#1235. Gear is only great if you miss it ;)

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Oct 06

Is it only when you sell it that you realise that it was worth keeping?

Golden oldie

I’m only half joking about this. So here’s a less disheartening alternative πŸ™‚

As often when new adventures loom, I’m neck deep in a selling spree. Mostly HiFi gear, but also 3 Hasselblad lenses (XCD21, XCD45, XCD120 Macro, if you’re interested). The buyer of my Puritan Audio filter wrote to me today, to describe how amazed he was at the difference in sound the filter makes in his system. Hardly a surprise, those filters have won all the awards there are to win, and mine was in immaculate state. But with my current Naim amplification, it didn’t do as much good and it isn’t missed.

This got me thinking.

Twin goldies

If I sold everything today, what would be missed and what wouldn’t? In the past, I’ve kept lots of gear that was never used (lots of Leica and Zeiss glass lying around in a cupboard, anyone?) but rarely regretted selling anything.

Two standout losses are my folding Fujica 645, which broke and no one up to now has wanted to repair, and the successive Mamiya 7 systems that proved too much of a burden to use far away from film labs, but are still sending spikes of regret to my heart.

Apart from that? Nah, zilch.

Toned harbour

The irony is this. We are fortunate to live in countries where technology evolves so fast that whatever we sell, we are almost certain to later find a better copy of, and at a cheaper price. So we are unlikely to regret selling anything that’s tech-centric.

The real sting comes from separation from a product with strong vibes of an era gone by. Whether that sting finds its source in vintage design, an ergonomic philosophy that has no modern equivalent, subjective memory lane or quality unmatched today, the things we long for aren’t necessarily the things we’d want to use in the present.

The thought of a 3rd Mamiya 7 has entered my mind so often it hurts. I love that camera so so much. But no, there’s no falling for that again. Even when our emotional self lingers in the past, our rational counterpart evolves with its time.

Bar with a view

There’s one test I find enlightening, however: try something higher up the ladder than your own gear, then go back to it, to see whether the bigger brother leaves a lust crater or not. It’s a dangerous financial proposition πŸ˜‰ But often worth it.

Recently, a dealer brought higher-end HiFi stuff to my place for a home audition. Evaluated in the usual audiophile fashion (slam, 3D, grip on bass, treble extension and airiness, fluid and dense midrange, detail retrieval …), it was superior in every conceivable metric.

When the guy left, and my lower-grade equipment was plugged back in, I did not miss the more expensive stuff one second. But if I had to drive my previous car again, that would bring home a serious case of cold turkey. The test works. It separates what we respond to, from what is merely lustful thinking.

The other White House

So, upgrading for a moment and downgrading back feels like a sure way of evaluating an emotional decision in a rational way. One that does not involve selling, to boot. Heck, you might even want to invert it, and try something lower down the ladder to evaluate how dispensable – in real terms, not specs or price – your current setup really is. Who know, upgrading here and downgrading there might be dollar-neutral πŸ˜‰

(ps: All photos made in the little seaside village of Cassis, in the South of France, with my X1D & XCD30, and processed in my perpetual attempt to emulate some imaginary filmstock and have fun with highlights πŸ˜‰ )


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  • Frank Field says:

    A pristine Nikon FM2 body is the only piece of gear I wish I had not sold. Bought it new some 35 years ago and always loved the sound of the fully mechanical shutter whirring away with the camera held at eye point. Funny, I have no desire to shoot film anymore – too much overhead of processing and then having to store physical negatives or slides and then scanning them if I want to do any thing with them. But, I did appreciate the mechanical precision of that camera.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yes, that sounds similar to my infatuation for the Mamiya. The emotions those elicited are still with us, but living with them today wouldn’t be possible.

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    Hi Pascal,

    Your pictures are great – you must have a really good camera πŸ˜‰

  • Dan says:

    I bought and sold so much equipment over time I could have bought a luxury car with the money. πŸ˜€

    The only lens I sold and bought again was the Sony FE 16-70mm f4 in my crop Sony mirrorless period. Fantastic travel lens, so I rebought it after going through a prime Loxia period.

    The only lens I kind of regret selling was a Nikon 300mm f 2.8 – superlative sharpness, creamy bokeh. Unfortunately after my daughters left home there were no more sports and other events to take pictures of. A bit short for birds and wildlife, so no more use cases left for me.

    Usually I do a spring cleaning when I asses what has not been used over the past year and sell it. I am trying to keep at most 5-6 lenses overall. I am not rich enough to just keep lenses and cameras collecting dust in my cabinet.

    Fortunately lately I decided that Nikon Z is questionably the most technologically mature system out there. With all their quibbles Nikon is a great engineering company and their lenses are some of the best in the field. It is pretty much the last camera syndrome. I will buy a Z7 replacement when it will break or I will lose it.

