We all love gear. Even those who say they don't love gear, love gear. But my desire to create the unique has lead me to make some questionable purchases. How about you?
I recently wrote an article about a lens I could never bring myself to sell, and it sparked a lively debate. This got me thinking about the purchases I think have worked out to be the best investments. The Canon 135mm f/2 L mentioned in that article is certainly one. My Sony a7 III is arguably a close second. In all honesty, the rest blend together and I become too bored to think of a third. So, I started asking a more entertaining question: what are the worst purchases I've ever made?
It isn't easy for me to pick one. I've been stung a few times by mistakes of my own doing. However, one stands out for me. It was a vintage Russian 300mm prime lens I found in an antique store. It was beautiful. The whole thing was made of metal and weighed a ton, it had no fungus or clouding inside the glass, and it had almost no scuffs on the barrel what so ever. It was a little pricey and I couldn't find much online about it, and none were for sale. That might put some people off (wisely), but I heard the word "rare" whispered by an ethereal voice and parted with more cash than I should have for something I couldn't identify. Its mount was pretty standard and so getting an adapter to place it on my Canon 6D at the time was straightforward. Once it arrived, it fitted to my DSLR with a satisfying click and I was ready.
I gathered my things and with all due pomp and ceremony, I didn't take a photo until I had reached a location I liked during a fiery sunset. In a prophetic turn of fortune, there was no wildlife anywhere to be seen and my subjects were limited. Undeterred I started taking pictures of leaves and anything near me. Once I loaded the images in to Lightroom, I quickly realized the images were soft. Not slight movement soft, they were softer than blowdried kittens in a silk duvet. The bokeh was pretty nice though.
Outside of that there have been innumerous gadgets that have done poorly, not to mention alternative lighting solutions. I once bought some continuous lights off eBay on the recommendation of a friend. With all of them on full blast, despite generating enough heat to melt their way off the continent, they shared the lumen output with a wet safety match. My colleagues have had similar disasters, with Jack Alexander using lights that blew the power in every venue he used them, and Alex Cooke ordering a graphical tablet so large (under the notion that bigger was better) that it rendered itself unusable. You live and learn!
So let's have it. What's the worst purchase you have made as a photographer? Share in the comments below.