How and Why to Cycle Through Video and Camera Gear
Shifting from camera to camera. Brand to brand. Is it a nauseating curse or simply enjoyment of the technology? Let’s find out how to choose video gear.
If you have followed this blog for quite some time, you may have noticed a common theme regarding gear and camera pieces. Often, I’ll usually write from the perspective of “an owner of this camera” or “as someone who has owned this lens.” And, this stretches out across several brands and various models over the last ten years. Some may wonder, “Just how many cameras does this guy need?” Realistically, I may have to admit I have a slight case of gear acquisition syndrome. Maybe.
Gear Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.)
Gear acquisition syndrome is the playful internet term given to people who continually buy the latest gear instead of sticking with their system and mastering it. There’s a somewhat derogatory association with the term. It’s also used to describe people who continually upgrade their gear in quick succession, hoping it also elevates their skill level. However, can you have G.A.S. simply because you like cameras and exploring what the next one can and cannot do? I think so. And, in self-defense, I have to state that going from the $3,500 Sony A7R IV to the $1,000 Fuji X-T3 is the opposite of upgrading systems, with the hopes of boosting skill, as well.
Let’s run through what I’ve owned in the last ten years.
- 2010: Canon 550d
- 2011: Canon 5D Mk II
- 2012: Canon 5D Mk II, Red ONE MX, Nikon FM2 (35mm film)
- 2013: RED ONE MX, Nikon FM2
- 2014: RED ONE MX, Nikon FM2
- 2015: Lumix GH4
- 2016: Lumix GH4
- 2017: Lumix GH5, Ursa Mini 4.6k
- 2018: URSA Mini 4.6k, Fuji X100F
- 2019: Fuji X100F, BMPCC4k, Canon EOS 3 (35mm film), Sony A7 III, Sony A7RIV
- 2020: Sony A7RIV (now sold), Fuji X-T3, Lumix S1H
So, we can see, in most circumstances it wasn’t necessarily a direct upgrade or a case of gear acquisition syndrome. I’m sure many wouldn’t consider selling a RED ONE MX cinema camera for the 8-bit GH4 a viable upgrade. Yet, I was intrigued by this little camera, and the RED ONE was becoming too cumbersome.
There are two essential things to note. Through the better part of that list, I was never in a financial position to acquire a camera without then selling the former. That’s why one model would usually drop out in the year after acquisition. Second, I like to have a dedicated video and a separate photography camera. My primary line of income is through creating and writing about film and video. If I were to use the hybrid for a casual photography walk and break the camera, I’m in trouble. Additionally, there are filmmaking features that I like to have that aren’t typically found in hybrid cameras.
With that, let’s breakdown some of the elements on why I’ve cycled through so much gear.
The Benefits of Cycling Through Gear
The first question that may spring to mind is: Why not just rent the gear? It’s a valid question. However, after a short period of time, it quickly starts to cost a lot more when renting versus selling. I purchased the Sony A7 III for $2,000 in May 2019. When I decided to grab the Sony A7R IV, I parted ways with the A7 III for $1,700 in mid-November. A loss of $300, or from a different viewpoint, a rental at $1.38 per day for 217 days. For comparison, just renting the A7 III for six weeks (I can’t hire for longer) from a top British camera rental company would cost $734.
Additionally, living with a camera is inherently different from renting a camera for a week or two. I often find that when you have a new camera for only a short period, you’re never entirely comfortable with the (new) system, and there are still growing pains. It’s only after a few months of solid shooting that it becomes like having an extra appendage.
A secondary benefit to cycling through gear is that you become very acquainted with each manufacturer’s strengths and weaknesses. As someone who writes reviews, I can say that reading one’s review or watching a YouTube breakdown is never quite the same as using the camera yourself for a few months. A weakness on paper may seem like a prevalent issue, but in hand, it’s not that big of a deal.
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, for example, has awful battery life. In my review, I noted that a single battery would last around 40-50 minutes. Realistically, that’s not ideal. At all. But after using that camera for nearly two years, it just wasn’t an issue given I have so many LP-E6’s in my drawer. On the opposite end of this scale, the camera’s advertised strength may not always be ideal for your workflow. The 61mp sensor of the A7R IV produces huge files (around 120mb per RAW photo), and trying to work with these photos in Lightroom started to become a headache after several months of use.
Of course, it needs to be addressed that although you’re saving money over renting equipment, ultimately, after every sale, you’re at a net loss. And, I guess I need to state that although I love acquiring the latest technology, it’s not sufficient in the means of saving money. Equally, I’d like to keep a camera in my possession for at least two years. Ultimately, that’s what the cycle comes down to — finding the camera that feels like an extra limb.
My favorite (still) camera I owned/used was the Fuji X100F. It rendered the images exactly how I wanted them, the functionality was amazing, and the camera was compact and stylish. The only reason I sold it was to make room for the Fuji X100V, but then COVID-19 became a global issue. I felt like purchasing a compact camera for lazy days walking around the coast was precisely the wrong thing to buy in March. Then, when the world of production halted, and travel restrictions were put into place, I thought it’d be wise to sell the Sony A7R IV setup to acquire a safety net before it was needed quickly. However, I was now without a still camera, and with my love for the Fuji system, I decided to merge the interchangeability of the A7R IV with the X100F sensor found in the X-T3. And, I’ll likely remain with the X-T series for some time.
