« Do 'Real' Photographers Print? | Main | P.S., but not to "George" »

Friday, 28 May 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Wow, are you writing my autobiography or what? ;>)

Spot on. No better way to say it. Especially:

"You realize, in a moment of exquisite clarity which also elicits just a faint touch of existential panic, that you miss shopping."

Perfect summation of a major disease that plagues our hobby/profession.

This post is an instant classic!

Ha! so where is the step where you suddenly dump everything (on concrete brick grounds) and buy a GF1 or EP2?

Spot on, Mike. Spot on. I learnt my lesson the 25-step way and have since realised that despite warning others against it, they too inevitably follow the same path.

Mike, didn't you know that it's the journey and not the destination! What kind of a hobby would it be if we didn't learn things the hard way by traveling the 25 steps?

I find this post spot on and I see much of myself in it. Yes, you really can get caught up in gear collecting/lust rather than photography. The really funny thing is that the camera I use the most is a Nikon D40 with the 18-55 kit lens, as its usually in the car or a Canon A1100 IS point and shoot as it sits in the briefcase. I have all this other photographic equipment but increasingly find less and less time to use it!

There is no help for it--no matter which course George chooses, he will end up with that tiny voice saying--"perhaps you would be better off shooting Canon"

Unfortunately, that is 100% spot on. Don't underestimate the hassle of selling gear, packing it up shipping,etc. Wow was that a waste of time. And yes after, four dslr, countless zooms.... I'm using an 85 50 and a 28 nikkors 90% of the time.

I also have a nagging thought that a d700 and a 50 is all I really need.

But theres only one way to learn this lesson, and that is the hard way!

"(Really.) But as you can probably deduce from the above, my initial recommendation to you possibly isn't quite as flat-out mad as it might on the surface appear."

No. but you are.


Seems apropos

Essay by Thom Hogan reminding the reader that the camera isn't all you need to worry about, especially if you are "serious".


"bare feet, let-down hair, Julie Andrews"
Andrews! Surely you mean Julie Christie!

Hah classic -- this just happened to me also. I recommended the T2i and 17-55 f/2.8 or 50 f/1.4 for a "mom starting out but wanting to grow with it." After getting yelled at, she ended up buying a PowerShot. Sweet.

Buy a Nokia N9. It is what most dSLR users tend to shoot with, all the time.

[I was about to put to buy the 645D and 55+120 lenses, and realized that it is roughly the same size as a fully fledged dSLR. But then I remember that most of the people bit by the dSLR frenzy end up using their mobile phones for taking snapshots, all the time, and the dSLR ends up somwhere in the closet with the highschool sport trophies and some old rags].

This is an excellent article and sound advice. I feel very fortunate that I managed to avoid a few of the steps here. I started with a D80 (eschewing the whole P&S era), bought a D300 and I have absolutely no desire to move to full frame without gaining more pixels in the process so a D700 is out (god help my budget if a D700x or equivalent ever materializes from Nikon).

Now, (entering the confessional) I did fall for the whole buying of a macro lens — and a 300 f/4 for birding. Both of which saw little use as my focus has been on grand landscapes and also on urban decay. I actually got around to selling the 300f/4 and the tele-converter (with little loss). But, the macro languishes in my closet where I intend to make use of it some day.

Meanwhile, I have been thinking of getting a Chamonix 4x5 field camera. Largely because of an unending desire for movements.

Once again, great advice!

This reminds me of Thom Hogan's tripod-buying advice, which remains among the best advice I have ever taken in my life. I got the right kit from the beginning and the ease of use of the setup allowed me to be happy and comfortable working from a tripod and changed my photography for the better.

I confess to not having checked the arithmetic; it's about the right order of magnitude, which is good enough for me.

Except you left out all the software costs! And the Flickr account! And the external hard drives! And the Eye-Fi card!

Mike, I don't know how you did it, but other than picking a D-300 instead of a D-200, you almost perfectly described the path to my current digital camera collection.

I'm just cranky you didn't tell me this five years ago. Not that I'd have listened. :/

Mirror, mirror on the wall ... . Yep, that's me. Now it's just me, my K10D and the 28/50/135. (Still have the 2 kit lens that I use once in a while.)


Beautifully done! As one that is about half way through my own 25 step journey, I wish I had gotten such cogent advice a couple of years ago!

You failed to mention the chiropractic expenses....

