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What is your approach towards gear?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Luckypenguin, Aug 21, 2011.

  1. History records that some of the great photographers had a fairly minimalist approach to gear, operating with a single camera and only a handful of lenses. Your classic Leica M + 35mm + 50mm and so forth. History also tends to look kindly on this approach, lauding the photographer's as masters of the tools they chose. On the other hand, history looks not as kindly on the photographer who utilise a large variety of gear. They are often classed as gear freaks who spend their lives chasing better equipment rather then better technique.

    While there may be some truth to the assumptions above, I tend to take a more balanced view that either approach has it's merits and doesn't define the skill of the photographer.

    Approach number one, that of the "purist". Does it free you or actually limit you. To paraphrase somewhat, "does every image look like a nail when all you are carrying is a hammer?"

    Approach number two, the "gear freak". Rather than someone who looks for equipment to replace talent, are they merely choosing the right tool for the right job, or showing that the equipment they use is immaterial to the image produced, i.e. "give me any camera and I'll use it to make an image."

    I guess that the scenario isn't only black and white, and that most would fit somewhere between the two extremes.

    Judging by the number of lenses I have tried on my m4/3 cams, I think it is safe to say that I lean very much to the side of approach number two :smile:.
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  2. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    I think it stands to reason that if you had one camera and two lenses and that's all you ever shot with, you'd get better, SEE better with those couple of lenses, than someone who had 8-10 different lenses at different focal lengths would get with any one of those, assuming he or she used them pretty similar amounts (ie, no lens would see as much time as either of the other guys two lenses). Whether that makes photographer #1 a better photographer I guess is up to each viewer to determine. I know I'm most at home in the 24-35mm field of view, but there are times and places I'd much rather go super wide, to a "neutral 50", a semi-long 100, or a really really long 500mm lens. I'm probably not as good at any single length if that's what I shot with ALL of the time, but I might be better all-around, certainly more versatile.

    I tend to like to have options in most things in life that I'm really into. Cameras are no different. I have four cameras as of yesterday (two of them are pretty close to functionally identical, though, so you could consider it three). Two of them are fixed lens, but the m43 cams are as versatile as it comes and I have a handful of lenses, so I have options. Whether that makes me a better or worse photographer is for someone else to decide. But I don't really care what they decide either! :cool: 

    I have four bicycles also and when I was into playing guitar many years ago, I had four of those too. Now I barely play at all but I still have two (gotta have an acoustic and an electric, even though I'd probably be a better acoustic player if that's all I had - but the same wouldn't hold true if I just had an electric). I'm riding less and less, but I still have cycling options.

    I like to sample a lot of stuff, even if I never fully master any of it. Some people like to specialize to the point that they're very good but not very versatile at all. I think its just a personality type and would hesitate to say that either is better or worse....

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  3. brnmatsumoto

    brnmatsumoto Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 18, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    I have to admit to buying new gear. But the motive varies depending on the product. In the case of the camera body, it usually seems to be a new cool feature that I want to play with. With a lens, it seems how it changes the perspective of my photographs is the deciding factor. For example, I bought the 100-300 mm for animal photography. The one thing I bought solely to improve my photography was my tripod!

    So I guess I belong to a new group. Not 1, not 2, but 1 1/2.
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  4. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    I've been thinking about this. I think one of my personal frustrations is that I live in a divided world: Family, and what I want to shoot.

    What I want to shoot is a fast 50 (for DOF control, not because I shoot at night) on full frame in a compact body. I'm currently shopping film-based rangefinders, since I can't afford an M9. I hope that PL25 shows up soon, before I pull the trigger on film!

    What the requirements of family are include: Outdoor Fast action, wide angle shooting (groups, etc.), indoor events (dance, gymnasitcs, etc.), portrait, low light shooting. I end up with too much gear, then I confuse myself and get bogged down.

