You've Been Lied To: Gear Matters!

You've Been Lied To: Gear Matters!

You can find many articles online that state "Gear doesn't Matter." Some point out that constraints created by the limitations of your equipment force you to become more creative and present an opportunity for growth. And that's true. But the statement "Gear doesn't Matter" is not true.

It all depends on what you want to achieve with your photography. If you have a certain vision, it might well be that you require specialized equipment to fulfill it. In this article, I give you three examples where the limitations of my equipment held me back in my photography.


For more than 10 years, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 was the longest lens I owned. As I used it primarily for landscape photography, it did the job. But there were occasions when I wished for a longer focal length.

I had already maxed out my lens at 200mm when I took this photo during a boat cruise along the Kinabatangan river in Malaysia. I would have required at least 400mm for a proper portrait.

Topaz Photo AI and some cropping saved this photo. It's still not living up to the quality standards I set for my photography. A longer focal length would have made my time on the Kinabatangan river much more enjoyable.

The limitations of the lens became very apparent during visits to Costa Rica and Malaysia when I could no longer ignore the number of missed photo opportunities. During those trips, I started dabbling in wildlife photography, a genre where gear matters a lot. Heavy cropping and AI helped me save some images. But overall, photography with the 70-200 was disappointing.

Often, I didn't even bother to take out the camera. At first, it was nice to, for a change, not look at nature through the viewfinder and enjoy it without constantly searching for subjects. But as a photographer, it's what makes me happy, and with each wildlife spotting, I felt more remorse for not investing in a proper telephoto lens.

I had always told myself that 200mm was enough for my style of photography. The truth is, the limitations of my equipment didn't allow me to expand my style.

Taking abstract photos of the dunes in the Erg Chigaga requires a long lens. For this photo I used a focal length of 500mm.

I've visited the desert in Morocco four times, and during my last visit, I took my desert photography to the next level. Last year, I finally invested in a Canon RF 100-500mm lens and never looked back. It was expensive, it is bigger and heavier than the 70-200mm, but it also opens up many more photo opportunities.


At least I had invested in a new tripod before my trip to Malaysia. The compact travel tripod I had used for over seven years had already proven too short in several situations. And let me tell you, it's frustrating if you find the perfect composition but can't set up the camera at the required height. Sometimes, photographing handheld at high ISO can help. But what if your photographic vision involves a long-time exposure?

I had to extend my tripod to its full height at 1,83 meters to take this photo of the Kuala Lumpur skyline.

When shooting the Kuala Lumpur skyline, I was prepared. A large tripod allowed me to photograph above the high railings of the various rooftop terraces. In some situations, a clamp can be an alternative to a large tripod. But with a drop of several hundred meters, I prefer a proper tripod and some distance between my camera and the abyss.

Hiking Gear

It's not just about cameras, lenses, and tripods. One of the best investments I made in the last years was in a set of hiking poles. They were expensive, but I don't regret the investment one bit. Quality has its price, and with hiking gear, it's no different. The carbon poles I got from Leki are compact and lightweight enough to bring them on all my travels.

On a dry day, getting down to Kabut Pelangi on Java is not very difficult. But in the pouring rain, the trail was treacherous. With hiking poles it was no problem, though. And the river crossings felt less awkward, too.

While I can cope with most terrain without hiking poles, there were situations in the past where I had to go excruciatingly slow because I didn't want to lose my footing. And on a trip to Indonesia, some hikes would have been nearly impossible without those poles. After heavy rains, many trails were a slippery mess. Getting to one of my favorite waterfalls involved a steep and muddy descent and several river crossings. The hiking poles gave me the footing and confidence I needed that day. Without them, I likely would have called it a day after the first waterfall I visited and because of it, missed another photo opportunity.


It can be discouraging if you feel limited by your gear and hear someone tell you equipment doesn't matter. Such statements should never be generalized. Photographers have different visions, and the gear requirements to achieve those aren't the same. Take wildlife photography, for example. If you show up at a safari with a 70-200mm lens, you might get some nice shots. But you'd likely get even better photos with a 100-500mm or 600mm lens.

Getting creative and making your lens choice work somehow is great. But what if you want a close-up of an Orangutan sitting high on a branch in a tree? Well, creativity didn't help me in Borneo, I can tell you that. Once more, I learned that there are situations where gear does matter.

