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Ever Wish You Had New Gear? Here's Why It Will Never Be Good Enough

Ever Wish You Had New Gear? Here's Why It Will Never Be Good Enough

It doesn't matter if you shoot with Canon, or Sony, or Nikon, or any other great maker, nor if you use a DSLR or a mirrorless, or your sensor is full-frame, APS-C, or micro four-thirds. Your gear will never be good enough. Here's why.

As the old saying goes, you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time. Unfortunately, we humans have a tendency to criticize most things before we praise them. I’m not sure why it is, and psychologists have studied these things for centuries upon centuries, but the reality is that very often, someone’s first reaction to something is usually to put it down. Or to question it. Or to find some kind of fault in it. Or to say it’s not as good as something else that’s similar. Whether it’s an inferiority complex, or a deflection tactic to mask insecurities, I’m not really sure, but you can bet your bottom dollar that someone will always have something snide, or cynical, or negative to say. Let me give you a few examples.

What? She's not an Olympic sprinter at nine months?!?

This is a picture of my youngest daughter. It was taken when she was about nine months old. When I showed this to my friend here in Japan who has a daughter of similar age, the first thing he said to me was: “isn’t she walking yet?” That was quickly followed by: “how many teeth does she have?” When I answered “no” and “four,” the immediate reaction I got was laughter and then a sarcastic question asking whether she was okay or not and if she was being fed enough. I kid you not. My so-called friend was treating the milestone growth stages of our daughters as some kind of competition and an opportunity to put my daughter and I down or boost him and his daughter up. He told me how his daughter was walking at eight months and how she already had seven teeth. It was utterly ridiculous.

Here’s another example that relates to work and education. I’m now an associate professor in a small college in the far southwest of rural Japan. I have a Doctor of Education (Ed.D), and I’m very satisfied with my current position in life. However, it never ceases to amaze me in terms of the discussions I have with my peers whenever I go to conferences, both domestically and internationally. When it comes to my job, people ask me why I’m not a tenured professor yet, or why I’m stuck at the associate professor stage. Then they question why I choose to live in rural Japan instead of somewhere more urban like Osaka or Tokyo.

You're not a full, tenured professor yet? Only an associate prof? The shame!!

Then they want to have a discussion about the differences between a Ph.D and Ed.D and which one is worth more or is held in higher esteem. And it very usually ends up with the obligatory question about salary and how much I could be earning in Tokyo versus what I currently earn where I am. When I tell them that I am immensely happy where I am and have absolutely no interest in moving to somewhere like Tokyo, which I don’t really like because of its size and hustle and bustle, they usually stop listening and start shaking their heads in mock wonderment. For every person that says something polite or complimentary and offers positive responses, I probably have five or six people demanding answers about why I’ve become a permanent resident in Japan and chosen to live in such a far-flung location and work in a small, boutique college. These are just a couple of examples, but you can probably apply them to dozens of similar situations in your own lives. The car you drive, the size of your house, the clothes you wear, the schools you attended: there's a never-ending list that provides the critics with something to have a crack at. 

A copy of my Doctor of Education certificate. Pray you don't get into a discussion with a Ph.D holder about the merits of each degree.

So, how does this relate to photography and the gear you choose to buy and use? And why it will never be good enough? You can probably imagine where I’m going with this, but let me point it out anyway. When I bought my first Canon DSLR camera, I was over the moon with it. I now had something that I genuinely thought could take great images, and it came with two kit lenses. I loved taking that thing on journeys with me, but as time went by, I seemed to get asked the same questions again and again by other photography enthusiasts. They asked me what body I was using and what lenses I had. When I told them it was a Canon T3i with kit lenses, I often got a polite, condescending smile or a quick rebuke and lecture about how I should change to a full frame camera, because APS-C sensors were cheap and for amateurs and that kit lenses should be thrown on the scrapheap immediately. Talk about dampening someone’s embryonic enthusiasm!

Fast-forward many years, and nothing has changed. I now use my Canon 5D Mark IV and have a vast range of relatively expensive lenses. Yet, somehow, I still, at times, have that familiar, nagging feeling of equipment inadequacy and still feel the need to defend my gear choices regardless of how happy I am with the images that I might produce. I get told that the 5D IV’s burst speed is not fast enough. I get told that the image quality in low light is not good enough. And now, more than ever, I get told that DSLRs are a dying breed and I should jump ship as soon as I can to a mirrorless ecosystem.

The thing is, though, if you shoot mirrorless, regardless of the brand, I’m sure there are dozens of people out there giving you equally negative opinions. You’ve been conned. Mirrorless cameras don’t do anything that DSLRs can’t do. You’ve wasted your money. The battery life sucks. The lens range isn’t up to scratch yet. Honestly, it never ends, does it? I’m sure if you went out and bought the Hasselblad H6D-400c and put down a cool $50,000 on it, you would then get people telling you that you’re an imbecile for wasting so much money and that your images are no better than someone who has a camera worth $47,000 less. No matter what you own, or what you use, or what you’ve invested your money in, you can never win.

