What I've learned from owning "too many" cameras ...

MoonMind

Hall of Famer
Dec 29, 2013
Switzerland
Matt
DSC_2723.jpg

Man-in-the-middle attack ...​

I know the title may sound click-bait-y, but please bear with me for a moment if you, like me, are susceptible to the affliction we call "GAS" ...

For us photography enthusiasts, chasing gear is almost as common a tendency as feeling dissatisfied with what we already have. Thankfully, I'm not affected by the latter in any major way - instead, my personal variety of the Gear Acquistion Syndrom is mostly fueled by curiosity. I've come to the conclusion that I want to make sure my decisions are sound, and frankly, watching and reading reviews only takes you so far. But there's also a more sinister side to my own buying spree: In the past, I have dismissed some products or even brands without any personal experience, the most prominent example being my current favourite brand, Leica; I also avoided Sony when they took over the market and everyone else felt harrassed and threatened, so I thought it would be disloyal to support them (what a strange idea ...) and I judged Fuji's choice of doing things their own way to be pretty preposterous, making things more complicated for everyone involved (remember the Lightroom issues?). At least this kind of thinking prevented me from buying into any of the fanboyism surrounding these brands - but I'd be a lot happier if this attitude hadn't been caused by my narrow-mindedness but by insights instead.

During this year, I finally managed to start reducing inventory - and overall, it's been reasonably successful because I have moved on more stuff than I acquired. Nevertheless, I still bought quite a bit of new (to me) gear, fleshing out some systems, but also adding two additional ones, which seems rather daft at first glance. I tend to agree in a way because I now feel I should sell a couple of things again next year, some of which I got not too long ago. That said, I feel quite strongly that this time, my insights are worthwhile enough share them.

Let's get one thing out of the way first: My irrational preference for rangefinder style cameras should essentially have been satisfied since I bought - rangefinder cameras. That said, I do like the gestalt and in particular find the Fujifilm X-E3 very well suited to complement a Leica system (that's even true for image quality, btw.). Still, my habit of always going for the next Leica-esque camera has to be eradicated - and that might spell the end of the Sony A6*** line as well as the Panasonic GX9 in my collection. Don't get me wrong - I like both the A6000 and GX9; the Sony has the best price-size-performance ratio I'm aware of, and the GX9 is a compact, full-featured camera and a very compelling realisation of the :mu43: paradigm. Nevertheless, both cameras are mainly defined by their body design. The A6000 is - at best - fiddly in operation (though I have found a way to configure it to my satisfaction), and the GX9, while clearly the more modern camera, has its own strange quirks and limitations (I'm not talking about sensor size here, mind). I won't get into this, but suffice to say that good as they are, I have better, more versatile or more pleasant options available (though it took quite a while to find a similarily small camera that could outdo the GX9 - more on that shortly).

If I actually let go of the A6000 and GX9 remains to be seen - truth be told, both have valid use cases (i.e. are part of combos that I really enjoy using). What I'm getting at here is that I should have had better reasons for buying either camera. I'm quite happy to have tried them and found out how well they work (or not), but still feel I should have approached the decisions differently.

Another big deal (pun intended) for me was to become aware of the fact while I do love the D750 and what it brings to the table, the Z6 works so much better for me I've only ever used the D750 once since getting the Z6. Granted, the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 still feels a tad more at home on the DSLR, but the D750's size and weight (which are by no means huge for its class!) just don't seem justifiable anymore. That's even more true when I mount one of my formerly favourite lenses, the magnificent, yet bulky Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art. The combo offers competitive performance all around to this day, yet I just don't see myself lugging it around again. Considering how well this setup works, there's another insight I have to finally accept: For me, it's not about the ultimate image quality (it actually never was - look at my choices!), but about practicality. I enjoy being out with a manageable amount of gear - and the D750 isn't helping with that.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have to acknowledge that as good as the GR III is, I may finally have to concede that it's not for me - it's lacking something I feel I need, and that's a viewfinder. That said, the camera's performance is so good that I'll have a hard time giving it up - and in all fairness, it's not as if it took up a lot of space ...

Which brings me to a kind of conclusion: It's important to be honest with oneself when deciding on what gear to get - buying any kind of "substitute" doesn't satisfy hidden desires and leads to more acquistions, and getting the latest and greatest may not be the best idea either since they simply may not fit your needs. In my case, the D750, good as it is and much as I like the results, hasn't prevented me from searching for other cameras, and *not* getting a Leica made me collect "work-alike" cameras I simply don't need or find compelling (the only noteable exception in this respect is the Fujifilm X-E3 - a camera I bought with the implicit intention to find it lacking; but while it's certainly not perfect, it's pleasantly well-rounded).

