I have a problem. It’s called GAS, otherwise known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome. It’s a fancy pants way of saying I spend too much money on things I don’t relly need. Its clearly a first world problem. I’m sure you’ve had a bout of this yourself from time to time.
In my case, it is usually triggered by an upcoming trip. For example a few months ago we were preparing for our first ever trip to the Pacific Northwest. I experienced my typical pre-travel angst about what camera gear to take.
Was I going to bring my Fuji XT–1 interchangeable lens camera with a choice of focal lengths to give me a variety of options? Or should I take my trusty X100S with it’s fixed 35mm equivalent lens which perfect for the streets but limited in other ways?
Then I had a GAS attack. I thought “hey, I’m going to this beautiful place so my photos have to be the best ever…to do that I need new gear.”
In the meantime, I decided to travel light and take only my fixed lens camera so of course I had to upgrade to the newest version which is the X100F. I was convinced I needed latest version, after all it had better autofocus and the new Acros film simulation. How could I live without those features?
I began to plot how to acquire a copy of this new camera. Should I order it from B&H and save the sales tax, or should I support my local camera store? That used up too much of my time and attention for a while.
Then somewhere deep inside I heard the faintest murmuring of the Voice of Reason. In this rare appearance, it said “STOP ALREADY! You have what you need. Be happy with it and go make some photos.”
For once I listened. I made the trip with my trusty old X100S and everything was fine.
The GAS Problem
When I look back at the long list of cameras that I purchased over the years I sometimes get sick to my stomach.
Each one was purchased with the idea that it was going to make me a better photographer or capture shots that I was missing because my current camera didn’t have the right capability.
Even while this was happening I kept telling everyone (and myself) that the gear really doesn’t matter. My mantra was an old quote from Chi Chi Rodriquez, the famous PGA golfer from the 1960s, “it’s not the arrow, it’s the Indian.” Chi Chi is right, of course. But let’s face it, no matter what we say, were all a bunch of gear nuts. And I was a hypocrite.
Why does this happen? Marketing.
Technology innovation is rampant. New smartphones are released yearly with every new model containing whiz bang features that we can’t live without. It’s funny how the batteries give out not long after the last payment is made. And new camera announcements can be expected more often than that.
Cameras are really computers and as affected by Moore’s Law as laptops and smartphones. Manufacturers take full advantage of our collective lust for the latest and greatest by introducing new “must-have” features on a regular basis.
Bloggers and online publishers seize upon our gear lust by publishing a nonstop firehose of rumors, previews, reviews and opinions about every new camera release. In the online marketing world, camera gear articles are as powerful “click bait” as funny cat videos on YouTube and Donald Trump tweets.
Visit any DPReview forum and you will find non-stop heated and often vitriolic discussions about any camera ever made. It’s best to just stay away and shoot.
Needless to say, it’s easy to get caught up in all of this. I certainly do from time to time.
So what’s the answer? Wait one year.
Finding Love Again
What caused the voice of reason to convince me to stick with what I already have?
When I first bought my X100S, it was a hot new toy. I had no need or desire for anything better because it exactly what I needed. As a kinesthetic learner it felt so good in my hands. Having owned its predecessor, the X100, for several years, I grew to appreciate the constraint of a single focal length.
Two years ago when it was beginning to age I took it to Italy as my only camera. It served me well and there were very few occasions where I wished I had something different.
Still I was often frustrated with random focus issues, particularly on the street. At any given time I thought I had a great shot – only to review it later to see that it back focused or I had motion blur. I think that is what gave me a wandering eye.
But after listening to the Voice of Reason I thought “if I had no camera now and couldn’t afford to buy one, I would love to have this camera.” So why complain about it?
Then while organizing my photos (which are a total mess right now) I looked at some of my own work several years ago made with cameras that are certainly inferior to today’s standards. And I still like them. It made absolutely no difference what I used to take the picture. So why should I be complaining about what I have today?
When you at the work of the Masters from the 1940s and 1950s that was created with equipment is not even half as good as any gear we have today, you realize that Chi Chi is right.
The Voice of Reason is a buzzkill.
But my gear lust subsided. I took my old camera on vacation and we had a great time together.
Overcoming My Camera’s Limitations
My gear lust was sparked by my frustrations with missed focus.
Although I had been shooting with the X100 line since the beginning, I finally realized I didn’t know as much about it as I thought I did. I was in an old comfortable habit of shooting in Aperture priority mode most of the time. But that’s not always a good choice on the street.
