Ramblings of a 3 year ex-gear addict: Moving on from cameras

It's been about 3 years now since that infamous article I wrote, confessions of an ex-gear addict. It is by far the most popular article I ever wrote, it's the one I hope to overdo someday and the one that birthed a bunch of me-too articles. It's been a while now and I've been a good boy when it comes to cameras, but here are a collection of ideas that came during that time about camera buying and more.

 

Relationships and cameras

Here's a weird idea for you: You and your camera is much like your significant other and yourself. See…just like there are better camera models out there, with better resolution, faster focus, etc, what really matters is not that there is better out there, it's what you do with that camera that counts. Just like any real human relationship, there are better looking, smarter, richer people out there…but what really counts is what you do together. Here's what I am saying, just like a human relationship, you also have a relationship with your camera, it's not just a tool because if you change it, it ends up changing the way you work.

 

And what matters most, just like in a human relationship it's what you do together, not the fact that there is better out there. And just like real relationships where you know to do certain things because of the other person's quirks, you end up knowing the camera's quirks and go around it. I have my Ricoh GRD IV for example, I know to shoot about 3/4 of a second before the shot I want to make the shot.

 

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Ex- G.A.S and Minimalism

I didn't know it then but my being cured from G.A.S would lead me to minimalism. It follows doesn't it? If I didn't need all the gear I believe I needed for photography, what else didn't I need in my life? Cutting down my gear allowed me to focus on what's truly important: the images. That clarity was very much exhilarating….so I started cutting down in my life as a whole. I was leaving the country, and I cut everything I have down to a large, single bag.

 

And indeed I didn't need half of the stuff I believe I needed. If you could tally my possessions, you would find less than 100 things, all I have is my computer, cameras with accessories, and about 10 changes of clothes…..all my possessions, one bag….I feel free and light and I love it. But I have to give credit where credit is due, my minimalism was due to recovering from buying too many cameras.

 

It's the same thing over and over again

Having left G.A.S behind, I find myself increasingly bored with cameras, it's the same thing with smartphones. New phone out! Oh let me guess, it's a touchscreen, golden ratio rectangle and it comes with Android, iOS and it's 25% better than the previous one. Right. Exiting. Oh new camera out! Let me guess, it looks like the previous one, a little better, with more fps, megapixels, higher resolution viewfinder. Right. Exiting.

 

Apologies for the sarcasm, I'm very disenchanted with cameras if you ask me, all I see is more of the same thing. But for some reason I don't think everyone shares the same feeling. Everyone seems to be in love with the latest and greatest just because it is the latest and greatest. Don't get me wrong there are exceptions like the Panasonic CM1, Pen F and more, but these tend to be the exceptions and not the rule.

 

An application of the law of diminishing returns state that eventually whatever benefit you had will diminish with time. Say you wanted a camera 10 years ago. In one year whatever you bough would have been seriously outdated. Not so much today, things are so good, the increments are not that great anymore. Speaking in more concrete terms, the difference between something like the Canon G1 and G2 is greater than the difference between G16 and G17.

 

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Taking the future into account

After my G.A.S episode, that didn't mean I didn't purchase cameras, it's just that I became much more strategic. Taking the law of diminishing return again, the effect you would have buying and selling many cameras is not as great if you waited for your purchases. Manufacturers pushing new products isn't necessarily bad, but you will get much more bang for your buck if you wait. Let's take the iPod for example, you could buy the iPod, then the iPod photo and then the iPod video….or you could just have waited for the latter. More bang for your buck if you wait.

 

Let's take the Ricoh GR. Great camera, but what it really is, it's a technological marvel. To have such a large sensor in such a small body. Same thing for Leica M or Q, it's very small for the fullframe sensor it has. But that also means, in the future, we will have cameras with the lens and size of the Panasonic LX100 that is rocking an APSC sensor. And we will have increasingly smaller Fullframe and APSC sensors. Of course that could be a long time coming, but it's up to us to be strategic if it's better to buy right now or wait for the technology.

 

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That reminds me of my very first computer, it was a hand-me-down from my dad, an old Compaq with windows 3.1. He waited so long to buy it that when he got it, a few months later windows 95 came and couldn't run it. If I am to buy some piece of gear, I now take into account the future too. Because nowadays, manufacturers like doing refreshes more and more on their cameras…and they like to do it faster. Think Fuji X100, s and now T. It's up do you to judge if the purchase is better on the spot or some patience is better.

 

There you have it folks, a few more ideas that came to mind as an ex-gear addict. What do you think of them? Agree on all or a few? let me know in the comments! Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.

 

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6 thoughts on “Ramblings of a 3 year ex-gear addict: Moving on from cameras”

  1. Regarding digital cameras I agree completely with you. Nowadays improvements are incremental at best, rarely there’s anything groundbreaking any more.