    So very little equipment turnover over the past 2-3 years…

    • pascaljappy says:

      Dan, I feel for you and that 300mm πŸ˜‰ No longer having any use for something we love is hard. Like you, I can’t afford to keep everything, which is probably a good thing, all said and done.

      I bought my current gear 3 or 4 years ago and haven’t touched a thing yet. It might just stay that way, except for the lens sales mentioned in the post. I’m less and less interested in gear, except when it conveys something special.


      • Dan says:

        Pascal, I have a fair idea what I need/like. For example 14-24mm and 24-120mm for travel, 70-200 f2.8 for portraits and some events, macro and 400mm for fun and a 35mm/50mm for when I need light weight.

        I feel for you as my camera usage dropped dramatically over the past two years. This Covid thing did a number on me – the work from home is not as fun as it was two years ago and I am way less social than before. This all impacted my fav hobby- photography. Plus getting scared of growing old and exercising like crazy – roughly 2-3 hours per day – to slow the entropy… it really cut into my disposable time.

  • Jeffrey Horton says:

    I love that first shot Golden Oldie, there is something so beautiful about the almost overdriven highlights of the boat, with the shadows underneath. I guess many of us have similar experiences, I’m currently shooting with an X1DII, but desperately hanging on to some Zeiss ZF.2 glass because one lens, the 21mm f/2.8 this is already my third copy (long story).

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks, Jeffrey. That is my favourite of the day as well.

      Zeiss glass is wonderful on Hassy cameras, isn’t it. my 25/2 does surprisingly well and produces such a smooth rendering. That’s one lens I should sell (it get little use) but certainly don’t want to … πŸ˜‰

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    My only “sorry” was that a couple of years after disposing of my Zeiss Contarex, with its famed Planar lens and all the other accessories, I bumped into a french guy who has dumped on digi, gone over to film, and was absolutely drooling over Zeiss’s Contarex. Unfortunately I could no longer help him – which is a shame, because he would have really appreciated it.
    I knew a guy once who shot 4×5 film – travelled the world, doing it – only son of a wealthy Wall Street lawyer, who was perfectly happy to fund his son’s lifestyle. He had no problems handling all the gear. But then he was shooting with a Graflex, and those beasts were designed for press photographers to lug around the world & shoot anything, any time. A heap of our [much more] modern gear isn’t designed for convenience in the field – but then we can do things he never could have.
    Which, Pascal, I guess is what you’re talking about. Being able to do something you don’t feel you can, with your present gear. What is it you want to do? What would you need, that you don’t already have, to be able to do it? Is it within budget? Are you going to change your mind again in another 6 months?
    OR – can I do it, now, with the gear I already have? Do I just have to rethink it? – try something different with what I have?
    As for me – I guess I will gradually drift closer to Nikon’s Z range – but no great rush. At the moment, about the only thing I could get rid of is the pocket size Nikon Coolpix S9700 – which I haven’t used much since I thought I’d try a Canon PowerShot instead. The rest is there for a purpose and gets used as appropriate. The SIGMA ART 50mm maybe. Hmm
    One unfulfilled wish is a better software program for stitching panoramas – you mentioned one to me, that had fallen into the hands of another company which simply didn’t want to market it – so they slapped their trademark on any images it creates, to render it useless to everyone. I don’t have the subscription versions of LR or PS, but the panorama program in their standalone versions of LR & PS is archaic beyond belief. So far behind its competitors that it’s like a bad taste joke. Which of course has nothing to do with your present dilemma.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Wish I had a rich lawyer financing my travels and photography, that sounds like a nice life πŸ˜‰

      Pano stitching in LR Classic isn’t the best, no. Sometimes it fails at what looks like very simple image matching. Go figure. There’s probably very little interest in pano software because it’s hard to do and is considered too niche. People see panoramas as a special type of photography. In fact, stitching is what we want. With stitching, we basically have a zoom lens, even with a single prime on the camera.

      Not sure I have any really unmet needs. The X1D is a superb camera and leaves me wanting nothing that other cameras on the market can offer. It’s more a matter of a shift to a different type of camera, one that “thinks” differently than current digital cameras (hellbent on providing resolution over naturalness). But, when I apply my own test to the X1D, it’s really hard to imagine myself without it. So it’s probably going nowhere until something really special comes along.


      • Dan says:

        When LR Classic stitching fails in spherical mode I switch to perspective mode and that always works.

        • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

          Dan, I don’t know if the panorama function in the subscription version of LR is any different from the one in the poor man’s [outright purchase] version I have – or, indeed, which version of LR you are referring to.
          But the one in lR is the same as the one in PS, and if you try to stitch more than 7 frames the system collapses.
          Quite apart from the problems involved in getting the damn thing to open your images.
          And the appalling length of time it takes to finish the job.
          In Affinity’s panorama function, I’ve selected a massive 30 frames, in less than a minute or two – hit the button to start it making the pano – waited another minute or two – then asked it to finish off, around the edges – and had my complete, largest ever (so far) pano finished, ready for a bit of touch up you need with any image, before printing it, within a fraction of the time it would have taken in LR or PS. But then of course in Adobe’s software, the whole system collapses on the job and produces utter garbage, when you feed it a job that big. It simply CANNOT handle the traffic, at that level.
          I had to get it professionally printed though – it’s way beyond the capacity of my Epson. It’s 8 feet wide and 6 inches high, and hangs above my bed, because it was the only spot in the house I could find with that much flat wall space!

