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Saturday, 13 August 2011


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Yes, I do have a limit built in - however much I am able to spend at the moment. Which usually means "very little". :)

OTOH, I don't have qualms about handling expensive equipment. Or maybe just a little bit. It certainly comes from being a journalist and getting used to playing with expensive stuff. There was a moment I had a couple of lenses with me, worth about ten times the car they were in. Yeah, the car was an absolute clunker, but still...

I want a nice whole-plate camera so bad that at times I could almost taste it, but nearly $3000 for the camera, another $600 for three film holders, and Gawd knows how much for a couple of nice Dagors is just too damn much for the pleasure that I'd get out of it.

In the days before I finally sold my film camera and bought a DSLR, I had this mad hankering to buy a Nikon F6 which had just been released, at I think about £1200. No matter how I rationalised it, I could not escape a longing to own a new copy of what will probably be the last and most advanced film camera. But the price was too much to rationally bear, even though I had the money available.

The new price is now about £1700, and "like new" used examples sell for £1500. I should have bought one, because clearly there is still a thriving used market.

So, £1199 for me. That's also about £50 under the used price for a Hasselblad SWC/M, which I also hanker to own.

I know exactly how you feel, I seem to have a built in sense of what something is worth to me. Almost all of my gear was bought used at anything from a small to huge saving and I shall carry on like that I think.

The rule which was reputed to apply to ownership of a Rolls Royce limo "if you need to ask the price you obviously can't afford one" could also apply to camera equipment or any other purchase for that matter.

I do have a limit, which is mostly tied to my financial situation at the time (which could always use improvement). But I also find that if I really want something, I'll usually come up with a way (short of stealing)to get it. That's not good either, as I let other, arguably more important things go to satisfy that urge. I try to keep from spending money on gear that just looks like it will be something I want to hold and cuddle. I have always wanted a real Leica - real I say because I have owned a Digilux 2, which I wish I had kept as it is now worth more than when I bought it, and a Leica V-Lux 1, which I love, but in the eyes of real afficianados are probably "flawed jewels". But, not charging for my work anymore (retired from years of weddings), I buy mostly "tools" that do the job at hand...sort of like a $4.50 hammer vs a $30.00 hammer, if you're not a carpenter.


At least the Zeiss alternative looks like an expensive item. The Nikon looks too "plastic" to be worth much but that could be said about most modern AF lenses.
Have you noticed how manufacturers in many fields try to increase perceived value of their plastic products by saying they're made of "engineering polymers"?

Since my last spell of unemployment I finally acquired the subconscious spending inhibition sadly missing for most of my adult life so am making the most of photo gear that's 5 or more years out of date. There was a time not so long back that my camera was worth more than my car but I never felt comfortable about it.

Please consider this particular lens purchase as a business expense Mike - the world deserves your wise criticism of it........

"...your camera should never cost more than your car..." that would be a problem with me, never owned a car, nor had a license -and I'm 37...

My limit is $1,500 ~ $2,000 I guess, that's when I carry a Pentax Limited 31mm/1.8 + body -the $500 swing is because digital bodies' prices depreciate so quickly...

"your camera should never cost more than your car"

The sad thing is that my camera is worth more than my truck and I sunk more money into the truck last year than I would ever budget for a camera or lens.

Visions of a big, fast lens dissappeared rapidly as my truck spent weeks in the shop. Oh well, at least I can get out to shoot.

I am thinking that you shouldn't spend more on your camera/lens than you spend on your computer.

"Just couldn't bring myself to do it."

Don't question your judgment, Mike. That's a very healthy gag reflex to have regardless of your relative wealth and financial stability.

It's far too easy to rationalize nearly any purchase in photography or any other avocational pursuit. Actually, I should say "to irrationalize" purchases. You, of all people, know the logical contra arguments. But then there's that really, really nagging "...but it sure would be fun to have!" that tends to be the final word.

Shrug...what can I say? Ask yourself how you would guide your son on such matters?

How much would I spend? How much do I have in the bank beyond anticipated expenses, prudent retirement planning and a comfortable cushion? If the answer is "enough", then I don't have a dollar limit.

I bought a Hassleblad X-Pan and the astounding 30 mm lens when my life insurance company de-mutualized (against my specific instructions, I might add). I figured it was 'found money' that I was quite prepared to live without, and Hassie had produced the perfect camera for me -- the one that I had invented in my head a decade earlier. It cost me more than I had ever spent on a car, and I never regretted it for a moment. I made some fine images with it, had a couple of gallery shows that didn't lose money, and made myself an some friends happy. End of the story: I left the whole outfit on a train in England (oh god, let's not relive that one!) ... and then discovered ( to my amazement) that it was covered by my home insurance. By then the photographic world had moved on, and so did I: I went digital ... and haven't regretted that, either.

Which leads me to a reprise of yesterday's post on elegant design: I've been riding bicycles for 58 years and since reaching my adult height of 6 foot 2 inches I have never had a bike that fit me properly. That damned Rivendell ad on your site may end up costing me a lot more than some little Nikon lens (You're a wicked man, Mike Johnston...)


Such a great topic and you're spot on regarding the "Leica Willies", Mike.

I experienced my first weak in the knees feeling after acquiring a brand new RB67 Pro-SD the last year it was in production.

Two weeks into ownership, I fell on a patch of ice while shooting frozen waterfalls in a state park. It was the full-on, feet-out-from-under-me kind of fall, and I landed on my backpack. The camera and two shiny new lenses, light meter, etc. were inside.

Fearing the worst, I unbuckled the pack and rolled over on my side to examine the damage. Not a scratch. Not a single one.

Breathed a sigh of relief and continued on my hike into the park. Got some great images that day, and, more importantly, got over my fear of dropping the camera.

Oh, and yes, I do have an upper limit for what I will spend on camera gear. It is for this very reason I have absolutely no plans to "go digital" with my medium format gear.

I recently bought a Holga WA lens set in Nikon mount for something like $40- and it would have been money well spent if I could only see what the hell I'm looking at. It's like looking through the lens preset to f22 w/a polarizer attached!

About $1300 is what I paid for a mint 50/4.5 lens for the Mamiya 7. That was the most I've spent on any single photo related purchase. And it was probably also a rather stupid purchase because I don't use it that much. It's inconvenient, with the external viewfinder and all; also takes bigger filters I never bothered to get. I seem to be shooting the 80/4 most of the time. It somehow magically works for landscapes most of the time. I should've probably gotten the 65/4 instead for half what I paid for the 50. Oh well.

The 35/1.4 Nikkors never quite appealed to me because of the size, cost and the rather ugly bokeh.

I probably have a cost limit, but I also seem to have a guilt limit.

Some equipment is so nice (and so permanently limited in quantity, being out of production), that the major risk of lugging it around isn't any economic issue, but is the thought that if I destroyed something that lovely I'd have a hard time forgiving myself. This is why I can't imagine myself buying pristine vintage equipment. I want something that works, but that's gotten ugly enough that I won't feel as bad about putting it at risk.

Remember that ad, way back when (70s I think), from Leica, saying that if you buy some exotic telephoto lens of theirs, they would throw in a car for free? I have to admit, that ad really scared me!

