gear heads vs. minimalists

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by mathew_gardella, Jul 14, 2009.

  1. i'm interested in which party you belong to and why? just making conversation and interested in what people think. do you find yourself constantly looking at equipment and contemplating new gear or do you seek to keep it simple in you photography gear bag? Let me know...
  2. Used to be a gearhead. At one time my standard kit was 2 OM4Ti bodies with drives and lenses from 16mm to 300mm Zuiko glass. In my opinion the metering in the OM4 was the best metering ever in a 35mm could take (as I recall) upto 5 spot-meter readings and then average them.
    Now I travel with a DLux 4 for color and a screwmount Leica with 50 Elmar for B&W.
    At the moment I feel I could easily finish out my photography days with these two cameras.
  3. Can't we be both?
    I have accumulated just about every gadget that Spiratone ever offered, I do play with them, but for most serious shooting, I carry a very limited kit at any one time .
  4. I'm both camps, too.
    Often I travel with a large kit (limited almost exclusively by budget), but sometimes all I have with me is a P&S or maybe an SLR with a single lightweight lens.
    "f/8 and be there"!
  5. I almost never carry anything more than my camera (except extra film.) I tend to go on long walks listening to music - just thinking about things, and usually, after some time, I am fortunate enough to come across very interesting scenes.
    I own a 35mm body, and three lenses, but never carry more than the one I have attached!
    I also have a MF TLR which has no lens system, so my photographic equipment list stays pretty simple.
  6. I carry the Hasselblad camera and two lenses (80 and 150mm) that I've been using for about five years, plus film and tripod.
    As for why, I love the results from the camera and medium-format film. The camera is simple to operate and rugged. Having dropped it in the mud, I was able to pick it up and keep on shooting. And there's that satisfying "Click" when taking a picture.
  7. Former gearhead, sold all my Canon lenses except for a 24-135mm Tamron and the 100mm Canon macro.
    These days the only cameras I keep with me are either my 16 year old beat up Olympic Stylus or my Crown Graphic with a Polaroid back.
  8. I'll go ahead and admit it, I like to collect camera equipment. I read endlessly before I buy, and am quick to trade out equipment I no longer need. But still, I'm a collector. I have a dSLR setup, complete with a set of pro grade zooms. I have 35mm film auto focus cameras setup (F100), manual focus SLR (F3), as well as rangefinders (Leica M3, Voigtlander Vitessa L). And I have a couple of medium format setups to boot (Hasselblad 500c/m, and a Rolleiflex 2.8 Xenotar TLR). In my mind I know I already have more than I'd ever need. But I know a month or two from now I'll get an itch for something, be it a 4 x 5, 8 x 10, MF rangefinder, etc. I may trade some systems in for it, or I may not. But I at least know the nature of the beast, I'll always keep collecting.
    With that said, I do travel lightly in the field. I like to choose one system at a time and leave the rest at home. It frees me to focus on photography, not questions about which camera to use or which lens to put on.
    And there's that satisfying "Click" when taking a picture.​
    Click? I'd call it more of a KLA-DOOMP :). And yes, I whole heartedly agree it's one of the most satisfying noises in photography.
  9. i am definitelty someone who likes to travel very light. i don't believe in zooms so whether digital or slr or rangefinder, i choose one lens, whatevere film is in the camera and go out. i do carry a lenscloth though :)
  10. Before finding the equipment that really did the best job for what I do I tried many different cameras, lenses, and what not. Now, for the past 5 years or so I've been using the same three lenses on the same medium format body, and the same three lenses on the same 4x5 body. My tendency over the last few years has been to leave the medium format pack at home and use only the 4x5, and I have never found it restricting. Quite the contrary, I find it quite liberating. These tools do exactly what I want them to do and I am so familiar with them that they never intrude on the process.
    I think that if you are 1) having fun playing with different equipment, and/or b) you are trying to find the best tool for the job there is no reason not to be a 'gear head' or whatever, but if you are looking for something that will aid your vision or somehow reveal the world to you in some previously inaccessible way you are unlikely to find it in yet another piece of equipment. Spending a lot of time deliberating over equipment and carrying overly heavy bags filled with gear that never leaves that pack got old for me fairly quickly. However, finding the right tool for your needs does take some work, and that means trying different things out...
