I’m incredibly nervous. $10,000 is a lot of money. In fact, I can’t remember ever spending $10,000 at once. With that in mind, there are two things I must think about before I hit that big, blue "buy" button.
For most purchases we make beyond daily life necessities, including those extravagant ones that make our accountants’ hearts skip a beat or two, we can pretty loosely throw them into two major categories: emotional and rational. Ever heard of the term “impulse buying”? Of course, you have. It’s when you buy something on a whim without giving the purchase the kind of careful consideration your bank account may have wished you had. We often make such purchases because our hearts rule our heads so strongly at the time that we simply don’t want to rationalize things carefully. We just want to buy things that make us feel good. Think retail therapy.
Rational buying, on the other hand, is pretty self-explanatory. We take our time and meticulously think things through and weigh up a whole host of factors and criteria. We often vacillate between the pros and the cons and seek advice from any number of people, including friends and family, and online reviews from those we’ve never met before we finally decide to pull the trigger.
So, when it comes to the impending departure of $10,000 from my bank account for a whole range of new Canon gear, how did these two factors influence my decisions?
The Emotional Side
I want the new Canon EOS R5. And I want some lenses like the RF100-500mm and the RF 800mm to complement the purchase. It’s that simple. I’ve seen a gazillion reviews of the camera by now, and it looks like everything I want, notwithstanding the overheating issues. And I feel like if I’m going to go in on the new mirrorless EOS R5, then I may as well take off my shoes, socks, clothes, and cap and go all-in on some lenses as well to really make the most of its capabilities.
2020 has been a year from hell for almost all of us, for many reasons. The issues and ripple effects related to COVID-19 have had an impact on me, both personally and professionally. I was supposed to present at a conference in Bali in February, but that got canceled. My mother was supposed to come and stay with me here in Japan for a month in March, but that got canceled. And I was supposed to have my first exhibition at a conference in Sydney in September, but that, too, has now been canceled. I couldn’t even leave Japan if I wanted to, because reentry is banned to all non-citizens. Thus, emotionally, it has been hard to pick me up from these setbacks and missed opportunities I was anticipating with such delight, so the idea of some fabulously fancy new gear is something I’m really looking forward to.
The second part of the equation, emotionally speaking, relates to my father. He’s 87 and has been in a nursing home for 3 years now, back in Australia. When the ambulance got to him 3 years ago, he was lying in bed, completely emaciated, and weighed just 39 kilograms (86 pounds). He was taken to hospital where he was drip-fed for a month, then taken by air ambulance to the nursing home. He hasn’t walked since he got to the home, and even though he’s relatively happy and healthy now, there’s always a tinge of regret and sadness in his voice when we talk.
Why? Mostly because he feels like he never lived life as he should have, nor explored many of the interests he had. He grew up in London during WWII, left school at 17, worked odd jobs, then joined the British Royal Navy at 20, where he rose through the ranks until he finished at 40, at which time he emigrated to Australia as a “10-pound Pom.” Unfortunately, his navy rank meant nothing in Australia, and he had to start all over again. He worked as a truck driver until his forced retirement at 68, then his body pretty much collapsed on him. In his own words, he worked from 17 to 68 and never took a break. Then his body broke.
Because of that, he is always telling me: “live life to the fullest, Iain, and never talk yourself out of things you really want to do.” I have always faithfully carried that attitude and approach to life with me, and it has led to my travels around the globe and the life I’ve set up for myself here in Japan with my family. And it will also drive my decision to buy a load of new Canon gear, too. He’s already given it his enthusiastic stamp of approval and reiterated a number of times the notion that you must live life as best you can and never neglect to make yourself happy, as well as those around you.
The Rational Side
And that brings me to the rationalization side of things. With a purchase of this magnitude, of course, I have to turn my heart off for a few moments and lead completely with my head, devoid of any emotion. The first thing I considered was money and the impact an outlay of this size would have on my family. Ironically, I’d been frightfully frugal in the 18 months prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in the knowledge that I had conferences, exhibitions, and my mum’s visit to account for. Thus, when they all got canceled, I had myself a nice little unexpected war chest burning a hole in my pocket. I’m not a big spender at the best of times, and I ensure my two young daughters have everything they need and more, so when I looked at my accounts, I felt I was in a reasonably good position to go ahead with the purchase.
Secondly, I had to think about the gear itself. I asked some honest questions, most of which revolved around whether the gear I wanted could do more than the gear I currently use. In answering those questions, I kept coming up with solid reasons to get the Canon EOS R5 and some RF lenses, mostly telephotos. For example, a lot of my paid work relates to surf photography, particularly big wave photography in the southwest of Japan. For that work, I currently use the Canon 7D Mark II, because it has an APS-C sensor that allows my Tamron 150-600mm lens to effectively become 960mm, and its burst rate of 10 fps is faster than my Canon 5D Mark IV’s.
The biggest problem I have with the 7D Mark II, however, is that its sensor is only 20 MP. This means that I am incredibly limited with the cropping I can do and the range of compositions I can create for different publications. I could switch to the 5D Mark IV, which has a 30 MP sensor, but its burst rate is only 7 fps, which is a big loss when you’re shooting surfing. Also, because it’s a full frame camera, I’d lose the 960mm reach I get on my Tamron 150-600mm. On top of that, Tamron’s native teleconverter is only available for the G2 version of the lens, whereas I have the G1 version.
For those reasons alone, I have been contemplating what to do for a long time now. I was strongly considering the Sony a7R IV because of its two-in-one sensor setup but was hesitant to change to an entirely new ecosystem. So, when I saw that the new Canon EOS R5 has a 47MP sensor and a burst rate of 12 fps (mechanical shutter) and 20 fps (electronic shutter), it was like my prayers were answered at once. When you add to that the new 1.4x and 2x extenders built specifically for the RF lenses, it was like someone from Canon was dwelling inside my head.
I could shoot with the RF 100-500mm, use the dedicated 2x extender with it and get an effective 1,000mm, which is more than I currently get with my Tamron and 7D Mark II. Or I could put the 1.4x teleconverter on the RF 800mm and get 1,120mm. Plus, I’d have a sensor that’s about 2.5 times bigger than the 7D Mark II’s to play with and crop with. That is absolutely perfect for my specific circumstances, and I’m almost giddy at the thought of the options that would become available to me.
There are many more rational reasons I could delve into, but the final nail in the coffin was confirmation recently that there will be no new models of the 5D DSLR from Canon. Essentially, this means that mirrorless bodies and RF lenses are the future for Canon. There is nothing wrong with my current gear, but I think it has been surpassed by a lot of other brands and certainly by the new EOS R5. I’m happy to keep the gear I have and pass it down to my daughters or even get an adapter to use with the EOS R5, but I have to acknowledge where the future lies for Canon and its evolution.
My DSLRs and EF lenses have served me tremendously well over the years, but it’s simply time to move on. From an emotional viewpoint and a more rational perspective, I’m more than happy with my decision to outlay such a vast sum of money on new gear. It will help me with work, it will improve my work, and it will feel really good. And don’t we all need some of that in these trying times? Some people spend their hard-earned cash on cars, others on jewelry, and others on two-week vacations with the kids. This time, I'm spending mine on new camera gear I've been eyeing for quite a long time, and I can't wait for its arrival, despite the obvious dent to my finances. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.