Fighting gear acquisition compulsion disorder. How did I do this year?

I'll be blunt, if I weren't writing huge checks for my kid's college education every six months I'd have bought a lot more gear this year. Somewhere in my brain my parent spending control hormones are beating out my gear avarice hormones; but just barely.

I made a conscious effort to tighten up my gear spending this year and, looking back, I think I've been at least moderately successful. The entire inventory of working cameras (as distinct from old film cameras I have owned for years or decades...) consists of just six cameras. Of those six there are two sets of duplicates, since I operate on the theory that every professional photographer needs redundant back up gear of everything he intends to shoot with. No real exceptions.

I have two of the Panasonic fZ 1000 cameras but I like to use them for rough and tumble, drag around the street and the rock quarry kind of cameras. They may get dropped. They may get sacrificed in some way. They may just stop working on their on accord halfway through a job that I've structured around their unique feature sets and portability. So I have two. At $750 each they aren't going to break the bank.

I also have two of the Olympus EM-5.2 cameras. One is silver and the other is black. I have them for largely the same reason I have the two Panasonic cameras. Redundancy. But in the case of the Olympus cameras I also need two so I can work at events with a wide zoom on one body and a longer zoom on the other body, for shooting quickly and not worrying about stopping to change out lenses. The duplicate bodies sure came in handy on a couple of video jobs where I used a second camera operator to get additional footage. Set identically, the footage from the two cameras matches up perfectly! While I pulled money out of my pocket to get the Panasonic cameras I was able to trade three of the older EM5's for the two EM5.2 cameras. I had to kick in a little cash, but not much.

Seemed financially conservative to me given all the pluses of the second version EM5.  Two new lenses were purchased for the Olympus cameras this year. One was the Panasonic 42.5 f1.7 and the other was the (ultra cheap) 40-150mm f4.0-5.6. The latter was $99 bucks, on sale, and for the 42.5 I was able to get a  decent trade-in on my Olympus 45mm f1.8. A bit of money out of pocket to upgrade to a marginally better lens with more than marginally better physical design. Not much money spent in the m4:3 realm...

The place where I upgraded significantly was in my Nikon acquisitions. I traded in two D610s and a bunch of Panasonic gear to get the D750 and the D810. Both have proven to be good choices for the higher end advertising projects I do that return to my business the lion's share of revenue. I've also been on a shopping spree for lenses, but only the older, auto indexing, manual focusing lenses from the pre-AF days. Mostly at a fraction the price of their newer, glitzier AF counterparts.

Since the middle of the year I've been quite satisfied with the performance I'm getting out of all three systems and I have no current interest in trading, selling or changing the primary guts of the equipment inventory.

I have several things on my "want" list but nothing pressing on the "need" list. If you don't do this as your 100% make-a-living gig your needs will be different. If I answered to zero clients I wouldn't crave more than a D810 with a 50mm and a 135mm. Life is so different when clients have so many diverse visions of what commercial photography is all about....

There are upsides and downsides to buying less gear. Obviously, you save money. But not as much as you might think. If you buy a lot of gear you can deduct a huge portion of it in the year you buy it, with the accelerated cost recovery deal, via the tax man. You get to know your gear really well if you have less of it to sort out. But the less you have to sort out the less a blogger has to blog about. I fear for the day when the only stuff I have to talk about is the business of photography and the process of actually making images. Who would want to read that!?!

I did buy several sets of lights this year. I bought a couple of Profoto Monolights and a couple of Photogenic Monolights but in each case the carrying cases (Kata and Tenba) that came along with the lights were worth the purchase prices alone. I might even get around to selling off the lights and keeping the cases in 2016. I also bought some really cool LED lights. They are dirt cheap models from RPS (or Dotline). They use the new SMD LEDs that are more powerful and concentrated than the panels with a thousand smaller bulbs "crowdsourced" together on them. The new LEDs are wonderful. I have three now and press them into almost every portrait assignment. If any more lights get bought in 2016 it will be more of these. Maybe.

Those two little things I have on my list??? One is the Leica SL and the other is a Leica 90mm Apo-Summicron to cobble on to the front of the SL. But one look at the cost tells me that they'll be "on the list" but not in hand for at least another two and a half years.....

Not a very sexy gear year and not much to write home about. But on the flip side I've gotten the boy through a year and a half of out-of-state college and we're not yet eating Ramen or taking out student loans from the sharks at Goldman Sachs, so I guess I should count my blessings.


TMJ said...

90mm Apo-Summicron I have one, an extraordinarily good lens, on film or digital sensor. All in all, probably the best lens I have ever used (from large format Rodnestocks, Schneider, you name it. Actually the Cooke triplet (I live in a village near York) should not be discounted.

Greg Crombie said...

