Buying camera gear can be a daunting task with so many competing formats, brands and models. This is further complicated by a plethora of gear reviews extolling the virtues of specific cameras. And, plenty of ‘must have’ advice found on various photography sites. We can get overwhelmed with information… some of it contradictory. With the price of new camera gear ever increasing, it is critical to make a sound, logical decision. It’s all about finding camera gear that is the ‘best fit’ for our individual needs. Unfortunately getting caught up in never ending marketing hype can lead to camera buyer’s remorse. Many of us have suffered through that in the past. I know I have.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Some recent photographs captured during a trip to Ireland have been added as visual breaks.
A number of years ago I allowed myself to get sucked in by camera marketing hype and ‘must have’ advice from others. I ended up investing quite a bit of money into full frame equipment. None of it helped to make me a better photographer. And none of it allowed me to better serve my clients. I learned the hard way that full frame camera gear wasn’t the right format for the work I do. Luckily, I was able to sell all of that full frame gear back in July 2015 without taking a major financial hit.
The first tip to avoid camera buyer’s remorse is pretty simple… pay no attention whatsoever to what someone else says that we ‘must have’ in terms of gear. Their opinion is based on their needs and their experiences… not ours.
When making any major purchase decision it is critical to clearly identify our individual needs. Things like the type of photography and video work we do. Subject matter. Lighting. Shooting environment. What we do with our images after they have been created. Our planned future growth as a photographer. Our needs should not be defined around camera formats, brands or models. That’s putting the cart before the horse. Obviously money we currently have invested in lenses can come into play.
If we convince ourselves that we must have a specific camera or format before we have defined our actual photographic needs, cognitive dissonance will kick in. We’ll find information to support our dominate belief. Even if that belief may be ill-founded… like my belief that I needed full frame gear. When that happens, we are far more likely to make an emotional decision, rather than a logical one. Emotion is at the root of buyer’s remorse. The second tip to avoid camera buyer’s remorse is to clearly define our photographic needs before considering any camera gear.
Fundamentally, the pieces of camera gear we choose are simply the tools we need to efficiently and effectively create our images and videos. Camera gear has very little intrinsic value. Its value is produced by what we can create with it.
There are many different categories of camera buyers. If we boil all of them down into a binary world, people who own cameras would fall into two basic groups. One group is photographers. They use their camera gear to create images and videos. Photographers see and experience their camera gear as a means to an end… as the tools they need to produce their visual creations. They don’t spend time incessantly debating the virtues of various cameras online. They go out and regularly use what they own. For them, cameras are simply creative tools.
The second group is technology owners. They love to own the latest and greatest camera gear. Just like some people love to own the latest Smartphone. They are often active on photography chat sites where they debate formats and camera specifications. Digging into minute technological differences between cameras excites them. They are enthralled by technology for technology’s sake. Some are quick to criticize the photographic work of others, but rarely if ever, show their own work. In many ways they are ultimate photographic armchair quarterbacks. Sitting back watching and commenting on a game, rather than participating in it.
How can we tell if we are a photographer or a technology owner? By asking ourselves two simple questions. During the past month, how many days did we go out with a camera and actually create images… versus the number of days we engaged in online discussions about camera gear or read about equipment? Over the past year how many shutter actuations did we log on our cameras? Calculating our answer as a daily shutter actuation average can be instructive.
The third tip to avoid camera buyer’s remorse is to experience and buy our camera gear as a photographer. Focus on what we specifically need camera gear to do for us in terms of a creative tool. Then, buy whatever format, brand and model that best suits our needs. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about what we buy and use. They’re not investing our money in gear. We are.
If we are a technology owner, we need to accept that camera buyer’s remorse may be a part of our life. There will always be something newer and greater around the corner to stimulate our emotions. That’s the nature of technology.
So, if we’re a photographer, how do we determine the ‘best fit’ camera gear for our needs? By asking ourselves lots of questions about what we do and how we do it. By analyzing facts and foregoing opinion.
If we divided up the work that we do into a pie, what percentage of our work falls into various subject categories? Birds and nature. Landscape. Portrait. Architecture. Sports. Flower and garden. Macro. Family. Wedding. Street. Events. Fashion. Travel. Photo journalism. Food. Product studio work… and so on. Are there specific equipment features that we need for particular subject matter?
What percentage of our work is done under low light conditions where a full frame or larger sensor camera may make a lot of sense for us? How many shutter actuations do we typically use in a year? How long do we expect a new camera body to last?
What do we do with our images after the fact? Do we regularly produce large prints or is our work mainly shown in digital format? How many mega pixels do we really need for the work we do? If we bought a camera that produced significantly larger file sizes than we create now, what investments in computer equipment may be needed? Have we calculated the cost of the latest high performance memory cards that may be required?
If we’re contemplating changing systems what lenses are priorities for us? Do we like to use prime lenses, zooms, or a combination? If we examined all of the work that we produced during the past year, what lenses are the workhorses that created the majority of our photographs and videos? At what focal lengths and apertures are the majority of our photographs captured? Does the camera format/brand we are considering have all of the lenses we need? Are we planning to expand our work into other photographic subject matter that require special camera features or equipment?
We likely have some specific camera capabilities that are ‘must have’ for the work we do. For example, I’m a senior citizen. Being able to shoot my industrial client videos completely hand-held was a key consideration for me when I purchased some new gear. The less video-related equipment I have to haul around during a client assignment, the better.
When we are out using our camera gear, how often do we shoot in inclement weather? Do we use our gear for relatively short periods of time, or do we use it uninterrupted for extended periods? Do we shoot primarily using camera supports or hand-held? Far too often we don’t consider how important ergonomics, comfort and handling are when buying new camera gear.
The fourth tip to avoid camera buyer’s remorse is to experience the gear we are thinking of buying first hand. Hold it. Shoot with it. Experience its auto focusing performance. Take some test images and process them. If possible, rent it or borrow it. Spend time using it. Comfort, ergonomics and handling are far more important than a list of specifications. If a camera doesn’t feel good when we hold it and use it… we probably shouldn’t buy it.
We all face lots of questions when we investigate various camera gear options. Focusing on answering the questions that are fundamental to our photographic/video work can help bring logic and clarity to the situation.
When it comes to buying camera gear, keeping our emotions in check is one of the biggest factors that help us avoid camera buyer’s remorse. Our ability to make sound, logical decisions is inversely proportional to our degree of emotional arousal. Whether those emotions are positive or negative. Remaining calm is key. We need to remember that when we buy camera equipment, we’re making an investment in our creative future.
All photographs were captured hand-held using camera equipment as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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