It’s been a long time coming for some of my gear. I hardly used it and it was worth more to someone else.
Like many film photographers, I have had an inordinate number of cameras in my collection over the years. So much gear in fact that I was hardly ever able to use most of it. This may sound like a lot to you but if you are a film photographer or are friends with someone who is a film photographer, this information should not surprise you. The fact of the matter is that for years, cameras, lenses, and camera accessories were inexplicably cheap and for film enthusiasts, it was difficult to say "no" to new gear. So, there set in the problem for photographers like myself. That is, I (like many) had a problem acquiring more and more without letting go of what you are not using which is of course a problem of logistics.
With all of this said, this problem is not unique to film photographers. Indeed, there is a name for the compulsion to get more gear that applies to film enthusiasts and digital-only photographers alike, "gear acquisition syndrome" also known as GAS. I suspect this is something that you are familiar with and that you explain away buying more and more gear while there is already a pile of gear sitting somewhere in your home that is not used near as much as you said you would when you were first attempting to justify the purchase of the gear. Does this sound familiar? I bet it does.
Here we get to the point of this article. That is, letting go of much of your unused gear. I recently sold off or listed for sale a good number of pieces in my collection of gear and truth be told, it felt much better than I thought it would. When I decided to start letting go of some of my gear, I found such relief that I actually started saying goodbye to gear I thought I would never part with. In reference to film gear specifically, this list includes the Fujifilm GA645, Nikon F100, Nikon FE, Nikon F2, the lenses for these Nikon cameras as well as an assortment of other lenses.
In addition, I have let go of the Sigma 35mm f/2 (review here) I recently reviewed which I really liked and thought for sure I’d want to hold on to (I ended up going with the Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM and prefer it to the Sigma). Lastly, and where I surprised myself the most, I let go of my Mamiya RZ67, 110mm f/2.8, and 65mm lens for the RZ system. Though I have not completely decided one way or the other, I am also trying to decide whether or not I want to let go of my Mamiya 645 Pro-TL. I doubt I will but I’m on the fence about it.
Why You Should Say Goodbye
So now let us go over why you may want to consider letting go of some of your gear and the benefits that it may bring. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, your used gear is worth money that can be used for other, more useful things. Take for instance a lens that you very rarely use and could sell for $500. Those $500 dollars could be used to travel and put yourself in an environment where you can make some beautiful photographs or you could put the $500 towards a different piece of gear that you may well actually use on a more regular basis. Keep in mind though, buying more gear may indeed put you right back into the same place where this begins.
The second reason you should consider letting go of some of your gear is to consolidate your equipment and force yourself into fewer options. I think that a lot of photographers have found that when in a position where their options are more limited, their creative juices flow more. In addition, limiting the number of your cameras and lenses means that you will use each piece more often, and eventually meaning that you will get to know the ins and outs/strengths and limitations of each piece of gear. This will, in turn, lead to more successful outings.
Thirdly and lastly, selling your infrequently used gear gives other photographers the chance to buy it for less. That is, if you have a properly nice lens or camera body or lighting equipment that doesn’t get used enough to justify holding onto it, there is likely a photographer looking to upgrade to just that piece of gear that would appreciate the chance to buy it for less than it would cost new.
When it comes to film gear, there is a fourth reason which may be the biggest incentive. You could likely sell the gear for a profit. Of all the gear I have recently let go of, only two pieces were new enough that you can still find them at B&H: the Sigma 35mm f/2 and the Tamron 45mm f/1.8 that lived on my F100. As it happens, those are also the only two pieces that I took a loss on. Everything else was film gear and even after only owning a piece of gear for 6 months (in my case, I’m referring to the Mamiya RZ67), it was worth so much more than I paid that I could sell it for less than all other competing listings (for hundreds less), pay the seller fees, and still make a few hundred dollars. It’s difficult to argue with that. So much so that it is the only reason that I would ever consider selling my Mamiya 645 Pro-TL. For as little as I paid for it a few years ago, it is worth easily three to four times what I have invested.
What are your experiences? Have you acquired a large collection of gear in your years as a photographer? Have you parted with or sold any of your gear? How did it feel to let go?