    As for my beloved film cameras, I am still searching for the holy grail. My ‘new’ Ricoh GR1 seems to fit the bill near perfectly – perhaps we will go a long way together if she does not die before her time, as they are known to do.

    At least with film cameras my diminishing gear addiction does not suffer too much from depreciation of the gear. When bought cautiously it’s often possible to recoup the original price when selling unlike digital gear.

    Ideally my complete gear will fit my pockets! That’s all! Hope I’ll get there soon.

  2. Very good points Oliver. Patience in this world of GAS is the most precious thing to have. I never considered to be a GAS addict. I still have my Canon 650D from 4 years ago but recently shoot with a simple point & shoot Lumix. However I feel my understanding for photography had nothing to do with a camera.
    Having said, for the past few months I’ve had my eye on the Fujifilm x70 to replace my old ones…

  3. As an ex gear addict from the days of film – Hasselblad, Leica, Canon, Nikon, Olympus and the same with digital except for the Hasselblad – I couldn’t agree with you more about how liberating it is to stop buying cameras. I have an Olympus system at present but shoot more and more with my mobile phone. Ok it’s the latest model Samsung bought because my previous phone was 3 years old and slowing. Plus I got a bit disenchanted with Apple. I’m taking better pictures too…..

  4. Hey Olivier, discovered your website whilst researching, eh, gear… in the case the LF-1… towards a goal of simplifying. So it was timely. I’ve seemed to be able to do minimize in many realms of life, but confess that with cameras it’s been harder. Many who’ve commented seem to have found respite from GAS in small, responsive, capable cameras like the RX100iii or LX100, and the Canon G5x isn’t looking too bad, either; At MOST (in terms of versatility) I’m thinking maybe an E-PL with a couple lenses?). Anyway, I really like many of your photos and philosophy of photography, including this post (and the original) – the use of the word “idolatry” is most accurate, thank you for the reminder. Your GRIV reminds me a bit of an old Olympus clamshell camera (Stylus Epic/mjuII) I always carried, with which I ended up taking more of my good pics with than anything else (just checked and can’t believe these are selling for more than twice their original price on e-bay now!). Started finding the same more recently with a Nokia 920.

    As someone noted, in the manual film days things were probably easier – it must’ve been from maybe around the late 1950’s till the advent of A/F in the mid-80’s that overall nothing all that significant really happened re: SLR camera tech – or at least it seems so in retrospect. Okay, the Pentax MX was smaller, the OM4 had advanced metering, etc… but pick up any of them, and the viewfinders were huge and clear (and accurate M/F thus quite quick/easy), the shutter lag non-existant, the basic prime lenses sharp; If you didn’t like your noise/resolution/colors/dynamic range, you just could buy a different roll of film – you didn’t need a new camera body). The basic nature of the thing (especially film/processing costs) forced most people to slow down and think a bit about their photography. Granted you couldn’t do 5fps or review shots or handle difficult lighting as easily, but most of the fundamentals required for taking good photos were very well developed, and lots and lots of people out there were doing just that.

    Fast-forward to around the years 2000 till now. In the digital world, there have been some serious limitations in the basics till comparatively recently. Way back, my uncle bought a Kodak digital that was something like 650,000pixels (0.65MP); he was still using it last I knew a few years ago, and let me tell you, the results were just atrocious. Even ten years ago (4-6MP range), the resolution was a bit limiting for anything like large prints. The EVF’s/displays on most cams were just awful (thinking my otherwise great K-M A200 / Sony A717here); even now most DSLR’s have (seriously pathetic, comparatively) small pentamirrors, and in the compact realm till recently shutter lag made catching the moment extremely difficult. Look back to great cams like the E620, and see how poor the low-light performance or dynamic range were compared to the latest. Focus-tracking still has a ways to go in most mirrorless, but soon these will be as good as the DSLR’s. Etc.

    GAS was there earlier, but in the digital era, there have been a lot more & lot better excuses for it. Not that a huge body of great photography hasn’t happened along the way with some seriously limited cameras, but it’s just so much easier to get more keepers with the latest models out there, than with their sometimes painful-to-use predecessors. They’re finally now getting to the point of development that there’s not an awful lot between them, and actual limitations are becoming fewer and fewer. It could be somewhat relieving for those with “the disease”, except that things like cameraphones have now totally changed the game, and as the DSLR’s and compact systems before them, still have a long ways to go towards developing fully… and since they’re always going to be bound to whichever OS, their quick obsolescence is pretty well guaranteed… I suppose this is where addicts (hopefully not including myself) may have to finally gravitate.

    Thanks again for helping us to think a little.

    -Eric

  5. Pingback: Camera Relationships – Dave Lawrence Photography

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