          • Dan says:

            I have a subscription, so probably the latest and greatest. I sticthed more than 7 files quite often. Out of curiosity, if you can post those files which failed to stitch somewher i can try to stitch them in my LR copy. If Pascal is willing, he can provide you my personal email so that we take this offline.

      • Ian Varkevisser says:

        Hi Pascal,
        My suggestion for a future review is that you test out the GigaPan Epic Pro Robotic Panohead using your Hassy and their stitching software.
        Just dying to see the results of a 50GP image of your backyard and to hear your thoughts on the validity of the gear in modern day photography.

  • I can’t completely identify with this situation since I still own every camera and lens I ever had, including the one that died of mold and mildew in Vietnam. Oh, except one that was stolen. I never could afford much so by the time I got ready for something new the one I had was not worth selling. The one I lusted for the most back in the ’60s was a Beseler Topcon with a 1.4 lens. It was so beautiful in all the magazine ads. Finally bought one at Bien Hoa in ’68 and still have it but the mirror is tarnished somewhat. The lens mount was proprietary which absolutely sucked canal water and dramatically limited its use. I didn’t find any additional lenses until I was looking through a store junk box about ten or 15 years later. Oops, I forgot, I did sell a D200 and a D300 Nikon w/lens when I went to full frame. Good move.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yes, I think that falls neatly into the “don’t regret tech purchases, but memory-linkeg gear would be missed” idea. Good move indeed.

  • Michael Fleischer says:

    Ha, very timely post! I have recently sold most of my “handpicked/adjusted” lenses (out of financial necessity πŸ™ ); Sigma 14mm f/1.8, 28mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4 105mm f/1.4 135mm f/1.8 + Nikon 70-200mm f/4.0, 200-500mm f/5.6 a Zeiss and a few Tamrons incl. 90mm macro. OΒ΄ boy, not so nice – almost like a kind of betrayal – which left me now with a handful.
    So, back to basics, wide 14-24mm – 85mm. And how to handle being limited in range – versatility.

    I have discovered 3 things so far;

    I survive without them; although I was far too attached – each lens representing a different experience – I wonder how can that be? Hard earned money spend and all the hours put in with them must be part of it…fear of being creatively limited?

    What I actually miss is mostly the rendering style – an extension of my vision and as a therapy of expression & not the glass/shape/weight! Sigma 105mm is about 1.8kg incl. 105mm filter!
    Back to basics is forcing me to rediscover how much you can do with a 50mm.

    Hey, it is so much about the “experience and discovery and joy of seeing/being on route” – light/shadow/form/colours/texture/moments/timing etc has not vanished.
    my drama is not gonna last 4-ever and something may appear as “the mist of personal
    loss” lifts.

    PS, In the light of world events – this is actually a small loss! I do miss my 135mm compressed view and bokeh!
    PPS, Pascal I really like the zigzag path composition with its family people leading to the now “dental white” other famous White House.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Sorry to hear that Michael. Ultimately, it might prove beneficial, though. If it forces new creativity, you might actually feel happy about the separation, one day. One can hope, right? πŸ˜‰

      Plus, you’re right. In the light of the atrocities happening further East – again in the name of owning (countries) – this is small change. I’d give away all my gear, and more, to be sure that doesn’t spread further and even nastier.

      Thanks. It’s only after taking the photo that I noticed the poles sticking up towards the house. I might have move a bit more to the right, had I seen them on the moment. Oh well πŸ˜‰


    • Dan says:

      Michael, I discovered a while ago that I am only one and no matter how many lenses I have/carry I can only use one at a time.

      I went through what you describe- selling a whole collection of lenses and I cut it down to only one – a nikkor 24-70mm f2.8. I found it very liberating at the time.

      I still cannot help myself and buy a couple of lenses a year – most of them sold before the year passes while they are still under warranty. But I strive to keep the number of lenses under 5-6 at most…

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    It seems this is – as always! – a very topical issue.

    Here’s another view:

    When Is the Right Time to Sell Your Old Photography Gear?
    We spend a lot of time talking about when it’s the best time to buy new gear. But it can be harder to know when is the right time to let go of the old gear as well.

    [full article – as follows]

  • Vlad. J. says:

    I am currently advertising for sale my third (all purchased new over the years) Leica M Cron 1.4/50 that I purchased two years ago. Call me crazy, I even wrote myself a note that I will never sell this lens as I know if I sell it, I will regret it again. I love the lens, but it does not get much use nowadays. Decisions, decisions (heart and head issue)………..

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