Partly I'm just suffering from old-timers disease. Over $1000 for a single piece of photo gear seems huge. (My first SLR was $280 with 50/1.4; my M3 DS with collapsible 50/2 was $250. I believe I paid $360 for the 90mm Summicron, and I know I paid $240 for the 35mm Summicron. My N90 seemed terribly expensive for a camera body at $900. And now, I'm shooting a D700 with the 24-70/2.8 and the 70-200/2.8, which cost...yeah. Scary. But I bought those three bits at three separate moments. Even so, each one individually felt like a stretch.

I got used to handling expensive stuff early; from operating computers when they were built with discrete transistors (and took 14-inch removable disk packs), to video equipment in junior high through college, and 16mm gear some. Studio-quality video cameras were expensive in 1976!

my limit is "do not buy on credit"

so it took quite some time till i saved enough money for the lens i deserved for - a 600mm f4.0
but it is worth every single pence i had to spend because it did improved my photography a lot and i work more and harder

the very good and expensive lenses are made to take wonderfull photos, as more as better. they are not made to be stored at someones save home, if so they are like dead trophies - that's what i think

I don't really have an inbuilt limit about how much I'll spend...but I do insist that the lens be worth it to me. I'll give you four examples:

1) I spent twice as much for a stabilized macro lens because I knew the stabilization would make my life easier. Not a moment's hesitation at the checkout, and stabilization has really saved my bacon.

2) I didn't blink about paying $2k for a TS lens because I knew I needed shift and I really wanted tilt. Indeed, shift has allowed me to take pictures that I couldn't have done with a normal lens. Tilt gets used sometimes too, and one of my favorite pictures ever uses both to good effect.

3) On the other hand, I needed a fast lens and I spent weeks agonizing over whether I should buy the $100 50mm f1.8 or the $250 50mm f1.4. In the end, I decided that ergonomics and build quality were worth the extra money. But I hesitated right up until I paid for the lens, and sometimes I still have doubts about the wisdom of my purchase.

4) And as counterpoint to the 1.4, in the next twelve months I plan to spend $4500 on a 60mm lens and hundreds more on filters, because that 60mm lens lets me do something that a $500 60mm won't--namely shoot in ultraviolet.


And speaking of cars--when people ask me how I can afford the gear I shoot with, I point out that I don't have a car or any of the expenses that go with one.

It's all relative with me. I like the idea and I never do spend more on camera equipment than I do on a computer ..... at the same time.

Just bought a new MacBook Air (top of the range) but have also bought a new Canon 7D and a Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 lens this year - camera gear that's £600 more expensive than the laptop. (Exam marking has been lucrative this year!) So, I clearly don't follow any rules.

A guy in Dallas became tired of the gear game and, via Craigslist, put his whole Pentax kit up for $1200. The 31mm and 77mm Limiteds and a K20D with less than 3k on the shutter count were the highlights of the deal. I went for it, spending more money on a direct purchase than anything else I can remember.

I prefer ambient lighting and I shoot so much indoors and at night these guys have to come with me. So, I go to rock shows with more than a thousand retail bucks of equipment in my hands just to take personal pictures of friends and the event.

The K20D's since been dropped, breaking the battery grip and needing a little amateur surgery to fix a dislodged focusing screen. The 31mm has been splashed with champagne and the aperture ring is still ever-so-slightly sticky. Both it and the 77mm are visibly worn.

Nowadays, I really just want two lenses: the A50/1.2 and something around 24-35mm equivalent no slower than f/2.8. $400 seems to be the price to get into these games.

Thankfully, that's right around my mental limit for single-item hobby expenditures. :)

My old rule was that I would price a job based on recouping at least 1/4 the total value of all the photo equipment used. That model conversely set my budget for equipment purchases, but it is useless in the world of today. The digital "revolution" has made camera pricing a significant issue.

In the mid/late 90's the top-of-the line Canon EOS 1v body, was priced at around $1700* whereas the current digital equivalent 1Ds III body costs $7000.

Considering that as each day passes, photo shoots pay less and less while equipment rises in price (tsunami notwithstanding); it illustrates how the economics of photography have gone haywire. I don't know how any recent graduate entering the professional photography workforce could have any optimism as to their success.

* It still remains at that same price in 2011!

Well since I don't shoot full-frame but only APSC, I guess the issue doesn't arise for me so directly, but I'm looking at the Nikon 35mm f1.8 and the Sigma 30mm f1.4 for cropped sensor and asking myself how much better my pictures would be. And thinking about how much other stuff I could buy with the money I saved,

Mike: My 'gagging' on the price of things seems to be quite arbitrary. For example I cannot bring myself to shell out $2400 for a Canon Tilt Shift lens even though I could use it for work (art reproduction) as well as indulge a few landscape fantasies... The flip side is that I had no hesitation whipping out the card for the camera I would use the T n S lens on.

I just don't get it ; )


I limit myself to $75 dollars a paycheck for camera stuff (every two weeks), so I can save up over time, or use some kind of credit and pay it off (Amazon's interest free for six months card is great for that). But now I'm left with the very desirable $2000 range Oly "super high grade" lenses to purchase. Might eventually get one, maybe not. I'll skip the $6000 300 2.8. The truth is I just need to get better at rising early for the good photographs at this point, and stop worrying that some super lens will give me a few more lines of resolution and better microcontrast.

Looks so plastic to me . . .

I can 'irrationalize' any photo purchase for any amount of money, as long as that amount of money 1) is in hand, PLUS 2) a replacement amount of money has either A) already been earned, or is B) certain to be earned by me in the near future.

Perhaps the monetary cost of anything including cameras & automobiles is a double edged sword, On one edge entirely reasonable to purchase for the conditions present; however the other dege is payment. Either monetary or otherwise. Kraft Dinner for a period to be able to covet, feel, enjoy, utilize something may seem unrealistic.It is not.You purchased a Benz in order to allow Zander to learn how to operate a motor vehicle. He can learn to drive and kill himsellf or you, Dad! Less chance in a Benz.
And here is the point. Things and life itself is important, enjoy it while you can. Enjoy looking at the ground from above .

I only pay cash for photographic equipment, and only buy what I think will add advantage to my work. So while I don't place a dollar limit on what I'll spend for something, it usually takes me quite some time to buy any particular thing. And expensive acquisitions take more time because I will only pay cash ... it's self-limiting.

A fine lens like that Nikon 35mm f/1.4 might be just the thing for some work, and I would likely buy it if I considered that what it could offer would do something special for my work. Same goes for a Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH, which costs more than twice as much. But you can bet that I'll buy after due consideration, after I've got the cash on hand ... and also that when I have it, I'll take my time to learn it, understand exactly I can get from it, and then I'll make the decision as to whether to keep it if I find it isn't all that important or that much of an advantage to my work.

Baby steps, that's the trick. You buy yourself a $500 lens first. After a few months, when you sort of forgot about spending that money you sell the lens for $400 and buy one for $900. That way the $900 lens only cost you $500, you see? Just keep on stepping and you'll have that really expensive lens before you know it!

