The Camera and Lens I Wish I Had Never Sold

Many photographers buy and sell gear at a steady pace, always looking for some interesting new lens or body to try. I am no different, and I have bought and sold my fair share of gear over the years.  I have come to regret selling one specific camera and lens, though.

I spend a fair amount of time on Fred Miranda's buy/sell forum, looking for interesting cameras or lenses to try out. Most pass through my camera bag and are sold again on the same forum after a few months. Once in a while, one finds a more permanent place in my collection. However, I have occasionally made a mistake by selling a camera or a lens and eventually (or immediately) coming to regret the decision. 

Mamiya 645 AFD

Image by Flickr user Didjeridoo_tom, used under Creative Commons.

Hoo boy, did I love this camera. I grew up shooting 35mm film on cheap cameras, and I always loved photography, but I never got serious about it until I grew up, which meant I never got to experience the joys of really nice equipment until then. I bought this camera in 2013 along with 35mm f/3.5, 80mm f/2.8, and 150mm f/3.5 lenses. It was my first experience with medium format, and the feeling of seeing a true 6x4.5 negative for the first time was astounding. The detail was jaw-dropping, the focus roll-off beautiful, and the medium format look addictive. 

The 645AFD looked and handled like a giant, well-designed SLR. It had all the normal built-in metering and exposure functions, a fairly decent (for medium format film) phase detection autofocus system, and all the normal features you would expect from such a camera. I normally ran Ilford 120 film through it, opting to shoot in black and white because the way the tonality and focus roll-off combined was just so beautiful. 

I really loved that camera. It was impractical, but on the same token, I would never (and will never) own a top-end medium format digital camera, so this was my chance to dabble with that world. 

Why did I sell it after two years? Well, I did not see the financial benefit of it. I never shot medium format film for clients, and 120 film is expensive to shoot and just as expensive to develop. I was trying to consolidate my kit at the time and reduce it to essentials. Furthermore, I did not shoot it that often. Unless it is your specialty, you just do not pull out a medium format film camera very much, saving it for specific situations where the combination of its look and creative inspiration justify the cost of shooting with it. In those two years I owned it, I probably shot about 200 negatives, taking it out on maybe 15 occasions. I managed to sell the kit for about the same price I paid for it, so in the end, I just paid for the film and developing costs.

Why did I regret selling it then? It was expensive, impractical, and rarely used — all valid reasons for jettisoning it from my kit. Well, the very things that made it expensive, impractical, and rarely used were the things that made it special. I learned after the fact that just because I did not shoot it that often did not mean it did not deserve a place in my kit; there is not a direct correlation between the number of frames that pass through a camera and its worthiness. The 645 film experience was something entirely different. It slowed me down, it made me think differently, and most of all, it got me excited. It returned me to a sort of pure photography, whatever that was.

Though I never reacquired the Mamiya, down the road, I purchased another medium format film camera. This time, I wanted something a bit simpler and less expensive, so I opted for a Fujifilm GW690 III with a 90mm f/3.5 lens (the 80mm was my most used lens with the Mamiya), and I know this camera will remain in my kit for years to come. 

Canon EF 135mm f/2L

As my favorite meme says: "the risk I took was calculated, but man, am I bad at math." The EF 135mm f/2L was my first real lens, and I remember the first time I took a photo with it on my original Canon 7D. It was instant magic. There was that narrow depth of field, that sharpness, that beautiful, smoky contrast. It is a lens that produces beautiful images with minimal fuss: autofocus is fast and accurate, aberrations are well controlled, sharpness is good, and the bokeh is just gorgeous. 

So, why did I sell it? I'm bad at math. It started when I got the famous EF 85mm f/1.2L II. The 85mm f/1.2L is a legendary lens for good reason. It combines an extremely wide aperture with a characteristic 3D "pop" that few other lenses exhibit, making images taken with it instantly jump off the screen. It is also a royal pain in the neck to use. Autofocus is slow and fickle, and you miss a good chunk of shots due to that. Eventually, though, I decided that having both the 85mm and 135mm was a bit redundant for my work. I decided to sell the 135mm, mostly because its working distance was sometimes a bit of a hassle, especially indoors. Man, am I bad at math.

