There are many reasons why we buy cameras. These reasons lead us to various camera formats, brands and models. The reasons why we buy cameras can also have a direct impact on how often we update our camera gear.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.
Money making tool
Some photographers own cameras because they are money making tools. Their livelihoods depend on their camera investments so purchase decisions tend to be viewed pragmatically. When buying money making tools, photographers consider the type of work that they do and the specifications that best meet their needs. Dependability is often a key factor, as are comfort and ergonomics. Being out in the field for long periods of time working on client projects can be exhausting.
Photographers who buy cameras as money making tools also consider the cash flow of their business and how a camera purchase fits into their depreciation schedule. For example, in Canada 10% of the purchase cost of camera gear can be written off in its first calendar year of use. In subsequent years the depreciation is based on 20% of the declining balance.
Getting a good return on investment (ROI) is also an important consideration when photographers buy cameras as money making tools. It’s been my observation that professional photographers tend to keep their camera gear for longer periods of time before replacing it.
For example, the professional wedding photographer that my daughter hired for her wedding used three different camera bodies. Two of them were full frame Canon cameras. One of them was a couple of years old. The other one was about five years old. She also used a Nikon D300 which was probably at least seven years old at the time.
It is standard practice for professional photographers to bring at least two camera bodies to a client assignment. Many pros will have their camera gear serviced on a regular basis to help stretch out its usable life, and help ensure trouble free operation while on assignment.
Viewing cameras as a status symbol is another reason why we buy cameras. It is quite common to see photographers grouped together (pre-COVID) and showing off their gear to each other. Often they spend far more time showing off their gear than actually using it. This phenomenon can regularly be observed at birding sites, air shows, and other venues where ‘big gun’ lenses are commonly used.
Larger format cameras, often with high density sensors, are sometimes viewed as status symbols by many photographers. Status symbol buyers will change their camera equipment when the strength of its relative bragging rights have eroded over time.
Intrigued with technology
Some photographers are enthralled with technology. A large amount of their photographic enjoyment is directly linked to the technology that their camera utilizes. Often they will spend quite a bit of time researching their camera’s technological advancements as they love technology for technology’s sake. They love to read camera reviews that discuss technology and they feel a high level of pride of ownership when their camera gear incorporates the latest technology. This group tends to replace their camera gear more frequently than others.
Why we buy cameras can be strongly associated with our lifestyle. For example, photographers who enjoy exploring remote locations will choose gear that is known for its durable build quality and weatherproofing. Other photographers may have a very strong affinity for particular events or subject matter and will buy camera gear that is particularly well suited to those interests. Action cameras would fall into the lifestyle extension category.
Visual expression tool
People who are skewed to various forms of visual expression may buy cameras with specific attributes that help them bring creative expression to life. Examples could be macro photography, Live Composite, use of drones, or time lapse photography.
Some photographers are motivated by personal challenge. Creating a hard to capture, unique or unusual image generates a strong feeling of accomplishment in them. As a result they will favour camera gear that requires some expertise and knowledge in order to use it successfully.
They are skewed to cameras that have leading edge technology… but they are not intrigued with technology for its own sake. They want the technology as a way to increase their personal challenges. At their core, they want to push themselves and grow through meeting photographic challenges they set for themselves.
They are likely far more interested in how they can push themselves, rather than have any interest in what other people create with their cameras. Learning to understand and master the complexities of using dedicated camera equipment appeals to their challenge-based nature.
Documenting significant life events
Another reason why we buy cameras is to document and preserve significant life events. For some people creating images with a camera, rather than with a smartphone, makes the documentation of the life event more important and significant. For them, using a camera is a signal that the event is special and noteworthy. There are some grandparents out there who specifically purchase dedicated camera gear so they can photograph their grandchildren. To them, using a smart phone to photograph their grandchildren, especially if they don’t see them on a regular basis, is akin to an insult.
Skill recognition and self-image
Using a dedicated camera can often send an implied message that the user is more skilled than someone using a smartphone to photograph the identical subject. The camera gear itself isn’t a status symbol, but being able to use it very competently is a visible sign of skill demonstration/recognition, and can enhance a person’s self-image.
Many people find photography to be a wonderful form of relaxation. It allows them to disengage from the various stresses and concerns they may have. Picking up a camera and creating with it can become a form of escape from the day-to-day grind. Allowing ourselves to be consumed by the act of creating photographs can both focus our mind… and quiet it from stresses and pressures.
Interest in Specific Photographic Genres
There are some photographic genres such as nature and birding where existing smart phone technology is not a practical solution.
Enhanced Image Quality
Many photographers want to achieve the enhanced image quality that is created when using cameras with better sensors and the superior optical performance of interchangable lenses, when compared to smart phones.
For some folks the continued use of dedicated camera systems may simply come down to the fact that old habits die hard. When I do presentations to camera clubs there are precious few younger people in the audience. One can only speculate where the future of the camera industry is headed if camera companies are unable to attract new, younger buyers.
This is only a sampling of the many reasons why we buy cameras. Many of us have more than one reason… and we may have reasons that are not included in this article. Understanding why we buy cameras can give us important insights about our motivations in life, and how we interact with those around us.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. This is the 1,029th article published on this website since its original inception.
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