Best, Nick

Mike, if you had a problem using a Leica because of your fear of dropping it, then maybe you shouldn't drive a car, should you?

As I suspect is the case with most people, I don't have a "one-price-fits-all" spending limit on photography gear. It depends upon some combination of 1) the product I'm considering; 2) my perception of the value of having it; and 3) my general mood at the time, with the last being perhaps the biggest variable.

For example, last summer, I was able to justify assembling a (used) medium-format digital outfit in return for postponing the replacement of my car for another three years. This summer, I was able to justify buying the Olympus 12mm/f2 lens for my E-P1 body, but replacing the E-P1 body with an E-P3 body struck me as too costly for what I'd receive in return, so I passed.

And earlier this morning, I destroyed the E-P1 body when I slipped and fell while it was in my hand, so this afternoon, I'm contemplating whether I want to replace it with an E-P2 body or an E-P3, or not replace it and continue to wait for the long-rumored appearance of a "pro-level" m4/3 body before the year ends. For the moment, my mood is leaning toward the latter...

When I bought my D200 a few years ago ($1700.)I left it unopened, in its box for three days to be sure that I really wanted it, because my D70 was functional. (Of course, other than the D70 my only other "new" camera was my Spotmatic II from 1970, which considering inflation was about the same $$$.)

That is a constantly moving target, whose motion is controlled by my financial and/or marital status, both of which are subject to dramatic change any time I succumb to the siren call of yet another piece of photographic equipment.

As you said it all depends on what you're bringing in. Anything Leica to me is over priced. But for what a modern DSLR body can do, I find them priced appropriately with the exception of the D3X. The lenses on the other hand are getting a little crazy. Primes shouldn't cost almost as much as digital bodies.

Hell that's why I bought a Pentax. At least they keep the costs down.

"Mike, if you had a problem using a Leica because of your fear of dropping it, then maybe you shouldn't drive a car, should you?"

I've never yet dropped a car, but don't jinx me!


"Maybe there's a similar rule for cameras—your camera should never cost more than your car."

A few years ago I was driving a "Craigslist special" Ford Pinto wagon. I'd have had to give up photography if I went by that rule. ;-) Filling the tank with gas added 10% to the car's net worth...

My limit is whatever I can afford and justify, which still isn't much. I couldn't justify an 85mm f/1.2 FD lens even if it is a "steal" at under $800, but the more workmanlike f/1.8 which uses the same 52mm filters as my other lenses, that one I could stretch to with a little saving.

For example If you ordered a Nikon Kit, the D3S, 14-24mm,
24-70mm, 70-200mm and SB-900 this would equal $11,400 plus tripod and accessories would put the cost over $12,000.
If you have a professional job i think $10,000 to $15,000 would be reasonable. The lens are good for a long time and you would only have to replace the camera body every 4 years plus you could sell the old one.

Once you reconcile your first "real" Leica purchase, then the rest is all downhill :-)

I paid $1300 for my first used Leica lens, the Summilux 35/1.4 ASPH. It was more money than I ever spent on all my photographic equipments before that (not counting the M7 I bought just prior to the lens of course).

My camera equipment purchasing process goes like this: once I determine that I "need" an $item, then I find out the best reasonable price for a used if possible and new model. I also see if there are $items that I really don't use much and sell them if possible to fund the purchase. I purchase the $item when the fund is available (which may be immediately or 3+ years later or... never).

I was trying to think this through...

An f/1.4 35mm lens for $1600? Has it great bokeh?... bokeh on a wide-angle lens? Does 1.4 really make a difference? So, I went to Flickr and searched on Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4 and clicked "interesting" at the top.

From what I saw... the bokeh was perfection, the images taken with this lens are incredible. I will dream of this lens. If there was only one lens -- this would be IT for me!

Normally, I am not one to swoon over a lens.

My limit per piece (lens, camera, ...) is a months income.
That, together with common sense.
It keeps me from buying a new Canon full frame camera :-)

I try to consider how much time it takes me to accumulate the "mad money" it takes to buy something I do not absolutely need. It puts it in the perspective of how much of my life I am giving up for the thing. If I'm sure it will make my life that much better, I get it. If I'm unsure, I generally pass.

Mike, Take a look at the Samyang lenses, all manual under $400
and from the test I have looked at there as sharp as the Nikon's.


Get the lens. Sunny day f1.4 1/8000 on a D700 and you'll wonder how things can get technically better from here. It's like cranking the base, treble and volume on your amp and loving the result.

As long as Lulu is all patched up now of course...

I too am a musiclover and audiofile...or as I say often, audiofool. For me, the cost-of-system-v.-cost-of-music rule wouldn't work, as I have NO idea what my music collection costs. My purchase-price limit for either hobby is what I can afford at the time. This year I've spent c. $20K on cable, speakers, and poweramps, and my system sounds better than it EVER has. In my more-active-fotog days, during the industry's succesful quest for ever-more resolution, I paid $8+K for a new Canon 1Ds. I was never nervous about carrying/using it, and I was quite happy I had it, as I could stop shooting multiframe panos to achieve resolution higher than that of a single frame. Now I have a same-resolution 5D and more-humble lenses. I'm glad I don't 'need' 20 - 30 megapixels of resolution, but I'm still on the ever-better-sound treadmill, altho I've reached my limits of satisfaction on cable, speakers, and poweramps...

...and I'm still buying music. :-)

Dear Mike,

Photographic equipment comfort zone? $500 and down.

Acceptable zone: up to $1,000.

Imaginable zone: $1,000 to $2,000. Although I cannot recall buying anything in that range. but I *might*.

Above $2K? Not gonna happen.

pax / Ctein

My car is 11 years old (but kept up), my photo equipment and computer are 3 - 4 years old. I'd love a $1,600 lens, but I'd have to sell the car.


I don't think I have ever bought a car that cost as much as my photo gear.
It helps that I'm really cheap when it comes to cars, I've often driven cars that cost less than a 10th of my camera. I believe Mike posted a photo of one of them a while back.

I usually apply what I call a "+1" rule. When buying gear (cycling, backpacking, climbing, photography, hi-fi, guitar, car, etc.), I buy the best that I can justify at the moment +1 level up. I have felt worse about not spending the extra money to get the better item than I have actually spending a little more than I could comfortably afford. In other words, a few months down the road I will likely forget the extra $100 or $1000 I spent, especially if I am enjoying the better gear. Of course this assumes that I have done my homework to establish the more expensive choice is materially better, functionally or esthetically.

Frankly, I have no idea why anyone would even think of spend $1600 on a lens that doesn't even have an aperture ring . . . . By next year the price will probably go up when they eliminate glass . . . . think how much lighter the lens will be!!

Despite claims of wanting to do the Leica for a year thing I have to admit to GAS guilt. Decided to sell off anything that says Leica on it. (That whole rangefinder thing is overrated anyway)as well as most of my more expensive gear.

I'm making due with a beautiful black FM2n with a 50mm F2 ai (maybe Nikon's best ever 50) and 24mm 2.8. Total investment $475.

For digital I'm using a recently acquired, out of date Nikon D200 with a AFS 18-70 zoom. Total investment $625. Oh I also have a neat little Olympus XZ1 that goes every where with me and takes very nice photos. That was $499.

