You know what GAS stands for: it is the dreaded Gear Acquisition Syndrome. When we desire, covet, lust for more, more expensive gear, which hopefully will make for better pictures.
That this doesn’t exactly work out like that, at least in my case, is demonstrated by the high number of lenses I have owned that have yielded less than 3 of my Top-200 pictures. Less than 3 means 2, 1, or even 0. Not exactly value for my hard-earned, you will agree.
So, let’s begin the count: from all the zooms I’ve owned combined, and I’ve owned 8: 3 pics! From my first 2 primes: 0. From my 3 long teles: 1. From my 2 135mm lenses: 2. From my fish-eye: 2. From my first 28mm: 0. From my first 35mm: 2. From my first 24mm: 0. From my 55mm: 0. From my 75mm: 2. From my 100mm: 1. From another 100mm: 0. From another 35mm: 0. From my 90mm: 2. From my 45mm: 2. Pretty shocking, isn’t it? Even now, from what I own: my 80mm: 0, and not looking so good. My 28mm: 1, but looking very good.
So, lest you think I’ve owned hundreds of lenses, let’s look at the opposite: how many lenses have produced most of my Top-200 images? 1 50mm lens, 1 85mm, 1 35mm, another 35mm, 1 21mm, 1 12mm on crop, 1 28mm on crop 1 35mm on crop, 1 50mm on crop, 1 24mm on crop, 1 18mm on crop, 1 60mm, 1 50mm, 1 35mm.
Basically, if getting shots that are part of my Top-200 was/is the goal, I could almost just as well have done without a full 2/3 of my lenses! What a waste of time, money, and opportunity!
What is to be learned from that?
1. I have certain performance/user experience standards (rightly or wrongly, and, in any case, they are highly individual). Buying a lens that doesn’t fully meet them, “just because I need that focal length” has always ended up a losing gambit. Always.
That seems to suggest that I must buy “quality first”, and forget the rest, right? BUT
2. There are focal lengths that I know how to use, and others not. Obviously, the heart of my photography revolves around 50mm, with 35mm a close second. Buying a long tele (or even a 135mm for that matter) just because those are superb lenses delivering great shots for others doesn’t make me able to match their expertise. Wides and ultra-wides are not my favorite focal lengths either, though I’ve had some moderate success with them.
That seems to suggest that I buy “focal length first”, and the rest second, right? BUT see (1) above…
3. Zooms aren’t for me. I shoot by and large only stationary subjects, so AF doesn’t matter either. To some extent, I even prefer MF.
Now comes the interesting part. What are the last 3 lenses I lusted for? A 50mm prime. I bought it, love it, and am getting keepers from it. The Zeiss Loxia 50mm. Then the Sony G 70-200mm zoom. I tried it, an didn’t buy it primarily because it wouldn’t fit my bag in terms of size and weight. The Sony-Zeiss 16-35mm f:4.0 zoom. It is to be available next week, I have seen promising pictures, it would let me get rid of my lovely Zeiss Touit 12mm, which is crop only, etc… yadda, yadda, yadda…
There you have it. I have had ZERO results with zoom lenses (not because one can’t of course, it is just me. They bring out the lazy-bones, the oaf, the couch potato in me. I just zoom to fit instead of thinking about composition and working it). Yet 2 of the last 3 lenses I looked at are zooms. I haven’t had many winners with wide angles, and none with long teles, and one of the zooms is a wide-angle, and the other a long tele. I hate heavy lenses (always have!), and the one I may buy is just that. Ugh!
How does this work? Am I crazy, or what? Fortunately, I am not alone in this sort of disease, known as GAS. There are actually much worse offenders than I, all the way up to lens collectors, who might have a dozen different 50mm lenses. So, how did I get into this?
Problem 1. I look at many pictures made by others, including, of course, with the newest lenses. The problem begins when I admire the pictures (and the lens behind it) without asking myself whether I would be able to produce such pictures, or even interested in them. So,in essence, this leads me to buy lenses that other people make fine images with…
Problem 2. I go into a situation with the lenses “that make the most sense”. For example, landscape photography requires wide lenses, right? So, when my trip to Patagonia begins, one of my DSLR’s sports a 25mm lens, and the other one a 35mm lens. Where was my favorite 50? In my bag. Until, one day, in the middle of a tough forest hike, I wanted to lighten my camera load. Fact was, the 50 was my lightest lens. Guess what, my favorite shots of the trip from then on came from my 50. Travel forward. My camera is now a crop NEX 7. Instead of buying another copy of the 35 I had loved, I bought a faster, supposedly better one. Never liked it, so I ended without that focal length for as long as I kept it. When I moved back to FF, the 50mm- -that-I-had-loved-on-crop didn’t work, and I had to let it go. Again, without a 50. Come a new one, and, again, like in that Patagonian forest, it was like coming home. Much more important than “doing it like it is supposed to be done!”
Now the title of this post is “Memory and humility, how to spend less on GAS”, so what is it? The answer is: look at your past pictures. Find your favorites. What gear you shot them with. That is where you need to spend your money, if you must. Not where reviews tell you to spend it. Not where manufacturers release new and sexy lenses. Not in order to replicate pictures that are foreign to your style. Remember and replicate, that’s all. Then of course, you could say: how to get out of my comfort zone? How to improve? Well, keep reading DearSusan, something tells me there will be a challenge that will answer this very question fairly soon.
So, in conclusion, am I going to buy that heavy ultra-wide zoom, now that I know that ultra-wides are not my territory, and zooms not my thing, and, besides, that I hate all heavy lenses? Certainly not, right? Well, it isn’t quite that simple. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be GAS, right? :-)))))
PS. You may ask: what is the purpose of the pictures? Simply, they are all pics which I shot not because they “felt right”, but because that was the lens I had on the camera at the time, or a lens I felt I had to use it in order to justify having bought it and brought it, or whatever. Bad pics? Not really, at least I don’t think so, otherwise I wouldn’t have processed them, and wouldn’t impose them on you. But nowhere close to my Top-200. Actually, that’s not the whole truth. One of them is actually one of my Top 200. That the prankster in me. Sorry…
PPS I just wrote an article on not getting carried away by GAS, so I feel I have to honour it by passing on the Sony-Zeiss 16-35 f:4.0. Right? Wrong! I may actually pass but only because I saw pictures from it, and the corners at f:8.0 don’t look sharp at all at 16mm. First, that shouldn’t matter at all, because I never -or almost never- shoot that wide. Second, because expecting a zoom to perform like one of the world’s best primes just isn’t going to happen, so I should have known all along. So I guess that the Sony is out. Now what to do about that empty feeling? Well, there just happens to be that diminutive and awfully clever new Voigtländer 40mm Heliar f:2.8. Very small, light and cheap. And in the middle of my “hot zone”. So I am being reasonable again, right? Well, unless you ask yourself: this guy has a 35 that he is very happy with, and the same with a 50. How many extra keepers will an extra 40mm actually get him? You are right, dear readers, I am a hopeless case…
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