Had I gone for Sony early (A7!), I might now own a full FE mount system - probably built around the A7 III - and my Leica gear, though possibly not three different bodies but two M10s - it's my kind of camera. That said, I'm now determined to stick with Nikon and the Z mount because I do prefer the ergonomics and can actually hang on to most of my preferred lenses until more suitable ones become available - so there's a reasonable chance for things to settle down in the next couple of years as far as my full-frame, full-featured system is concerned. I'm looking forward to that.

Anyhow, what I'll never regret is hanging on to :mu43: - the size-performance ratio is still fantastic while none of the compromises pleaguing the Sony APS-C bodies apply; the Olympus OM-D E-M5 III also outperforms the X-E3 by a comfortable margin while being only slightly bigger and heavier, and it offers a clear upgrade over the GX9. The E-M5 III is a wonderful performer, incorporating virtually all enhancements I was hoping for (the only thing I've learned to appreciate that it is lacking is an AF joystick). Small, yet powerful and versatile: That's right up my alley.

So, I may well end up selling up to four cameras, along with some lenses - not because they're bad or I don't like them or even because I regret buying them, but because I have to develop the decisiveness to act upon my own findings. However, had I not tried all those cameras and systems, I might never have learned not to lust after them (or their type). So, even if I end up *not* selling one or any of them, I'll certainly not fall into the kind of traps they stand for ever again.

M.
 
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agentlossing

Veteran
Mar 23, 2015
Andrew Lossing
and the GX9 is a compact, full-featured camera and a very compelling realisation of the :mu43: paradigm. Nevertheless, both cameras are mainly defined by their body design. The A6000 is - at best - fiddly in operation (though I have found a way to configure it to my satisfaction), and the GX9, while clearly the more modern camera, has its own strange quirks and limitations (I'm not talking about sensor size here, mind). I won't get into this, but suffice to say that good as they are, I have better, more versatile or more pleasant options available (though it took quite a while to find a similarily small camera that could outdo the GX9 - more on that shortly)
Here's the thing about these M4/3 cameras, yes they are small and powerful and fast, but I've always felt like they try to be good at too much. The GX85 and GX9 are an example, they are technically a bit too small for EVFs, but have a small and sub-par one built in anyway. I sure wish these small bodies could be purpose-built to do a little less. More purposefully. That's my take, anyway.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have to acknowledge that as good as the GR III is, I may finally have to concede that it's not for me - it's lacking something I feel I need, and that's a viewfinder. That said, the camera's performance is so good that I'll have a hard time giving it up - and in all fairness, it's not as if it took up a lot of space ...
I've tried to use a viewfinder with the GR, and I eventually had to concede that it's just not meant to be used that way. It comes into its own one-handed, for fast snaps, power-on-focus-press-power-off. Literally no camera does that better. It doesn't leave me with the same satisfaction using it in the moment as something that I hold up to my eye does - but the files get me there. And composition on the LCD is somehow easier with a 28mm, when arranging layers and including/excluding elements (something you have to do more carefully with a wide angle) you can more easily move the camera forward/backward, up/down quickly without fancy footwork.
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
Jan 19, 2015
It’s been a very good year for me GAS-wise. The only thing I bought was a sensor blower. My main sacrifice was selling my Fuji gear. I know how good those 35/16 F1.4s are and I always think about them (not good!). But, in my case, it was the right decision. One tends to accumulate so much that without realising it, all this gear can be sold for something you always desired in the first place. So I did. But while I might be a smug about that now, this could all come falling apart as used A7 (and Canon 5D) prices continue tumbling down more and more. At least this GAS is limited to older gear, not the greatest and latest.
 

ggweci

Veteran
Feb 2, 2013
Toronto, Canada
Craig
@MoonMind great write-up, thanks for sharing

I too have been trying to reduce my system, but through that journey I end up buying more gear lol

As we all know, like camera bags, there isn’t a perfect system. They all have their pros and cons. But, when I look back at images from any systems I’ve had, I’m pretty happy with most results. Sure, some offer better technical IQ, but in the end, the moment/setting/lighting are really what sets images apart vs pure IQ. And for me, most captures are family related or for my personal enjoyment, nothing professional, so technicality isn’t priority.

What I do know that I want, is to simplify to one camera brand, as I dislike flipping between menu/button layouts. Takes out the enjoyment for me. Also looking to reduce lens choices, as I often feel that “paralyzes” me temporarily when heading out the door.

2020 will be a year of reduction for me (I hope).
 
Dec 31, 2013
Louisville, Ky
You've said, in a different, yet just as effective way. Things I have said, or tried to say, in different posts. And still battle with going through. Although in my case, it's within one camera system. I still have these issues. Having owned nearly every Fuji X lens twice. In a couple of cases it is actually the same lens, but passed back and forth from me to my dad and back. Even now I'm battling in my head over whether I should have kept a 35mm instead of the 50mm for portraits.

