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How to Deal with GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)?

I like to say that it’s not the gear that takes the picture but the guy behind the camera. Some great photographers can do beautiful photographs with a smartphone! On the contrary, some will never take good photos even with a Canon 5D markIII, a Sony A7r or a Nikon D4S for instance.

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© 2014 Aaron Johnson

That being said, it is important to know what is your photography

practice and what you want to get out of it. You will need to ask yourself the right questions and don’t leave anything on the table because it is a very expensive hobby. As photography geeks, we (including me) always have to deal with this Gear Acquisition Symdrome (GAS) tearing us apart when it comes to the budget we can dedicate to it. Photokina events don’t help us at all! A new Nikon D750? Great, I want one! A new Canon 7D markII? Awesome! New excellent Zeiss lenses? Definitely yes! Oh boy, what is your wallet going to say?

Let’s take that wisely and don’t let this GAS take over you. As a matter of fact, in the following lines, I will try to help you ask yourself the right questions.

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The camera body

1/What kind of photography do I want to practice? What matters most to me? Everyone has different expectations and above all different needs and constraints according to one’s practice. Therefore, determining one’s photography favorite field appears quite important. For instance, it’s very different to shoot macro insects at dawn in low light conditions with a rising sun (there are very high ranges of light intensity),  and to shoot portraits or bright landscapes.

2/ Do I really need to upgrade? Will this new body help me improve the composition and quality of my photographs? In one of the forums I like to go in, there was this person complaining about the fact that she couldn’t see any difference at 100 ISO between her Canon 1200D (entry level DSLR) and her brand new 70D. She probably did not ask the right questions if that is what worries her. If the purpose is to do sport photography, the high performance autofocus of the 70D makes it a good upgrade for instance. But she will certainly not see any major differences in normal light conditions between those two cameras.

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© 2014 Aaron Johnson

3/ What is my level of knowledge? Do I know enough to be able to control a pro camera? It might seem silly to say but in order to enjoy the most out of your camera, it has to fit your skills too. What’s the point in getting a Nikon D810 if it is used on “auto” mode? On the contrary, a photographer enthusiast might be frustrated with the latest Sony A5100 even if it yields an amazing image quality for its price and size. Indeed, it lacks manual controls.

As a consequence, we also have to determine the budget we can dedicate to new equipment because in wonderland we could get all the best and most expensive gear as we would like to. But it’s not wonderland because otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this article. 😉

Indeed, there is not only the camera body to take pictures, what lens are you going to put on it?

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The budget: think of it as a whole when it comes to lenses too

Here is usually when the budget comes short. You will have to think as a global budget for your gear. I don’t even include tripods, filters, flashes etc… I’d like to take the example of 2 combos: Pro camera with a cheap lens and an entry level camera with a pro lens. Which one is going to take the best pictures in your opinion? Here is the test on the field

You can have the best camera body, if you have a cheap lens, you won’t have a good image quality (Chromatic aberrations, loss of details, contrast, shutter speed).

Yes, the lens plays a very important role in the image quality, especially nowadays as entry level cameras have similar sensors to some pro or semi-pro equipement. A Sony A6000 has the same sensor as a Nikon D7100. Also, do not forget about obsolescence. A body will quickly go out of date while you can always keep high end lenses which hold way better their value than camera bodies.

For instance, If you have $1500 to invest in a body and lens (Not that bad!), better get a Nikon D3200 with an excellent piece of glass (or 2) than a Nikon D7100 with its 18-55mm kit lens.

In the end, I think you know what I meant here. To sum up, when it comes to buying a new combo think about it as whole because if you’re like me, you don’t have an endless budget. likewise, is upgrading really necessary? Will it help me improve my skills and will the performances really bring a better result for my kind of practice? Those are the main questions you have to confront yourself with but every case is unique of course.

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© 2014 Aaron Johnson

In the end, if you really want to spend money, my best advice is to buy a plane ticket and go take pictures! 😉

Thanks for reading.

Chris