I Just Let Go of Half My Gear and I Feel Great: 3 Reasons You Should Thin Out Your Collection.

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? 

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14 Comments

Duren Williams's picture

I just cleared out some gear I’ve been holding on to for far too long. But it did feel good to cut em loose ..

Michael Aubrey's picture

I just traded up.

I sold my Mamiya 645 Pro-TL kit and for the same price, I got a Mamiya AF-D II with 45mm and 80mm f/2.8 lenses. Now I have 1/4000's of second just like the Contax 645, but for a fraction of the price. I kept my 80mm f/1.9, of course--just picked up a split prism focusing screen for it.

ChooChoo Chucklehead's picture

That’s a well timed read. I just did a cleanse as well, got rid of a ton of gear (still waiting on some to sell). I find that I oscillate between collecting and purging. It’s definitely freeing to dump the emotional connection to what’s ultimately just a hunk of metal, glass, and/or plastic and move onto something else more useful. A1, here I come!

Michael Breitung's picture

Yes, it really feels great to let go of some gear.

I have two simple rules when it comes to gear:
- If I don't use it regularly, it has to go. I used to keep stuff for these rare occassions that might come up once or twice a year. But to be honest, those one or two occasions I can usually handle with my regular gear as well. It might be a bit harder to get the shot in those rare instances and sometimes I might have to compromise, but it never keeps me from getting the shot.
- If I cannot travel with it, it has to go. I travel with a 60 liter NYA Evo Fjord. All my gear fits into it, hence I can travel with it. I don't have access gear lying around at home aside from some cables and smaller stuff.

I also used to have replacements at home for a lot of my gear - secondary tripod, secondary plates, secondary ball-head, .... But to be honest, most stuff can be replaced within 2 days by ordering it once it fails. Only on very remote travels, some more redundancy might be necessary.

The only redundancies I maintain are: Replacement Camera, two chargers, batteries, additional SD and CF cards, harddrives, cables, flashlights

M C's picture

I collect used film cameras.. It's called a hobby.

William Van Benschoten's picture

Great article. Thank you, James.

Where did you sell your stuff?

Where did others sell their stuff?

My wife and I want to unload a bunch of our gear (Nikon and Canon lenses, tripod, etc) but we're having a hard time finding a place to sell it.

Any tips/advice will be much appreciated.

Michael Dougherty's picture

Sometimes equipment is so cheap that it is not worth getting rid of. I have an RB67 Pro S with 50, 140 Macro, and 360 mm lenses. Also a prism finder, Polaroid back, and extension tubes. I spent thousands on this equipment when I had little money and now it worth hundreds, if that much.

Matt Edwards's picture

I always end up balancing dollar value versus usefulness. Sometimes I keep a lens that I have replaced with one of higher quality just because I know I would only get a couple hundred bucks for it and having it as a backup is more valuable than the money I would get from it

Michael Dougherty's picture

Matt ..... It's getting a little more complicated as I transition from an F-mount D850 with a dozen lenses to a Z-mount Z7II, of which I only have a few lenses. Right now, I seem to be getting rid of the F-mount wide angles as the Z-mount wide angles are superior. However, the optical advantage of mirrorless lenses seems to fade over 100 mm resulting in me keeping my F-mount lenses and D850 or using XX adapter on the Z7II. .

Roger Jones's picture

I try to obey, but it's hard, oh so hard to obey. How can I sell my friends?? Most of my gear is digital, and most of my gear, I'd say 90% of my gear is loaner from camera companies, the downside is you don't own it, and can't sell it nor do they want it back as it's been heavily used. I just had one company send me a camera, a DSLR, they send a note saying "for your collection" so now I have 5 of their cameras plus 4 of my own, plus 5 of their lenses. I have zero use for this gear, but they have zero use for it. It's out dated. If I were to sell it you could not send it in for repair.
Same goes for my film gear. I still have my Minolta 9000 and 2 lenses from when I went on assignment back in the 1980's. I will be selling, giving away, or sending back to the companies 85% of what I have. I have no use for it, I don't need it. My new/old philosophy is less is better. You only need 1 film 1 digital and 3 lenses maybe a flash. What ever fits in my Domke F2 bag, that's it, done deal.
Your right, it feels good to cut back, way back it feels really good. Here's a glue for you, you do not need the the latest and greatest bells and whistles to do great work. It's just the companies selling you a bill of goods. BUY BUY BUY. My best camera and lens are 8 years old. So sell sell sell you'll feel better, and with the extra cash take your cameras on a vacation.
Be Safe and sell

Jan Holler's picture

I could sell my Nikon FA, the Nikon F-301 (N-2000) along with a around dozen fine manual lenses. I do not. I'd get about $1000 for it.

J.d. Davis's picture

Except for one compelling reason: My 1969 Nikon F FTN still works and the D100 is in a landfill.

Jack Stolichnoy's picture

Trough oit the years I've brought and sold gear. Mostly lenses but quite a few cameras as well. This is the conclusion I've came to.
Unless the gear is bad or it doesn't fit your expectations, then yes, sell it.
If, the equipment is good, there's a reason why you bought it in the first place.
I have re purchased same gear several times and i have one of the biggest regrets selling some of it. I'd pay quadruple of what i originally bought it for or even sold it.
If you are not hurting financially, don't sell it or one day you will try to find it again or have regrets.

Paul C's picture

Unfamiliarity - Another reason for holding onto camera kit.

One reason I look out old my cameras periodically is precisely because I am not currently using them.

The old model will slow me down and force me to think a bit more about composition and settings.

This is especially true of older digital or smaller format sensors - where you have to put in more work to overcome limited dynamic range or be more creative to overcome a camera and lens combination where the depth of field isn't shallow enough just to blur out a background (and I have to use movement or colour or tone to separate foreground from background).

As a result - I have to put in more work up-front rather to get the image that I want than rely on "fixing it later in post-production" with the leeway generated by the latest genertion equipment..

That discipline can pay back 10-fold with my main equipment the next week.

I am sure that is why many current photographers are shooting for themselves with film when freed from the pressure of a work target.