Does it mean you should also get an expensive telephoto lens and a large tripod? Certainly not. You'll find out which gear is the right one for you by exploring the limitations of the equipment you already own. If you don't feel limited, then the gear you have might already be the right match for you.

Michael Breitung's picture

Michael Breitung is a freelance landscape and travel photographer from Germany. In the past 10 years he visited close to 30 countries to build his high quality portfolio and hone his skills as a photographer. He also has a growing Youtube channel, in which he shares the behind the scenes of his travels as well as his knowledge about photo editing.

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A better title would simply be: "You've been lied to: Everything matters." Of course equipment matters when you're activity (whatever it may be) is limited by the equipment itself. But knowledge, experience and attitude matter too.


Absolutely gear matters. You made the point very clear. I thought 200mm was great until I tried getting small critters who were shy. My 100-400mm L MII opened up getting near macro shots of bees and with a 2X matched converter get amazingly sharp photos of grizzly bears, elk and birds.

I’ve been in Borneo last month, and to get a picture of an orangutan at 85 meters distance with very low light, definitely you need a good telephoto and a superior stabilization system. I found out that a tripod is not suitable for most of the cases when you are on top of a 4x4 in awful roads with the risk of hitting the camera with the vehicle bars. I’m currently using OM System OM1.2 plus the 100-400mm (really is 500mm ) with the 2X crop factor, all hand held allowing to react in seconds to get the shots. I wonder how others can handle this scenario with a much bigger equipment including the tripod.

I remember starting out many photographers would tell me gear doesn't matter. It really does though. I remember starting off using a DSLR and being frustrated with my hit rate taking portraits using wide aperture lens because I had to focus and recompose due to the limited number of focus points. Moving to a mirrorless camera with eye autofocus allowed me to put my attention and energy on working with my clients and was magic.

I do agree the skills of the photographer are more important but gear absolutely does matter. It does get to the point where gear has very diminishing returns though. Depending on what your photography genre is improvements in gear may have little to no impact on your efficiency or quality of work or could even steal the joy of the craft...

The photographers are just like any other people, various views and perspectives. Perspective and context is everything.

Learning how to take good pictures in regardless of gear is still not the bad advice, however there needs to be some clarity with that kind of statement. Because we do know that a bad photographer is just that, regardless of how much gear they can own.

But I think the difference is that some people in some industries and areas can learn on the job while others swear they have to go and get good first and then go look for the jobs. Neither approach is incorrect.

I've met people who started photography with a 5d3 and a 24 to 70 2.8... knowing my own modest humble beginnings with a XSI, it makes me pause even to this day to see stuff like that.

But hey, you have to learn one way or another whether it's a big full featured camera or a small one with limited features. Important thing is having the tools and learning how to use them constantly.

And once you start learning how to use cameras, then you start finding out that some images are just impossible to take without certain gear. It's the process.

Yeah I think the best way to get better is go out and shoot and then do analyze your own pics to see how you can improve. I do think that you do need to be competent and practice before marketing yourself. For example if you are into weddings, 2nd shoot under someone else to gain experience. If you want to do sports photography go to a local high school game and shoot as if you were being paid. If you don't have the practice and it doesn't go well... your name and reputation in that genre is now tainted in your local area. I'm not saying you got to be amazing, but you do need to be competent and know your gear and not feel like you are cheating your clients.

What a sensation !!
Really ?? No way !!

Sorry for the cynicism... but ... 🤷‍♂️

Gear matters IF you know how to use it properly to get the image you want!

Upgrading from an entry-level camera body (a Nikon D5300) to an enthusiast body (a D7500) definitely helped improve my photography. But with the simpler camera, I learned what sorts of photography I enjoyed (outdoor music festivals, sports, travel, and church events). Then I could choose a more capable camera and lenses and other gear that worked for my areas of interest.

Specifically, having more control points on the camera body to change settings quickly (instead of having to go through menus), a 50 shot buffer (instead of 6), and 8 FPS continuous shooting made a huge difference for music and sports work.

That said, improving technical skills and organizational matters lets us use whatever gear we have to its best extent.

You can stop flogging the horse now. It's dead.