Hello Mike,

LOL!! And, so true...sadly.

And, what about those of us (like me) who started out 40 years ago, and now have a pile of analog equipment that we don't use because none of this stuff takes decent pictures! Why? Well...cuz it's not digital!! Of course, we meant to sell the old equipment off when the digital tsunami hit, but, in our defense, with "digital glint" in our eyes we quickly forgot about all that now useless gear. I mean...come on, man...how good could a 35mm Summicron on any M analog camera be?

Very, very good, Mike. It would be funny if it wasn't so true.

Fortunately in my case, I took some shortcuts... I only went through 2 "bridge" SLR-like megazooms before getting my first DSLR (a Pentax K10D). I did not go with an entry-level DSLR, and I bought a better lens than the kit zoom, because I had come to the conclusion that I would likely want to upgrade within 2 years anyway if I went cheap.

I did eventually upgrade my camera to a K-7, and added a bunch of lenses (mostly primes) as time went by, but I did not get into a lens upgrade frenzy, reselling at a loss. And I still use almost the lenses I bought over time, with two exceptions:

- a manual-focus 50mm f/1.7, sold for the same price I bought it, and replaced by an autofocus version... for which I paid *less* than the manual one.

- the basic, slow telezoom I got to "cover all the focal range". But that's only because I received the same zoom, but in a weather-sealed version as a 40th birthday present (and I do use the latter - it's good enough for the few times I need longer reach).

I actually am perfectly satisfied with my kit at this point. Can this be real, or am I just in denial ? I could have saved about 1300$ by skipping the "bridge" superzooms, but that's about it.

PS.: I have used a D700, and I understand the advantages a 24x36mm sensor carries. It's just not worth the price to me. And it's so darn bulky, even with a small prime on it (compared to, say, my K-7 with a DA21 ;)

It doesn't have to be like that.

Canon S90, to Pentax K10D, to K20D. I enjoyed them all, and am still eminently satisfied with the latter. First two sold along the way for about two thirds of what I paid for them.

(Though, to be fair, there is an old Nikon 880 which my wife bought me about a decade ago, still sitting in the bottom of a closet. Couldn't ever get it to focus worth a damn, and it sent me back to disposable film cameras for a few years.
Might just get it out and see if it works.)

The only reason for even considering FF would be the viewfinder, and I'm hoping sincerely that rapidly developing EVF technology will forestall that.

We won't talk about lenses. :-)

Deeply insightful. Crazily realistic.
If you have the bugdet to buy this overkill stuff you say will never buy because it's too much, you will buy it or at least try to.

It was just easiest to write this post by using Nikon, is all.

I often think back to the time I took a pass on a Leica M as my first camera. Not because *it* was too expensive, but because additional lenses would have been. I wonder how long I would have used that camera, and how much money I would have saved, if I'd just bought it from the start....

Of course, with digital, it's not so easy. With digital, the cameras really do get obsolescent, and tend to limit your investment, in practical terms, to 3-5 year stints. So the game really has changed a bit.

Still, even assuming a 5-year useful life, it does make some sense not to spend 2.5 of those years shopping and switching.

I should also admit: I myself have actually been WORSE than this post outlines! I have an excuse other people don't, at least: I've been a camera reviewer.

That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.


That was perfect Mike. I went G9 to D300. I was waiting for a Nikon with full frame that didn't break the bank. Bought the D300 and the D700 comes out later. Already had full frame lenses from my N90. I have to say I like the D300 a lot. But what do I like to carry around, the D40. Bought it as my point and shoot. Add the 18-200 on vacation in a nondescript shoulder bag and it's perfect to me.

Very very true!
This is true and sad, but for two different reasons: If the person IS a photographer (meaning: loves to take pictures, can't live without it and will someday realize, that it's not all about the equipment), it is sad because he wasted so much money on the way to the point where he had to get anyway. If the person IS NOT a photographer (meaning: loves cameras just because he loves well crafted equipment of all kinds, and expects the camera to do it's magic and make a good picture on it's own), it is sad because he spent so much money on nothing. The photographer should buy the D700 (or something like that), because he will end up with it anyways. The person who is not a photographer should buy the G11 or something below and spend the rest of his money on something he really can use.

Pure genius. Although 35 wouldn't do for me, I'm a 24 person myself.