Enough equipment to do what I want/need to do and keep me from getting bored. Total price of my equipment = something close to that wonderful 35 1.4.

Hi Mike,
I can relate to that, I spent too many years with no money to lightly spend it now I have it. I haven't had a credit card for 25+ years as I realised that unless you pay it off immediately the interest quickly makes any purchase very expensive, and if you can pay it immediately you might as well save for a month and pay cash ( I can use my debit card for emergencies or mail-order).
My FE shutter dying coincided with a cat's broken leg costing £1300+ (worth every penny - how's Lulu by the way?), and so I got a K20D rather than a D300 (half the price), as the IS and backward lens compatabilty allowed me to use my tamron 90 and 300 adaptalls (originally bought for my Zenit E!) for a year or two. Looking at how battered the FE was I knew I needed a sturdy relatively cheap camera, otherwise It would stop me doing some of the things I take a camera to.
I couldn't buy a secondhand camera but will happily buy s/h lenses; in the same way as I've never bought a TV but always had friends' when they've upgraded, but bought video recorders new, it's to do with the likelihood of moving parts failing.
I paid extra for the 16-45 rather than kit lens as the extra quality, fstop and 2 mm at the wide end was well worth it. £500 s/h for a Sigma 150-500 (can't justify the Pentax 300 +TC), 50-200WR new £100? and just bought the 18-55WR s/h for £60.
I've thought about DA* lenses a few times but most of my photography needs more, rather than less, DOF, and the advantage of the 16-45 and 55-200WR is that they are small enough to fit in a fleece pocket with the lens hood on, so camera around neck, spare lens in pocket, grab tripod, and I'm good to go. f2.8 lenses are huge.
If lenses came in F5.6, f4 and f2.8, I'd be the guy who buys the f4s.
Printer was a new Canon IP4200, good quality for a sensible price, Scanner was free from a friend as it wasn't compatible with his new computer.
I think the price of modern flash guns is ludicrous so switch to a manual lens, slave units and old flashes if I need flash.
My next purchase will be a 100WR macro as annoyingly the Tamron 90 gets a bright spot in the middle which I assume is sensor reflection; interestingly the Tamron 300 doesn't and that is pretty good for dragonflies, butterflies etc, (green button means I could spend £20 on a pre AE K adapter rather than £70+{gulp} on an AE one).

My g/f has had 7 cars in the last 12 years, 5 free from her dad who's a jazz banjo player who does a lot of European travelling so when they are possibly unreliable for 1000+mile travelling they are still great for our use, and 2 from friends which needed work for an MOT but she trades errands with a mechanic friend for free repairs. So even my cable release cost more than our cars!

The advantages of a hobby, rather than a business.

Sorry, just realised this is a very long, and possibly uninteresting, post.

all the best cheapskate phil

"I'm still on the ever-better-sound treadmill, altho I've reached my limits of satisfaction on cable, speakers, and poweramps..."

Ah, famous last words. [g]

Mike (now one amp past his absolute ultimate last amp)

How much would you spend? That is a very timely question for me. This morning I decided it was time to either buy another Canon body or sell my lenses, flashes and other assorted kit.
I went to the Canon website and found a nice refurbished 7D body for $1399. After putting into the shopping cart I could not quite bring myself to press the buy button. It was a good deal and I really wanted a 7D but the spirit was not willing.
After some back and forth I ended up ordering a 60D body and wireless remote. It is not as solid or fast as the 7D but it seemed to be the right compromise for me. Today I was willing to spend $933.09 including overnight shipping.

Well, one thing I never worry about is dropping the camera/lens, or doing anything else stupid that might damage the gear or result in loss or theft. For a mere $300 a year, I cover over $20k in camera equipment as a special rider to my home insurance...no deductible, virtually no exclusions, worldwide coverage and at full replacement value (up to 150% of my stated value in case the market changes). I used to spend way more than $300/yr on film before I went digital.

As far as limits on purchases, these have changed as my values and income level have changed. I will say, however, that I've spent far more on vintage photographs than I've ever spent on any camera gear. Never did it for investment reasons - merely because I loved them and could afford them at the time - but found that they now help fund my retirement.

Okay you're interested in this lens. Do you have a suitable Nikon body to test/use it on, or will that be an additional purchase? Obviously from earlier discussions, you won't be using adapters!

If Chris Bertram is in the UK, he can try out my Sigma 30mm f1.4 (Nikon mount). For my use, I had mixed results - some great, but often there were corner issues, that may be due to field curvature, or just the user...

I think my limit is $1000 for a lens and $2000 for a body - round numbers and generous limits for a "personal hobby." Professional photographers who produce income with their cameras, like your friend with the S2, wouldn't sneeze if those were the taxes on their gear purchases (all written off, of course). On the flip side, my computing and software expenses are easily 10x that, but that's where I make my living! (Oh, and I haven't dropped my workstation yet...)

Mike, I own that lens, along with way too many other lens. But that lens along with the 24-120 f4 and my d700 are the lens I carry, and travel with the most. It is truly a wonderful lens, and great for night, and low light shots. I would strongly encourage you to buy it, and I know you will, like myself, fall in love with the lens. It may have some plastic on it, but it is very sturdy. Even if you drop it, I know it would still work.

My limit is my bank account. I have an extensive wish list that has changed over the years, some parts of it fulfilled years later as used equipment when my income went up and the prices went down. If I actually had the money (still a fantasy) it would not bother me a particle to fork it over for gear I really want. My wife would likely raise an eyebrow though. My current wish list would require about $10K. Any patrons reading this?

I used to have a 500 euro limit for lenses. But I guess I stretched that limit along the way. The only sub-500 lens I have now is the trusty old 85/1.8. Wish Canon would have a 28 and a 50 like that, that would have saved me a lot of money.
The good thing (maybe) is, I never think about it when I use them. I just enjoy them, which is helped by the fact they're good lenses. I only think about it when a lens doesn't get used, and I look at my bank account.

My budget is, coincidentally, similar to Ctein"s. I wouldn't spend more than $500 on a lens. I just don't think any lens could possibly be worth more than that. Also, I'd be afraid of damaging the frigin' thing, or having it lost or stolen. The other problem is that the more expensive a lens is, the heavier it is. It's a kind of trade off between performance and size/weight. $1,000 is about my upper limit for a camera. I might spend up to $1,500 for an exceptional camera. So far there are no cameras that I would pay that much for. All too big and heavy, or inadequate in some way. I would consider a Fuji X100 if it had removable lenses and image stabilization - but it doesn't, so no deal. I don't make any money from photography, nor do I expect to. It's a hobby. If I earned money from it, then it would be a cost-benefit analysis thing - if it makes more money, then it might be worth it, especially if someone else is going to carry it.


Depends on the gear. My limit is much lower for digital stuff and things that change rapidly — stuff that I know will get replaced in a few years — than more static, well, "timeless" things.

After hankering for it for a year, I got myself a new Fuji GF670 this spring. A single focal length MF film camera for more money than I have ever spent on a digital body. But I expect to keep the Fuji around for the next ten to twenty years at least (my older folder is over sixty years old and still usable), while a DSLR is probably done and over with in five.