    - Randy
  11. i think i am both as jdm suggests. i have a ton of bodies (gearhead) but not a million lenses (minimalist.) sometymes i attend shoots with two or three bodies, 4 or 5 lenses and film of every speed. other times it's just me and one camera a fast 50 and a pocket of film.
    maybe it's important to know which type of photographer to be and when?
  12. I'm in-between.
  13. early on, i was a gearhead of the highest order. the more stuff, the better. eventually figured out that the moore stuff you have, the more time spent on fiddling with the stuff and not taking pictures. now i use a h'blad, 50mm lens, a b/w back, and a color back. amazing how much more time i have to take pictures.
  14. I'm looking for new kit to simplify the stuff I'm carrying...
  15. I'm a financial minimalist.
  16. I carry one camera (Nikon P90) and a monopod/hiking stick. plus lens cleaning tissue and a spare battery in the camera case.
    this would be minimalist, right?
  17. I'm neither. I buy what I need and use. I'm into photography not mechanics or electronics.
  18. I once was a gear head, trying numerous Leica and compatible gear for years. Fortunately, I didn't lose money in the endeavor. Tomorrow, I leave for SA Asia for a couple of months with only two bodies and two lenses.
  19. Gear doesn't do anything for me. Photos do...
  20. i went through a buying phase, but now i'm in a shooting phase.
    i ended up with some lenses i don't use much, but they'll keep until i get around to 'em.
    there's nothing wrong with being a gearhead, as long as you know when to say when.
  21. I think at the beginning most of us are gearheads, until we find our own photography nitch. I can now do more with as little equipment as possible then when I first started out. Back then, I was always looking for the next new piece of gear that would make me the next (fill in your favorite photographer's name here) ____________________________________.
  22. I'm stuck in the middle. I'm very interested in technology and science, so it's hard not to be a gearhead. At the same time, I love making a good photo...there's something special about creating art, and I put a lot of effort into learning and improving.
    There are many things I want that I don't have, and some gear that I have but don't need. On any particular occasion, I only take very little at a camera and 1-2 lenses. I can't stand being weighed down any more than that.
  23. It is OK to be a gearhead. It's part of the way most of us develop our knowledge and expertise and, eventually, settle into certain special interest areas of the broad photographic realm. Over the years I've acquired lots of gear - sold some of it and kept some as my interests and style were refined. I still have a pretty large accumulation of rangefinder, SLR/DSLR, and MF gear, but each kit has it's purpose and they're set up in several separate bags ready to go as the project requires. I may not use one of them for a year or more, but it is there when nothing else will fit the task at hand. When I'm in the field, it is with just one bag.
    I do have a modest collection of vintage cameras, but I consider that a completely separate activity, unrelated to actual photography.
  24. Gear-head, though I wouldn't want to admit it. For about 20 years of intermittent amateur interest, I pretty much used the same 35mm camera and two lenses; the 50mm normal for most of the time. In the past few years, I've had the chance to spend more, so I did. Overall, it's still modest; but, my equipment list grew. I was making a concerted effort to get more done with photography; so, my decisions did include an increase in equipment and supplies.
    While I wouldn't like to pine away my days scouring ads for more megapixels, the latest auto-features, or demanding Hubble-telescope clarity from a -5.6 Black Hole aperture . . . but I will tell you that it is good to be able to have a reasonable chance at getting the photo done. In the past few years, I've had those first chances to use a macros and bellows; it was great to see something closer than 1.45 feet away from the lens. First chance at a wide angle lens on a steady basis. Handheld light meter: the first week, I got a lot of questions answered that I had been wondering about for years. Contrast filters; contrast printing; it was great to see those work.
    It was just generally all-around better to have a reasonable chance to get the photo done. Wide field of view, narrow field of view, high contrast, low contrast, up close, far away; just generally better to have a variety that went beyond 50mm, although that field of view is probably still my most frequently used. Having the equipment on hand was part of that.
    I could care less what the latest camera or lens model is. I picked what I liked, and think I chose reasonably well with what I had. I think the equipment should work, and be reasonably durable. Two days ago, I poured several teaspoons worth of water out of lenses and cameras. Not a recommended practice, but part of what I expect. There are some construction standards that count. I insist on durability and someone else will be finicky about optical clarity or computer functions. So, in a way, the gear-head bit does count; the equipment needs to match up with what you do.
    If the equipment interferes; if it is a hassle; and, by hassle I mean, not an "I wanna" shot, but day after day for a long while, you need a narrow field of view from a telephoto, and you just don't have one; well, those situations can be solved with equipment selection, if you can get what you need.