Yup, sounds about right (minus the macro). I bought my first DSLR about 3 years ago and where am I? Step 26: Add a fancy normal zoom to the mix.

Step 22 is the real killer - learning how to turn that off is the key. I feel like I've pretty pretty good about letting actual (not imagined) need guide my purchases, so in the end I feel pretty good about it. I'm very happy with my d700, 35mm f/2 and 105mm f/2 lenses (plus the zooms at events someone's paying to shoot).

But what if he wants a canon?... hehe.

Great read, thank you :).
You forgot step 26, however: Go mad, mortgage the house and buy a Leica M9 with a few Summiluxes for 19950,--. And find out that your photographs suck worse than ever, because nobody ever told yu photography is a craft which has to be learned, you have used full auto until now, and don't know how to expose or focus....

This is the dog's, Mike. Tweak the model names a bit and crank up the equivocation and it's a note to my younger, richer self but better written—depressing and thrilling at once.

You forgot the part where you obsess over rangefinder cameras in both 35mm and 120... oh wait that's too long ago.

I really should sell that D200.

George has another option. He can do what I did recently. I picked up a full frame camera in mint condition with two prime lenses for $50 on eBay. It's called a film camera, and I'm having a blast with it. I love it so much I bought two. I wrote about it http://www.photofidelity.com/blog/daddys-got-a-brand-new-toy.html/>here.

You hit the nail on the head, to make a long story short i bought a d40 after the p&s, now have about $40,000 in camera equipment including a D3, most of the Fx lenses (had d300 inbetween), then got into Leica, now have 6 Leica's at least a dosen lenses, other collectable cameras (Rolleiflex, nikon's ect), it takes 4 large camera bags to hold all the stuff i aquired.
My justification to my wife has always been, "its an investment, i can always sell them if i have to).
So i hope i've got myself under control now, but not sure because its only been a few days since i received my last lens,
(Leica 35 2.0 asph to go on my Leica MP), my latest love affair.
I do actually take pictures by the way and develope my own film and do wet print my own pic in my darkroom, so i do love photography, i see my self going down the film road for my "fun" photography and using the D3 for my sons skate boarding tricks as well as easy pic taking of family trips ect.
In my opinion you can't beat a pic taken with a Leica camera and good fine grain film and printed in a darkrom.
I just hope i can stop buying stuff.
And nikon, please don't make the D4 much better than the D3!!!, i might not beable to resist.

next stop: the tripod.
oh man, did i wish i had bought that seemingly exorbitant expensive Gitzo Carbon 15 years ago and be done with the topic. considering the expected life-time of said tripod it comes down to well.. almost nothing per month..

26. buy used Lomo or Holga for $90. Sell artistically distorted prints for $300 ea.

Step 26 - Buying a Holga.

Haha. My trajectory: bought a used FE2 and mid-priced normal zoom in 1996, taught myself to shoot with it. Kept the camera until it died for good last year, bought an E-P1. Now I shoot with the E-P1, its kit zoom and a delightful Sigma 50mm manual macro on an adapter.

I would totally be laughing at your correspondent right now, except...I bought a FL36R to go with the E-P1, and then a Chinese radio popper to use both flashes off camera at the same time. Then my wife bought me a two-umbrella strobist kit for Christmas via a link that some anonymous tipster sent her by email. I just bought a couple sets of NiZn batteries to boost recharging and session time. Now I'm thinking that some of those ring flashes look downright affordable considering how many years it will probably last...

Still, I can assure you that I have this thing totally under control. The little voice promised me that it will quiet down completely if I just pick up a ring flash, maybe used on Ebay. And maybe that 20mm 1.7 from Panasonic...

Did all these except I run also a parallel course of finding an ideal film camera since 2004.

Painfully dead on...except I flirted with Canon and Nikon and got through a D3 and now a D3x. At least I did sell everything along the way to mitigate the financial hemorrhage.

Yep, that's what I did. Though, in my defense, DSLRs were crazy expensive when I got started (2002: the Canon D60 had just come out). I went from a Minolta s404 (2002, new, ~$300), then i I got a Minolta 7i (2002, used, ~$500), then a Canon D30 (2003, used, ~$400). Then right before a big trip abroad the 20D came out and I paid full price for it. I promised myself that I wouldn't buy another DSLR that wasn't full frame. To my surprise, I've kept that promise. I just bought a 5d MkI and will sell my 20D. For a HUGE loss.