Would I pay that kind of money for a lens? For a DSLR, probably not. I'd not be 100% that I still use the same camera brand in an upgrade cycle or two; I may well decide a mirrorless 4/3 or similar camera is the best digital system for me and I'd end up with a kludgy adapter to use my once-hugely expensive lens.

"If I actually had the money (still a fantasy) it would not bother me a particle to fork it over for gear I really want. My wife would likely raise an eyebrow though. My current wish list would require about $10K. Any patrons reading this?"

If it helps any, I have a friend whose fantasy is to give lots of money away. [g]


Dear MarkB,

Dunno if it's changed, but back in the film days, the biggest spenders amongst our magazine subscribers were amateurs, not professionals.

A well-heeled amateur will spend as much on photo equipment as their love of the hobby requires. A pro *will* do the cost-benefit analysis you mentioned, and 90% of the time that speaks against purchase.

There are notable exceptions-- the early adopters of the ultra-expensive digital SLRs were pros who did mass portraiture and catalog work, because it was cost-effective for them.

And, should my Epson 9800 need replacing (which I paid, come to think of it, $1,500 for, so I guess I do have a purchase in the $1-2K range after all) I will spend whatever it costs, because I do make good money off of that. But I think of that less as photographic gear than infrastructure, like a new computer system.

pax / Ctein

Dear MarkB,

Dunno if it's changed, but back in the film days, the biggest spenders amongst our magazine subscribers were amateurs, not professionals.

A well-heeled amateur will spend as much on photo equipment as their love of the hobby requires. A pro *will* do the cost-benefit analysis you mentioned, and 90% of the time that speaks against purchase.

There are notable exceptions-- the early adopters of the ultra-expensive digital SLRs were pros who did mass portraiture and catalog work, because it was cost-effective for them.

And, should my Epson 9800 need replacing (which I paid, come to think of it, $1,500 for, so I guess I do have a purchase in the $1-2K range after all) I will spend whatever it costs, because I do make good money off of that. But I think of that less as photographic gear than infrastructure, like a new computer system.

pax / Ctein

I thought you used a Pentax K-5?

I have an idea of how good my photography is, and how good a camera I need to pretty much realize that potential. It's not so much a matter of cost, it's a matter of feeling stupid for spending x-huge amount of dollars on a camera that would not help me more than x-small amount would. I currently shoot mostly Panasonics, though I also have a K5 and some left-over, nearly obsolete Nikon gear, and that about frames my real potential. I think if I spent more than I would for a Panasonic, or a Pentax, I'd feel stupid, just as I'd feel stupid if I were rolling around 25 mph St. Paul in a Ferrari or a Bentley. It's not so much the cost, as the feeling stupid...


Mike, I wonder if you'd have done the same thing in a different week. I had qualms a while back about purchasing the new 35mm Summilux for $5K, but I went ahead. This week, however, a RolleiWide – which I've wanted very much for a long time – appeared on eBay and sold for about 60% of the usual value. And I wasn't even a bidder. Just not the right week, with economies in turmoil. I hadn't suffered any particular losses and could still afford it, but in terms of mood I wanted to step away (at least for a day!) from consuming.

Were any such thoughts lurking in the back of your mind when you passed up the Nikkor?


I don't have a limit for a single purchase so much as I have a limit for the sum of my gear purchases. I tend to feel guilty of living beyond my means when the total value of my cameras and lenses exceeds $3K. I periodically go over that limit and then downsize as the guilt sets in.

As someone who uses an M9 and a 0.95 Nocti I guess I have a higher limit than most. But I won't buy on credit and it does sometimes make me feel guilty. But I drive a 7 year old car, don't smoke, can't drink, have no mortgage and have only one wife. Seriously though the current world financial mess could play havoc with retirement planning so I am becoming more prudent on discretionary spending as it drags on. Whatever my limit is its coming down and I refuse, absolutely refuse to pay a premium over list to queue jump for a 35mm F1.4 lux.

I figure digital bodies are consumer electronics; not meant to last. And photography is a hobby, so spending lots on a digital body would be hard. I'm already by no means as good a photographer as the K5 is a camera, so getting a more expensive camera would be really hard to justify to myself.

Lens have a "does this let me do something I couldn't?" rule. Pentax's water-resistant lenses are a very convenient thing with respect to this rule.

How much money is a function of income; there's a budget, and everything not in the budget goes into savings. So I tend to sit down at the start of the year and figure out how much I can expect to be able to spend on frivolities, wait until I'm far enough into the year that I believe the estimate will be factual, and start buying stuff from the list.

While the total bills for four-good-lenses-at-once and a bicycle that fits did give me modest cases of the collywobbles, they did it after I'd gone through the whole budget process and made the purchases. So presumably whatever hard limit process I've got gets outvoted by the math until it's too late.

My upper limit depends directly on the earning potential of the les(es)/camera(s). I recently bought two D700 bodies and a $1,200 lens for work. This is sort of like a long-haul truck driver buying a new set of tires. You need it. It will make money. You buy it. There's no gear lust or brand pride. There is no anticipation that your work will get better. No excitement when the Fed-Ex truck pulls up. But there is peace of mind. There is also satisfaction knowing you have the tools at hand to deliver results your clients expect. Even when I've edited and adjusted hundreds of photos a week, I still admire and enjoy the results I see from above average tools. Three to five hundred photos a week may not sound like much, but when you have to deliver eighty to one hundred really good ones, that's a lot of images.

For work, where the probability of financial return is low (a.k.a. personal projects), my limit is lower. In the past three months I bought a X-100, a 85/1.8 AF-D and the new 50/1.8 G lens. I did not get the more expensive, faster Nikkor lenses because I don't need speed and rarely shoot wide open. I woud not buy the 35/1.4 for the same reason, but I woud buy a 35/2 G if Nikon ever sells one. I carry the X100 with me wherever I go and didn't/don't think twice about the price. I just wanted an APS-C sensor camera I could conveniently carry daily and hold up to my eye to make a photograph. Little did I know the lens and sensor performance would be outstanding. After using it, I realized it was worth every penny. Oddly, I refused to buy the M8 and have no desire for the M9 (even though it is clearly better than the X100). It's not the money either. Ever since the bad craziness that boiled up after the M8's initial release, I've had a (irrational) dislike and distrust of Leica and some of the Leica community. Leica will never get a penny of my money and I don't want to be a Leica owner. What's weird is: I really like rangefinder cameras. I know if Leica had shipped the M8 from day one with coupons for IR filters and explained how it was important to put the filters in front of the lens to retain a true M body, I would certainly have bought a M8 and probably have upgraded to a M9. Oh well.

My limit is $700 for lenses and $1500 for camera bodies. That means I can continue collecting DA Limited primes and maybe pick up a K-5 body. But I've been waiting for the K-5 to come down to $1000 anyway.

Come to think of it, I've never paid $1500 for a camera body. I've never even paid $1000 for a camera body - digital or film. I have two DA* lenses (the 16-50 and 50-135). But even they were part of a very nice package when I bought my K200D new - so I got them each for under $700 anyway. Looks like I'll never own the FA 31 Limited.