The Best Way to Cycle Through Gear
As noted, cycling through gear isn’t a prosperous venture, especially if you’re swapping to a completely new manufacturer and want to shift lenses instead of using a lens adapter. However, if the next camera can inherently get you more work, then while the expense of selling the camera will be in the red, overall, the investment is a worthwhile venture.
The aftermarket is hostile territory. You could buy a brand-new camera from a retail store, take two photographs, and the camera has officially lost its full RRP. This is even more prevalent for the $2K-$3K range of cameras. There are several things you can do to keep your after-sale price high, like keep the box, manuals, and plastic sleeves in the best condition you can. It sounds like a little thing, but I’ve found the closer experience the buyer has to opening a new camera, the more you can sell your camera for.
A camera is a tool, and a tool is meant to be used. With continuous use, there will ultimately be signs of wear. While the likes of wear on a painter’s easel or poet’s notepad indicate they’ve extensively been put to good use, you’re going to want to minimize wear and tear if you have a feeling you’ll later sell your camera.
For standard practice, I always have my cameras in a leather case and place a screen protector on the LCD to minimize any bumps and scratches.
Sell Like Stocks
The camera market, to some degree, can be compared to the stock market. With the announcement of a new model, the existing model instantly loses some of its aftermarket value. And, on the new model’s release date and every day after that, as the aftermarket becomes inundated with the previous model from sellers who have upgraded, the price lowers even further.
Depending on the model you’re looking to sell, you’re going to want to avoid waiting for the announcement of a new model to maximize your sale. Be sure to periodically check blogs (like ours) that report on camera rumors. While this is an infrequent occurrence, you can sometimes sell your camera for a profit — if the supply is low and the demand is high. The BMPCC 4K was selling for nearly $500 more than RRP for up to nearly six months after release. Judging by recent eBay listings, the Lumix S5 is about to follow in its steps.
Sell for Market Price or Peace of Mind?
For all intents and purposes, despite the numerous scams that have plagued camera sellers, I still find eBay a viable host for listing my camera gear for sale — at least here in the UK. However, the pessimist in me still sometimes feels queasy about listing really valuable items. For that reason, I’ve started to use MPB.com for extremely expensive cameras. MPB is an online camera store that also buys used gear. It works similarly to trading a game into Gamespot. However, MPB’s valuation is also based on the condition of the camera gear. Of course, just like trading a game into Gamespot, you’re taking a hit at the actual market value because the retailer intends to make a profit. However, when I’m selling a $3,500 camera, and there’s a chance something can go astray with the eBay sale, I’d personally rather take the hit and have peace of mind by selling to a camera store.
As a counter-argument to this, I’ve sold several cameras on eBay, and I explicitly state in my description “no new buyers.” The first sign of a scam. And, three times now, a camera or lens has been purchased by a buyer with a new account and zero feedback. Somewhat irrationally, I sent the camera out in the hopes I’d be protected by eBay’s seller protection if anything went astray, and each sale was fine. I guess, at some point, someone needs to create a new account.
Sometimes Less Is More
Earlier in the article, I stated that my favorite camera was the Fuji X100F, but it was sold to make room for the newer model, however, the purchase was put on hold because of COVID-19.
Sometimes, I find that with the more boisterous cameras — which house impressive features and boast one-of-a-kind technologies — the subject of photography and filmmaking can become too clinical. This is a potentially overwhelming component you need to not fall victim to if continually acquiring gear only for the latest tech.
The A7R IV is near enough a faux medium-format camera with its sensor size, and I intended to make full use of that sensor to capture landscapes. As such, I quickly found myself weighed down with the external elements I needed to take a satisfactory photograph in correlation to the price paid for it. This included various grad ND filters, the filter holder, a polarizer filter, a filter case, and the list goes on.
With the X100F, photography was an organic process. I could maybe argue even close to 35mm film. Pull the camera out of your pocket, point, and click.
This is one of my favorite photos taken with the X100F, while driving home from a fantastic day at the beach. Regarding the photo’s technical elements, the highlights around the sun are slightly clipped, and the shutter speed was slower than the speed of the car, resulting in a blurry foreground. But, in a single picture, it captured that day. Forever cemented in pixels.
If you’re continually chasing the latest gear because of the increase in technological performance, remember, it doesn’t always equate to favored images.
This form of gear acquisition isn’t entirely ideal, nor is it practical for the long-term. It should be noted that, as a tech writer, I may be in a better position than others; the more camera tech I consume, the more content I can cover. But, there are a number of pros (as stated). It can be less expensive than renting a camera for several weeks, and you truly get to learn what you want from a camera and which manufacturer you can find it in. Conversely, you’re never going to regain the initial expenditure, and the selling process can be nauseating when parting with high-value goods.
As long as you’re not continually buying cameras with hopes that the next model will make your skills better, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with cycling through camera gear to see what works for you.
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