I immediately regretted the decision. The 85mm, while more practical on paper, was nowhere near as fun as the 135mm. When shooting with it, I had to direct all my attention to making sure I nailed focus and dealing with its general fickleness. On the other hand, with the 135mm, it was just pure fun: fast and reliable. You got 90% of the 85mm's image characteristics for 10% of the hassle. And beyond those objective reasons, I was just sentimental over my first real lens.

Two months later, I was sitting in a booth at the local Cheesecake Factory, buying another copy of the lens. My new copy wasn't quite as good as the old one, but it is still fantastic. Boy, did I miss it. It is everything a lens should be: it has character, it's technically strong, it's reliable, and it's a joy to shoot. It surely has a permanent place in my bag now, and I use it more than ever.

What Are Yours?

Have you ever gotten rid of a piece of gear and come to regret it? Tell me your story in the comments. 

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Tony Clark's picture

Even though I probably wouldn't use it much, I regret selling my Mamiya RZ67ProII kit. The images I captured with the 110mm and 180mm lenses were some of my favorites. The rotating film back was an amazing feature of the system.

William Connor's picture

My first SLR was a Pentax. I don't even remember what model anymore. I loved shooting 35mm film and it's where I cut my teeth for photos. I also regret selling my Sony α58. I "upgraded" to a Nikon D750 and was unhappy the entire time I owned it. The α58 and I created better photos, and the Sony killed the Nikon at shooting video. Smooth, fast, accurate AF. I still miss that one.

Peter Perry's picture

K1000? If so, I still have mine. 😁

William Connor's picture

I wish I could remember. I sold it on craigslist to buy my Sony α58 and I wish I hadn't sold it or the α58. I do like my Fujifilm XT-4 so hopefully, I am smarter this time.

ignacy matuszewski's picture

Definetly TS-E 24mm L mk1. I've owned three of them, upgraded to mk2 lately and i really miss it's lightweight and bulletproof build, far better than newer ones.

Dana Goldstein's picture

Didn’t someone else write a piece just like this a few days ago?

Timothy Turner's picture

Nothing new under the sun

Richard Kralicek's picture

Zeiss Planar T 85/1.4 ZE. I sold it to get the way better Milvus 85/1.4, and yes, that lens is a beast and a huge improvement in quality. But. it. is. way. too. heavy. And it's bulky leaving no space for your fingers on a Canon 6d or 6dii. I changed camera, and on the EOS R space is fine, but this combination is front heavy and my shoulder didn't like they weight. As I bought those lenses second hand I sold the Milvus again and bought an old Canon FD 85/1.2 L in mint condition. Am I happy now? Well, yes, but I should have stayed with the Planar, it worked in nearly each situation, and in the near regime you had to stop it down or move away from the subject a bit because it was too soft. The 85/1.2 has other flaws (it's an old lens, coatings not up to date). Would I buy the Planar again? No. Not now.

Dan Ostergren's picture

I do miss my 135mm f/2L lens as well, but I also opted for an 85mm instead (I went with the f/1.8 version). Honestly, I prefer working with the 85 1.8 so much more than the 135mm. Snappy and accurate auto focus, smaller and easier to work with, and renders equally beautiful portraits in my opinion. I have used the 1.2 version before, and I agree with you that it's a hassle to use.

Gary Pardy's picture

In a weird way, I miss my D5300, 35mm f/1.8, and Tamron 16-300. I was in such a rush to "upgrade" to full frame that I didn't know what I didn't know. I feel as though I've done the vast majority of my development and learning with my full frame kit and that most of what I shoot could be achieved just as easily with an APS-C sensor.

Jacob H.'s picture

My Leica M6 with 35mm Summicron... It seemed obsolete in a digital world. Now I know better.

Michael Ma's picture

I use the 135 f2 all the time. The 85 1.2 II, almost never.

Jack Carbone's picture

Pentax 67 and Mamiya c33. Now buying a Bronica 645 etrs and a Mamiya c33.

Juan Pellegrini's picture

Sometimes, I still wake up in the middle of the night screaming Olympus SP35....

Robert McCaslan's picture

I too sold my 135 L, but I had no regrets. Images were indeed beautiful, and I strongly preferred it to the 85mm prime output. However, it was simply too long to shoot handheld without IS, and I almost never remembered to bring a tripod. I now have the Sony 135GM, and with IBIS, I'm getting those shots that I use to miss.