If you had the money and the desire to lay $50k down for this, you'd still get mercilessly mocked; I have no doubt about that.

Therefore, honestly, there’s no point trying, and there’s no point worrying about anything other than your own satisfaction. Yes, gear matters, depending on the context that you’re shooting. For example, if you want to shoot wildlife from a distance, then you will need a supertelephoto lens. But which lens should you get? That comes down to your specific needs and your budget. Do your homework, read lots of reviews, and then go out and make a purchase based on the information that you have and forget about what anyone else says. Learn more about the art of photography, and be happy with the gear choices that you have made.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have gear envy at times, and I still have occasional insecurities about the gear that I’m using compared to some of my peers. But, I quickly come to my senses and realize that I am just getting sucked into the needless game of ego. Now, the only thing that comes into my decision-making is whether or not the new piece of gear I'm thinking about will be irrefutably better than the current piece of gear that I’m using. Regardless of brand, I need to be confident that I am taking a significant step up in equipment. That is the only thing that comes into my thought processes.

So, if you take anything away from this, don’t worry about what anyone else says or about any kind of comparisons or unsolicited advice people give you. Use sites like Fstoppers and others to get as much information as you can about gear and techniques, and then, go from there. You will never make everyone happy. The only person that needs to be happy is you.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Iain Stanley's picture

Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

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Most cameras are better than most photographers. And your friend is kind of a jerk...

True. And triple true :)

Thanks, Iain for wonderful article. I feel that any gear is imperfect, incomplete and impermanent. We just need to learn to appreciate that...
P.S. perfect imperfect gear for me would be SL2 :))

If I had an endless budget, I’d probably keep buying the wrong things anyway haha!!

:) I do not have an endless budget either, but I could not forgo such a wonderfully "wrong" hedonistic dream. I know that reaching it, however long it would take, would be fabulous.

Like chasing the horizon.....

heh :)) Horizon for me is more like the new Monochrome with possibly upcoming Nocti 35mm ...

As long as it's level. ;-)

These habitual detractors think they’re telling you that you should change your gear. What you really need to do is to change your friends.

I thought living in rural Japan amongst the monkeys would isolate me. Seems the monkeys found me!!

My Sony a6000 has been a trusty workhorse for years. The only reason I'm looking for a new camera is because the 6000 is getting unreliable. Randomly Freezing and frequently needs to be hard rebooted (power off, remove battery, reinsert battery, power on)

So begins my quest for the next camera to last for the next several years.

Yeah I’m at a stage now where I think developments are making it hard to keep my 5D4 as my main camera. It’s the hassle involved though......if I could be certain that adaptors like Metabones were near perfect, then I’d think about the new, rumoured 5R. Or the Sony a7r4

Clean those battery contacts with a swab and alcohol, or WD40. Then clean the camera contacts the same way.
Then go buy that new camera anyway.🤣

Good article. I too like to ogle the latest and greatest, but then I look in my wallet and reflect upon the advice my first photography teacher gave me, "It's not the camera that takes the shot. You do. The camera is just a box with a hole in it. The most expensive camera in the world is still just a box with a hole in it."

Very true words. I look in my wallet and realize that my daughters are always holding the contents!!

Sounds like you’re in that 30-something vortex of male one up man ship. It’s an ugly phase but by 50 it’s long gone, trust me.

Thanks for the kind words. Mid-40s actually! Some others never grow up I guess haha....

While you have adjusted, there are certain people....
Still, you did mention "male." That still leaves out more than half the population.

Male it was.And he is definitely of the "certain type of individual" kind. He'd tell you you're weak at 5am in the morning in the death of winter coz there was steam coming from your breath.....

Um....60. Late bloomer.

It is quite easy for me with the film cameras. I know which ones I wanted and got them. There was no need to 'upgrade.' But with all this fast-moving technology, it seems like a never-ending quest to find just the right one. Thing is, there is no true "right one." So the choices I made with digital I will stay with. They are damn good enough. Except (here we go) I would like to obtain a very good MF digital or get a digiback for the ones I already have. Yeah, I know....always something..right?.

“Except for” always seems to wriggle its way in there doesn’t it!!

Yeah I know. I keep telling myself that THIS is the last one. Sorry, I meant this is THEEE last one. But we all know how that goes.

It doesn’t haha!

You are doing very well, Professor Stanley. Keep up the good work and enjoy yourself and your nice family.

Haha please infiltrate my daughters’ cheeky brains with this mantra :)

She will forever be a joy to you.

Superb reflection on this insatiable quest for novelty but also on the jealousy (positive or negative) of our human brothers. As Steve Maloney says it may be a question of age, not that of our bodies but the age of our mind. To overcome this kind of deviance I like having old devices, this allows me to better appreciate the tools that I use every day.