The Leica SL. It's big,black,beautiful and hideously expensive. It doesn't do anything that I can't already do with the kit that I already possess, and I want one,very very badly.......along with virtually every lover of photography (and cameras!!!!) who still has a pulse.

neopavlik said...

What kind of Profoto lights did you get ?

This year I got (not in chronological order) Nikon 85mm 1.4G, White Lightning x3200 (2nd), Cyber Sync System (Commander, Einstein module, 2 battery modules that can adjust power), Flashpoint Rovelight and stuff for HSS, Giant Pelican Case to haul the monolights around, Avenger Heavy duty Rolling Boom stand, Matthews Heavy duty light stand with boom, Cart that can carry the lights over soft beach sand, Lots of Buff modifiers (86" Soft Silver PLM w/ diffuser, 2 of each of the Strip Boxes with grids). Until typing that out I didn't realize it was so much.

I tried to sell my smaller Pelican Case and Hensel Monolights but when the time came to pay they backed out. I'll keep the Pelican Case and try to sell the Hensel lights and 85mm 1.8G when I can.

I redeemed a free 100 4x6 order back in June and 8 days ago ordered about ~200 my favorite pictures as 4x6 (and 4x5) to enjoy or give away for Christmas...I'm very excited to see them !

John Krumm said...

Probably my smallest gear year since buying a dslr back in 2007. Ordered the new Panasonic 25 1.7 for $99, then canceled. Used my refunded PayPal money to get a 50 1.4 for my Nikon FM2. Looked at the 135 f2 you mentioned but held back despite wanting it. My biggest splurge that I still feel guilty about was a Contax G2 with 40mm f2 lens. Neat camera, super sharp, can use a roll of film in minutes with it. Using my EM1 with various lenses mostly and I'll wait for the EM1 mark II before any more big purchases.

Dave said...

Amazingly I stayed the course in 2015... Sort of. I dropped all my DSLR's, kept the RX10 but added an RX100.4. So I did consolidate and didn't make any impulse buys. It was tempting when I saw refurb EM1's going for $575, but having another lens mount to feed isn't in the plans. My son hasn't made the mirrorless jump so I grabbed a D3300 for him at less than $300 which is an amazing value, and gives me a DSLR I can snag if I need to.

It is possible I simply upgrade the RX10 to the V2 and don't go back to a DSLR at all. I take far fewer photos and appreciate them more than any time since I was shooting 4x5 film. Throw in 100mbps video and the SLog profile and right now I'm quite happy with where I'm at.

Scott Kirkpatrick said...

APO Summicron 90 (-R, I presume)? I do other stuff than photography for a living, so I got one, and the SL. Absolutely marvelous together. You should beg, borrow, or rent them to see for yourself. The other lens that will most likely come back to life is the 80 Summilux-R.

Merry Christmas,


Anonymous said...

Tuck. This is a masterful rationalization. Can I hire you to talk to my spouse?

Kirk Tuck said...

Scott, you aren't helping my half hearted resistance. I used to own one of the 80mm's and it was stunning on an R7 or R8. I can only imagine one coupled with great focus peaking, etc.

Ken said...

Great post! 2016 is going to be my year of downsizing in a rational way! 2015 was supposed to be, but it didn't work out that way. I planned on selling some but haven't got around to it...it's hard to let them go...even if collecting some dust. In the end, I'll likely end up a lot like Dave. My RX10 is probably going to survive, much like your LX1000's, due to the video, versatility, good enough IQ and price compared to a system. I may stay with the Typ 109 / LX100 instead of hauling around a full Fuji X-T1 kit + X100/X100s (with an X-E1 as a backup) as well. Decisions.

Rohith Thumati said...

2015 was a year of gear transition for me. I sold off/got rid of some gear (E-M5 Mark I, Olympus 45mm f/1.8, Olympus 40-150 f/4-5.6, Olympus 17mm f/1.8), and bought primarily direct replacements and upgrades (E-M5 Mark II, Olympus 40-150 f/2.8, Panasonic 35-100 f/4-5.6, Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7, Panasonic 15mm f/1.7). My gear additions were pretty limited. I finally got a carry everywhere/throw in the diaper bag camera in the Panasonic LX100 and I'm really happy with it. I also bought an Adorama Streaklight 360 (a rebranded Godox Witstro) to up my studio flash game, which I also really like; it's like a budget, non-TTL Profoto B2. Flash photography is fun :)

As for the new year - I'm going into 2016 really happy with what I have. I haven't really been able to say that since I got into photography six years ago. I really don't want for anything (a large sensor tough/submersible camera would be nice, but that's about it; maybe now that Leica is coming out with their X-U, Fuji or someone else will come out with an affordable take on the concept), which is quite a nice feeling.

Actually - I do want for something: more talent and more inspiration. Can always use more of that.