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Monday, 28 January 2019


When I first read this post it struck as just comment bait and dismissed it. After coming back to it and reading the comments, I thought about it and yes, I spent 3k on a then new Canon 5D ( if you consider the 2,995 price + shipping from B&H) as a 60th birthday present for myself. As of right now, said camera is still going strong(ish), as my grandson is breeding English Bulldogs and the pictures he uses to sell the pups seems to be adding $500-750 per pup. Granted he loves the dogs and has a good eye for detail, but the camera and the L glass haven't hurt.

$3K is on the edge of too rich for a body...

But for total crazy go with $3K for a single normal/wide focal length prime lens.

I always rationalize that my Nikon F2 with 50mm lens, which I paid $500+ for in 1975, would in today's dollars be in the $2500 range today. Doesn't make it any easier to swallow. I thought $500+ for a camera was the ultimate luxury back then!

I paid about that for the Canon 5DMkII back in 2009. It was the last time I spent that amount. Canon’s penchant for feature crippling cameras made that one the last Canon purchased by me. I moved on the Fujifilm. Now the budget no longer has room for that kind of expenditure.

I wouldn't pay $3k for a camera anymore, but own a couple of recumbent trikes (ICE Trikes) where $3k is the 'entry fee'.

A couple of month ago, I've got a used Milan velomobile for $5.5k

To come back to photography:
After I bought the velomobile and rode it back home (120km), I took the only decent picture of last year (with a pedestrian Fuji X30).


Probably the largest single purchase I've ever made was for a vacation to Kenya in 2016. Between the cost of the safari, airfare to/from Nairobi, a hotel in London for a long layover to visit a friend, camera gear rentals from the fine folks over at LensRentals and incidental costs like keepsakes and meals that weren't part of the tour, I spent $8000, give or take a bit. Even the cars I've purchased have all been used and low key affairs that cost less than this.

While much of the world might see $8000 as anywhere from a touch extravagant to something as simple as a "spring break trip," it was something that was completely and totally over the top based on how I was raised and how my family still looks at vacations. When I was very young, "vacation" was a weekend trip to Wisconsin Dells (we lived in the far western suburbs of Chicago, so this was about a 3 hour drive). When I reached my early teenage years, my vacation radius expanded to Colorado, where we were able to stay with family and take day trips to Garden of the Gods, Rocky Mountain National Park, etc. While they greatly increased my perception of the world, those trips still involved driving in the family minivan, staying in low cost but clean and family friendly motels and packing food so we didn't have to stop at restaurants too much. So they weren't *too* expensive.

The idea that one would spend the kind of money that I did for the Africa trip was something completely alien to me. I'm glad I did, though. It was a trip I'll never forget and made Mark Twain's unique wit in The Innocents Abroad come to life for me:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

I still find myself leaning on the frugal roots of my past. $3000 does indeed seem like a hefty price tag to me for a camera. My camera kit is something of a treasure trove of older and sometimes forgotten gear that may not be the latest and greatest but is more than good enough for my needs. However, my Kenya trip taught me that sometimes, it's worth it to splurge. Even if it goes against everything I have learned previously. For me, the splurges tend towards experiences more than things. But if the new Olympus, a Nikon Z7, a Canham Wood 4x5, a Leica M6 with 35mm Summicron or some other $3000 camera stirs in others what my memories of Kenya stir in me, I cheerfully wish them the very best with whatever they pick up.

I spent $3K on my D800 in May,2012 and it's still going strong. It was a lot of money for me and worse, I had to upgrade a couple of lenses because they didn't measure up to the new sensor. But I've had many adventures and sold quite a few prints from the D800, so I guess by now I've broken even.

A friend at work was talking about the new $2500 mountain bike he just ordered. He said he hesitated at the price, but then thought "Rick would spend $2500 on a lens and have a hell of a good time with it, so why not!"

