mirrorless body that is the same size as my old Canon 1 series DSLRs. They were ergonomically perfect.

Might be worth looking at some of the newer mirrorless variants. The Fuji XH2 and s have nice deep grips on them, very reasonable size and not a brick to carry all day

Even my Canon 5D mark 4 DSLR is not big enough to be comfortable. I greatly prefer the size of the 1 series, as they are very wide from side to side and also have a built-in vertical grip, so they have some serious height to them, which makes them more comfortable to use.

I do have a Sony mirrorless that I think is a very capable camera. Unfortunately, it is very small, which makes it very uncomfortable to use. Sure it's easy to carry around, but I don't care about how a camera is to carry around; I care about how it is to use.

Phones and tablets are easy to carry around, but they absolutely SUCK to use, compared to a premium 27" 5K monitor and a full size keyboard and a kickass built-in speaker and 10TB of internal storage.

Convenience doesn't matter and is not important. Level of capability matters far more than convenience, and larger devices are almost always more comfortable to use and more capable.

I always felt the Loupedeck was going to be one of those "looks cool but doesn't actually help with productivity" types of tools, where it's easier to use a mouse and keyboard than a keyboard and a bunch of knobs.. but in Lightroom, when it's not crashing, it's become one of my must have tools.

Mostly the dials, as having your hands on 2 dials at once and being able to adjust them at the same time and fine tune them together (clarity and contrast, or 2 color hues, or vibrance and saturation) without needing to click between them and use them one at a time, is actually really helpful.

There are a lot of useless keys on it though, and the unmarked ones make it pretty difficult to remember your custom functions, but I do like it.

The 50mm is also somewhat a great beginner tool for photographers. Not that the lens itself is a must have, but it's an incredibly cheap entry point to fast primes and is also basically a pancake lens nowadays. Being able to shoot at f1.8 instead of 55mm f5.6 on your kit lens, and try shooting with a fixed focal length, has been a game changer for many without needing to invest $800/$1200/$2500 into a lens. For low light, close-ups, portraits and discovering depth of field, it's probably one of the most useful tools to someone starting out and costs about $70.

I've been shooting professionally for years and moved almost exclusively to f1.4 primes. The 50mm length isn't my favorite (I prefer the 20/24/30/85) but even I bought another 50mm 1.8 due to the low price for the off chance I need it, and I don't regret it at all.

The main problem I had with the Canon 50mm 1.8 II was, for street photography it was just too slow to focus - I was using a Canon 6D. Now I just prefer manual lenses and zone focusing. I never found the quality of the images particularly all that but it is a cheap way to get into prime lenses though. I do think because of the price, it is a lens that can't be criticised too much. Also 50mm doesn't have to be a boring focal length and I've seen, for example, plenty of inspiring street photos taken with a 50mm lens.

Loupedeck is kind of useless if you are a studio photographer. You are expected to get everything right in the camera or general color adjustments are applicable throughout a session/set.

I had my first "classic" Loupedeck for some time and abandoned it even for event work. It is big, requires a lot of hand movements and I don't adjust images that much anyway.

Loupedeck Live was real game changer. I could put everything I really use on 13 buttons and 6 dials, which I can reach with my hand and other hand works with a mouse (crop mostly). It speeds up event editing work approximately twice.

I rarely regret a purchase, I think that everyone deals with GAS at some point in their career.

Recently I bought a Nikon d500 at a bargain. An excellent camera and nice to have. But paired with a 2.8 zoom it is so much bigger, louder and less convenient then my Fuji x-t5, that I now remember clearly why I switched to Fujifilm in the past.

"disrupts your appearance?"

I read it like; While wearing a small sling bag with little room for gear that should not be noticed, he still feels he looks like a camel :) This feeling- that might not be true - is disruptive for his photography :)

English may not be his first language and he was trying to say the awkward way a sling bag is worn disrupts the process. Awkward to get and put away gear. Has to be repositioned behind you to get out of your way to continue taking photos.

"Presumably, when purchasing a sling bag, the intention is to carry a small camera, which, by itself, can be managed without a bag."

This is also confusing. Why the presumption? Maybe you are carrying a bigger camera, but you have only a couple small prime lenses. Then the bag makes sense. Not as large as a backpack, but certainly fine for one camera body and a couple small lenses or one zoom of the nature of that Canon you mentioned. Plus lens cloths, dust blower, a couple filters and a few other small items. Things that you might want to have with a small or large camera. Stuff you probably don't want to shove in pants pockets.

Yeah I thought that was weird, too.

If someone is so concerned with what they look like they may have an ego issue that needs to be dealt with. We all need to remember, "it aint about me".

I'd regret buying an $80 lens too.

So many buying regrets can be avoided by knowing your use case and gauging whether the price you pay is worth it. Sometimes it takes a dead end purchase to realize a certain piece of kit is not meant for you.

My regrets,
Tokina 20mm f2 AF FE, too narrow a use case to be worth it.
Tamron 16-300mm for Nikon F, too broad a focal range to be good for anything really.

My Loupedeck Live is one of the best purchases I've ever made related to my business. It cut down my editing time by about 30%. Once you get it customized and memorize where the buttons and knobs are, you can fly with this thing. If it dies, I won't hesitate to buy another one.

Agreed. I think on paper it sounds a bit useless.. why would I take my hand off my mouse to press a button or knob on a screen? But in actual use, both the Loupedeck plus and live are very useful. Being able to adjust multiple settings, via knobs, at the same time while focusing on your image instead of scrolling or going back and forth between different hotkeys over and over, it's really nice.