Have You Got Gear Acquisition Syndrome?

Back when I first started in photography, I got a part time job in a professional camera shop. This was mainly, it must be said, because of the hefty discount we were offered on second-hand film cameras (and this was back in the days before digital was even a twinkle in someone’s eye!).

Somehow, before I knew it, I’d acquired a full medium format Hasselblad kit, alongside a 35mm Canon kit. You’d think this would have been more than enough but, faced with many shiny cameras on the two days I worked there, I quickly fell foul of the dreaded gear acquisition syndrome (GAS for short!).

Over the next year or so, I bought and sold an automatic Hasselblad, a Pentax 67, a Fuji GAZ645 and a Fuji 6×9. And then someone invented digital…

Camera Gear
image by Scott.Symonds

The Advent Of Digital

The problem for those of us that suffer from GAS is that digital provides a perfect excuse to constantly crave new gear. DSLRs are being improved all the time and become obsolete pretty much the moment you take them out of the box.

So, there’s always a ‘need’ to upgrade cameras. Plus digital requires fast computers to process the files, and all the accessories that come with that. Then there’s studio lighting, lenses, tripods, memory cards, filters… the list goes on and on!

New & Shinny?

The problem is that, if you’re not careful, you can end up spending every spare bit of cash on gear. There’s always some shiny new toy to attract the eye of a GAS sufferer. Fortunately, I learned to curb my natural enthusiasm for new gear. Partially, this was because I realised that there’s always going to be a new camera on the market but, now I use a Canon 5D Mk III, I’m completely happy with my camera and it finally performs in the way that my old film cameras did.

I also honed my lens collection down to those that suit the type of work that I do (mainly portraiture). And instead of having a desktop iMac and a doddery old laptop, I now have one superfast laptop that does all the jobs I need it to.

I’ll admit that I had help to get to this stage, namely in that I broke my knee several years ago and can no longer carry around vast amounts of kit with ease. Lightness is the key nowadays, and this has certainly helped to cut down on the amount of gear I carry round with me.

But also, and this is the big thing, I realised I had no desire to turn into one of those camera obsessives that we’ve all seen out and about. Carrying the newest cameras and the biggest pro lenses doesn’t make you a good photographer. A good photographer should be able to get a great shot from even the most basic of cameras! Plus, if you spend all your time looking for new equipment to buy, you’ll be spending far less time out and about actually shooting photographs.

Less Is Indeed More

I think that, especially when it comes to digital photography, less is often more. The old days of film photography have almost been forgotten in many quarters and we need to go back to a simpler time, where we had to be careful with each shot, because each shot cost more in film!

The basics of photography haven’t changed – it’s still the exposure triangle of ISO, shutter speed and aperture that make the shot. Having all the gear in the world also can’t give you an eye for a photograph. So, next time you start getting tempted by something new step away for a moment and think about what it will actually add to your photography. Only if it’s something that’s going to really help your work should you invest.

And don’t be too discouraged – GAS doesn’t only affect photographers… it can strike over a variety of disciplines. We are not alone!

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