Not Everyone Needs a Leica

Not Everyone Needs a Leica

1200 675 James Tocchio

I recently overheard a teenage customer asking the clerk of a local camera shop about some gear. He wanted to replace his kit lens, but he couldn’t afford the lens he thought he needed to make great photos. He spent the next few minutes actively lamenting the fact that his friends’ photos were better than his, and he was sure that this was because they were shooting more expensive glass.

Eventually, he asked the clerk to show him a lens within his budget. The clerk did so, and when the kid asked if it would enable him to take the style of shots his friends were posting (here he showed the clerk some photos on his phone), the man behind the counter said that it wouldn’t. I overheard the clerk talking about large apertures and shallow depth-of-field, red rings and aspherical elements, terms that scrunched the young kid’s face into wrinkles of confusion. He left the shop with a pained expression of disappointment.

The whole thing bothered me.

I keep catching myself thinking back to that dejected-looking kid. I wish I’d gotten his attention as he walked out the door and asked him what type of subjects he likes to shoot, and if he had an Instagram account where I could check out his shots. I wish I’d shown excitement that he was a new photographer, and encouraged him to keep at it, or asked to see his camera and been impressed by whatever camera he pulled from his bag.

But I didn’t do any of that, and that’s a shame. But it’s made me think long and hard about photo geek culture and the way we talk about gear.

There exists in this hobby a preoccupation with names and numbers that could easily be considered unhealthy for individuals’ photography. Some shooters look down on all but a select few brands of camera, ignoring the fact that even the cheapest cameras would be regarded as pure sorcery to human beings from any time other than our own. Even though any camera is capable of freezing and documenting the photons shooting through our universe (think about that), some people turn their nose up at all but the “best”.

I know what you’re thinking. So what, if some people are obsessed with gear? It’s not hurting anyone, right? We could argue that. But it’s been difficult for me to ignore the deflated posture and look of disappointment worn by that young photo geek as he exited the camera shop entirely sure in his mind that he couldn’t make a good photo unless he could afford the best lens.

Taking this one step further, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which lots of potential photo geeks decide that photography is just too exclusive, or that the pursuit of good photographs is a waste of energy unless one’s privileged enough to shoot a Leica or Hasselblad.

I’m not innocent of gear snobbery. I fell into the trap when browsing eBay’s film photography listings. The Zeiss Planar 50mm F/1.4 looked gorgeous, and the price was excellent. I was vaguely aware that it came with some kind of junky Contax SLR (the 139Q), a carrying case, and a couple of garbage 3rd-party zoom lenses. These pack-ins meant nothing to me.

A cheap, electronic Yashica with the Contax name stamped onto it. Whatever. I’m here for the Zeiss, and that salacious 3-D pop I keep hearing about!

But here’s the thing – thirty days later I’m convinced that those who proselytize over Zeiss “3-D pop” are clinically bonkers, and the Contax 139Q is the best camera I’ve shot in years.

How’d this happen? I take pride in publishing opinions unbiased by the crowd and I often say things that aren’t popular, even if my opinions and articles don’t generate for Casual Photophile the exposure that might come from repeating what everyone else is saying.

What are some of the unpopular things I’ve said? That Minolta’s CLE is the best M-mount camera, that Hasselblads aren’t that good, that German things aren’t inherently the best, and that I’ve used TLRs that are better than the Rolleiflex. It’s true.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the M2 and the Rolleiflex is so pretty it makes me want to dim the lights and pour some wine. But I’ve used both and I’m just as bad at photography with those noble cameras as I am with the bourgeois Canon A-1. And hell, I’m just as bad with an A-1 as I am with the downright plebeian Kodak VR35.

My point is that no matter what name your camera has stamped into (or painted onto) it, your ability to take good photos will be entirely dependent on your creativity, your willingness to put in extreme effort, and above all else, whether or not you’re having fun. And stressing about gear is not fun.

No, that kid in the camera shop didn’t need the expensive lens his friend had in order to make good photographs. But that’s not even the most important thing to remember. The most important thing to remember is that he didn’t need the expensive lens to enjoy making photographs.

What did he really need to enjoy photography? It’s pretty simple. He needed to remember why he got into photography in the first place.

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And this is where I’d like to send a message to kids like him, who may have recently discovered this hobby of ours and are finding themselves bombarded by a pervasive culture of gear worship.

If you’re just starting out, ignore everything and everyone. Shoot whatever you want, however you want. Avoid the “show your gear” posts that populate the most popular websites. Don’t worry about the fact that your friends have a lens with a capital “L” or a red asterisk painted on it. Don’t compare your gear to the gear of other photographers, especially when those photographers might be professional Instagram personalities, money-making photojournalists, or studio fashion shooters with thirty years of experience.

Take Instagram with a grain or two of salt. It’s a marketing platform built for influencers, with algorithms designed to make you want things. And definitely ignore those wretched accounts that post a continuous stream of unrealistic and pretentious flat-lay photos of all the crap they claim they’re carrying in their bags.

Come on guys. Do you really think we believe you’re packing two DSLRs, four fast primes, a classic Leica rangefinder, a lucky rabbit foot, Ray-ban Aviators, a Hasselblad, a Rolleiflex, a GoPro, a box of Pocky, an Omega Seamaster wristwatch, a Moleskine with fountain pen and India ink pot, a pet hedgehog for moral support, and a DJI Mavic Pro? Get real.

