One camera one lens : curing Gear Acquisition Syndrome

When gear becomes an obsession


Candle in the night
Candle in the night

When I talk about photography, you’ll often hear me praise how it opens your mind and your eyes on a world that’s always lay before your eyes, but you wouldn’t care to notice before you put your pupil behind your camera’s viewfinder.

For instance, photography was what first enabled me to find some beauty in the place I had always been living in, but that I had never taken the time to contemplate. It was also a great support when in India, I would have to face what most westerners have forgotten: disease, death in the streets, dementia… More recently, it helped me get out of my chronic melancholy, and thanks to it, I had the chance to know a little more about the most beautiful and fulfilling person I think I have ever met in my life.

And yet, there is also a dark side of photography, which affects many hobbyists and even pros sometimes : gear acquisition syndrome, aka GAS. GAS is when you can’t stop buying new gear, without ever being satisfied, or just shortly. It often begins with your buying your first DSLR, then your first prime, then replacing your kit zoom with primes, and these primes with more expensive ones (from brands like Zeiss, Canon L, etc.), then going Full Frame, acquiring a second body, and so on and so on. Basically, it’s about accumulating gear. There’s nothing wrong, though, with spending your hard-earned money on your passion. The problem is when your passion stops being photography to become gear acquisition.

Like many photographers, I suffer from it. I’ve calculated lately that in the last 3 years, I’ve spent €5000 on cameras and lenses. Currently, I “just” have a Sony A6000, a Sony A7II, a Zeiss Batis 25f2, a Zeiss FE 55f1.8 and a Zeiss Batis 85f1.8. Pretty expensive gear. And yet, I’m still looking for other lenses. This has become pretty stupid, especially when you think that most of the time, I will only take one body and two lenses since I feel my equipment is too heavy.

Fortunately for me, I haven’t run bankrupt because of it. Some have. However, I can’ t help thinking it has made me more miserable than it should have in the past years. Come to think of it, half of this money would have been much better spent on trips and memories. These would have made me so much happier, and above all, certainly a better person, for me and for those I love. And I’m pretty sure I would have taken pictures at least as lovely as those I take now, and even maybe more fulfilling.

In my personal case, GAS stems from my own insecurities : I tend to think I won’t be able to take better pictures if I don’t have the best gear available. Of course, this is all wrong. Gear certainly can help you get better pictures, but everyday, I see people with less expensive gear take pictures I’d be more than happy to take. GAS is only a symptom of my  own insecurities, and more deeply, a certain lack of self-esteem. And this is where it is tragic : it turns photography, which should let you open to the world, be bold and share your own person with it as it shares its own magic with you, into a source of insecurity.

Unfortunately, I guess there’s not much to do against it. I’ve known for this syndrome for a long time, and yet, I’ve fallen for it. I’ve read some cases of photographers who one day decided to stop this downward spiral by selling all of their gear but one camera and one lens. Quite a minimalist approach, I must confess, but I’d like to try it in the months to come. My A7II, my 55f1.8 and nothing else. One picture a day with this. I guess this would even help me be more creative, though it would dramatically change the kind of pictures I take. That’s a challenge I want to take when I come back from Barcelona in a little more than a week. Of course, I will still use my remaining gear on occasions (I haven’t paid thousands of euros not to use it), but I’d like to learn to focus more on one camera body + lens combination, and force myself to be creative with what I have instead of thinking of buying new gear every now and then. And the money saved will help me socialise a bit more, take care of myself and of those that I care about, and travel at last, which is what every person should do. And maybe it will help me not be as bad a person as I confess I often have been in the past, forgetting too much about people who mattered to focus solely on how to make sure I had the best cards in my hands. Health, family, love and friends should come first, always.

I’ve already gathered some pictures to see what it could give. I hope you’ll enjoy them.