Looking back at the Masters who had no autofocus and autoexposure with very limited film capabilities (400 ISO) they did everything manual. They avoided things they couldn’t capture, sometimes pushed the film and lived with the grain. Basically they worked within the constraints of what they had.
If that was good enough for them, it’s certainly good enough for me.
I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try something different at the risk of missing a few shots. Because the autofocus on my camera is not great, I decided to employ zone focus with manual aperture and shutter settings instead. Like anything new, it required practice.
During my trip, while shooting on the street, I usually kept the camera focused at about 7 feet with an aperture of F8 and a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second. However I did leave auto ISO on set increments of 1/250 of a second up to an ISO 6400. This gave me flexibility when working in and out of dark areas and besides, I couldn’t give up technology altogether. It took a little getting used to but it worked quite well.
You can do this with any camera. But the Fuji line with it’s exposure controls accessed by dials on the outside of the camera make it much easier.
If you’re interested in doing the same thing, here’s a depth of field calculator that will help you determine the correct manual focus distance for your camera and aperature.
What I learned from this is that using the most basic manual settings means I didn’t need a new expensive camera for most street shooting. This one simple technique, which is a been around forever, extended the life of my go-to street camera for many years.
The result was that I fell in love once again with my trusty old camera and have no plans to kick it to the curb anytime soon. When I have to replace it, I’ll pick up something else in the used market on the trailing edge.
Wait a Year and Buy Used
I’m surprised by the number of people who buy the newest model each year then sell off their old gear for a very reasonable price. Others buy new stuff, try it for a few months then get rid of it if they don’t like it. Often the camera is still under warranty.
Other than buying my X100s new when it was first released, I usually purchase most of my gear used. This has worked very well for me except for one that needed a new shutter switch shortly after I purchased it. Otherwise everything else works as new.
The downside is you don’t know what you’re getting and you run the risk of buying something that’s damaged or nonfunctional. Like everything else, it’s “Buyer Beware”.
My favorite place to shop for used photo gear is the Fred Miranda website. They have an excellent buy sell/forum with listings from every major manufacturer sold directly by the camera owner. If you want to sell equipment there is an annual charge of $24 which is very reasonable compared to the cost of selling on eBay.
Good Used Gear Resources
The obvious choice to find used equipment is through eBay. However I use at it as a last resort because it’s become cluttered with sketchy resale stores that seem to charge top dollar. When I do look on eBay I only search for individuals selling their own equipment.
Amazon is rapidly becoming a good source for used equipment as well. I have never purchased anything there myself, but I’ve spoken to many people who have and they all seem satisfied.
Brand Specific Forums
Another good place to find used equipment direct from camera owners are the various brand specific forums. Because these are smaller groups, most of the people are familiar with each other and I find it’s easier to trust the quality of what I see.
Here’s a list of a few of the brand specific forums for many of the popular camera brands. Note that the Canon and Nikon forums are managed by the manufacturer.
Facebook Secondhand Groups
I just recently joined it the Fuji secondhand group not realizing it existed. I should have known. Here’s a list of other secondhand groups on Facebook that you may want to investigate.
Note, most of these are closed groups so you need to join first.
- Camera Buy/Sell Link (all brands)
- Lenses4Less Pre-owned Photography Gear Store (all brands)
- Fuji Second Hand Facebook Market
- Nikon Used Photo Gear
- Sony Used Photo Gear
So far I haven’t found a Panasonic or Olympus group, but I’m sure they exist. We’ll keep this article updated with any new sources we find in the future.
We’re just scratcing the surface here. So if you have a favorite used gear source that you’d like to share please add it to the post on this subject on our Facebook Page or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll use your responses to update the list in this article.
What Other Photographers are Using
Before writing this article, I reached out to our community through our Facebook page and asked others what type of older gear they using. Many people are shooting the film cameras that are 20 years old and even older. Which is another subject altogether. But many people are shooting the digital cameras that are eight or nine years old which is ancient and the digital world. Here’s what some others are doing:
Jacint Juhasz: For digital my gear is “old” X100S, but my film camera is pretty young, only 27 years old M6.
John Simpson: A lot of my stuff was shot with film using a Nikon FE, a great camera. I carried a Canon S100 for quite a while, great little pocket rocket which I still have. My new Fuji X100F is awesome but I often feel like there are too many buttons. It’s still about focus, speed and aperture not much else.
Stephen Plumb: I have used several ‘old’ film cameras (Nikon F80, Yashica Electro35 amongst others). My favourite ‘old’ digital is my 5 year old 10mp Nikon P7100, it has a great ‘creative monochrome’ setting, and a flip screen for low angles which I like.
Jules Holzgrafe: I only use my ol’ cell phone