Rants and discussions

Happiness and photography gear

Caught on a car boot sale camera (Kodak Retinette II) and poundland film.

An old gripe of mine.  Allow me to express it again, as a warning to others.

Don’t be sucked into spending money on gear that doesn’t have value in terms of your happiness.  Most of us are enthusiasts and amateurs.  There is nothing inferior about that.  Our enthusiasm can be based on either photographic technology, or on photographic images.  In truth, most of our enthusiasm lays somewhere between those two poles – some more by the technology, some more by photographs.  Either way, what really is important – or should be, to us enthusiasts, is happiness.

It is all so easy, and very common, for novices to be drawn towards spending more money, in the pursuit of happiness.  However, they do not always get what they wanted.  They may find, that their photography doesn’t really improve much.  They might find that spending another grand, allows them to capture some images in slightly poorer light, perhaps slightly closer, perhaps slightly further away, or perhaps with slightly more resolution.  No doubt there is a short lived gratification “I couldn’t have caught that on my last lens / body”.  Wow, look at that moon surface / macro of a bug / etc.  Cool images.  However, does this expensive imagery really enhance your creativity or skill base?  Once you’ve got closer to the moon, what is next?  How much did that image cost in monetary terms?  Has it been done before?  Is someone doing it better with even more expensive, or newer gear?

How much happiness do you think that I’ve had out of the 50p camera project?  Compare it to the purchase of a new upgrade DSLR camera.  The DSLR might have cost you around £500.00.  My XA2 snapshot camera cost £00.50.  Okay, I’ve also used film, but mainly budget or home developed.  Still, how much happiness do you think that the DSLR gives you in comparison?  I’m quite proud of some of the photographs that I’ve got out of the XA2.  They may be lo-fi but some are pretty cool and even unique.  I’ve tried to be creative.  Not always an easy thing for me.  There are no attachments or upgrades for it.  For the DSLR, you bet that you are going to desire new lenses, extensions, flashlights, bags, battery grips, etc.

That is the chief message of this blog.  Think, don’t just spend.

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6 thoughts on “Happiness and photography gear

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I recently mothballed all my expensive gadgets and started using old charity shop bought film cameras and cheap/out of date film stand developed using less than a teaspoon of Rodinal per roll. I’m enjoying photography more than I ever have – free from the tyranny of sharpest, best exposed, best post-processed obsessions – and have never been happier. I do seem to have developed a new obsession with finding the cheapest ‘best’ camera!

  2. Tim (Joe Mokee) says:

    Beautiful photo, and well said. Spent a small fortune on a great DSLR but get tons more fun and gratification out of my old and cheap film cameras 😊

  3. Thanks both. I’m not wanting to get into the old film V digital debate, It applies to digital photographers as well – for some schools of photography, older DSLRs are just fine. It’s so sad when the markets drive us to consume what we don’t need.

  4. Well said Paul. My most happiness-inducing photos at the moment are from a Kokak waterproof disposable camera, with family images taken over 18 months including two annual trips to the same fun fair. The hardest part was cracking the thing open to get the film out for home developing.

    • Thanks Kevin, I’m thinking about a future post promoting the value of the family snapshot, over fine art. Time it was defended. I grew up loving that big box of old family photos.

  5. I’m somewhere in between – I certainly don’t lust after expensive digital gear, and in the big scheme of things spend fairly little on photography, considering it’s my major hobby, after my family.

    But like TroutWorrier says above, I have developed a love/addiction of/to buying and using old film cameras, especially bargain ones! if any hang around in my collection too long without being used I usually donate or sell them, and I do try to hone down to those I love most, but it does sometimes feel like it’s edging out of control.

    That said, I absolutely love film photography, not least of all because of the experience of using old film cameras – anything from a 70s all mechanical SLR like a Minolta SRT or Asahi Pentax Spotmatic to 90s point and shoot compacts, and that curiosity of “I wonder what this scene will look like captured in this moment, with this camera and this film?”

    Tying in with the theme of your post here, most importantly researching, exploring and using these old cameras does bring me great happiness… I guess that’s what matters.

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