All about that gear
There was once a time when I was more focused on the gear rather than actually producing content. It happened when I wanted to get into filmmaking and was just obsessed with looking at fancy gear. I made comprehensive lists in my notes and wasted a lot of time searching for expensive gear on B&H, eBay, and other retail sites.
I was able to get some pretty nice equipment at affordable prices, but at the end of the day, I never made anything, and I wasn't happy with what I was doing. That is when I knew something had to change, so that's when I made the decision to stop caring about gear and to just enjoy the art regardless of what gear I was using.
Throughout this article, I will also provide images that I have captured using my humble Nikon D5200 with some very basic lenses.
A lie that many believe
Becoming obsessed with gear is quite common, but what is the origin of the issue? Well quite simply, people believe that having better equipment will get them better results. Or they think it makes them more legit. In my case, it was a little bit of both. Unfortunately, both of those reasons couldn't be further from the truth and I will explain why.
1 - Know what you pay for
Just because something is more expensive doesn't mean it is better for you! If you don't know what you're paying for, then why are you purchasing it? More often than not, you need a lot less than you think and would be more satisfied using equipment that is more simple, less complicated, and more affordable. A great saying in the photography community is "the best camera is the one you have."
2 - Brand names
Have you ever spent more money on something just because it was made by a more established or famous brand? Or perhaps because it is the industry standard and everyone else uses it? That my friend is a bad place to be in because companies will often charge more if their products are well known. Just because a massive Hollywood studio uses the Arri Alexa or a world-renowned photographer uses the most expensive full-frame camera, doesn't mean you should too! At that point, how much money a camera costs doesn't even matter to them (they're just going to the highest end).
As a side note, professionals will buy expensive products to set themselves apart to impress their clients. It is actually pretty smart, but if you're not a professional, just understand that you don't need that ultra-expensive accessory.
3 - Rugged materials
I like to study industrial design on occasion as I find it really fascinating. One thing I learned is that the difference between a great product and a poor one could simply be the materials used. Most companies today have to use lower-cost materials to make money. If companies actually used higher quality materials then we probably wouldn't ever have to buy the same thing ever again. That, however, would cause some issues. Less people would be shopping, and very few would be able to afford them.
Keep in mind that products that are precision manufactured with high-quality materials are only to be used by busy professionals, studios, and schools. Because product performance reliability that can also withstand the environment is the best thing you can get as a working professional.
4 - Demand vs supply
Basic economics here! If there is a low demand for a pro-grade product that isn't worth being mass manufactured, that usually increases the cost and time to have it created. Whatever that cost is, expect to pay five times more than that to purchase it. That's a big markup you may think! Well, remember that companies also have to pay for the cost of doing business. This includes all of their employees, contracts, advertisements, legal fees, taxes, etc.
Additionally, a lot of product parts may need to be carefully fabricated (e.g. hand assembled) because the fail tolerance of these products has to be extremely low. Why? Because people that have a lot of money to spend also have expectations of what they invest into. They also have lawyers.
5 - Features & marketing
Do you really need that $6,000 camera? Do you even know what you are actually buying? Lots of features that you probably won't ever use equals high-quality marketing that you get sucked into! Product companies know how to advertise to people like you and me, with all of the new and improved fancy features their product can do for us.
High bit RAW, crazy HDR, high shutter speeds, super fast FPS, fast autofocus, large apertures, crystal-coated lenses, an absurd amount of megapixels, insane ISO levels, low-light capabilities, or whatever else you can think of! The list will just keep on expanding. These are all definitely good to consider when buying your gear, but BE CAREFUL as companies take advantage of marketing techniques that make tools seem like toys.
The main thing I look for when buying a new camera is the functionality and ergonomics. That is in other words, how efficiently I can focus and adjust all of the settings manually. Being able to use dual cards and shoot in RAW with good color science is also a requirement for me.
Forget about all that Gear
There are so many people that just want the best, and since technology is always advancing, you can get something new/improved every year. How exciting!
Absolutely not! Most of the time that is just marketing getting to your head (remember what I said above?). However, that is not to say that gear doesn't matter. From a professional's perspective, we see the equipment we use as tools to help us.
Gear cannot buy talent
This cannot be emphasized enough! It disturbs me when I find other photographers buying gear thinking it will improve their art.
It is like buying a musical instrument. Getting an expensive violin may produce a much cleaner sound, but why would that matter if you don't know how to play the violin? Same concept is in photography and all forms of art.
The most important thing you can do as a photographer is to learn how to capture good images. This includes learning composition, lighting, manual settings, colors, white balance, posing, etc.
Focusing on gear POISONS your craft
Honestly, there is nothing wrong with having great gear, but where the problem arises is when you think about getting new gear all the time. This causes you to not care about the art you are creating and forces you to make excuses why your photography looks like shit.
This may be hard to swallow, but the truth is that you just aren't ready to use a better camera yet until you have mastered the camera you have now! And if you say "NO, I think that I have mastered it", then I'm sorry to say this, but you are only 30% the way there. You would be surprised to discover how much you don't know.
My recommendation? Start small and work your way up when you have the skills and are ready financially.
I hope this article helps you when making your next purchase and to give you clarity on why you don't need the best camera. Sure professional photographers (including myself) have fantastic cameras for reliability and efficiency, but that is because we have clients paying us to do an excellent job without any room for error.
You can capture some incredible pictures with an entry-level camera and it may actually help you in the long run for capturing beautiful images! Heck, you can even use your iPhone for photography! Below I would like to share some pictures I have captured using a basic Nikon DSLR and lens that collectively cost less than your iPhone.