Very well said, Matt. This post definitely hits home with me.
 

Jonathan F/2

Veteran
Aug 21, 2011
Los Angeles, USA
My problem isn't cameras, I'm quite satisfied with the bodies I own. My problem is that I like glass. Lots of glass! Expensive, cheap, telephoto, pancakes, vintage, modern, fast, slow, etc. I base my camera purchases on what lenses are available and if I can obtain the lenses at a good price.
 

Tilman Paulin

Top Veteran
Nov 15, 2011
Vancouver B.C.
Tilman
When I look at my portfolio-website I can't really fool myself into thinking that m43 doesn't work pretty well for me. I don't even know if there is one full-frame photo on the start page :)

It's usually shopping therapy when I lust for more gear - rarely a real need.
I did buy an D750 last year and it performed excellently at our trip to the Redwoods. m43 alone wouldn't have worked. Yet I usually go back to the system I know better (and have more lenses for) which is m43.
My DP2 Merrill is great at what it does - especially black and white - but it only sees occasional use.

There's a clear benefit of having less clutter and a clear workflow.
But then there's also reality ;-)
 

Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Jan 3, 2012
Troy, NY
Ah, the joys of owning too many cameras!

The Sony RX10 Mk IV pretty much cured gas for me. It does everything I need, except be small.

When I go out the aging Canon G12 often tags along.

I still have a Panasonic GX85 with 12-32 and 45-150 that I bought last year. I just checked, and it has a shutter count of 37 -- that's right: three-seven . . . in a year. (BTW, the procedure for checking the shutter count can be found here: How to Check Shutter Count on Panasonic Lumix GX80/GX85 - Karen Tamrazyan It's pretty entertaining.)

The GX85 is a lovely camera . . . small, unobtrusive, seems to do everything well. It would be the perfect camera for covering an event where I needed to go unnoticed. But it's not small enough, with the extra lens, to be my constant companion. I think of the GX85 as my backup camera, but if my RX10 IV were out of action, I would probably look first to my Sony HX400V. Last year, I shot an assignment with the HX400V that was later turned into a printed brochure. Some of the images can be found here: Some photos from an assignment: 4H shooting sports

Finally, there is a Fuji XP90, which goes with me when physical peril to electronics seems to be on the menu, but it is seriously annoying in bright sunshine.

So what have I learned?

- That I will put up with a "big" camera if it has and does everything I want.

- That I pretty much hate changing lenses.

- That camera manufacturers, despite the popularity of smart phone cameras, really ought to include viewfinders that work in bright sunshine.

- That I will put up with crap image quality in exchange for indestructability.

- That I really, really, really love superzoom cameras.

Cheers, Jock
 
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wee-pics

Veteran
Sep 13, 2016
Germany
Walter
Humans have always been hunters and gatherers.
In our times we aren't allowed (in most fields) to hunt any more, so we make up for it by collecting.

As I'm more a musician than a photographer, I encounter there the same development. I have guitar players in my surroundings who own some thirty guitars kept with the Mercedes in an air-conditioned garage or other places, the cheapest of these instruments being the same as I bought myself (used) 25 years ago (a Taylor 812 C, at that time new around 5k $, I paid 3k $). I don't know what they do with these instruments, as you can always only play one of them. And you have to play the one each day, otherwise it will lose its sound (especially overtones), the wood needs to get the "vibes" from the strings regularly. And it's these overtones that make the sound and the music.

Now my point: when I listen to how these guys play I often ask myself why they need such a costly instrument. A cheap plywood would have done the same job for them.
A cheap instrument played by a master can be pure enjoyment, a good instrument played by a master is a revelation, a top instrument tormented by a wanna-be artist is torture.
For me the same is true in photography (still too many non-levelled horizons taken with 3-5 k gear posted in the various threads). Maybe a bit more being and less having could help to improve things.
One example of this kind of approach (with minimal but perfect tools) is Mark Berkery with his beautiful photos under the name beingmark (Nature's Place).

If I have tread on anyone's toes I really didn't mean to ... and am going to apologize with my amateur guitarist's (from latin amare = to love) little composition in the style of the old ragtime pieces: "Sometimes I Feel So Uninspired"
 
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tonyturley

Hall of Famer
Nov 24, 2014
Scott Depot, WV, USA
Tony
Like Walter above, I'm a musician, but not nearly the caliber of player he is (I've seen his videos). But still I have multiple stringed instruments. The only premium instrument I have is a 2015 Gibson Hummingbird EC; the rest are much more pedestrian. I have taken to building rather than buying my instruments. I certainly don't need more, but I greatly enjoy the building process. I have given away a couple of instruments in the past few years, and I plan to do that again. One of my current projects is going to a relative as a birthday gift, and I also plan on building a ukulele for a charity auction.