Mike, you are right to trust your own instincts. I really wanted the K-5 when it came out. I even had it in my cart on the B&H website. But I couldn't pull the trigger at full MSRP. This happened to me one other time - when I had the FA 35mm f/2.0 prime in my cart on the Pentax USA website. But I couldn't pull the trigger there, either. $475 was just too much money for a very good plastic-fantastic lens that was once a fabulous deal at $200-250. Good thing I waited. The DA 35 f/2.4 came out at $200 less than a year later.

For me the rules of thumb is easy.

Never buy anything in order to poses it, buy only if you are about to use it. If you bought something and don't use it, sell it........don't hang on to it (depreciation is a bitch).

Never buy new what you can buy just as well used if you don't know you're gonna use it.....that way you don't loose when you have to sell because you don't use.

If you know you use something and you want new and need new, sell old, buy new, try not to accumulate. I know people who call themselves photographer but in fact they are more like camera collectors.....if dusting and admiring your collection takes more time then the photography bit seek professional help (or open up a museum).

So in your case Mike, I would patiently wait untill I could buy that lens for 1200 bucks on Ebay or Craigslist. Then if I would use it over my zooms, I'd be happy, if not I would sell it again at craigslist for 1200 bucks.

This is called experience Mike.......it was really pricy experience too, so do your advantage with it.

Greetings, Ed

2000 bucks is a nice upper limit.......but for what, 10 purchases of 500 make 5000 easy. My limit......1000 bucks a year. So I need to wait 3 to 5 years in order to buy an M9 (that is called saving for the credit hungry bunch), it will nicely depreciate into my hands, if the M10 hits the market. Great......gives me time to practice my art and use the tools I have to the max.

The S2 is a great (and big) tool in the hands of a professional. I sometimes see amateurs using it that would be better of using something more modest (those who do know who I mean).

Leica is a brand that cleaverly uses it's precense in the luxury market to (see remark above) in order to develop, build and sell great camera's. So you should be gratefull to all those overly rich aspiring amateurs and dilitants alike who own but don't need Leica's because in a way they sponsor real photographers who do need a camera build with that kind of optical precision (talking FAP here).

Greetings, Ed

But how many of the images you imagine taking with this lens will you truthfully print ?

So how much would each print cost ?

I've been on the verge of getting a gh2, then a panny g3, but never been able to pull the trigger. I want to replace my xsi, and I'm doing the same with the 60d. One of these days I will decide what to do. Go with the pannys and sell mt canon stuff, or just get a 60d. With the pannys being mostly out of stock, it temporarily helps me not doing anything.


Large format for architecture work - didn't bat an eye at $2800 for a demo Arca-Swiss and $1200 for a like-new 90mm Super Angulon XL and $1200 for the 55mm Grandagon. All the architecture gear paid for many times over.

For fun - it was a tough time talking myself into buying an Olympus E-PL1 and 14mm lens.

And this from a guy who just bought an $8000 sofa but drives a 15-year old Honda.

Our values are all over the map. Sometimes we're frugal, sometimes we're extravagant. We should only consume when it makes us happy or profitable. Too much misery comes of our consumptive society. Guilt, anxiety, family stress.

This started me thinking about my career long history of equipment purchases. When I look back to the beginning any camera that worked was good enough for me at the time. Once I got serious [starting with 35mm] it was only new and only what I needed - 2 Minolta bodies; 35mm & 85mm + 75-150 zoom; strobe & a bag. Over time as I started to make money I went on to Nikon [gotta have the best] and an ever changing series of lenses. Can't exactly remember which one's but there was an 85 f/2 & a 105 f/2.5 [by this time Jay Maisel was my hero and the 105 was his desert island lens]. Then came medium format and 4x5. With the Hasselblad not one piece of equipment was bought new outside of the bag it went in. Same for 4x5. The thing of it is I always made money with the bigger cameras yet always spent the most on 35mm.

Once the Hasselblad became my number one gun the Nikons disappeared and I didn't have another 35mm system for the better part of 2 years till I discovered Contax and the fun started all over again. If I hadn't been wooed by the siren song of auto-focus I probably never would have sold it as the Contax lens quality was head & shoulders over Nikon IMHO - and none of it was bought new. Point being: that was back in the film days.

Today cameras are computers and I buy only new [same with cars]. I shoot with 2 Canon 5D's; 2 zooms; 2 primes; 2 strobes. Only the 2 primes were bought used. Why? Because they aren't what I use when I'm working most of the time. When it's a tool it has to be the best I can afford at the time [I chose the 70-200 f/4 IS over the f/2.8 partly on price, partly on performance, partly on size and haven't regretted it once - love that IS]. At the time that I needed to go digital I would have gladly bought a Nikon D3 but the body would have been all I'd gotten. For that money I pretty much got a whole system.

So, yes there is a threshold. What do I need and how much can I get for what I've got to spend?

I just interrupt my drooling to remind myself that the object of desire won't improve my photography skills by even the merest fraction. Never works.

I wonder if there's a website that graphs the price escalation for photo gear over the past few years? I think the increases have been unreasonable. I'm sure not buying on whim these days.

I used to not be able to fork out over 100 euros for used Nikon manual focus 50mm lenses. You could get a 50/1.8 nearly for free, so the price differential with the 50/1.4 I really wanted was huge, relatively. The summilux I have now is a bit more though :)

I like the idea of linking it to the price of my computer, but I strongly believe a good PC should not cost over 500 euros (buch cheap, upgrade often: my last full upgrade was 350). So that leaves me very few options for photo gear :) Cars, same thing. Don't like cars, so don't like to spend to spend more than the minimum for four wheels and a seat. My photo kit is more expensive than anything else I own.

My limit is based on my savings. I don't pay for extra insurance on hobby items as the actual coverage (read the fine print!) vs expenses (a good insurance would cost me a good lens a year) isn't very good. So I feel comfortable spending as much as I'd be able to immediately replace out of savings.

I'd say that my new limit is about 500 Euro. And it's a rather hard limit because I'm now only buying online or from online auctions. I think there's one variable which always troubles me: walking into a shop. Actually touching and using the lens or talking to someone about it always changes the money envelope.

Touching it makes it oh-so-close-to-mine and talking to someone about it generally pushes me over. At least, that's what happened when I bought my M6 and brace of Summicrons...

Last acquisition and example: Pentax FA* 24/2. On Ebay, the going price was around 600-900 Euro. Then one auction came up which was under the magical 500 Euro limit. Buy it now! Et voila, I now have a fast wide lens for my Pentax gear... I think I would have easily paid more than 500 Euro if I had used it in a shop though.


I second Andrew Karre: "..the point at which the cost of the tool infringes on the enjoyment of the activity."

This nails it. But I think there are three variables:

- your disposable income
- the joy you take out of using camera/car/computer/whatever
- the worry about losing it, having it stolen, dropping etc.

I use my computer every day, for hours. I spend probably more money on it than most other people I know, but after years of usage, I consider this money well spent instead of suffering all the frustrations that come with a cheapo disposable computer.