The other night Sarah and I settled down late at night to a film. When it finished I changed channels. There was a fabulous program on Lobbs the shemakers in Jermyn Street in London.
A whole history of the shoemakers and the old knights of the shire who used to buy the shoes “ back in the day “.
When Sarah was making tea I thought before I die I would love a pair of hand made black smart shoes ....

I enquired the next day ....£4350.00 .... for a pair of shoes. I had been wondering if I could get away with spending say £800.00.

Luckily my inner scot came to the fore. I think my mother (nee Ross) would have spun in her grave!

"A a pool table!" :-)

As a road cyclist I can sadly confirm that a $3k bicycle is "just above entry level".

However if you ever feel the need to validate photography as an extremely economical hobby, just price out some of the higher-end mechanical watches ... a pastime in which a $20k watch can be somberly declared to be "excellent value".

On the other other hand, I just got a perfectly good Nikon N65 for the grand sum of free :)

I've just moved house and I'll spend more than that creating a new darkroom and nothing will give me more pleasure......

Each of our wintertime trips to the Caribbean has cost more than $3000, and each was well worth it. My only regret is that, with Wednesday’s forecast of -22 F in Chicago (and -50 F windchill), we didn’t book a trip this week!

insurance and registration on a car, each and every year. The biggest money pit of them all.

In 1995 I spent $2500 on a fiberglass sea kayak (an NDK Explorer), plus more for various accessories. I still have the kayak, but a new version is probably $3500 these days. Still, I've always considered it far cheaper than a fishing boat, motor, trailer, tackle, and a pickup truck to tow it all, which you see much more of on Minnesota highways.

Uh, one of those kayaking accessories for the longest time was a Nikonos V underwater camera with 35mm and 80mm lenses. I replaced it with a Sony RX100 with a Meikon waterproof case, which can be operated one-handed.

I spent $6k on a Canon 30D with a zoom in 2001. Man, that got outdated fast.
And a similar amount for a Nikon D2X and zoom a couple years later. ...

At least I managed to resist buying a friggin Hasselblad!
(Except a used 500C)

My wife's $15,000 piano is the biggest and most expensive thing in our house. My $4,000 bicycle holds that position in the garage.

In the SF Bay Area it used to be a sort of unwritten rule that the rich techies didn't flaunt their wealth. I remember one story of a boss smashing in the windows of expensive cars in the company parking lot with a baseball bat to make that point clear. But time has passed. As others have pointed out, $5k+ bicycles are common. $5k e-bikes are on the rise, Teslas are everywhere. I know of one guy--not a techie--who spent $3,000 on a meal at a local French restaurant--for two people. Costco sells $1600 bottles of wine. The culture here is changing.

I was about to spend over $3K on a TV, but it looks like the price dropped: https://www.lg.com/us/tvs/lg-OLED65C8PUA-oled-4k-tv


How about $7,995 for a Leica M10-D or $8,295 for a 50mm/f2.0 APO ASPH Summicron. That's $16,290 for a body and a nifty fifty.

You get what you need, can afford and really want. I am not in the position where I can change brands at the drop of a hat. I have legacy glass and some newer stuff that does not fit an Olympus, so no I will not change. If I were starting out, I would not spend $3K on a body because I really like to eat.

Then again, if I had a great deal of money I would buy a Phase One FX for north of $50,000. But that is in my dreams not in my cash flow.

I was pricing out a bike build a while back, and it was coming it at $2400 for a steel framed, friction shifting bike. It will be darned close to the perfect bike for me, and will be my principal transportation. $2400 seems like a bargain, frankly. The performance and the aesthetics will be exactly what I want.

In a couple of years (maybe sooner), I'm going to be in a situation where wildlife photography is likely to take up a whole lot of my time, and I don't believe in doing things by halves. Will I spend serious money on a camera for that? You betcha! Will I get an E-M1X? It won't be $3k by the time I'm buying, so maybe. Then there's that 150-400. That sure would be handy. Decisions, decisions.

