obsessing over gear and buying a beginner camera

well, here i am again trying to write.

basically, i have a working knowledge of a lot of subjects, but no one really wants to read about basics. they oftentimes want to read from someone who has explored all the nuances and gone down the rabbit hole. i do that with products, but, i do not know how i can show that without actually writing it all out. i am hesitant to write it all out because…well…most of the stuff surrounding products are superfluous features and metrics that only complicate mature technologies.

one example is when i was buying a digital camera. i taught myself about different sensor sizes, calculating pixel density, the different ways that film and digital sensors respond to light, technology of digital sensors trying to approximate film, microcontrast, quality of glass, equivalent exposures, metering systems, and came up with a way to value legacy dslr crop sensor cameras vs the new technology m43 vs full frame sensors vs film. i even picked out lens and body combinations for each technology at various price points.

that was just technology. i did similar multi-month researching dives into art, composition, notable photographers, working with models, and how to tell a story.

was that a big waste of time?

well, it was an excessive and gratuitous use of time. the gear is the least important part, so for that segment in particular, it would have been helpful to have someone with my intellectual idiocy go through the gear and then just tell me these things:


start with your use case - which will turn out to be travel photography and particularly outdoor photography while backpacking. for casual photos, you will end up using a small point and shoot or, eventually, your phone. for travel and outdoor photography a crop sensor dslr is the best choice because of the cost, robustness of body, and image quality. a m43 is fantastic, but much more expensive. for $300 the m43 quality will not be that great and you'll want to upgrade. the next price bracket is $700-$1000. these are used prices, for new prices, add about 40%.

if you're traveling, or just hanging out with friends, the best camera would be an olympus omd, ricoh gr1, or fuji x100s. however…i was not sure that i really wanted to spend that much on gear. my approach to gear is to use whatever bodge, janky solution i have for a long time until i get to the point that i'm pushing its limits. then you have a better idea of what it is that you actually want to upgrade. if you spent your time correctly, then you realize very few things 'HAVE TO BE' upgraded. on the other hand, if you get a piece of nice gear without much knowledge or experience of using it, then you will likely follow this progression: oh cool, i used it a lot, hmm, it is a good 'all arounder', but i really want to get into a tiny specialty (ex. macro watch photography) and it is not that great for that...hmm...upgrade anyway. now you are stuck trying to sell this piece of gear or bodge a solution when a specialty solution applies. i'd prefer bodging a beginner solution, and spending on the specialty solution. the real limit happens to be enthusiasm and practice, not gear.

for 2019, i'd still say if you are around the $300 price point, then get the dslr used. plenty of people are giving up on cameras, so deals abound. $700-$1000 get one of those cameras listed above with two lenses 1) a prime in 35mm or 50mm equivalent focal length, 2) a zoom like a 80mm-200mm. typically cameras come with a 18-55mm (~28-80mm ff equiv).

if you actually want to take good photos, spend the rest of the money on photo books, courses, and vacations to go shoot. spend the majority of your time taking photos, editing said photos, and making connections with photographers. your goal is to get a relationship, insight, and feedback on your photos.

i would have saved months of research had i been able to find someone wired like myself.

however…it turns out that i like looking into those kinds of things. comparing. and learning.

that said…beware obsessing over gear details. it is usually indicative of something else.

at the time, i probably needed a more intellectually stimulating thing to do at work. if anyone knows of a particularly stimulating intellectual field let me know.

if you find yourself obsessing over gear details, the other reason could be that you are just not doing the activity enough. when it is the middle of winter - sunset at 4pm and 0F outside - and i have found myself staring on my computer screen at photos of high alpine summer backpacking trips->i want to be outside in the sunlight. so go outside and go biking, skiing, cross country skiing, skate skiing, running, even snow shoeing, hunting…something to get you outside.

in these cases, you have the desire and ~woo-woo* 'energy' to do the activity, and it is being spent (read: wasted) looking at gear. go outside and take more photos with what you have. that was not the case with me because when i got to the point of wanting a camera, i had been taking photos with a point and shoot almost everyday for about 2 years. that includes everyday at lunch for about 6 months before getting the camera.

if you are obsessing over gear, it may be that you are using…well of course you are using it as escapism. so at least figure that out and be honest about it. sometimes i find myself veering into escapism if i need more sleep. if you are sleepy all the time, maybe you need to sleep more, exercise more, eat better, address sleep apnea, or spend too much time on a screen at night.

maybe you are lonely and could start putting together a plan to hang out with people who like doing things.

maybe you need a therapist.

maybe you should start writing. like a blog for example.

for extra detail:
in 2010 m43 sensors were still too noisy to justify the price point, but quality glass was obviously developed (voigtlander, zeiss, some real leica quality stuff) and being developed so it wouldn't have been bad to get involved at a high price point with nice glass, but again budget and i wasn't sure if i wanted to spend that much on a random hobby. i still don't.

a FF sensor is nice, but heavy…and they have gotten smaller and will get cheaper…in 2019 i mean, wow, what choices.

film cameras are 'upgrade proof' because, well, they're a mature technology, but it could be fun to get a nikon and a nikon dslr if you go with it because of cross compatibility. otherwise olympus is actually fantastic for the used price. haven't done it myself, but eventually a leica is pretty much the only one to get. cost of getting film developed is a drag, but goodness gracious, take a look at film photos. i shake my head at how gorgeous they can turn out.

most important, would have been advice steering me clear from the marketing. despite every system touting it, you do not need more than about 3-5 fps for most shooting. the people that benefit from high frame rates are those shooting birds in flight, sports, high speed things. anything else and you just need a good autofocus speed and ability to watch and click. the downside of high FPS is that…well…you end up with a thousand, huge files of like 10 seconds in time. that you now have to store edit delete and deal with. train your brain


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