5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Buying New Camera Gear

August 15, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

In this world of technology and endless options, it'd be tempting to buy all the cameras, all the lenses, all the time. But here's a couple of questions for the savvy photographer to ask themselves before buying or upgrading their camera gear.

1. Will I be able to make pictures with this that I could not make with my current gear?

This is why I bought the 1D-X. Not because it was full frame or faster frames per second, more megapixels, or better auto-focusing, which were all appealing, but because it's ISO capabilities allowed me to make pictures I simply could not make with my 1D Mark III. This is also why I haven't bought the 1D-X Mark II, it's a great camera, sure, but is there anything it does, that I need to do, that my 1D-X cannot.... not convinced.

2. Will it make my workflow or work experience better/faster/safer/easier?

This is why I get new computers, new roller bags, new software, new cards. A Think Tank Photo rolling bag was one of the first purchases I made, I was walking up hill and around campus from my off campus apartment and a backpack was far too heavy. PhotoMechanic, was another item I bought nearly immediately. Those two purchases I still consider some of the most critical in regards to photography being an enjoyable and sustainable job for me.

3. Will I use this gear?

You can really, at most, carry three cameras, and for most events, two is more manageable, maybe with an extra lens here or there in a bag. Don't buy a lens or camera that finds itself having more time in a bag or closet than in your hands. I don't have a 24-70mm because though I go from 16-35mm to 70-200mm, I have a 40mm pancake (for walk around) and 50mm (for headshot, wedding details) and don't feel like I the 24-70mm is missing from my line up. That's just me and the way I shoot. I know a sports-turned-wedding photographer who sold her 70-200mm (arguably the lens that everyone says you "need") because she found herself preferring the look of an 80mm prime.

2015.03.222015.03.22March 22, 2015 At the San Jose Earthquakes Season Opener at Avaya Stadium. Photo Credit: Rico Ramirez

4. Is this gear worth the price tag?

In 2015 Canon dropped the price on their 1D-C from $11,999 to $7,999, not because they had introduced a new model, but just to be competitive with what other similiar products came on the market. Cameras will lose their value over time, and like a new car, the second you drive it off the lot it loses value, but a $4,000 price drop overnight on a new body makes you question was it really ever worth the original price in terms of technology or build? When it came on the market it was the only 4K video capable, so if you absolutely needed to shoot 4K then you had to buy it until other offerings were available, but you still have to ask yourself the above questions, and of course the final question.

5. Can I afford this gear?

Yes, the 1D-X is a great camera, but unless you are going to book gigs which require a 1D-X (or if you are just an outrageously wealthy hobbyist) don't buy the gear unless you have a plan to pay it off. I acknowledge that photography requires a certain investment, but I strongly encourage all photographers DO NOT buy camera gear (or anything in your personal life) on a credit card that you can't pay off the next billing cycle.

I bought nearly all used gear in the early days of my career and was happily one-step below the flagship lens or body while I put aside 10% of every assignment fee (which I still do) in order to slowly upgrade.Also I suggest staff photographers who have company gear, keep a laid-off fund, because jobs are unstable right now and I've known a handful of photographers who found themselves without a job AND without gear, overnight. If the company selling the camera offers financing that doesn't add to the retail price, sure, but NEVER GO INTO CREDIT CARD DEBT FOR CAMERA GEAR. There are photographers I know who ask me if I can help them find a gig, even if it's terrible and underpaid and will do ANY assignment just to pay off their credit card. What's the point of having amazing gear if it's forcing you to take on jobs that don't align with your photographer career goals? <-- More on that in another post :)

Don't buy gear for the sake of buying gear, do what makes sense for you, your style, your career and your budget.


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