As for camera gear, many of you are familiar with my frequent "recycling" of my gear. In that area I try to keep my gear to a minimum. I currently have one Fuji and one m4/3 camera, and only one native XF lens. I'm as guilty as anyone of seeing bright shiny things and saying "Oooooo, with that lens I can photograph X", when X has never really been part of my work flow. At least in the photography realm, I'm trying to embrace Walter's "more being and less having".
 

serhan

All-Pro
May 7, 2011
NYC
I agree that you have to try to see what works for yourself... Reviews are good to give you some initial impressions, but most of them look like marketing PR for GAS in the age blogging... I like the rangefinder style/smaller cameras, and the latest animal eye focus :)

Nice write up from DuChemin from last year as I got his this link again with his this year's book link about floodings in Venice:
10 upgrades that’ll take you so much further

Talking about Magnum photographers in DuChemin's link, I just got this book after Sean Tucker's recommendation (it resembles to what NG photographers were talking about their assignments with 5-10K images that produces an article):
Magnum Contact Sheets
 

Covey22

Hall of Famer
Feb 3, 2012
I've been using brands across the spectrum, and can honestly say I've only been invested enough in real money, time in field, and attention held - with Nikon and Fuji. Everything else was a dabble - a body and lens at a point in time.

That being said, the frugal part of me (which I ought to listen to more) hates to see idle equipment. So the Sony RX100M3 is my EDC, and the Fujis get broken out when I need really good photos like event/portraiture.

I try to keep my inventory tight, efficient, adaptable - hence fast apertures and "working 'tog" lenses which are mostly zooms (24-70/70-200) to reduce the amount of assets to a minimum. That's the only way I can justify tying up that much money in equipment that doesn't help me get to a life objective (i.e., like retirement). Terribly shortsighted, but that's where I am mentally on it.

Lately, I've gotten more gunshy about "sampling" and "leaking" (to another system). I'm trying to remain in the system I am, knowing I've invested much time in making it work for me.
 

davidzvi

Top Veteran
Apr 18, 2014
Boston Burbs
David
.....I try to keep my inventory tight, efficient, adaptable - hence fast apertures and "working 'tog" lenses which are mostly zooms (24-70/70-200) to reduce the amount of assets to a minimum. That's the only way I can justify tying up that much money in equipment that doesn't help me get to a life objective (i.e., like retirement). Terribly shortsighted, but that's where I am mentally on it......
When I was still shooting events and after I got into m4/3, I kept my Pro and Person gear almost completely separate*. I had a rolling bag with a D750, D800, 3 flashes, f/2.8 zooms, and f/4 zooms. Then I had the other stuff I played with. Once I did that I really never felt the need to buy and sell any of my Nikon gear. Saved me a lot of money since m4/3 gear tends to be a lot less than the Nikon FX gear I had was. In some ways I'm glad I got out when I did, if I hadn't I'd probably be looking at a bunch of Z mount stuff now.

*I would normally take something else with me to events for detail shots and the like.
 

Jonathan F/2

Veteran
Aug 21, 2011
Los Angeles, USA
Since I'm more of a lens head (not a camera junkie), I justify buying more stuff by obtaining used and discontinued items for cheap! I'm starting to look at more DSLR lenses again because prices are at an all-time low. Old AF-D Sigma, Tokina and Tamron lenses is where the value is at. What might have been considered soft or flawed before, only needs an AF fine tune adjustment and some solid PP in raw and you can extract amazing images that can hang with the best. Also another thing I don't like about modern lenses is the same reason why I dislike watching hi-def TV shows, everyone looks crinkly and creasy with so much sharpness and not enough veiled softness to hide the flaws! Reducing texture and clarity can only do so much, but then they end up looking like a CGI model! Sometimes old school optical veiled softness looks better. ;)
 

wee-pics

Veteran
Sep 13, 2016
Germany
Walter
@serhan[/USER], post: 365584

"Nice write up from DuChemin from last year as I got his this link again with his this year's book link about floodings in Venice:
10 upgrades that’ll take you so much further"

"Talking about Magnum photographers in DuChemin's link, I just got this book after Sean Tucker's recommendation (it resembles to what NG photographers were talking about their assignments with 5-10K images that produces an article):

Magnum Contact Sheets"

Thanks for the link to DuChemin's well-written article. For many this can be an eye-opener.
I have some of his books, each of them perfect for your own development.
The magnum website is the gate to many of the best photographers and their work. It's one of my fixed bookmarks in Firefox.
 

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