I’ve owned a lot of gear over the years. Early on, I bought and used what others suggested but these days, I purchase and use what works for me personally. I’m not interested in the best specs or the highest reviews. At the end of the day, it’s all subjective anyway.
Why? Higher megapixels and full frame don’t equal the holy grail. In fact, unless you’re planning to print big, it’s unnecessary and only adds time to your workflow as your computer and software take longer to load and process larger files.
These days, camera improvements are often marginal and even when the upgrade seems significant, I think we forget that any camera manufactured within the past five or six years is an excellent choice. Truly. The gear I owned five years ago can more than hold it’s own against the gear of today for my style of shooting.
Which brings me to my next point: photography is much more about how you shoot than what gear you shoot. A sports photographer is going to need different gear than a portrait photographer. One of them focuses on high paced action in a varied environment and one focuses on a perfectly still subject in a controlled environment. Their needs are different and therefore, their gear must be too.
Just because that focal length worked for that one photographer you follow on Instagram doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Before you add gear to your kit, it’s important to discover your style of shooting, which shouldn’t be confused with your style of imagery. Your image style has more to do with composition, lighting, subject matter and editing. Your shooting style is about how far you like to be from your subject, whether you prefer to move around or stay stationary (prime vs. zoom lenses), how much gear you like to carry around with you, etc.
I don’t purchase the newest camera bodies because of the steep depreciation in value. It feels like throwing my money away. I don’t purchase lenses brand new for the same reason. I’m a huge advocate for renting gear before you buy to ensure it’s a good fit for you and then buying used once you find what you’re looking for.
List of my previous digital gear from 2009 onward:
- Canon Rebel XT
- Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
- Canon 50mm f/1.8
- Canon 40D
- Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6
- Canon 24mm f/2.8
- Canon 85mm f/1.8
- Canon 5D
- Canon 50mm f/1.4
- Canon 6D
- Fujifilm X-T1
- Fujinon 23mm f/1.4
- Fujinon 35mm f/1.4
- Fujinon 56mm f/1.2
- Fujifilm X100F
- Fujifilm WCL
- Fujifilm TCL
- Fujinon 16mm f/1.4
I have learned that I prefer to zoom with my feet so I only use prime lenses these days. Not because I think they’re superior to zoom lenses, but because they work better for me. I have also learned that the primary concerns for me when choosing gear are size, speed, sound and savings.
I want a combination of the smallest, fastest and quietest lenses at a price point that is justified by how often I use them. I see no point in owning a thousand dollar lens that I only use a few times a year. (Been there, done that). These days, I know exactly what I need and that has allowed me the freedom to whittle down my kit to as minimal as I can get it.
Here’s a list of my current gear:
- Fujifilm X-T2
- Fujinon 18mm f/2
- Fujinon 35mm f/2 (I recently sold the f/1.4 version in favor of this one due to the faster autofocus)
- Fujinon 50mm f/2 WR
I prefer not to be heavily invested in one particular system. Just because it meets my needs now doesn’t mean it will meet my needs next year. Keeping my kit minimal frees me up to switch out my gear without a heavy financial loss.
I recently sold my Fuji 16mm f/1.4 lens and let me tell you, it’s an exceptional lens, probably one of the best Fuji has ever made. The close focusing distance and image quality are stellar but it’s too large and heavy for me and doesn’t easily fit into my handbag, which means I didn’t carry it around and therefore didn’t use it much anyway.
Comparatively, the 18mm f/2 has a similar enough focal length and f-stop to meet my needs while at the same time being TINY and half the cost. As such, I use it much more and that makes it a better fit. Another huge plus is that my entire gear kit easily fits into one small camera pouch (Crumpler Haven).
My current gear is not the top of the line anything. I’ve owned higher quality and more expensive gear, but if it doesn’t take into account my balanced need for size, speed, sound and savings, then I know it won’t be a good fit. And at the end of the day, gear that you don’t use isn’t worth having. At least, not for me.