Fighting G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)

Some hobbies require more gear than others. Mountain biking, photography and scuba diving simply require more gear than jogging, water colour painting and yoga. This is not a bad thing, just something to be aware of when choosing a new hobby.

Should I learn the harmonica or the piano? Both have merits, but one is going to cost you a lot more over time.

In some cases, the acquisition of gear becomes a hobby in itself. Dreaming of, and planning for the ‘perfect’ set-up is fun. Reading reviews, doing side-by-side comparisons, weighing pros and cons, these are all fun ways to pass time and fantasize.

But at what point do you need to focus less on expensive things that could improve your photos or yoga posture, and simply enjoy the hobby you love?

You could talk about this with any gear intensive hobby, but this post will focus on photography.

Camera bodies, lenses, filters, tripods, straps, films, developers, papers, editing software; as photographers we’ve got shitloads of gear to think about, dream about and acquire. Oh, if I only had (…), my pictures could be (…). Try filling in the blanks yourself. Here are two of my recent impulses.

If I only had a D750, I could you use the full potential of my full-frame lenses digitally.

If I only had a Nikon F100, I could use autofocus and my macro lens with film.

For me, this focus on gear and possibility quickly faded when I learned of my vision loss. Seriously, why spend $2,000 on a camera that I might not be able to use in 6 months?

I had to make some choices to simplify a visual hobby for a visually impaired user. One of my major decisions was to give up black and white film, and minimize time using photo editing software. While I love black and white film, spending time reading development charts and fine print on chemical labels is not something I look forward too. Similarly, I become exhausted so much faster now using a computer, I do not want to spend hours fidgeting with white balance levels and sharpness numbers.

Switching to just two of my favorite films has actually helped a lot. Kodak Portra 400 is my go-to ‘people’ film, and I use Kodak Ektar for everything else. The film determines the colouring of my images, and the lab determines the proper development. I can focus on getting a good exposure, and capturing the subject that caught my eye, how I want to.

I guess I’m fortunate that the equipment I have now has been curated carefully enough to let me capture the images I want. I paid for that with several years of trial and error, buying and selling, eBay and craigslist.

Starting any hobby, G.A.S. can be a seductive beast, promising instant gains for a price. Take time to slow down and consider if the gear you currently have is really stopping you from achieving your goals or vision.