Philosophy The Obsession with "gear"


Hall of Famer
Dec 29, 2013
And they take a lot less space and money than old cars. I do miss my '68 Cougar.

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This 1937 Carl Zeiss Jena 5cm F2 looked like shooting through plastic wrap before disassembling. I like making gear usable again.

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I had to take all of these apart to make usable again.
I get very disappointed when buying a lens off Ebay and there be nothing at all wrong with it.



P.S. Sorry, Brian, if you don't want to link to stand, just delete the post ...
Nov 11, 2011
Milwaukee, WI USA
After reading Matt's reasoned post, it appears I over-generalized in saying (essentially) that one can make any shot with any camera.

Obviously, different lenses (and to a lesser extent) different bodies will have SOME effect on the finished photo.

But the VISION of the photographer (if developed strongly enough) will show through and limitations of gear.


Top Veteran
I actually think the relentless pursuit of making technically better photographs is a bigger sign of slavish consumerism than collecting gear if done for the reasons mentioned above, the appreciation and exploration of well-made cameras and optics. It's all the photo blogs and 'education' articles that relentlessly put form above content in photographs, pursuing IQ above all other considerations, at the cost of making photos that look pretty much just like all the other technically proficient photos out there, both in form and content. That's the most dysfunctional that photography can get, in my opinion. Gear collection is pretty innocent if done for its own sake, it only becomes really dysfunctional if it's sucked into that whole above dynamic.

Jonathan F/2

Aug 21, 2011
Los Angeles, USA
Not sure about the middle one in the lower row. Is that a 3.5/28 AIS? Great line-up!
From top left to right: Nikon 85mm f/2 AI-S, Nikon 75-150mm f/3.5 Series E, Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AI-S
From bottom left to right: Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AI-S (Japan market version all metal version), Nikon 20mm f/3.5, Nikon 45mm f/2.8 AI-P

I've previously owned the Nikon 105mm f/2.5 AI-S, but sold that in favor of my 85mm f/2 Ai-S based on smaller size. The 75-150mm f/3.5 replaced my 200mm f/4 AI-S based mainly on zoom flexibility, and sharpness at 150mm being very good. The Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AI-S is more of an incredibly sharp f/2 lens, but a very dreamy lens at f/1.2 with it's own charms. The 20mm f/3.5 AI-S is also quite sharp in the center, but don't expect amazing corners. The 50mm 1.8 Ai-S one-ring is also quite good, and I bought it more as a collector's purchase being a lens that was never sold outside Japan and is built better than either the plastic 50mm 1.8 AI-S or the Series E. The 45mm 2.8 AI-P I bought mint for an awesome price, but being a tessar design it's quite different from any of my 50mm lenses!


Jul 7, 2010
I have a couple of my lenses earmarked for a museum "when it is time". I have a Nikkor-SC 5cm F1.5 and a Nikkor-QC 13.5cm F4 for a Leica IIIc that would like very nice in the Marine Museum section on David Douglas Duncan. It took me 20 years to find the F1.5 lens, made within a few units of the one he used in Korea. The 13.5cm F4 is from the same small batch as his. I shoot with both of them, amazing lenses. 300 and 600 made in Leica mount, respectively.

As an Engineer in an Optics Division- I can rationalize my collection of some of the most important lenses ever made as being of professional interest. That's my story, I'm sticking to it, you heard it here...
I think that craftsmanship has it's place in our 'obsession with gear'. Beautiful crafting appeals to the senses as much (if not more) than the beautiful product.
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Sometimes, the quality is mediocre, but the thing itself is lovely. So we hang onto it. It appeals to our senses.
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It does not need to detract from the experience of using it. The Leica appeals to many for it's unique blend of lovely crafting, lovely handling, and lovely output.

Jonathan F/2

Aug 21, 2011
Los Angeles, USA
I love craftsmanship, but I also like buying gear based on bang-for-buck value! For example, buying pro-Nikon camera and F-mount lenses is cheaper than ever. I've bought, sold, re-bought gear at less than half of retail from people with GAS thinking they are upgrading for slightly better performance! Also part of the fun is tuning your lenses like music instruments. For example my Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR is tuned to perfection wide open. I've tested that lens side-by-side against a Nikon Z6 with more accurate OSPDAF, but because I imperfectly tuned that lens to my DSLR for maximum 16mm performance, it actually performs better than on a mirrorless body! I also found that certain filters have better quality. Nikon OEM filters actually do work best on Nikon lenses, especially on wide angle lenses, but no one ever talks about that!

I also like bang-for-buck Samyang/Rokinon AF lenses for Sony E-Mount. People complain about getting bad copies, but Samyang does offer a USB dock, so you can sit there and tune the hell out of those lenses unlike native Sony, Tamron or Sigma lenses.