    Top that off that, with younger kids, it's hard to find time to shoot for yourself. I'm a gear mess!
    • Like Like x 6
  5. chrism_scotland

    chrism_scotland Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 1, 2011
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    I certainly used to be in group 2 having different lenses for different things, an UWA 10-20, general 17-70 zoom and a 50mm, owning a Pentax kit changed that though and got me much more interested in primes ending up with a 21mm, 40mm and 35mm setup, now I've moved to Micro 4/3 I tend to have 2 or 3 lenses at a time but generally I seem to shoot with the same two all the time, the Canon FD 50 and FD 24
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  6. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I think one important factor, especially if we're talking "quantity " of lenses, is what kind of photography you do. For example, I do mostly travel photography, and my opportunity to "zoom with feet" or "come back later from the other side" are extremely limited, so I tend to carry more lenses so that I have the option I want/need at any given time.

    Certainly, if all you did was "street" photography, you're probably trying to simulate the human field of vision, and so one lens is probably all you want, and as Ray mentioned above, you get very good at "seeing" scenes as they will frame at that focal length.

    As for bodies, I tend to be more conservative. I am very tempted by the G3, but sit back and say "I haven't even had my GF1 a full year yet, and (other than maybe extremely high ISO) haven't had any complaints about or been limited by, it's image quality, so why do I need a new body?"

    I think there is one last factor - the equipment now is so good, that it's more of a question of "fit" than technical capability. Many people, IMHO, are searching for the camera that "fits" them - and they go through a lot of equipment searching for it. IMHO, a huge majority of these people don't know what they want/need, and are therefore on a bit of a pointless quest ...
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  7. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    I suppose the answer to the question depends largely on why you photograph. If it's for a living, then having lots of gear might make sense, and you could justify it entirely on the basis of return on dollar.

    I'm not a great photographer; I shoot because it makes me happy. That's a bit more complicated than it might seem, however, because there are several reasons for happiness: the actual enjoyment in using a tool, like a fine lens or camera; the personal enjoyment I get in producing a great image, regardless of what others think of it; and the satisfaction I get in producing images that others enjoy. Throw in the simple joy in having an excuse to be in beautiful places and the increased awareness of beauty all around me--when I have a camera around my neck--and the happiness that photography brings me is a very complex emotion.

    So I have way more gear than I certainly 'need', and part of the reason is that I simply enjoy trying new things. I sell what I don't like, or whenever the luster wears off, so the investment isn't nearly as great as it might seem. (Aside: another little joy is hunting for great deals on used stuff . . . so when I decide it's not for me the 'rental' cost is hardly anything, or I might even make a little profit.)

    So for me it's all about the happiness that photography brings me, and that happiness is more than producing images. That's why I make no apologies for having way too much gear!
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Adubo

    Adubo SithLord Subscribing Member

    Nov 4, 2010
    i would like to think i belong to approach number one.

    with my e-p1 (to be sold) and e-pl2 and 2 lenses (14-42 40-150mm), most of my other gear and even the legacy lenses were sold (as i dont use most of them as much as i would like to) with the 14-42mm, i dont zoom.rarely that i do. because im familiar (not mastered...yet) with the 14mm focal length. i have pretty much have the eye for a wide lens. a 24/28mm equiv lens is what i use for most of my shots for the most part.i dont use the 40-150mm, i just think its a nice to have for times i go to zoos or the likes.

    i try to keep myself "disciplined" with the gear and environment i have. i will shoot with what i have. yes i do go crazy over some gear, but at the end of the day i'd still shoot that 24/28mm FOV

    14-42mm waiting to be dumped in the bag too, as soon as i get a 14mm 2.5 lens and the samyang 7.5 fisheye...

    ...i'd only use 2 bodies and lenses (kit zooms are keepers)

    gf2 samyang 7.5mm 3.5
    e-pl2 14mm 2.5
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  9. #2 initially, then #1

    Initially approach #2. Bit of trial & error to find out what I really like & use. Then thin down the gear. More or less the process that has happen with everything I've own. Road racing bicycles, X/C gear, windsurfing gear, 'ukulele and now mu43 hardware. Tend not to replace gear until it breaks or becomes so obsolete that parts & support are unavailable. For me photography is a hobby. A recreation vs. a profession or obsessive passion. Owning the "best" & newest gear is very low on list of needs or wants.

