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Philosophy of Lens Shopping

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by bigshot, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. bigshot


    Aug 17, 2008
    Hollywood, USA
    In reading the photography forums recently, I'm realizing that there are different attitudes about gear from the way I've always thought about it. Since the 70s, I've been serious about photography, shooting film with an F2 and a bag full of manual lenses. I had a color darkroom and did a lot of shooting and printing. For the past few years though, I set my film camera aside and just shot snaps with a digital Olympus point and shoot because it was much more convenient. A couple of years ago, I decided to get serious again and make the plunge into DSLRs. I got a D200 and I've been carefully assembling a kit of lenses for it.

    When I read these forums, I'm surprised by the difference in attitudes from the way I've always thought about gear. I've always carefully considered my lens purchases, and when I decide, I stick with that lens for a very long time. It takes a huge improvement for me to upgrade something that is already working... obviously since it took me so long to move from film to digital.

    However, I keep reading posts by people who seem to be constantly turning over their collection of lenses and bodies, buying and returning lenses, and replacing lenses and camera bodies in their kit with similar lenses and camera bodies with minor improvements. To be honest, that baffles me. It seems to me, if you've got a good portrait tele, you work with that. You don't keep buying more portrait teles in the hopes that one might be a little bit better than the one you have. You move on and shop for a nice wide angle, or a long lens, or a fast prime. Why reinvent the wheel over and over?

    I have absolutely no plans to upgrade either my lenses or my camera body for quite a while. I am very happy with the performance of my D200. But I know some folks are buying lenses now with an eye to having a FF camera in the future. I don't see myself changing over for many years. When I do, I'll think about a new kit of lenses, but until then, I buy lenses that I need now and suit the way I use them now. I'm not going to spend that much money on something I may or may not end up using that way. Once I get a lens, I use it until it isn't useful any more and then start shopping for a new one. I'm not constantly shopping for replacements. Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't understand all these incremental upgrades.

    The video capabilities of the new D90 point in the direction of where I might begin to consider a new camera and kit of lenses. But that would have to be a totally different thing from a DSLR. It would need to be some new sort of hybrid still/video camera. I think I've got plenty of time to enjoy the equipment I have now. There are a couple of more lenses I might want to extend the range of my current kit, but that's it. When my kit is complete, I'll focus on taking pictures and not worry about equipment. Am I a dinosaur from the past or something?!

    See ya
  2. I agree but...

    sometimes you NEED it right now and can't afford what you want. I had to have a long tele for a shoot. I wanted the 70-200 but couldn't afford it. So I got the 70-300 VR. While it is an awesome budget lens the focusing is not fast enough anymore in low light. A lot of people today spend more time pixel peeping than figuring out what makes a shot 'work'. They get so concerned about sharpness that every time a newer sharper lens comes out they feel that their pics are substandard shot with anything else. I don't really think people think that a better lens will make them a better photographer.
  3. Nikkor AIS

    Nikkor AIS

    Jun 5, 2008
    Steve great post. You make a lot of sense. We should focus more on photography and less about gear.

  4. ora-et-labora


    Mar 15, 2008
    Buying lenses can become a sort of desease - "NAS" is not only a joke. I decided to spend my money on travelling to get nice pictures instead of buying lenses and looking at 'em in my living room.
  5. Well diffrent leses have diffrent purposes,and people have diffrent needs/standards.

    Simple as that.

    If you dont want to buy new gear and are satisfied with your current thats great.

    Just because people discuss gear or buy alot, dosent mean they dont focus on taking pictures...

    Some of us actually make a living with the gear we buy and discuss, belive it or not. .-)
  6. Nice post Steve, consumerism runs rife though.
    I'm happy with my D200 and sales prove the point.
    I still have my lovely wide angle prime AIs Nikkors sitting here for when I feel the urge for a D700 !!
    I have found it takes a long time to get the maximum benefit from a lens through knowing it's pluses and minuses - and they all have those.
  7. I'm primarily a landscape shooter who dabbles in sports and the occasional bird or other critter that comes across my path. I've got the 80-400VR and the 80-200 AFD 2.8. I have often pined for a super telephoto like the 200-400 or a 500 f/4. But my bread and butter images come from my wide and normal view lenses, not only that my skills shooting wildlife and sports cannot at this time justify spending that kind of cabbage on those lenses. No matter how cool those lenses are I have decided not to break the bank getting one of them, or even an old AIS model.