    I suppose the key is to get the rig working; and not fuss so much or be driven by someone else's sales pitch. Sometimes the equipment can make things a helluva lot easier. I wouldn't recommend anyone go over 20 years without a wide angle lens. It's possible, but minimalism can cramp your style, too. I prefer to carry a "core" kit, and maybe one or two "variety" items, which could change from day to day.
    Enough gear to work smoothly; all components in the bag get used that day.
  25. Both. I have a lot of gear that I use in the studio and become the pack mule for paying jobs in the field. However, in personal stuff and recreation, I usually pick one camera, one lens. Which one depends on my location and what I might encounter, and makes for interesting shoots (It's all I have with me, I'm gonna make it work). A few times I'll take an FD lens and EOS camera with adapter. Makes for interesting work (no infinity focus on some of them). My favorite is a 35mm f2.8 T/S retooled for EOS (it has infinity focus). Guess I like a challenge or am just used to film.
    The point is, I do have to keep up with the technical advancements for professional needs. However, there are times I just want to take pictures and enjoy the moment.
  26. wow! thanks for all the responses guys and keep them coming! it's great to hear from all of you.... as for myself... am i a gear head or a minimalist? i guess, it all depends on who you ask, me or my wife.... ;^)
  27. I like to carry as little as possible. I have a bunch of lenses and two accesory flashes but I only take the ones that I think I'll need for what I'm shooting. I have a kit that I use for general shooting, another to go to the zoo or aquarium, another for shooting on the street or in the park, and sometimes I'll just take my Nikon 18-200 VR.
    I try to buy only what I need, but I have to admit that there is a toy factor here.
    I also have a collection of classic SLR's but that's a seperate thing.
  28. i am truely a gearhead, but due to photog debt i am about to be considered a minimalist. just a few cameras/lenses and not the 15 i used to have. thks, ll
  29. Like Mark, I've got my collection of old (I'd like to think classic) cameras which I play with, but when I go out with the pure intent to make some pictures, I take the minimum possible, depending on what I've got in mind. These days it's often a digital P&S zoom.
  30. I 'explored' a number of formats and systems for bit. Then I got into lighting - that made a bigger difference in the quality of my photos than anything else that I'd purchased. So now I have one FX system (Nikon D700), one medium format system (Mamiya 7), and one large format camera (Crown Graphic). I'll eventually add another LF camera for times when I need additional movements.
    I now only buy when I have a specific need or use in mind.
  31. What the best photographers can't be gearheads too? They don't buy and use the latest and greatest gear?
    I'm just an ordinary photographer, but I've collected 30+ years of Minolta manual focus equipment because I like the camera/lens system and enjoy using it. I've haven't done that with my newer Canon digital/film system and 4x5 system, going near-minimalist, partly because the prices are far different and partly because I don't need all the extra equpment. Some of the Minolta equipment, eg. flashes, works with the other systems so I don't have to duplicate gear.
  32. Gearhead, definitely.
    Started out 15 years ago with a Nikon 6006, which was essentially stolen by a friend after I bought a F100 in 1999. Bought a Contax G1 a little bit after that, loved the size and the Zeiss lenses. Stuck with that and a bunch of lenses for awhile. Avoided digital as long as possible until picking up a D90 last November to shoot my newborn niece. Sort of restoked my interest, and ended up buying a used Hasselblad 500 C/M with 80 and 150. Just bought a Rolleiflex Automat a couple of weeks ago - ironically if I had bought this first, might not have bought the Hassey, although very diffferent styles of camera.
    But when I shoot, very minimalist - just the camera, meter, and film. Maybe an additional lens if small enough, like the Contax lenses. Otherwise, its about the moment.
    Ultimately, horses for courses - I justify it by saying each system offers different strengths, so they all fit different situations. D90 digital for excellent color, travel/social occasions where I want to distribute via web relatively quickly. Contax for small-format street photography. Hassey for fine art/portraiture. Rolleiflex for fun, maybe as a good MF travel option. The F100 because its the FF option for the Nikon system, and because I wouldn't get enough for it used to justify dumping it given that its in super mint condition.
  33. I don't see myself as either a gearhead or a minimalist.
    I replace or add to equipment when what I have will not serve something I want to do.
