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Wednesday, 11 March 2020


One of the main benefits of "the good old days" was the thin, poor soil that was available for the nasty weed that is Camera/lens lust vulgaris to grow in.

You bought an Olympus OM camera? Well, your lens choices were (largely) Olympus OM. You could dabble with off-brands, but everyone knew that with few exceptions OM lenses were better.

Or perhaps you shot 4x5 film. Debates about which lens to buy were hard to sustain. The basic professional lenses from Schneider Kreuznach, Rodenstock, Nikon and Fuji were all excellent.

Alas, today the soil is rich and fertile, so Camera/lens lust vulgaris can flourish. Mirrorless cameras make a universe of interesting lenses from countless manufactures available. New versions of already excellent cameras proliferate. Today's amazing X-T4 will be tomorrow's dated relic.

Your advice is good -- really good -- but for those susceptible to the rush that comes from consuming Camera/lens lust vulgaris, it's character-building time. Stay strong sufferers!

Holy Moly! This is the moment you can really appreciate a manual film camera, with all of its five control points! And it's basically never gonna wear out, too. Unless you hit it with a hammer that is.

Oh god. This makes me want to give up photography. So serious, so intense. Comments 1) Most people don't really have a plan. They just like to take photos of things/people where they are. Must everything have a mapped out 10-year plan? 3) Is probably the most important for most people. 5) Good luck with finding anywhere you can do that unless you live in a big city with a big store. I suppose you could order all from B&H and then send the ones back you don't like, but can you stand the initial credit card charge? Not sure how B&H would take this. 11)"Force yourself to get out and use the camera regularly. Touch it every day" - Oh boy: it sounds like the Gulag. 14) Why waste money on a second body, which is rarely used? If photography is your profession then I can see it is important, but if it isn't, I don't really see the necessity. I'd use that money to buy something more interesting like a trip or even another lens. 15) Back to being VERY serious...

I suppose you are preaching to the choir in your post, but I've been a keen amateur/and one time pro photographer for about 45 years and I find your list very daunting and lacking in much fun. Is it essential to treat photography as if it is always high art? Not to me.

You cap it off with somewhat condescending comments about mere "hobbyists". At least you end on a lighter note!

[It's not condescending. Most of us are hobbyists. It takes a lot of work and real dedication to really accomplish something as a photographer. Most of the pros and photojournalists I've known choose their cameras much like this, but with fewer steps and less fuss. A top PJ I know switched from film to digital in three days--bought the best camera and hired a guy to teach him how to use it. Worked three long and hard days (and I mean long and hard) getting up to speed with it and then off he went, back to work. Barely a hitch in his work life. Another studio pro I talked to used the top Nikon, whatever it was at the time, and when we spoke he had bought two new D4's--the latest thing at that time—and they were still sitting in their boxes, unopened, three months after he bought them, because he had too many jobs and was working too hard to be able to spare the two 12-hour days it would take him to get fully up to speed with the new cameras, and he wasn't going to shoot a job with a camera he didn't know inside and out. That's the way it happens. --Mike]

With respect to step 11, it may not be wise to take photos indiscriminately in "dentist's waiting rooms,...shopping for groceries" or even when "stopped in traffic." Businesses are private property, and you may need permission to take photos on the premises. Some business owners may be concerned about industrial espionage. Also, in certain states with "hands free laws," holding a phone (or camera) while operating a vehicle is prohibited.

Love this. But #6, last sentence. Evidence to support that? Of course not.

Great advice Mike!

I finally pulled the trigger on a Nikon Z6 after having settled on the Sony A7III up until I arrived at Best Buy in San Bernardino. I couldn't believe I changed my mind at the last minute like that. The Nikon was 200 bucks cheaper plus I really wanted that 50/1.8 S Z lens. The Zeiss 55/1.8 was causing me too much consternation. I'm thrilled with my decision! All I need now is the 14-30 f4 S landscape lens and the 85/1.8 S portrait lens :-).

That is a very effective program! The more so as once adopted it can be applied to many other purchase activities: buying a new music system, selecting a new computer, etc. etc. Give it a try and see what I mean.

I love it! I bought my first camera (canon 5d) in 2006. Since then I've had Panasonic Gf1 and gx1 and a Fuji x100t. My gear acquisition syndrome dried up once I got the Fuji, but I get itchy when I hear they've brought out a new version. I never really got to know the Fuji as well as I'd like (and you suggest). I still get confused by unexpected setting behaviour. Maybe I should start afresh with a x100v and practice diligently.

You missed step 17. "Then go and buy a Fuji XT-*"

I gotta say, none of the working professionals I know, people who make their living with their cameras, do it the way you say is right. (But that's also not very many people, not a representative sample of the field, so what do I know?)

I may well be more reasonably thought of as a camera hobbyist than as a photographer—but a lot of my better photos come from violating your rules, too. Nobody would ever have a full-circle fisheye lens under rule 6, but I've got one excellent picture from mine, and excellent pictures don't grow on trees. I haven't had as few as 2 lenses since 1972. I currently have, let's see...13 I guess? I'm probably forgetting something. One of them is maybe and 2 are definitely not front-line lenses for me, but possibly useful backups especially on secondary bodies (remotely triggered or whatever). (I disposed of 5 lenses last fall, and bought 3 new ones, so the count was even higher before that.) There are a couple of lenses I'm actively thinking of acquiring.