The one BIG tip I can recommend for someone starting out - buy a DSLR that is one (or two) generations old. A Canon 40D is well under $1000 and is 80% as a capable as a 7D.

Also, you rarely lose money buying used lenses.

That is true for most people, and funny too. Certainly true for me (P&S > Superzoom > Entry level dSLR > Prosumer dSLR).

But one thing left to consider is that, at least in my case, I was always limited by budget, and my progressions sorta followed the decline in dSLR prices. I could have waited many years until being able afford the camera I have now...but then I wouldn't have been photographing in the mean time!

Thank goodness for the Georges of the world. If not for them every camera company in Japan would go bust.

What would that D700 cost without the Georges?

Thanks, but no thanks, I'll stick with my trusty D40X. Though that D5000 is starting to look good. Maybe . . .

Why do I see in my mind lots of men (and it is always men) nodding ruefully with a wry grin on their face - and yes, that does include me.

I do think you've missed out Step 26 though - the realisation that what you crave is simplicity in your photography equipment and, despite never having even held one, you realise that what will make your photography and your life truly complete is a Leica M9

A literary masterpiece. Step 23 is just... perfect. The "grim determination" mixed with shame over the price of the D700, even though in the greater scheme of things it's not that much. Many of us have happily skipped a number of steps, but no one avoids them all. And then there's the sequel: Zeiss lenses, the "G" or "Mark II" upgrades to old primes, etc.

After finally figuring out most of this, I now get to watch a personal friend go through it all from the beginning. I keep trying to tell him "just get a D3000 with a 35/1.8 DX and be done with it" but he won't listen. It's like watching Frodo in Lord of the Rings. Now he's talking about selling his camera and switching brands...

Perhaps THE best post I've ever read on a photography website, even though you left out the five-step tripod odyssey, the ten-step speedlite and modifier experience, and the end-point purchase of a Canon s90 because all this DSLR stuff is too heavy and bulky for an old man to carry around ...

The same thing happens with guitarists, too. Substitute "Fender" and "Gibson" for "Nikon" and "Canon" and you've got it.

Please don't be a SMART*#S with this guy.
I'm sure he's just somebody who wants to take a few fotos,started reading your blogs and values your opinion as do I.
Sure $400 sounds ridiculous but it can be done with so many starter kits for a little more than that.
Don't you remember years ago when you first started out and did not have too much money.

Ferrari 499. Period.

Mike, have you been talking to my wife? It really seems that you've been following my every move since 2005, and maybe keeping all the receipts that I can't find. ;)

An instant classic, I predict that this essay will be referenced regularly in the forums for years to come, when folks give solid advice that beginners seem required by some law of the universe to ignore.

It would be nice if someone could tell us which lenses we want before we knew ourselves. Unfortunately, the only way to figure that out is going to require some experimentation.

I could get by with two prime lenses, but I like the two lenses I have now, and think they are much better suited to the photography I do. Not because of some ethereal quality that I read about on a forum somewhere, but becasue they are practical and convenient. If I had taken your advice, I would probably still have ended up where I am now, but it would have taken longer.

In my mind, being free to concentrate on taking pictures is not something that is arrived at by having the right gear. Being free to concentrate on pictures means recognizing that your gear does not make the pictures, you do.

Step 26. You want something smaller. That D700 just doesn't fit your coatpocket. See step 1.

Great post and so very true. In my case, somewhere around the steps in the mid teens, I went off on a weird M42 screw mount tangent and ended up with several cameras and a motley* of about a dozen M42 lenses. Now they’re sitting in a box waiting for “someday” when I sell them all on ebay, which is where most of the stuff came from. I must admit, I recall that I thoroughly enjoyed receiving all those aromatic yellow boxes from the eastern bloc.

* Regular reading of TOP is slowly increasing my vocabulary.

The same twenty five steps for buying golf clubs, except I think it's more like fifty steps.

Step 26.
When finally you got your kit right, you begin to read about decisive moments, buy books of some great photographers of the last century, who seemingly all used a Leica.
When you sell your D700 and lenses, the M8 with a Zeiss lens could be in reach.

Step 27.
F**king blo*dy tiny voice begins just the faintest, most distant murmur about full frame.

Step 28.
The Zeiss lens is fine, but you get the....

Of course, the one piece of equipment that really needs to be replaced in order to "improve your photography" is.....the nut behind the lens.