I use a bicycle to get to work and move around in town. I paid 150 for it, and am able to use it without the constant worry of it being stolen. The bicycle is good enough to be used, I depend on it and I don't want to worry all the time. My colleagues all have expensive bikes, and haul them up to their apartments, have them next to their desk in the office - that's nothing I'm inclined to do.

And, cameras. My used M6, back in the 90s, brought me nightmares. I was in constant worry of it being damaged, stolen, whatever. Leave it in the room? Take it with me? Oh no! Finally I told myself that I did not spend so much money on a camera to not use it, so I swallowed the pill and took it out. I got used to it, and today the M6 is worn and beaten and nobody would steal a film camera anyway.

The M9 is way too expensive for me to use it comfortably. I could afford one, but I could not afford replacing it, meaning that I would live with constant worries: "..the cost of the tool infringes on the enjoyment of the activity."


My rule of thumb is similar to others: I will not buy a camera that cost more than the cheapest used car I've ever bought. (That was $750.) This is because I can't stand the thought of dropping and breaking something that I can't afford to readily replace, and for our budget, "readily replace" is closer to $400 than $750. However, any one item below $100 is definitely inside the budget, though I have to watch myself so that I don't buy more than about 5 of those a year. This is ultimately what killed my film habit, well, that and the fact that once I could confirm focus with live view at 14x enlargement, I was never going to go back.

Right now I'm delighted with my E-PL1, despite, or perhaps because of the absence of fast acting control wheels to twiddle with speed and aperture. It's much easier to twiddle with composition and critical focus with the 14x enlargement in live view. Those factors make much more of a difference to the quality of my work than a minor improvement in shadow noise due to really fine-tuned metering.

I'm going to be giving most of my film equipment to my cousin, who is really interested in experimenting and exploring film. Really, there's no better time in history to learn about how cameras "used to" work first hand. I'm delighted by the camera I use every day, and just tickled that I can (sort of) afford to drop it at any time and still afford to order a replacement* the same hour. If it lasts a few years, I won't think twice about picking up a second shooter so I won't have to change lenses.


*thanks for the rapid model turnover, Olympus - new and nifty features turn up every quarter!

My limit is the number on my average single paycheck after all deductions. Functionally that means around $2k right now. When I make more, it'll go up.

My biggest purchase was a D300 at $1800, my real comfort zone is around $800, particularly since I have tended to go through bodies/systems although I seem to have settled on a working pair of systems finally (Sony/Minolta with a side venture in Contax/Yashica). That said, I'm generally a lot more comfortable spending money on glass than bodies, the D300 remains to this day the only $1000+ body I've ever bought. but I'll quite happily purchase $1500 ZA primes for my Sony/Minolta system or $1700 Contax primes.

As to the Nikkor, I couldn't bring myself to spend that much on a lens which hasn't exactly impressed me in the samples I've seen. Since I don't care about AF I'd be a lot more likely to spend the same on the IMHO much better Zeiss ZF.2 35/1.4 or save $1000 and get the Samyang which is the Nikkors match optically but inferior in build.

Perfectly timed. I have an Olympus EP-3 in my Amazon cart (Japan, unfortunately, so can't credit to TOP) and am having second thoughts. It seems to be the non-dSLR digital camera I have wanted, it's smaller and lighter than any of my Nikon bricks, it's an Olympus, a brand I have a soft spot for, and from what I have read would work very well for street photography.

Even at the Japan price of ¥89000 with the 14-42, I have to wonder if it is really worth it. My Nikon are big and heavy and attract way too much attention of security guards and everyone else even with short lenses, but I don't know if it is causing me $1159 of inconvenience.

And then there will be the problem of waiting on LR to update for the EP-3. Of course, that 14-42 won't be the only lens I absolutely require as they have a nice new 12mm. The square lens hood at 40 bucks or so looks cool too. Naturally, it would need a bag of its own and a polarizing filter.

My limit was at about $2000 for a body. I think it is falling 'cause half that amount now gives me the willies.

Maybe I'll win the lottery thus becoming a job creator and I'll no longer have these discouraging second thoughts.

What would put me off that lens, besides the price, is the size and weight! I can cradle my CV 21 f4 and 35 f2.5 in my palm and their total weight is way less than a pound. Add a M body for 17 ounces and it's a small light kit. If it is just it isolate a subject with shallow DOF then I have an 85 f2 and my OM with a matte focusing screen for that. If it's just to shoot in available darkness at ISO 12.8 K....well if it's too dark to see it's too dark to take pictures. (says the curmudgeon)

My limit is $1000 on used camera bodies but $1500 on good glass (which I will purchase new if prime units are not available). The bodies only go down in value but good glass...you don't loose more than a few hundred bucks after using it for many years if you keep them in halfway decent shape. The key is to not buy too much..this improves your photography - I limit myself to 3 lenses (24 t/s, 35 1.4, 135 2.0 - I'm a FF canon shooter but could be a Nikon if history was different - don't think it matters much) So my glass is worth far more than my camera - and that is what really matters. The 135 always knocks my socks off with portratis.

Now I have to figure out how to buy the 24 t/s gen 2..gulp.

Mike - buy the Nikon 35 1.4 you will love it.

I think the most I ever spent at a go on photo gear was around 7% of gross annual income. I broke out into a sweat when making the purchase. I am an amateur, so there is no cost-benefit to analyze, other than the pleasure I derive from using the gear. It turned out to be the most important purchase of my photographic "career" in terms of the images I have made (am still making) with it. BTW, I think a
"percentage of gross income" measure tells you more than a "what's your dollar limit" measure, because a $20,000 purchase may mean little for a multi-millionare, but be hugely significant for someone with less. BTW, in 1990 I made a list of all the cameras that I wanted. The cost to purchase was around $10,000 -- an unimaginable sum for me at the time. Well 20 years later, I have all the cameras -- many acquired used, but all doing what they are supposed to. The "list" has narrowed, but the individual items on it are so stratospherically expensive that they remain "If I won the lottery" items. Seriously, the pace of technological change is so fast, that if I were to save the money to make one of the purchases, the item would be obsolete by the time I had finished saving.

I showed this blog entry to my wife and she laughed as we had just gone through similar agonizing while shopping for a freezer. The delivered price of $600 was beyond our comfort zone for such a purchase yet we had no qualms dropping $10,000 on a fence or $20,000 on a cruise! Comfort zones are elastic.


I don't think the camera-car price comparison is nearly as valid as the stereo/music collection comparison. Stereos and music collections are linked in a way that cars and cameras simply aren't.

I have a bicycle I couldn't possibly afford if I had a car, and I have a friend with a camera she couldn't possibly afford if she had a car.

I suggest maybe indexing the price of camera to the price of developing? If you don't spend as much in printing over the life of your camera, you bought too much camera. Bikes to the number of miles you ride it in a year.

That said, my price limit on camera system $900. And by my own metric, I overspend on cameras, and have room to grow on the price of bikes.

I approach camera gear as I do audio gear: audio = if I can't hear it, I don't buy it. camera gear = if I can't see it (sharpness, resolution, etc.) in a print at "normal" viewing distances, I don't buy it.

In the camera gear realm, this approach almost always puts me in the $500-$1,000 for individual item purchases. So, I guess that's my comfort zone.