Yes, I agree that we probably get to a certain age and stop caring so much, but I think there’s something about our innate characteristics that is involuntarily insecure and competitive. Particularly so in the photography circles, for some reason....?

There doesn't seem to be this kind of mentality in the film community, as far as I can tell. Everyone seem to be happy with their gear (I know I am), whether they have a Hasselblad or a Holga, and they're usually supportive of the gear choices of other photographers, even if it's "inferior" gear.

Yes, I think you’re right that it’s particularly pervasive in photography. I surf a lot, on all sorts of different boards, and no-one ever really cares what board you’re riding or how much it was. I think perhaps coz it’s quite clear that it’s the surfer, not the board, that determines style, grace, and elegance on a wave.

I just went back and pixel peeped my shots from my older SX700 compared with my newer G9X mkII.
Yup! Looks $200 better.
Then again, maybe not..
Then I progressed to my pictures with my T6s and my EOS RP.
Yup! The bokeh is incredible.
Strangely, my wife swears her Samsung S9 takes better pictures.

I don't think there's any doubt about the quality upgrade when you go from a $500 camera to a $2,000 camera. And if you're happy with the upgrade then you should enjoy it and be satisfied with it. It's the incessant comparisons and (critical) debates that get tiresome for me. And yes, my wife swears she can't tell the difference between her iphone 10 and some of my shots. And to be honest, in good light, on small 5x7 prints, there isn't much difference to the naked eye. Which is kind of worrying haha!

It's that simple, but it's true.

And I have to remind myself of this trap when talking to others about achievements, gear and, well, life. Although I knew all that before, it's good to read it again.

I've found in my life that as I've gone into my 40s and beyond, comparisons and caring about comparing has waned a lot for myself and my friends. It seems photography tends to stand out in that respect, for some reason....I suppose Apple fans are rather notorious too. I own an iphone, but I'm neither here nor therer about it....

It's a good thing that I have some restraint. I'm a gizmo oriented guy and if I had the money, I'd have an arm's length list of gear I've bought and sold. As hard as it is, I stay within my photo piggy bank.

Photo Piggy Bank strategy is the best, mate.

Yes, but it sure is difficult at times. :-)

Out of interest, where do you tend to sell most of your gear, or have the most success selling your gear? Cheers

Photo gear I've sold locally through Kjiji (Canada). When I lived in the states, I sold camera gear and astronomy gear on Astromart.

The stuff sold in Canada was face to face, cash only. Way too many scammers on Kjiji.


Great article, I shoot M4/3s and it is amazing how times it has been suggested that my pics would be better if I just used full-frame (Good grief!!) Also, regarding living in Japan, I lived there for several years and I too prefer the small cities compared to Osaka or Tokyo. My only time in Tokyo was spent at Narita flying in or out, otherwise I would totally avoid Tokyo.

Yeah it's silly isn't it? Whwn I'm shooting surfing I still prefer my 7D2 for its APS-C sensor and 1.5x crop factor. It's beautiful to take a 600mm lens to 900mm. Whatever works for you. Ans yes, I like Tokyo in small stints. I lived in Chiba, just outside Tokyo, for 4 years, and I was ready to go more rural by the time my 4 years was up there. Now I'm way down in the boondocks and happy as a pig in......

According to the incessant bombardment of advertisements thinly disguised as reviews, I always need this new camera, and I always have reasons to switch.

Unfortunately, reviews/ads/promos etc tend to get the most views. Views means revenue, which means the site(s) can keep functioning. I completely agree with but.....it is what it is :)

Thank you for posting. You're absolutely correct. The other fact is that the excitement of getting a new camera (or any object for that matter) only lasts for a few hours to a few days at most because you quickly get used to the new "norm" of using your new camera. And then there are the other cameras you were considering that you didn't get, or maybe should have because the new camera you bought isn't perfect in every possible domain. On and on and on... Marketing is incredibly powerful and GAS will drain a bank account in the blink of an eye.

Good points. Now we enter the realm of the philosophical and the spiritual. All happiness is transient and all joy is temporary......but the feeling of a new body (camera, ahem) in your hands does bring such joy!!

This whole article seems to be predicated on an assumption that we all give s^!t what other people think. I don't care what people think about my camera. I don't recall ever being engaged by another photographer about my camera or lenses. I think there are different, and many reasons why one pursues newer or better gear, and the authors reasoning is as valid as any other. But it is certainly not the only reason.

I shot film for years just because I was too intimidated to figure out a DSLR. Silly, I know. But it was ultimately just laziness on my part. Finally, I “upgraded” to a D3400. I was in Best Buy looking at lenses several months later and the sales associate asked me what I shot with. I told him, and he gave me the most sickening smile I’ve ever seen. “Bro you need to upgrade to the latest Sony Alpha model, that Nikon is like a little toy. I do all my high profile real estate shoots on my Sony”. Whatever works for him I guess, but really I just like shooting.

Those looks are unmistakeable aren’t they!!

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