    I am a fairly decent landscape guy and I do feel I can coax every last bit of performance out of my 12-24 tokina. Some would think the logical upgrade path would be the 14-24. I've used it, and it is a lovely lens. But it is a little more than 3 times as much cash as my tokina and in no way 3 times better. Some would say that I should upgrade my D200 for a D700 or a D3 but at base ISO there is no way that those cameras are thousands of dollars better than my trusty little D200. I spent all last winter working up in the oilsands to pay off a few bills and to buy the DSLR rig I've always wanted. It may not be absolutely state of the art but I certainly have the confidence that if I am in the right spot at the right time that I can make a masterpiece. No more NAS for me. I definitely will upgrade one day, but most likely I'll be buying a used D700 off of someone who is upgrading to a D800.

    Frankly, in the DSLR camp I am pretty much done for now. I have pretty much everything I need. As a landscape guy my next upgrade will be a cheap one. When the time is right I'm going to pick up a used medium format system and shoot some velvia. I've seen mamiya 645 systems on ebay for less than $500. I don't see a whole lot of difference between any of the DX wide zooms compared to full frame and the 14-24. But I do see a world of difference between medium format and the DX wide zooms. That being said, I have full confidence that I can get whatever shot I need to with what I have today, but a used mamiya 645 and maybe a 45mm prime for around $500 is a pretty cheap experiment.
  8. Mike126


    Aug 14, 2008
    Herndon, Va
    Steve -

    Great post. Since I'm purely a hobbiest, buying gear is based on disposable income. This basically forces me to learn to shoot what I have. I've been using the same Nikon FM that I bought in 1977 for the bulk of my film. I recently moved into the 21st century and bought a D80. I would guess that this body will suffice for a very long time for the amount of work I will put it through.

    Now if I were making money at this, I would need to invest more but still stick with the tried and true. Once you get to know your tools (and this is in every profession) you can generally work with it to do what you need to do.

    I doubt Ansel Adams was constantly trading in his gear! :biggrin:

  9. I buy first what I want or need for my portrait business, then what makes me happy. It's all with either my business income money or with *play money* after all bills/investments/etc are paid. I never go into debt for camera gear, so as long as I keep doing it this way I don't think it's a big deal. I always say that I don't think I'll upgrade to the next better camera body, but if the money is there I probably will.....it's a fun, but bad habit.
  10. It's simple...My new 24-70 2.8 will make me a Nikon Jedi....It's all about the gear:biggrin:.......


  11. I agree, Steve. It's especially true since the differences between lenses are often WAY over-hyped. There are very few lenses out there today that can't make an excellent print at sizes larger than most of us regularly (or ever!) print. On the other hand, if it's fun and one isn't going into debt doing it, who's to say that NAS is worse than the horses, or the boat, or the '51 MG-TD? (In fact, it's almost certainly cheaper than any of those.) And if you think that NAS generates tremendous equipment turnover, have a look at the enthusiast audio world, where a $5000 line stage is no longer "high end" and speakers now seriously run into the $50k range.
  12. IMHO - why lens are bought & sold more often

    I think that these forums, as well as the meets set up via the forums, allow us a much broader access to see, handle, shoot, and learn about the various lens for our cameras and ones we are considering. It also allows us to talk and read about a lens we might be considering instead of listening to salesmen who have never taken the lens in the field.

    Seeing pictures is worth a thousand words. Again, these forums allow us to do just that - see pictures taken with a lens we lust after. When I was shooting manual cameras (from the mid 60s to the 90s) I had no access to other shooters unless I went to a club meeting of some kind. They got to be so pretentious and cut throat I didn't go to many meetings. Like you, I bought three lens and stuck with them for years - a 50mm 1.4, 105 2.5, and a 300 f4.5.

    Then again, the equipment I owned only had the option of being traded in at the local brick and mortar store because there wasn't much of a used market. And, you only got rock bottom prices from them. Again, the forums allow us to sell at a price we consider decent. And, no ebay fees.

