How to afford expensive camera gear

Some folks often wonder how people are so rich nowadays to afford stuff that they themselves find difficult to fork out the money to buy. In this context, I’m talking about camera gear, especially DSLR gear. Most of the time the folks who buy expensive gear aren’t really that rich to begin with. Kinda makes you wonder how do they do it?

Well… I’ll share what I know from my own experience. Here is a list of what I think makes it possible for people to acquire all those expensive L glass. I speak about taking up photography as a serious hobby… I would like to stress the word “serious” once more as the cost of investment into L glass isn’t for the feint hearted. If you are into photography only as a past time instead, then you don’t really need to bother. Actually the tips I’m about to share really is how not to spend unwisely which results in you not being able to afford good gear which you need.

If you want to get serious about photography as a hobby, there can really only be one hobby. I know of friends who try to juggle a few “serious” hobbies, it didn’t do their bank any good. Some people have so many hobbies that stuff they bought after 6 months is still in the box up in the attic!! Also photography requires skills that constantly needs practice so really if you want to get into the game, you need to save your hard earned salary on essentials & not for your golf, hifi & sports cars!

Go for 2nd hand glass. If you live where I live, there is an ample market for 2nd hand glass. You can find them over at the FREE Trade Zone or at PhotoMalaysia.com. Watch the market & study trends. Ask those who have experience dealing with 2nd hand goods & they will be able to advise you. There is not rush for the next piece of gear, so take the time that you are without a new glass to learn about it & how it is going to enhance your photographic skills. However do exercise care as there has been cases of fraud. The good thing about getting 2nd hand glass, you can sell them at almost the same price you bought them… sometimes higher!

Take your time & build your gear slowly. Never rush to buy the latest & greatest out there. Those who own 5Dmk2 with an assortment of L lenses didn’t get them overnight. They too at one time bought an entry level DSLR which came with a kit lens. Earn your L glass when you start to get serious about photography & do so a bit at a time.

Never buy something until you really need it! This is a big mistake by many newbies. Things like memory cards, filters & accessories may seem like a good idea to stock up when there is a camera fair or sale. These are consumables & rarely have resale value. Just because there is a sale when you buy your first DSLR doesn’t mean you need two pieces of 8GB cards. Most of the time you only need one. Buy your 2nd memory card when you really need it, like for example you are going for a holiday trip. Memory cards depreciate because bigger & faster cards are being made everyday & prices can only get cheaper because of demand & supply. Don’t get duped into spending when you really should not!

This is in reference to the last tip, never buy something unless you intend to make full use of it!! I don’t even know why I’m saying this but I see it every time it makes me so angry! If you buy a nice camera & nice lens, for heaven’s sake… use it! Don’t just leave it in your cupboard & forget about it. Buying a $500 lens & not using it is a serious way to waste money compared to someone who spends $2000 on an L lens but shoots every weekend & every opportunity. Folks who use their cameras often are actually spending less on what they bought because their investment would have gotten them plenty of nice pictures that they can share with friends & family. Buying a camera which you use once in a yeti sighting is a serious waste of money! If you’re going for a holiday & need a camera for just that trip alone, forget buying a DSLR. Get a point & shoot instead!

Never buy something unless you’re sure you have the necessary skills/knowledge/research to use it. Don’t buy that macro lens until you’ve done research on the topic & know close to what you’re getting yourself into. I’ve seen folks who have bought a 60mm macro lens just to find out later that he can’t get 5x magnification on it… then later sell his 60mm for the MPE-65 just to realize that he didn’t budget properly for the lighting to get properly exposed results! It doesn’t help that some unscrupulous salesmen will sell you an 18-200mm superzoom & tell you that now you can shoot birds in the forest!! Do your research, learn what some gears can do & what they can’t do, learn from responsible friends who want to help you do better in this hobby.

You do not need the entire range of lenses to shoot good photos! Another mistake often made by newbies… and even pros to be honest! If you’ve read my old article “Putting together a system“, you’d understand this. More importantly avoid overlapping ranges. It’s not smart to have a 17-50mm f/2.8, a 50mm & an 18-200mm in your dry box!! Sell your 50mm & your 18-200mm… then get yourself a flash or something & pocket the change. You should also avoid similar range glasses. Why on earth would you need an 85mm f/1.2L when you already have a 100mm f/2.8L? Someone asked me over IM the other day how many lenses do I need to complete my range of coverage. My answer shocked him somewhat. I said… ONE. The one that is on your camera.

If you’re buying a new lens, sell one that you’re not using much of. I used to be an idiot & horde stuff. I keep telling myself that one day I will need the old telephoto that I got stuck at the back of my dry cabinet. That’s dumb. If you’re not really using that piece of gear, sell or auction it off to get some money back. From this you will learn about your shooting style & then you can stick to things you like. Folks who like to shoot using telephoto rarely shoot with ultra-wide angles & vice versa.

Avoid trading in existing gear for a new one. It usually means you don’t have enough cash for the upgrade. Make sure you have the cash, buy the new piece of gear then sell what you don’t need to the 2nd hand market.

DSLR camera bodies are a liability! Sell them the moment there is news the next model is about to be released. You can bite the bullet & continue to use them even if new models appear, but this article is about how to get the best bang for your buck so my advice stands. L lenses on the other hand will stand the test of time… well unless of course a version 2 of the lens is in the works. Even so, you’re better off holding on to an older version of an L lens than an older version of a DSLR body.

So pretty much the one single advice on how to afford camera gear is about managing your cash & spending only when you need to on the right gear which will make you a better photographer!

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3 responses to “How to afford expensive camera gear”

  1. jl says :

    I’m sorry if my question is not entirely related with this post but I’m having doubts wether to buy a 60D or a 7D and since you’ve tried both I would like to know what you recommend. I want to use it professionaly for both photography and video. My two main concerns are having a tight budget and realizing how much I’ve missed the flip screen ever since my first nikon coolpix, which had that feature, died a few years ago. I’ve been shooting with a canon 450D so I’m sure both 60D and 7D will be an upgrade. My main question is if the 7D is really worth the extra $600 even if I don’t get to have a flip screen.
    thanks in advance, I know you must get this kind of questions all the time and how much is sucks typing the same answer over and over again.

    • Adrien says :

      The short answer is yes the 7D is worth the extra that you pay. I wrote an article about the 7D which you can read about here.

      The 60D is not in any way inferior to the 7D, just that the subtle things that make the 7D a better camera. I like the way the AF controls were done on the 7D, the speed of the camera & since I shoot mainly jpg, the jpg conversion is cleaner on the 7D. Although there were many reviews & comparisons between the 2 cameras, I could never get the same jpg output results from both these cameras as claimed by the review websites. The AWB on the 7D is much more accurate where else the 60D is a tad cooler. In any case, the AWB on both these cameras work better in tungsten lighting compared to let say a 5Dmk2.

      Either way you can’t go wrong with either the 60D or the 7D.

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