I also look at photography as a triangle offense/holy trinity of shooting -

1. The equipment should be customized and calibrated for the way you shoot.
2. Your vision can be achieved by how you move and react in this reality. Eat healthy, exercise and wear a good pair of running shoes is key.
3. Your editing style is reflective of how you present your vision to the world. Constantly tweak, tweak and tweak! Without #1 and #2 there is no #3!

X. Is always striving for improvement, by continually perfecting the triangle/trinity. If you ever reach perfection/nirvana, toss your cameras! :roflmao:

Steve Noel

Oct 5, 2010
Casey County, KY
My "eye" for photography, hasn't changed much in the last ten years, or so. mainly because I have been distracted, by other things, and have become too lazy to work at it. My gear has changed somewhat. And because it has , my pictures may not be any better, but the effort it takes, has been drastically been reduced. So, in my opinion, the gear does make a difference, based on our willingness to utilize the "better" gear.
Case in point. Earlier today, my grand daughter and I were in the wood shop, and she wanted to try wood carving. I had a piece of green Maple firewood. I cut a piece to length and clamped it in the vice. She used a simple wood scooping chisel, and roughed out a small bowl. I had in my pocket the LG phone, and rather than make the trip to get my "real camera", E-M5 i, I snapped a pic of the work, to show those that were not there with us. I will also post it to the Daily in May thread for today. So, is it the gear, or me?


Hall of Famer
Sep 14, 2012
Great thoughts In this tread. For me, it is just fun to try different cameras. I have bought and sold gear since I found myself in a position to be able to afford it. I do like setting limits and seeing how I can make those work.
Like B&W only and MF. Limiting variables is one of the reasons I like our single in challenges so much.


Hall of Famer
Jul 9, 2010
Caguas, Puerto Rico
My gear purchases mostly fall in one of two categories: (1) gear that gets purchased to fulfill a specific need or function; or (2) gear that gets purchased due to certain curiosity as to what the item does and how it functions. I would say 90% of my purchases fall within the first category. However, and as I will explain ahead, even gear bought on a whim can bring significant changes to your photography.

What, or how much, gear you need is very much dependent on the type of photography you engage in. I am, as most of you probably know, not a professional photographer, in the sense that I do not make my living from photography. I do, however, practice various different types of photography, some of which require certain gear. I do a fair amount of dance/performance art photography, which is made significantly easier by gear with extreme low light capability and robust autofocusing. I have been able to get away with cameras lacking in either or both functions (I successfully photographed several performances with a Leica M9P) but the experience is much less stressful, and the results generally better, with more capable gear.

One other area which I have engaged in of the last few years is landscape photography. Again, this requires some specific gear: a sturdy, easy to use tripod is a must. Sharp wide or ultra-wide lenses are essential, and ND and polarizing filters also come in handy.

Finally, I do enjoy portraiture and, specifically, studio photography. All of the portraits I posted in the April 2020 challenge were shot with studio lights (specifically a Profoto B2 system), even the ones shot outdoors. Speedlights (which is what I used before acquiring the Profoto system) are usable, but much less effective, and very limited in the light modifiers that may be used, and in the power they put out.

What I mean to say is that, were I to limit my kit to one body and three lenses, and no other accessories, it would significantly limit the photography I could do.

As to cameras, I have not had many system changes over the years. I photographed with a Canon system from the film days, and well into digital. The Leica bug bit me when I was looking for something much more compact (but with better performance than 2012 m4/3 performance, which was my compact system at the time), and the M9P, while limited in several aspects (high ISO performance, speed of use), together with Leica glass, was an image quality monster. I kept my Canon system for when autofocus was convenient and for use with flash.

The switch to Nikon came in 2015 with the purchase of the Nikon Df. This is a prime example of a piece of gear I bought simply because I was curious about it, and not to fulfill any particular need. As it turned out, the image quality of the Df was significantly superior to that of the Canon 7D MkII which I had at the time, particularly with regard to dynamic range and ISO performance. As I had started to build up a Nikon lens system, I sold my complete Canon system. At the same time, I traded in my Leica M9P for an M-P 240 under the Leica upgrade program for M9 cameras with defective sensors.

My next significant camera purchase was the Nikon Z6 in mid 2019. The Nikon Z6 is another camera I bought because I was curious about what it brought to the table. It has turned out to be a fantastic camera which fits me to a T, and has become my main camera. So, again, a camera bought on a whim, turns out to be a significant improvement on my system.

I will not say that the newer gear has made me a better photographer, but it has not hurt, and in many situations has made me a more effective photographer. And, indisputably, the Z6 and the M-P 240 produce substantially improved image quality as compared to the Canon 50D, Olympus E-P1 and Lumix G2 I was using in 2008-2012.

And, this has turned out to be a much longer post than I expected.



P.S. I buy film cameras because they are pretty and feel awesome in the hand. Sometimes, film gets put through them.