Original recommendation: $3,195.

The long, expensive alternative: $9,770.

This blog entry: Priceless.

Great post, Mike. Steps #18 and #21 cracked me up.

Hah! $9000+ is chicken feed. When I was dissatisfied with my Hasselblad (it was inconvenient to use a cable release on a tripod) I spent $15,000 for another medium format system.
A couple of years later after I went digital I was able to sell it for $1500. This was after B&H Photo told me that they wouldn't buy my used medium format equipment because "There was no demand for it." Not that they stopped selling the equipment new.

So now I am invested in Nikon, Canon, micro 4/3rds (2 bodies 4 lenses). And by the way a Pentax K7 with 3 pancake lenses just for giggles.

It's no wonder that I can't retire until I'm 70. Buying photo equipment can become a real sickness.

The one saving grace is that I have suddenly become completely SICK of buying photo equipment. My basement is littered with lenses. And I have to look closely at most of them to see what it is that I'm not using. About the only thing that would tempt me now would be a Nikon D700x (because Nikon wide angle zooms totally kick Canon's butt).

I now have a mantra - "Will this purchase really make my life better?" If you ask the question seriously the answer is often "NO". If I learned to ask this question about 20 years ago I could probably have retired at 66.

Don't forget about the sequel where you start shooting film after getting bored with digital (or go back to film after many years away from it). Eventually, you end up with a pile of old cameras that get used on a regular basis while your dSLR gathers dust. Then you start eyeballing a 4x5 or 8x10, or you convert your kids' bathroom into a darkroom.

From Mike: "I often think back to the time I took a pass on a Leica M as my first camera. Not because *it* was too expensive, but because additional lenses would have been. I wonder how long I would have used that camera, and how much money I would have saved, if I'd just bought it from the start...."

Ironic given your recommendation to others to learn with a film M and one lens!

Actually, while your post is a scream (and so true for many), I'm surprised that one of your first steps wasn't for George to learn about photography early on (e.g., with a manual camera and one lens), and then if the advice is not followed, the next twenty some steps will ensue (falsely believing the equipment is at fault).

I guess this might have ruined the humor, but some get into this equipment spiral because they're addicted to acquiring gear, while others do so because their photography just sucks and they're looking for an answer...or in some cases, both.

I had to stop reading this after Step 5—but only momentarily; my laptop (actually sitting on my lap) was shaking so hard I couldn't read the screen!

Very funny (because it is so true)!

Best. Post. Ever.

Seriously, this has been forwarded to a group of photographer friends incase they missed it.

In my case, my wise father gave me his Leica IIc and 50mm Elmar I was 13. This lead to an entirely different pathology...



People often seek my advice on cameras, because they see all the pictures I take of my daughter and think they look "professional." They ask what kind of camera they need to do that, too. They ask why I still shoot a lot of film. They ask why I would use a lens that won't zoom. They ask why I would use my flash in the sunlight. They nod politely. Then they go get a 20x superzoom.

It's pretty scary how well you just summed up my last few years' worth of photography purchases. Almost spot-on. (I threw in a D40 before the D90, and 50mm 1.8 instead of 35mm.)

The nice part is, now that I know I am on step 22, I know my next step. Saves me the trouble of thinking it over, or trying to resist...

Like nearly everyone else here, not so far off. I went Canon, and didn't quite end up at FF. Lenses are close though. A 50 f/1.4 Takumar squeezed its way into the mix with the 35 and 85. Oddly, I think it gets more use than the other two though. Funny, state-of-the-art AF and I prefer a manual focus lens from 1965...

The same thing happens so often to those entering the world of studio lighting.

More than once I have been asked (paraphrased), "I need to do some good portraits. What lights should I buy? My budget is $200.00 . . . . "

The answers for good $200.00 studio lighting are either:

Option A: $200.00 x five (for starters)

Option B: There is no Option B. Please refer back to Option A.

". . . . but can't I just use high watt bulbs from the hardware store and some inexpensive umbrellas and stands . ... ?"

Yes, and after your clients sweat, de-hydrate, and never call you again, please refer back to Option A. Again.

George is everyman. Every photographer man. And Mike ... you can't stop em!

Funny ... ten years hence, most Georges will pass along your advice ... but not until ignoring it first.

I bet you could get a Nikon D1 and a used 35mm for $400. Finding a D1 with a working battery might be another story.

