Consumer Capitalism and Gear

‘The pursuit of gear is not photography. It’s a distraction from photography.’

They were the words of YouTube photography blogger Jamie Windsor on his video ‘How PHOTOGRAPHY can make you UNHAPPY’ and they were words that really hit me and made me feel a bit sad. With good reason.

I knew before I clicked on the video, what it was going to be about. It was pretty obvious. Jamie is one of my favourite YouTubers, quite simply because he’s my kind of man. He talks a lot of sense in every video I’ve watched. This time, the main points were regarding the endless obsession people have of looking for new cameras and new equipment. I’ll hold my hands up, I’ve been guilty of this and especially recently. I absolutely love my Sony RX100 and I still don’t honestly believe there’s anything on the market that’s better for me, despite the fact that it’s a 7 year-old camera now. Sure, there have been updated versions since and we’re now on the sixth installment, but I appreciate the zoom of the MK1. Sure, I wish I could have a tiltable screen and I wish I had a viewfinder but for the price I paid, I don’t care what anyone says, I got an absolute bargain and I’ll defend this little guy to the hilt.

Where I’ve been guilty, however, is in the DSLR market. Or should I say, the mirrorless market? Technically both. I’ve read plenty of articles recently, relating to the trend in consumers ditching DSLRs for shiny, new mirrorless systems and I’ve had my heartstrings pulled in the direction of the Sony A7. I know how Sony cameras work, I love the menu layout and I’m just comfortable with them. I love the idea of a smaller form factor than my Nikon D5300 and if this is the way the market is leaning, you know that the technology will greatly improve over the coming few years. It’s that old chestnut of not wanting to be left behind.

Watching Jamie’s video made me realise a few things though. All I’m currently seeking in a mirrorless system is instant gratification. It’s a material desire based on fairly scarce knowledge. I don’t understand cameras inside out, for a start. I care and when it comes to looking at cameras, I do my research, but I’m the type of guy who has to Google what every spec’s relevance is each time I have a hunt around.

The other thing I thought about was the fact that I’ve been made to feel like my current gear isn’t good enough. Review sites such as dpreview and TechRadar love feeding interest into the industries they have their hands in. Why wouldn’t they? They probably get a pile of free stuff and are in a privileged position here. They’ll argue that I don’t have to read their reviews and comparisons, and they’re absolutely correct. However, the damage is done to consumers from a fairly young age. We live in a consumer capitalist world, here in Western Europe. We constantly want new and better things and we’re encouraged to chase them, whether we would consciously want to or not.

Where this video got particularly interesting was at the very end. Windsor posed the following point:

Think about what sparked that passion. I’m willing to guess it was something creative and nothing to do with ISO performance or image resolution. So when you’re passionately debating in the comments section of a YouTube video on the merits of the Sony versus the Canon, remember, it’s just cameras. It’s not photography. Go look at your photographic heroes from the past. Look at the work they produced and remember that what they shot on was most likely far inferior to what you already own.’

Can’t really argue with that, can you? I think I’ll be sticking to my RX100 and D5300 for now.