William Lewis

Feb 10, 2020
Hayward WI
William Lewis
I've mentioned that I have certain ideas of kit that I want. I can actually afford to do so in Nikon. On top of that, I've been really fired up in my photographic work since moving to the DSLR. :2thumbs:

OTOH, I have no difficulty dispensing - I sold my m4/3 gear and I am giving my son my D3200 & 18-55VRII kit lens. Hopefully he might get an idea of why I love this art so much.


Zen Snapshooter
Jul 13, 2011
Lexington, VA
Two thoughts:
1. There is a difference between film and digital bodies in terms of the role they play in your photography. The film body has to have an accurate shutter and a reasonable VF. Maybe a good light meter. If it’s sturdy and it works that’s all you really need. The lens can be changed and lots of companies (Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Leica, Pentax, etc.) made great lenses. The sensor/processor was the film and it was the great equalizer. My old stripped down Pentax Spotmatic (SP500) and the best Leica used the same film. It always struck me that Paul Simon mentioned the camera (Nikon) but sang about the film.
2. In a digital camera, everything not done by the lens is done by the body. For roughly the first two decades of the 21st century, this part has been developing, especially the sensor, the processor, and the AF system. I will acknowledge the importance of the AF system, but I think the first two mattered the most for me. I’m an AF-S shooter and that has long been good enough for what I do. I agree that a great photographer with a modern camera would also have been a great photographer with my original Pentax *ist D. I also think that is the appropriate comparison. How does the tech help a photographer do a better job compared to the same guy with an older camera? For a while, there were real improvements in sensor tech. For example, improvements in low light capabilities have helped make some photos possible. Maybe the most important point is that you could notice the camera doing a better job being a camera. So, we all got on this tread mill of upgrading in a way that manual focus film bodies hadn’t done for a while.
I haven’t mentioned the role of PP software. It was certainly huge. It replaced the role and skills of the darkroom and it worked for color.
When all of this is combined, I believe newer stuff helps the photographer get some shots they might have not with older stuff. They obviously would get great shots with older stuff, but they can do better with newer stuff. The counterpoint is also true, maybe more so. If you couldn’t shoot before, you still can’t now. Of course, you can also argue that the ability of digital to let someone take and “process” an unlimited number of shots with no economic penalty gives them a much better chance to achieve the magic “10,000 hours” of experience needed to master photography.
Please note that I wrote this after 10 pm in my finest stream of consciousness, i. e., rambling, mode.
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Aug 20, 2011
Surrey/Hants border UK
Newer sensors = Better Dynamic Range.

How frustrating was it a few years ago when you simply could not photograph what you could see.
You could see colours, the image when viewed was blown highlights & everything else in the dark!
Nowadays a modern sensor even in something a few years old like a D810 captures enough shadow detail to let you recover most of what you could see when you took the shot :thumbsup:

Then you also have the faster, more accurate AF, less shutter latency, Better low light performance, speed of adjusting prameters etc.
New stuff lets you consistantly get images that in some cases you simply couldn't with the older stuff.
Even if you "did OK" your keeper rate will have gone up massively.

I guess your Obsession question was more about people who have to have the Latest & Greatest of everything.
TBH i quite like that they do that as i have bought some excellent stuff from people like that.
Little used, coveted bodys that have never been out in the rain or rattled around in a Pro's bag for a big discount on the new price while they buy the newest version.
Has worked out well for me in the past :drinks:


Hall of Famer
Nov 24, 2014
Scott Depot, WV, USA
TBH i quite like that they do that as i have bought some excellent stuff from people like that.
Little used, coveted bodys that have never been out in the rain or rattled around in a Pro's bag for a big discount on the new price while they buy the newest version.
Has worked out well for me in the past :drinks:
Indeed. I've gotten some nice deals on barely used gear.

M. Valdemar

Aug 5, 2013
New York City
I am unashamedly a lover of camera gear. I would rate myself as a pretty fair photographer, but this has had nothing to do with my visceral attraction to camera gear.

Since I was a kid I was fascinated with cameras and lenses. I would pick them up at flea markets, buy, sell, trade. I always had a big collection of cameras. Sometimes I never shot with them, just liked them. When I was a teenager in the 1960's, I wrote to a camera factory in the USSR and told them I liked Russian cameras. It took six months, but they sent me a huge catalog of their stuff. I was in heaven.

Even today, I buy things because I like them. No other reason. I eventually end up shooting with most of the gear I buy. I like that I am using obscure and sometimes very rare equipment to take photos.

There is nothing wrong with being a gear collector. I just do what my impulses tell me to do, and I just follow my gut in picking up things I like.

Sometimes I am amazingly prescient. I bought things 20 or 30 years ago like lenses and watches just because I was attracted to them. No internet, no mass media fanboy cultism, no "blogs" our Youtube videos about them by the clueless.

Some of these things are now worth a fortune compared to the $10 or $20 I spent on them at the time.

(this photo mid 1970's, London)

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