Agree, w/ Jeff: instant classic! But the whole thing. Funny, absurd, true and very practical all at once. I hope this URL propagates like a virus, for the good of all. The adaptation/pathology of solving problems by shopping, and shopping well, goes far deeper and wider than photo gear, of course, and the cure needs to be as deep.

I sort of saw the light on point-and-shoots during the return period on my first, and escaped that cycle (though it didn't stop me from buying a couple as gifts, which I regret).

I moved on to an Argus AF I'd bought previously, mostly as a curio and kept in a drawer, kicking off a very anachronistic, ebay-enabled 25-step cycle.

Yeah, right again, Mike ... But I am sorry to say:
it would probably be a lot cheaper to go for the Canon DSLRs ... AND, as Chris wrote, you forgot the micro 4/3 stage ...
One path that I can recommend:
go for the Nikon D300s for as long as possible - and only buy full-frame lenses :)

That is one path, perhaps the one taken by, what, 5-8% of photographers? Sure, they're your readers, to whom you've written brilliantly. That's aspiring fine art or journalism photographers, who admittedly need top kit

But, it's relevant for only a small percentage of people who use cameras. Many, many more people would be happy stopping for the rest of their lives at a 4/3 camera, certainly a D90 and a good zoom. Even more are happy with a D5000. Before offering advice, perhaps there's a simple question of goals and intentions. That's leaving out the also much larger percentage of people for whom serious photography is only an idea that doesn't survive the reality of a long and often painful learning curve and the thousands of hours spent waiting for the light that doesn't quite happen. And who's to say that it stops at a D700? Now you may feel you need more resolution and jump to Canon 5D. Why not go strait to a Hasselblad? At what point is enough enough? That path never ends until it does, which may be at a level of cost and complexity far short of your suggestion.

Your personal goals and possibly as small amount of gear addiction drove your purchase path. The path for most is shorter and won't require a full frame camera.

You've written an amusing autobiography of a gear head. Good advice? Not for most.

I started with a D3X and now I shoot with a Lumix, where did I go wrong??

It should go like this. Canon AE-1 to see if you even like taking serious pictures then 5d Mark II to see if you like taking HD video then Red One to see if you like full cinema quality. Total cost $35,000

And photographers sold/traded state-of-the-art film cameras and lenses just to jump on that merry-go-round!

WHAT THE HECK... you knew all this and you didn't tell us 5 years ago !!??

I followed your recommendation of purchasing the Pentax *ist DS, about 5-6 years ago. I have not forgiven you yet ;-)

brilliant comeback. I agree 100% with you. I have wasted hundred of pounds over the last few years on consumer gear on my journey to professional. I started with a 4mp brick back in the day. I then decided to stump up £900 for a Canon 300D kit. It lasted me for a year or so then the 5D came out. Sold the 300D, got a couple of Sigma lenses. Took some nice pics, but I was wanting more, constantly. Decided to buy my first L lens. 17-40 L. Odd choice maybe, but wide angle suited my style at the time. Then got myself a 24-105 IS L. L fever had now gripped me. I was never going to buy another lens that didn't have a red ring around the end! False economy. Buy cheap buy twice is my motto. I've now been using a 5D Mk2 since launch. Then got an 85 1.2 L, followed by a 50 1.2 L, and recently a 70-200 IS 2.8 L. It has probably cost me about £5k to get these lenses but who knows how much more I would have wasted by buying shitty lenses on the way up to the big guns. I started out as a graphic designer with a taste for photography, and now I'm a graphic designer and professional photographer, oh and a videographer... I'd not be working for the clients I'm working for if I didn't have all this high end gear. Go for what you can afford sure, but go for the best and you can't go wrong!

Heh heh heh... hmm...

Well, I'm enjoying the heck out of shooting with my "entry-level" E-P1, and I only went through one level of small-sensor camera (which I also enjoyed for a while) so maybe things aren't so bad for me. I am, however, currently stuck in an unenumerated intermediate step where I am buying closetsfull of old manual focus lenses to satisfy my Need to Shop. At least it's a cheap fix (until I decide I need to start collecting Leica glass...).

Do I have an EOS 7D outfit picked out complete with a long, constant-aperture zoom? You bet I do. Do I need to keep reminding myself that my wife will divorce me if I drop the k$5 needed to obtain it? You bet I do.