The thing is, that if there's something you want to do, you set your own parameters for the tools, and spend as makes sense. As long as you can afford the gear (and by afford I mean: pay cash), why not?

Omega Speedmaster Professional (the "Moon Watch") purchased about twenty years ago for maybe $2000.00. A new one today retails for about $5000.00. But, after 10 years my Omega needed to be returned to Switzerland for a complete service for which I paid $800.00. It is now in need of another complete service for which I have been quoted $895.00. (The service is needed because a mechanical watch needs cleaning after time passes.) A $30.00 Timex is more accurate, but man, I do love that Omega.

Two points.

If it a business related purchase then it can most likely be justified. The 1Ds cost me AUD$12,000 back in the day but served me/my business very well for six years.

Would you pay $3000 for a print? I have, several times over the years. Does a camera = a print? I'm not sure but it a thought!

I never spend more than ¥100,000 for a camera or lens. I normally buy used. I have a ton of gear, but I shoot everyday, and give a lot of stuff away.
BTW, in 1989 I spend C$20k for a Toyota truck, the most I have ever spend on anything, including my own or my son's education. I still drive it today, 30 years later.


There are a number of comments about bikes already, but I'm always perplexed by why it can be thought odd that bikes cost what they do: Perhaps as many children have bikes they are mistaken for toys?, or cheap bikes are mistaken for the real thing? But I digress, for some photographic bike crossover and inspiration www.cycleexif.com worth a visit.

It's all relative to one's income, but I normally apply a lot of common sense. Here in Portugal, 10 Euros already buy an excellent bottle of red wine. Around 5 - 7 Euros, the quality is normally very high as well. The latter is my self-imposed limit.

I laugh when I see folks buying all that fancy French and Italian wine for much more than that. Portuguese wine is very high value for money.

In terms of photography, my most extravagant thing I bought was my first Canon EOS 1 series camera, with the 17-35 and 70-200 f2.8 zooms: this was back in 1997. I used the crap out of that kit, from Mexico, to Bahrein, and Venezuela.

Today, I am much more "surgical" and mostly buy second hand stuff.

$1000 in 1980 is $3000 now. Did you ever spend $1000 for a camera around that time? And your $3000/year for film in 1980 is $9150 now.

Thank the Gods for the planned digital camera obsolescence!
I'd NEVER spend 3 grand in a camera, no matter what.
Never did, not even in the film days!
My most expensive camera? A Nikon F6, bought from a student "moving to digital" for an absolute pittance.
And also a Mamiya RB67, same sort of source, for next to nothing.
Also a Nikon D200, bought when everyone sold theirs to buy a D300.
Still working, all of them.
Total expenditure? Less than 3 grand.
Roll on, the "upgrades"!

Despite being a cheap bastard, I broke down and bought a Sony A7Rii at full retail a while back. My most expensive camera purchase ever. Nice camera, but I only buy used now at a steep discount. Hey, I'm not made of money.

My rule for camera equipment is to never buy anything I can't afford to replace. I want to be able to take it out and use as desired without fretting over the cost in the event of a catastrophic event.

I like when people ask me how I can afford to shoot film, since digital is free.

Wow, another "big" subject. Where to begin... at the beginning, natch.

Imo, at birth, we each come with a set point re how we view/value/expend money. I submit that set point does not change with age, nor financial circumstances or means.

When you ask, is x dollars too much? I take it you mean on a toy. GAS is a misnomer, since gear is neutral. Gear can be a tool, or a toy. In general use, by gear I believe we mean toy. By toy, I mean something which is not necessary, something whose sole purpose of ownership is enjoyment of ownership.

I heartily subscribe to the thesis that he/she who dies with the most toys wins. But that does not mean I believe a person should mindlessly spend on toys. Face it, most of the fun re toy acquisition is the pre-acquisition search and research, the endless reading of reviews, and the agonizing over cost-benefit ratios, weight v. MTF etc., etc. Once acquired, most toys end up taking up space in our closets, or garages. Those who do not fret and agonize during the acquisition phase are doomed to miss the fun, and the point.