    So far I have only talked about lens. The digital bodies have changed the market totally. Film users have a much smaller market to choose from and the cameras don't get replaced that often. I believe the Nikon F6 is the last film camera they will make.

    On the other hand, digital bodies are like computers - every 18 months the capabilities double and price goes down. You then have a huge used camera market that allows younger or newer shooters to pick up a darn good digital at a bargain price. For the rest of us, the NAS kicks in and we have to have the latest. Younger shooters also now buy the best lens they can afford and then move up as income increases. Those older lens are then sold off to supplement the cost of the new lens.

    The bottom line is that the film camera industry was dying out. They had no growth for many years. The digital industry has revived photography - from cheap (inexpensive) P&S to the more expensive SLRs.

    Just my humble opinion.
  13. bigshot


    Aug 17, 2008
    Hollywood, USA
    That is what I'm coming to realize. Is there a world of difference between the Nikon 12-24, the Sigma 12-24 and the Tokina 12-24? Maybe one or the other is a little better at one thing or the other, but it seems to me, if you have one of them, there's no point going out and buying another one- or even something similar like the Tokina 11-16 or Sigma 10-20. But from reading the forums, it appears that there actually are people who own or have owned several of these. What's the point of having an enormous redundant collection of lenses? It seems to me that the smart way of doing it is to just make the best decision you can make at the time you are in the market for that particular type of lens, and then work with the one you chose.

    You're right about the comparison with audio... I participate in a couple of audio forums as well, and I see the same sort of gear fetish going on over there too. Some people spend more of their energy on shopping and buying equipment than using the equipment they have. They never take the time to actually figure out how to use what they have, so they never get any benefit from the churn in equipment.

    See ya
  14. If I wasn't shooting professionally, I'd be happy with a D700 and 4 primes: 24, 50, 85 and 180. There's something very Zen about that collection. Unfortunately I need to to carry big lenses and massive camera bodies for work's sake.
  15. My philosophy is that I only buy what I need. For a couple years all I shot with was an 18-70 DX and was more or less satisfied with it. I was then hired to shoot a job that required a fast(er) lens than what I had and so I went with the 35 f/2 and it performed beautifully. I didn't need a telephoto until recently and so I didn't get one until just a couple of months ago. It's an 80-200 push/pull and I keep telling myself how much I'd like to have the AF-S version but...I don't need it and so hold off.

    Anything I don't use gets sold - like the 50 1.8 that just sat in my bag because the focal length felt awkward.
  16. nht800


    Aug 26, 2008
    Missouri, USA
    Very good point. However, I wish I could afford for both: travels with new lenses!:biggrin::biggrin:
  17. As a hobbyist I, like Mike126, kept at it with my 1977 FM (and a 1954 Rolleiflex) until I purchased a D200. I've had some sales, but I don't shoot as a profession. I look to how and what I shoot regularly. I can get caught up in NAS, as I did many years with audio, but time has given me some perspective. My realization is that I will hit my own limitations far sooner than I will hit my equipment's limitations. If, by good fortune, I do hit equipment limitation, then a change is worthwhile.

  18. Does that make my 35-70 2.8 a Jedi in training? I am in agreeance with members who purchase lenses to use and not just collect. I think what the OP should realize is that while a good population of photographers are "gear heads" in addition to many are also trying to improve their craft and equipment effects that. Not to say that equipment is the sole factor of a good photographer. Times have changed and with the advancement of technology in full steam many users would like the latest and greatest.
  19. jhelms


    Sep 25, 2008
    Columbus, GA
    I approach the gear buying with a 'bang for the buck' mentality.

    I have a D200 and shot for two years with the kit 18-200VR and on camera flash, forcing me to be as creative as possible.

    Last month I finally purchased an SB600 flash over the SB800 because I couldn't justify the cost difference. Same thing with my purchase of the 50mm 1.8 over the 1.4. And I borrowed/used/tested both an SB800 and 50mm 1.4 before my purchases - buying those would have cost me several hundred more than the 1.8 and SB600.

    My first used lens purchase was this week - a 20mm 2.8 prime. Next on the list is the 85mm 1.8 or possibly Sigma 70mm 2.8 macro, both around ~$400ish range.
  20. Igor


    May 15, 2005
    Ukraine, Europe
    LLD ... no cure has been found yet :smile:
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