If I am tempted to consider purchases in excess of that comfort zone, I run head long into what my wife calls the "kill zone".

In my brain is a buzzer which goes off whenever it suspects vanity has taken over from common sense. Sometimes I ignore it, usually at my peril.

However I don't worry about the price as much as depreciation and yearly cost.

A pro lens will last a lot longer under stress than any consumer lens, will have better QC at the factory and deliver consistently better results on the whole.

If I stay with Nikon (likely) my 70-200 F2.8 will last at least 10 years and will still be saleable afterwards. £1600 new price - £500 trade in after 10 years = £110 per year. To me that's affordable because I actually use it a lot.

My D700 will last at least four years before I feel the need to upgrade it, possibly more. I will be able to resell it for at least £1000, so four year cost will be £200 per year. Again, affordable for something I actually get a lot of use out of.

Given those sorts of costs, a £2000 a year budget can actually afford one a lot of nice equipment. A new pro body every 4 years, a backup APSC body and several lenses.

I could not justify the cost of a Nikkor 24mm F1.4, much as I would like one, because I simply would not use it enough and there is other stuff I would rather have. Hence the vanity bell would be ringing.

But I could very easily justify the cost of the new Samyang 24, which is likely to be about 1/3 of the price and therefore fine for the occasional use it would get.

I find I have a psychological limit per transaction, but have worryingly noticed that several times in the last 5 years the total sum is easily breached by consecutive purchases. Funny how it works.

Around $600-800 is my upper comfort limit, and when it comes time to get more stuff I sell the old to fund the new. However, it's easy to make multiple little purchases over time, add a lens here, film back there.

What the limit does do, however, is eliminate premium items like leica, zeiss and fast zooms. Seeing as I'm lately shooting fixed lens film cameras, it's not so bad.


I own that 35mm lens. And over the years I have owned a number of fast 35mm lenses, including a 35mm f1.4 Summilux that I bought back in 1973 for my black M4. I've forgotten how much I paid for that Summilux in 1973 but let me guess $400, and furthermore, let me guess that that is about equivalent (in 2011 dollars) to the $1600 I paid for the new 35mm f1.4 Nikkor.

Bottom line? The Summilux was not worth it (a real dog wide open but probably good for the era) while the Nikkor is really quite beautiful. (So was the Canon 35mm f1.4 I owned several years ago.) But all of them fell within my threshold based on costs versus returns.

So I'll always keep trying these high end lenses as they come along if I can see them making pictures I can't make any other way (and my threshold keeps creeping up.)

So I might plunk down $10,000 for a 600mm f4 but would never plunk $5000 for a Leica f1.4 lens today because the effective ISO limit of the Leica bodies doesn't result in sufficient low light performance for the money.

Right now I'm shopping for a lens that should cost me around $3-3500 used. It would be useful for work, will help me produce images that I know I will publish, and I can justify the cost to myself by selling off a medium format SLR system that I don't use so much anymore for around what the new lens should cost me. The medium format system consists mostly of equipment that I bought used, and I'm selling it for around what I have into it.

I guess that's how I think about these things. I buy equipment to use, so I don't worry so much about things being too expensive to take into the field. I was recently traveling in Eastern Europe and needed to take still photos and video, and I had a DSLR with four lenses, carbon fiber tripod, and a laptop and accessories on my shoulder most of the time--maybe around $10,000 worth. Better having it out making images than sitting at home in the closet, I say.

As a professional, you only need what you use (and your clients can pay for), unfortunately, when there was virtually a 'pro' shop in every town, you could rent the weird stuff for special needs, that crazy wide angle or that impossible fast telephoto...yeah, I know there are great mail order rental joints, but it seems like you have to way pre-plan most shoots that encompass those items, something not possible with fast breaking jobs...I used to say, I could go around the world with the lens equivalents of a moderate wide angle, a normal, and a moderate telephoto, and really never miss a shot...it also seems if I need something different, then it's a 600mm f/2.8 or a 16mm rectilinear wide angle, it needs to be a really long or short thing, where you're really 'shooting the lens' for effect moreso than needing it because it works for the shot...

This is where I say again, I really wish someone made a 600-800 dollar, dead sharp, zoom that went from the equivalent of about 30mm to 85-90mm, and was moderately fast, something like a 2.8 to 4...most manufacturers 18-55 3.5 to 5.6 aren't really pro quality, in build or sharpness, and the 17-18 to 55mm 2.8's are too heavy and too costly...where is my 20-60mm f/2.8-4 zoom for APS-C? And why doesn't the after-market make it? Stretching that 24mm to 28mm equivalent into a zoom on the wide end really adds to the size and cost, and it is rarely used...

I used to know a pro that bought everything he needed for a job when it came up, then he had it, he just worked with a moderate 'kit' of lenses until that special need came up...he went for years without buying that super-wide or super tele, then would buy one for a job, then rarely use it again...again, no 'pro' shop to rent it from easily...

It's not by chance that most professionals I know had a Hasselblad system with a 50mm (or 60mm), an 80mm (or 100mm), and a 150mm (or 180mm), and that's it...if I had to do it again in the film world, I'd have a 60-100-180 and call it a day...I also knew guys who worked general professional and product photography for years in 4X5, with a 90mm and a 210mm, maybe eventually adding a 75mm or 240mm if they were doing more product or more exterior work...

As an amateur, or 'art' photographer, I know people you have done stunning work all their lives with a Rolleiflex and whatever lens was on it...something to think about...

My limit used to $1200 but usually my comfort zone is much lower, with the exception of the D700 that I bought years ago. Thankfully, my current set of Nikon mount lenses suit me well so I often don't hear the siren call of a new lens. A $1500 lens better fit me like a glove and wash my car. A $2000 lens is simply a bridge too far.

There are also a few viable alternatives. I don't mind manual focus and consider my Rokinon (Samyang) 85mm 1.4 to be a bargain. I'm so pleased with it that I'm looking at Samyang's 35mm 1.4.

Then there is my 'small' Micro Four Thirds camera which can use excellent and usually reasonably priced MFT lenses and all manner of used or inexpensive alternate mount lenses.

It does depend on the item being purchased and but my Limit? Well it's no more than I'd be embarrassed to publicly say ( to another photographer ) a non photographer or your partner is a whole different matter!

Luckily my recent purchase of a mamiya 6MF and lens was £700 so less than I'd be ashamed about for that particular piece of kit.


I noticed one other member here mentioned it, but I think you may be served well by a Samyang lens. The company is out of South Korea and they are making very well built lenses with outstanding optical performance. The con is that they are manual, which may or may not be a deal breaker for you. I should note that the Nikon versions have a focus assist chip in them.

Anyway, for whatever reason they are being sold under different names, such as Bower (B&H) and Rokinon. Despite the build quality and performance, the 35mm f1.4 is going for around $500 (I think the Nikon version is more expensive because of the focus assist chip). B&H is down right now, so here is the amazon link:


The link posted earlier by Carl L has photo samples as well as a review and charts, but I also like to take a look at flickr when thinking about getting a lens, which has some photos: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=samyang+35mm&f=hp

Good luck.

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