It would be better if my backup body were the same model as my primary, especially when I use both at once (to avoid lens switching; like, for roller derby I have the 12-40/2.8 on my old E-M5 and the 40-150/2.8 on the E-M1 mkII). Haven't been able to afford that yet, but with the MkIII out at a lower price point than the MkII was maybe something, new or used, can happen.

I guess maybe people who feel constrained by "the rules" (whatever they adopt as "the rules" in their head) will probably never be important photographers, and others can benefit from exposure to rules they reject from the process of considering and rejecting them, so it likely doesn't do any harm; it may do some good.

LOL. Or you could use my one-step method, which is basically the same method that the Cookie Monster uses for choosing a cookie.


"Try five or six of the leading contenders that you can see, hold, look through and test-fire in person." Sad to say, this recommendation is difficult if you live in a small town away from active photographers or don't have plans to visit New York, Hong Kong, or equivalent.

Take pictures while stopped in traffic? In most states that's illegal with a phone but maybe just unsafe with a real camera.
This does not seem to coincide with what you are doing for your film experiment. I lost count of the number of cameras you're going to use.


Just got done winning a black Nikkormat FTN (New seals! Film tested!) with a beautiful pre-AI Nikkor 50/1.4 for $40.

Need it? Nope. But too good a deal to walk away from even on EPrey.

Loving every minute of it and planning on spending my day off tomorrow driving around shooting my D3200 & N90.

And here are some ideas on what you can actually do with that shiny new camera and lens when you've made you choice!

I thought that this was some of your occasional wry satire ("Try five or six of the leading contenders that you can see, hold, look through and test-fire in person."?) ... but I guess not!

All of this is well and good unless you are afflicted by a virus that is even more virulent than Corona; viz, GAS.

That's the longest and most tortured camera buying process I've ever heard of. If I did things that way I'd be spending so much time on the couch flirting with the camera, and the idea of the camera, that I'd never get any paying work done.

Buy the cameras that do what you need. If you don't like them sell them, replace them and move on with your life.

Cameras are the cheapest part of the business. It's the time wasted that's expensive.

There is no perfect camera. Logic is futile.

I thought it was twenty-five steps? What happened to the other nine?

That's pretty sound advice in this day and age where for most purposes the body and lenses you can buy at almost any price range are good enough. Have you actually worn out a camera?

My last purchase was due to wear. One sensor change, a set of batteries that gave out randomly, dirty viewfinder, scratched screen and brassed out top cover and bottom plate... and cracked sensor... That was pretty much the death knell. But I really loved that camera!


I have tied my identity to a brand because I don't want to be continually shopping for a whole system. Plus, ergonomics and menus are similar between the models of my brand, so if a camera dies, just buy another and don't worry about the extra bells and whistles, I know I can operate the thing without being master of all fine points of operation (customizing autofocus parameters perfectly, etc).

I think this is very good advice. Tools are just a means to an end.

One thing about the shoot for projects/seriously advice is that documenting your life or using a camera to interrogate and find meaning in your surroundings can be that project. The project doesn't have to be outside you.

You never ever followed all these rules, dear Mike. I've rarely seen a doubter like you about camera equipment. "I've failed to bond with this or that camera." What's this for a criterion?

[But as I said the other day, I'm not a photographer. I'm a writer. And as a magazine writer and editor, then a blogger, I've had to engage with all sorts of equipment over many years. Actually I don't think I have ever done that as much, or as thoroughly, as I should have. I've been remiss.... --Mike]

Once at an Arno Minkkinen show, Arno had written about the differences in how he and Harry Callahan worked. Whereas he was motivated to do his best work by a change of scene, Harry was motivated by a new piece of equipment. I tend to be motivated by new equipment too. As photographers our relationship to our equipment is complex, quirky, and all over the place. Which is great.

Now we need a step by step on how to sell all our hobby gear we aren’t using so we can pare things down to a sensible level, and perhaps buy one more new camera : ) .

I skipped step 5 on my 1st DSLR, "saved money" buying online, and wound up buying three bodies and several lenses before I learned my lesson.

As a corollary to #5, I recommend buying the camera from your camera store. The staff there will be a valuable resource as you move forward.

This deals with 16mm film and video cameras not still equipment so it may not exactly apply.
Since 1974 I have been a working news photographer at four TV stations.
I made a list this morning and during that time I have used seven film cameras and ten video rigs as my assigned gear. I only had a say in the selection of one of them. All the others were picked out by the station owners.
Of all these cameras there were only two that were out and out mutts. Of the rest two represented cameras that I would have gladly spent my own money on. The rest were what was issued me.
With the exception of the two disasters all of the cameras got the job done with varying degrees of ease and reliability but they did turn out the work.
Even though they have paid the bills at our house for over forty years I don't feel any emotional attachment to any of them, OK there was a CP16R that still gives me a nice warm fuzzy but that's it.
But when it comes to still cameras I am a hopeless sentimentalist. I want to be buried with my 2.8f, go figure.
Fortunately I am so broke that there is no point in spending much time shopping for kit. You need to take some time and make a sensible choice in gear but remember every minute you spend pondering kit is a minute you are not spending making pictures.
Make the call and get back out there.

Good grief...

Just buy whatever boring Canon you can afford, used or new, and go and take photographs. They are machines for taking pictures, not status symbols, which is why they don’t get favoured by reviewers. They are built tough, and when you have a need to upgrade, you won’t even need to look at the instructions to use the next Canon.

(I’ve been shooting boring Canons for 30 years)

17. Add budget for repairs and maintenance.

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