    Personal feeling that it's the person whether on the bicycle or behind the viewfinder that gets the results. Good gear helps, but is not the limiting element.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Brian S

    Brian S Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 11, 2009
    My approach to gear?

    Wiha screwdrivers, digital calipers, and a hand-drill...

    Works for me!

    1939 Carl Zeiss Jena 5cm F1.5 Sonnar "T", converted to Leica Mount.

    Wide-open on the M9.




    Subject moved during exposure.
    • Like Like x 2
  11. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Gear - Gear - Gear

    Having been a photographer since the 60's I have seen a definite change in how people buy gear. Back in the film-only days, expensive cameras and lenses were not marketed like they are today. Expensive gear was typically bought by those who had darkrooms or access to darkrooms. It was the dark room which separated the men from the boys ... the photogs from the wanna-be's.

    It was a different economy and a different mind-set back then. People saved and saved and didn't use credit as easily as now. It was okay not to have a SUV or a dSLR or a 60" flat screen or B&W speakers. Becoming a competent/complete photographer back then occurred over time. Most of the professional photogs I knew all started with a single camera and a single lens. They worked the hell out of that combo and saved for the next acquisition. By the time one had saved enough for the next lens you knew the lens on-hand, inside-out. You knew the FOV the close-up, middle and distant perspectives, you knew the strong points and limitations of that lens. As you learned the lens on-hand you always thought about your next lens and how it would interact with your system and your style. By the time you saved enough for the next purchase, you knew exactly your next focal length ... what lens you needed to fill the gap(s) in your equipment.

    Over time you completed your system with an intimate knowledge of how each element in your system captured light & shadow. Way back then I rarely heard anyone ask what lens they should get.

    Today the darkroom has been replaced by the computer ... the separation between the men and boys less distinct ... and acquisition of gear quicker with less thought. It seems that today people rush to acquire more and more lenses and the learning curve gets fragmented by using/learning multiple lenses at the same time.

    Back then camera bodies didn't hit obsolesce in a year or two, nor were cameras as complex as now.

    Back to the OP ... while I have about 15 lenses stretched across four digital bodies, the acquisition of the various focal lengths was over a long, long time.

    • Like Like x 5
  12. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I would also argue that with film cameras, the body has far less, one could argue even a negligible, effect on image quality - whether it was a $10 body or $1000 body, they all had the same "sensor".

    Moore's Law is now in full effect in digital photography, as each camera is essentially a small imaging computer.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. timallenphoto

    timallenphoto Mu-43 Veteran

    May 20, 2011
    Kent, England
    My rule is if a lens hasn't been used for 6 months then I get rid of it. I almost always buy used kit too to get better gear for less money. Now I know what I like to shoot I have an SLR with 2 lenses (50 & 35) and my Pen with 2 lenses (20 & 14-42).
    • Like Like x 1
  14. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    I definitely started out by trying a lot of different things to find out what I liked and worked best. As of late however I have really gotten into a minimalist approach. When I look back it's pretty clear that I do my best work with one or two lenses and everything else is just collecting dust. I have a difficult time getting rid of older lenses because of this idea that "I may need it at some point" but that hasn't been the case.
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  15. awatahurm

    awatahurm Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 10, 2011
    I must be obsessive-compulsive.
    I've only been at this hobby since June. And I've already bought two cameras, four lenses and a viewfinder.