The only lens I regret selling was the Nikon 14-24. I didn't realize how good it was until it was gone. I attempted to rebuy it used, but never got a copy as good as the first one. Fortunately, time has moved on and the Sony 12-24G works for me. I don't need 2.8 for these FLs, so I won't buy the GM version. As for cameras, they just keep getting better, so no regrets on that front (although I do regret losing the Minolta film camera that someone stole from my apartment, but that's a different story).

george andrews's picture

I started buying and selling lenses about 7 years ago since I realized that the most expensive lenses, which I could never afford new were usually kept from being trashed by the original purchaser. So the one I sorely miss and which I should have not sold was the Canon 200mm f/1.8L. I bought it from KEH in ugly condition and lo and behold it was in pristine condition, only a surface mark on the outside. It was a hard lens to handhold as it was just too heavy and squat in size to comfortably fit in your hand.

Michael Pelikan's picture

Mamiya C330f - I got it in 1979 and sold it sometime around 2000. Wish I'd kept it. I've picked up several fine medium format film cameras in the meantime - but I did enjoy that system, for its mechanical simplicity and robustness, for its excellent lenses, for its smoothness and quietness in operation. I'll probably have to pick one up sometime, but it may never happen; on days I feel like shooting medium format film I already have enough other possibilities to choose from. So the C330 will probably just remain in mind as a lesson to be careful not to be too hasty to sell.

Chuck Collins's picture

Leica M2R w/ 35mm Summicron. An unmatched feel in your hands. For those who have only shot digital, the cameras that come close to the feel of a Leica are the Fuji X-Pro series. CLOSE, but not the same.

Scott McDonald's picture

I suppose I don't really have any regrets in this regard since I never part with any of my gear! I'm a pack-rat and hoard everything that I've ever purchased...8 cameras, 67 lenses, a few tripods, many filters, backpacks, etc. My logic is that of every pack-rat out there..."You never know when you might need it!"

Peter Perry's picture

Fuji X-T1 and Fuji 35 F/1.4.

Can’t beat those controls and that lens is great!

The lens I’m debating selling, is the Nikon 200 F/2, but I have no doubt I will regret that for sure!

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I've actually been pretty good about holding on to lenses that I've liked (*mostly*) but I do have two bodies that I regret selling. The Nikon D700 (which I've bought again twice) and the 5D Mark III. When I left Canon, I had a bunch of Canon bodies but decided that the one I wanted to keep was the 6D (because the image quality is still great), but I always regret selling the 5D Mark III because it was such a workhorse camera that just had all the controls in the right place.

Roger Bunting's picture

The world of decisions is not black and white for me. I wrestle with far too many, but in photography I've usually had my significant changes well defined. At a certain point the sheer size and weight of my kit became too much. I decided to downsize my nearly six decades of Nikon usage to a new Fuji kit. In terms of usage, I'm not regretting that (completely) but I still have some remorse in moving on from the Nikon group just before the Z's hit the market. I haven't reached the point with the Fuji bodies where they are just an extension of my "being"; the Nikon was that. My back is better and there are of course some things in the Fuji system that still marvel me on the hardware architecture side of things like the mating of the 23mm f/1.4 with focus clutch to the hybrid optical VF of the X-Pro2. That should make any gear geek happy and it offers tremendous photographic control over focus, not bad for the photo technicians either.

The straw that broke the camel's back, was not fair to Nikon - but it happened after a long desert hike with my Df and 24-120mm f/4 lens and some other kit. I finished the hike dangerously dehydrated and not realizing it. The weight and awkwardness of the larger kit on the climb out of the canyons took the brunt of my anger. Looking back on that, I should have taken my iPhone and a Nikon's equivalent of water. I'm an experienced hiker in those situations and bad judgement is not something I'm used to swallowing.

In the years since then, the lighter kit is/was the right decision, but I miss the Nikon ergonomics, CLS and lens selection but I'm completely baffled on why Nikon hasn't taken a Fuji approach to lens support for the DX system. I guess that opened a big door for Fuji.

anthony marsh's picture

A LEICA M-3 with 50mm 1.5 SUMMARIT,still think about it with regret.

Marc-André Leclerc's picture

I wish I would have never sold my Leica Summicron 50mm f2...