There's two parts of the trajectory that I can't seem to muster for myself. The first is unhappiness with the equipment. I've loved everything I've owned, even my original point and shoot that was terribly slow. The second is lens lust. I know I should be more excited about them (that being The True Path), but the kit zoom with my first dSLR was fine. Yeah, I did get the macro, but it does come in handy for taking pictures of little things.

I recently bought another P&S over a m4/3 camera precisely because I couldn't bear the thought of shopping for another lens system.

I can't fully blame "George" in this situation. Even an expert recommendation by you pales in comparison to the exaggerated marketing by todays large corporations. When you see a Nikon commercial with Ashton K. shooting fantastic available light photos in a dimly lit restaurant with a 20x zoom digicam, or see a Canon Rebel magazine ad with a close-up of a Tiger in Africa(that you know was shot with a $8k+ 600mm lens) you can't blame a person like George that has high expectations for his $400.

Oh and if Georgina, Georges fraternal twin sister asks you for a recommendation, don't bother with the D700 act, it's highly unlikely that she will ever get there.

Wow... I followed almost the exact same path... to the letter. and now I shoot with (in 35mm)-

wait for it...

D700 with 35/2, 50/1.4, and 85/1.8 primes. done and done. On the odd job that I really need a zoom (weddings) I rent 'em and bill to the client.

I made the same estimation when I was about go digital.

I also have stepped a similar ladder, but of a different reason. Several years ago I was choosing between Canon 400D and M8. With Canon lenses I wanted it cost about the same as the M8. To the M8 I already have lenses since the film era. The trouble with M8 made me walk the Canon ladder via 40D to 5DII. I was a aware that I would walk the ladder, but it gave the producer the time to improve the cameras.

If I would chose to not walk the ladder, I would have to chose between 1DII and M8. Both good cameras, but both lacking sensor cleaning and both were about to be updated in a year or so. And most likely I would have upgraded with a huge expense, so most likely it was cheaper to walk the ladder.

My next step will be regarded by many as a step down. I am considering to buy Samsung NX10. The reason is I feel I feel the user interface is better suited for me. And have a camera as I feel I can carry with me all the time.

Count me in among those who qualifies this post as "instant classic".
Pity that most people starting in this business will not read your post on day 1 (and even if they did, almost nobody would believe how right you are).

Hmmm, I'm on a seventy-fifth step, and still haven't reached your step 25! And I think a passed $10 grand 2 years ago! But at least you've given me a goal, Mike! Oh, and I have a full room, not a closet.

You forgot the Flash and Light modifier detour... there are about 20 more steps there with speedlites, remote triggers, softboxes, gobos, snoots, scrims, alienbees and all manner of closet fillers!

This post is not about me. For one thing, my name's not George. And for another... well, OK, it's about me.

Dear Mr. Johnston,

I now realize how right you were, and how wrong I was. But there's this voice that keeps telling me 'real' photographers make their own prints. Do you have any recommendations?

Not George

Mike, although I am in complete agreement with you, I also see another side to this whole thing.

When developing a hobby or skill-set there are educational costs involved. You can go to college as an arts/photography major and spend $80,000 doing so, or you can attend the school of hard knocks and end up spending the same amount of money over a longer period of time. I know that personally, my photographic education cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000+ and I have no degree or diploma to show for it.

The same with equipment costs. I've been coming full-circle myself. I started out with a rangefinder camera, and 10 years later when I bought my first SLR I got a 35/2.8 and 100/2.8 with it. Tens of thousands of dollars and dozens of cameras and lenses later, I'm back to the point where I think that my original two lens kit is just about right. (but unfortunately find myself, as a professional, needing to carry tons of junk around "just in case").

I hate always being contrary, but I started digital photography with a Canon A95 and a copy of PS Elements. I thought (and still do think) that it was a good way to get my toe in the water. After I had felt that I had a good understanding of the file formats, color management, and basic editing, I went straight to the big guns: a full-blown copy of Photoshop, a Nikon D80, D200, and later a D700. I do have a couple DX lenses (12-24/4 and 17-55/2.8) but I can easily sell them if it turns out that I no longer use them.

It's true that my Canon A95 just sits in the closet, but it served its purpose, and maybe I can find someone to pass it on to.

Step 25 is not a destination. It's just as much a transit point as the other ones.