    The compulsive part is that not owning the latest lens makes me feel like I'm loosing out on something.
    I recently bought the overpriced zukio 12mm lens, even though wide angle shooting is beyond my capabilities:

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnshare/6065800057/" title="searching handbag by awatahurm, on Flickr">
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    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnshare/6066345804/" title="into-the-distance by awatahurm, on Flickr">
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    And, after seeing the pictures in this review, I'm itching to buy the zukio 45mm: Robin Wong: Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 Review: Petaling Street, KL

    The obsessive part is that I always keep going back to the panasonic 20mm lens. (I guess that's my cofort zone.)

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnshare/6066348238/" title="searching-handbag 2 by awatahurm, on Flickr"> View attachment 173472 "480" height="640" alt="searching-handbag 2"></a>

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnshare/6065804225/" title="girl-in-red by awatahurm, on Flickr">
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    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnshare/6066349056/" title="boy-with-guitar by awatahurm, on Flickr">
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    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnshare/6065805579/" title="wall-painting by awatahurm, on Flickr"> View attachment 173475 "640" height="480" alt="wall-painting"></a>

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    Even the most mundane things seem interesting through this lens.

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnshare/6065803363/" title="playing-with-touch-focus by awatahurm, on Flickr">
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  16. Grant

    Grant Mu-43 Veteran

    I have tons of gear but generally only shoot with one camera and one lens at a time. On rare occasions I will slip an extra lens or two in one of my pockets. I preplan all my shoots and only take what I feel I will need to get the job done. I have never felt I have missed a shot because I didn't bring all my gear.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. Grant

    Grant Mu-43 Veteran


    You sound like me as I have 15 lenses and one is a very old SMC Takumar that I purchased new, and it is still an excellent lens.
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  18. KS11

    KS11 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 31, 2011
    Busan/Hong Kong
    i think i might be heading into the #1 camp from the #2 camp. i been through four bodies for MFT, keeping two, epl1 and gf1, with their respective viewfinders.

    for my lens collection
    lumix 20mm, lumix 14mm, 14-42mm II zuiko, a 55mm pentax 1.8 SMC m42 lens for my fast fifty collection, a 50mm 3.5 OM zuiko macro (with auto 25 extension tube) and the 200mm f4 canon fd SSC lens. this is enough for me, but im eyeing the 45mm 1.8 m zuiko that is coming out soon.....might sell the 55mm in that case.

    also have a zykkor 10$ x0.42 semi fisheye i found at my local flea market i use on my 14mm for that fisheye look

    PS: i think i settled down with the camera bodies and am sticking with what i have now...the gf1 is a very nice camera body to stick with at the moment. im not really looking to buy anything until this combo wears out
    • Like Like x 1
  19. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    I've been around the µ43 format for just about a year now.

    It's taken a little time to sort out what I feel my needs are, and I think I'm pretty close to being there.

    In the past my kit contained:

    Two working bodies at hand
    A telephoto Zoom - Never a favorite, but always kept one around.
    A normal Zoom - Travel options, etc.
    2 or 3 Primes. - Wide Angle - Normal - Portrait

    I've more or less duplicated that familiar kit of gear in µ43.

    G1 / GF1


    14mm - 20mm - At this moment, my "normal 50 ish lens is an MD Rokkor 28mm. And I rotate between the Hexanon 40mm and the Rokkor 50mm as a portrait length. (80mm FL & 100mm FL)

    I'm going to look very very carefully at the new Oly 45 / 1.8 to retire some legacy (read manual focusing) glass.

    Once I hit my standard comfort zone, I don't usually quest for gear very often. I tend to shoot bodies anywhere from 18 -24 months. Usually within two years or so I feel it's time to upgrade a body, just to be sure my gear is in good working order and not too worn.

    I've been tempted to UG a body just because the technology in our little format is moving forward at so rapid a rate. So far though I'm content with what one poster referred to as his "ancient G1", and my trusty GF1.

    I love the gear guys though, they buy em and sell em, and tell us all about them. It just part of our pastime / art / hobby / passion.

    To each his own. As for me, I'm hitting my comfort zone with the format and glass.

    Now, the Post Processing... that's another story...
    • Like Like x 1
  20. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    • Like Like x 1
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