    I still have cameras in use from 1969, 1976, 1978. My main 35mm film equipment was bought in the 1980s, because it did something I needed at that time; I've had no need to replace or supplement it since then. In early 2004 I identified a suitable DSLR, bought six, and don't anticipate replacing them any time soon.
  34. Bag? I don't carry a bag. I HAVE a lot of bags, cameras, lenses, systems, formats ... gear. I grab a camera, stick a lens and film in my pocket and go shooting.
    You're not suggesting that a guy has just one camera are you?
  35. I carry the minimum, tons to choose from.
  36. If I can use a musical analogy.....drummers...Bill Bruford ( of Yes) used a really small kit around the time of "Close to the Edge"...Neil Peart (of Rush)uses enough kit for three drummers! They both sound great. Me? Yeah, got a few lenses, but I envy those guys with a lens for every occasion. I also envy the guys who are married to their 50mm.
  37. Considering all of my DSLR and film SLR "Robocamera" gear, I'm more likely to go out the door with my 5, going on 6 year-old Panasonic DMC FZ20: 6-72mm (36-432EFL) LEICA lens and best of all, it's f/2.8 throughout the zoom range.
    5 megapixels with true spot metering, it lets me spin on 62 to 72mm filters when needed. A traditional 22oz. "Bridge" camera, the FZ20 shoots perfect A4 sized prints.
    At f/2.8 constant, the FZ20 performs very well indoors, though a little noisy at ISO 400.
    *As many know, a constant aperture, f/2.8 rig like the FZ20 is very valuable indoors whenever mounted with a compatable hot shoe flash.
    My FZ20 comes along for the ride with my OLYMPUS E3 DSLR gear when I'm on assignment; just in case.
  38. Serious gearhead at heart. I love the technical side of things. However like a previous poster, I am a financial minimalist attempting to do the mostest with the leastest.
  39. I don't think liking or enjoying having electro-mechanical or even digital objects AND being a serious photographer, or an educated critic, or a collector with a good eye, are mutually exclusive. There is a persistent undercurrent among some that liking expensive, interesting, or just plain good equipment disqualifies one from being a serious photographer. Empirically I know that's wrong: I know plenty of able and artistically superior photographers who also enjoy the gear side of the hobby/profession. But beyond my anecdotal information, which may not be shared by others, it seems to me that there is a basic sense of aesthetics necessary for one to be anything but a journeyman in making photos. Why shouldn't that sense of aesthetics also be used to appreciate good gear? That is as much a factor in the makeup of your average photo "gearhead" as anything else, I suspect.
  40. I'm an engineer so technical things tend to be what I'm good at, and I like gear that works well. I aim for the highest image quality I can which might make me look like a gearhead but really the gear is quite boring; images are all I really care about in the end.
  41. Midway, I guess, with a shift in time from midway-gearhead to midway-minimalist. I will never be a complete minimalist because I'm good at technical things and don't totally buy the kenrockwellian mantra "your gear does not count". I have a quite defined feling on how much it counts for my genre of shooting, and it is not very much, but something for sure.
    Still, I'm leaning towards minimalism for a series of reasons.
    1) I have two excellent cameras (Nikon D200 and Panasonic LX3) which satisfy me, do what I want them to do and are not limiting me. Same goes for lenses.
    2) I have a limited amount of money, and a limited amount of time to use the gear. Every new item needs some training to become familiar, while I'm training, I rarely get good photos.
    3) I'm vastly more limited by my shooting skills, my post-production skills, and even more, as I feel right now, by my printing skills (or lack thereof).
    But probably the most important thing is:
    4) I'm after the quality of the image, more than the image quality. Not that I'm getting much of either, but this is my fault.
    This said I appreciate nice gear. If you give me a D3 as a present I'm not going to refuse it. I will likely buy a D700 at some point in 2010, but I frankly don't know when, and I will sleep and shoot quite well in between, with what I have.
    As Andy says above, enjoying good gear and photography are not mutually exclusive. I'm not sure, on the other hand, if "enjoying gear" qualifies as being a gearhead. I see being a gearhead more as having to upgrade at every generation of everything, and having the constant feeling that the current gear is limiting you and the new one will instead enable you. Comparing specifications ad nauseam. Telling Canon/Nikon/Oly/Pentax or whatever what they absolutely HAVE TO DO otherwise you will switch.
  42. If this gets posted, it's an accident and I apologize in advance. Please ignore.

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