photography and photographs understood

Equipment Obsession

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: Aug 2009; revised: Mar 2018; readers past month: 543

Look at this beauty. It’s all hand made. Leather and stainless steel exterior. Inside there’s nothing but metal, rubber, and no plastic. Best of all, other than two button batteries to power the light meter, there’s no battery power required. It’s all mechanical and nothing electronic about the workings of this camera. What a sweet ride.

After musing further on my previous entry about , I think I have to expand on my comments about liking photography equipment. I said in that entry that as a boy I used to enjoy looking at the tools in hardware stores. I don’t know why I was fascinated by them, but I was—and I still am. Similarly, I’ve very intrigued by photography equipment. I have a strong and insatiable desire to possess nice equipment. For example, I’m becoming obsessed with the idea of owning a Leica M8 camera. Reading the reviews and comments by long-time Leica owners, and considering how Leica cameras are handmade and seeing the quality of their construction, I can understand why they cost so much. However, I cannot justify spending $4500 for a film camera—and that doesn’t include the lens&mdash. And yet, I want one.

What’s wrong with me that I have such a strong desire to have such an expensive camera? We’re in an economic recession, I will probably lose my job in the next month or two, I have a few thousand in debts that I need to pay, I don’t have a car and would very much like to buy one, and I predict that before all of these other concerns are addressed, I will own a Leica camera. I don’t know how I will get the money, but I sense that somehow I will have one in my possession in a short period of time. Photography friends of my like to joke that I have a bad case of g.a.s.: gear acquisition syndrome. They are very right.

As a kid I was told that knowing that I have a problem is half the battle. I’m not sure I agree. I know I have a problem, but I have no idea why I am this way and what I should do about it other than ignore it or allow it to thrive, whether to not buy any more equipment and just suffer in agony hoping one day I will forget I want a Leica. More importantly, I question if my problem is really a problem. Maybe that’s me losing ground on the battlefield by denying that it is a problem. I like camera equipment. I like researching it, deciding on what to buy, buying it and then using it. If I only wanted it just to have and didn’t use it, then I would be firmer about it being a problem. Sometimes I wish I could say that I am a professional photographer and these are the tools of my trade. But that’s not true. If I take someone’s picture, I don’t charge them. No magazines or newspapers pay me to photograph anything. I take photographs for my own enjoyment, not to make money.