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.

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Mike Ditz's picture

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

Iain Stanley's picture

True. And triple true :)

Alex Yakimov's picture

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 :))

Iain Stanley's picture

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

Alex Yakimov's picture

:) 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.

Iain Stanley's picture

Like chasing the horizon.....

Alex Yakimov's picture

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

David Pavlich's picture

As long as it's level. ;-)

Alex Ragen's picture

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.

Iain Stanley's picture

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

Scott Wilder's picture

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.

Iain Stanley's picture

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

Joseph Ting's picture

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.🤣

Harold Crossman's picture

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."

Iain Stanley's picture

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

Steve Maloney's picture

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.

Iain Stanley's picture

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

Joseph Ting's picture

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

Iain Stanley's picture

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.....

Harold Crossman's picture

Um....60. Late bloomer.

Timothy Gasper's picture

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?.

Iain Stanley's picture

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

Timothy Gasper's picture

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.

Deleted Account's picture

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

Iain Stanley's picture

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

Deleted Account's picture

She will forever be a joy to you.

Thierry Jolibois's picture

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.

Iain Stanley's picture

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....?

Adriano Brigante's picture

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.

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