A sign of the malaise continuing after step 25 is that a large number of young people that never shot film eventually pick up film cameras. I think most D700's get a celluoid buddy this way. It's not serious though, because the D700 is just so much better already.

I think what's realy most notable about step 25 is that it is the end of the common path we all follow together. After that point we split into different niches. Me, my voice eventually learned to speak German. I'm still struggling with that.

Magnum Opus.

Ouch, I'm still somewhere around step 21! Lack of cash and my rabid loyalty to Pentax are the only things saving me from the full-frame sirens.

Yes, but what else would we do with our work day if we couldn't be furtively reading camera reviews and the various whiners in the forums - planning our next piece of gear?

I'll add my "pinch of salt" to my life story that's just been told by you: I went from Kodak Z730 to Canon 40D with zoom 100-400 and all the lens needed to cover it all. In between, some other DSLR, p&s, bridge cameras, still looking for small p&s with fantastic image... spent so much money, time, reading on Internet, learning Lightroom, Picasa, Photoshop etc., all this in about 5 years. My my my, how much fun but how much money spent? I now carry my small EPL-1 with kit zoom, realizing I'm not a professional photographer ;-) and having so much fun! I gained back spontaneity with my camera!

Congratulations on a lovely, humorous piece. In reading the comments, I was struck by the dominance of hardware in the discussion. The digital era is all about software, not hardware. I've owned lots of digital cameras, but it's the mastery of Lightroom and Photoshop that has allowed me to further my craft and start to produce saleable fine art prints. Quite simply, the hardware barely matters any more, but it still takes hard work and talent to learn how to take a raw print out of the camera and turn it into a beautiful image on paper using software.

Not only that, but software continues to make extraordinary strides, as exemplified in the latest releases of Photoshop, Aperture and Lightroom.

I'm always amazed at the 90/10 split between web sites and blogs focused on hardware versus software. IMHO, TOP is overweighted in plastic and underweighted in bits. Just goes to show how seduced we are by shiny new things. We are like magpies!

Oh, I forgot! I think I should have gone with Nikon instead of Canon.

Hey...I thought the journey was the reward :) Nice one Mike!

It just hit me. Thom Hogan wrote his classic tripod recommendation article along these same lines. He used no humor....but...similar advice. See it here: http://www.bythom.com/support.htm

Great post Mike, love it! I am at step 26 actually: realize the D700 is too big, buy a micro 4/3s camera (the GF1).

Step 27 is probably more lenses for the GF1!

Wow, very rude and arrogant.

Absolute Genius!

Here's my story, not that it should be of particular interest to anybody besides myself:

I started not that low - got me a Dimage 7i. Then, after that died and my financial situation worsened, after a while a Fuji F41fd, because I realized I wanted something to carry with me all day.

I didn't. I never took it anywhere, and I didn't like the flat pictures it took. I gave it to a friend (who doesn't use it much). I wanted something better. Faster. I didn't care if it was heavier or a little more expensive. It had to be good in low light. It was going to be a DSLR.

I agonized over forums, read every review on dpreview - many of them more than once. To my horror, none of those cameras were perfect. I decided to do the sane thing and NOT buy some expensive semi-pro camera with all the bells and whistles. After all, I was no semi-pro.

One day, after many more months of online - and occasional offline - reading, I went to a store, held all the cameras in hand. The Pentax K200D seemed to fit quite well. So, naturally, I bought a Pentax K20D. It had more control wheels! And it was weather resistant (never mind that neither the lens nor I weren't)!

I took some terrible pictures. I hated the autofocus when trying to photograh friends at a bar. I pixel-peeped and hated the high-ISO noise. Still, I uploaded some pictures and never got any comments, except for "sharp lens, but your white balance is off".

Over time, I accumulated eight more lenses, some of which cost a few hundred euros, others not being so cheap. And a flash. And a polarizer. And wireless radio-controlled flash triggers. And color gels. And a wrist strap. And spare batteries. And more and bigger SD cards. And a split-image focussing screen. And Lightroom. And my girlfriend gave me a nice photo bag.

I have now shown about ten pictures on the Net. Three or so got nice comments.

Recently, I upgraded to a Pentax K-7. I never find the time to get to make photographs anymore, which is my excuse for why my pictures still suck. A tiny voice suggests it may have to do with lack of any artistic vision of sorts. But who listens to tiny, nagging voices, anyway?

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007