There was a guy at my company years ago who would on his commute home stop by a BMW or Porsche dealership, trade in his few months old BMW or Porsche, and pick up a new one. This, he would do once every few months. We, of course, all made fun of him -- until I realized the reason he kept doing it was because he never fretted or agonized over the acquisition. Thus, having missed the excitement, he had to do it all over again, hoping he would feel something this time. The poor chap missed the entire point of toy acquisition.

Now, a short defense of proper toy acquisition, dollar amount be damned. By proper I mean one accompanied by obsessive knowledge-seeking re the subject. Set aside pursuits of the trivial kind, and compare toys to arguably equally obsession-worthy avocations such as wine or gourmet food. I, too, enjoy a great meal. However, once the meal is over, the experience is over. But the best toys, a great stereo, a great camera, do not live only in your unreliable memory -- they live in your house. With a toy, you can get up, take it out, caress it, turn it on, and enjoy it all over again any time you wish. You will wonder if it is still good enough. You will feel a frisson (a word I learned from Harry Pearson): is it time to acquire a newer, better one?

What can beat that? It's priceless.

For whom?

I bought a new Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS for $6,600. After using it minimally due to the weight, I sold it for $6,500 two years later.

I got very lucky that the version II was over $10,000, and initially had delayed availability, but during that time the version one had been discontinued. I gambled that someone wouldn’t want to wait and would snap up my like-new one.

I recently spent $2800 for a Aillio Bullet R1 coffee roaster. It replaced my still functional Behmor 1600 roaster. Being more like a commercial roaster with similar levels of control over the roast more than justifies the $2400 price difference for me. And then there’s the enjoyment factor.

I’m a home roaster. I don’t need to put in the time or effort when any number of craft roasters could provide me great coffee. But for me, roasting is part of the process of making a great cup of coffee. Money well spent.

90% of my photography occurs while out riding my (not quite $3k) bicycle. In a way it's a piece of photography equipment.

Sorry to jump into this conversation so late. I think the $3000+ price tag for anything digital is a waste. Pros used to shell out that kind of cash for a film camera that would last them most of their career. Many of those same cameras are now being used by a new generation of film shooters decades later. Today's digital camera is going to be obsolete in only a few years and is not built to last more than 10. Their proprietary files and batteries guarantee their demise.

As a youngster my friend and I would collect "pop" bottles and turn them in to the little store down the road for 2 cents ea. When the price of a full cold one went up to 6 cents (or in our case 3 empties) we were paying 4 cent for the contents. Today a coke in a paper cup is to me outrageously overpriced.
A little relativity from an official geezer.

To answer the main question, yes, almost every time I buy a camera. The body may be 2,500, but then adding a lens, batteries, chargers, extra cards for a new format, it adds up. And then last fall I got bitten by the Leica M10P's unbelievably good shutter, and had to have one of those and a 50 summilux, so that was a 12k day.

And re: $3000 bikes, I have one; you'd be shocked to find out it's relatively _cheap_ for what it is. There are, if you can believe it, $3000 wheels (not on my bike; I'd have to lose about 40 lbs before they'd do me any good). It's certainly diminishing returns, but if you need it, you need it, and the price doesn't matter.

Which is probably true for a lot of these items: for whatever reason, you need a thing; the cost is just and obstacle to overcome. My M10p, I held one in the Leica store in SF, heard the shutter, and knew I needed it. When I'm on, the results I get with it are like no other (and when I'm not on, no camera can help me).

Ever since she was a teenager my daughter had a fascination with Cartier's tank watch. When she had her 40th birthday my wife and I, her husband, and her brother all went in on the cost and bought her a $3000 watch. Ironically, I have a Chinese replica which I bought for $30 and when I took it in for a battery replacement the watch repairman had to look at it through a loupe to confirm that it wasn't genuine.

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