No. You don’t need twenty cameras to enjoy photography. You don’t need a Leica to enjoy photography. And you most certainly don’t need a Leica, an espresso, a hewing axe, a plane ticket to the Pacific Northwest, a rented cabin, and a pair of artistically weathered, grass-fed-leather hiking boots to enjoy photography.

There are lots of people taking lots of pictures with lots of cameras, and having a great time doing it. Don’t buy into the myth of the Instagram influencer. Don’t obsess that your gear isn’t sexy enough. Don’t worry that your photos aren’t good enough. Just practice with what you’ve got, and don’t give up.

If you’re just starting out, remember that every photographer was, at one point, just a person holding a magical box about which they knew absolutely nothing. So shoot what you have, shoot what you can afford, and don’t worry about it.

CASUAL PHOTOPHILE is on FacebookInstagram, and Youtube

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is the founder of CP. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic cameras and the most advanced digital machines. In addition to his work on CP, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
171 comments
  • Best article you’ve written in a long time, a fantastic opinion piece that I agree with wholeheartedly. I’m guilty myself, as we all probably are, of the dreaded gear acquisition syndrome that afflicts us into believing that more expensive and fancier kit will make us better at taking pictures. Whereas some of the nicest shot’s I’ve taken recently have been from an Olympus Trip my Girlfriends’ Dad gave me on the £1 roll of Agfa Vista Plus 200 I ran through it. Make of that what you will.

    • Thanks pal. This is one of those articles I post without knowing what to expect. Happy to hear it’s at least resonated a bit with you. ?

  • Wonderful post. Beautifully written. Wonderful sentiment. Excellent point.

  • My only contradiction to this, if it even could be called a contradiction would be to say that I think those of us who do choose to shoot “crap” or cheap cameras, either once in a while, or indeed all the time, should be proud enough of that fact to show them off in gear threads in forums.
    I have as much fun, and depending on the day feel just as positive and just as proud about shooting a Leica as I do any number of my very cheap cameras.
    For me the key is taking pride. Taking pride because the camera is crap and you have mastered it. Or indeed taking pride because you have a Leica and the experience of ownership feels positive. These emotions are different, but the same. The problem we have, is that some photographers judge others for the camera they use…
    What I’ve found most interesting is that I get mocked more for using a Leica than I do a cheap point and shoot…

    • You know, you mentioned photographers judging others’ gear, and that’s a great point. Anything that makes anyone feel excluded or inferior is out of bounds. Photography needs to be all-inclusive. Thanks for adding your thoughts here, pal!

    • thetatianawalker March 31, 2016 at 8:33 am

      Hey!! So I loved your piece. I live with a computer nerd/geek. Yes, he really is both. ? So I see the race between everyone to have the best and to have it first. This isn’t just in cameras, but almost anything electronical. Even clothes, makeup, shoes. Our world is full of competition and that is what we are teaching future generations. For some reason, it’s like we never got out of the “mine” stage from when we were toddlers. And I feel like that is the core concern.

      But my favorite part of your post is the second half. I am currently coming back to photography. I haven’t been serious about it for years, and I feel like it’s time to greet this colorful hobby again. I’m also new to blogging so if you have any suggestions to help me get started, I’d be forever grateful!! ☺️

      -TheTatianaWalker

  • What great encouragement! Yes indeed, just get out and shoot and have fun! It’s great fun to make even a humble camera produce great results.

    • thetatianawalker April 10, 2016 at 7:30 am

      Thank you Jim!! ☺ ☺
      And that’s what I’m doing! Trying to keep an eye out throughout the day for anything that catches my eye to photograph. Sometimes I use my iPhone 6s plus and sometimes I use my Samsung 16.4M BSI CMOS. At least I think that’s the name. It’s on the camera lol. So is this though WB2100. As you can tell I’m not obsessed with the biggest and the best lol. I just look for decent quality. It’s a pretty decent camera in my eyes and takes good pictures. I can also do some cool edits on the camera itself.

  • Leica disapproves this post. :v

    I am guilty as well, I love the Zeiss name, even if it’s for compact cameras. I bought a Samsung ECX-1 (very good film camera) because it’s said the lens its actually a Schneider-Kreuznach one. In film cameras I would love a Pentax MZ-S and a Bronica GS-1. But for now they would burn my pocket. D:

    Thanks for a great essay, James. Quite enjoyable.

  • Awesome article and very interesting thoughts. From certain point of view it’s the same as with playing guitar – you don’t really need a custom Fender or Gibson to play good music as a beginner. Start cheap, grow big!

  • I need a Leica, but because its the only camera kind I don’t own… jokes aside this is a great and important article. It speaks of the desires that often blind our deeper interests and creative potential. In order to curb these tendencies in my own photographic habits, I remind myself that the qualities of the photos I take extend well beyond sharpness and “pop” into the often diffuse, etherial and distorted images that end up on film. And the fact that these qualities can be achieved just as much with my finest Minolta as with my humblest Smena, brings so much more challenge and wonder into photography.

  • BRAVO. I’ve always maintained that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you — but, in spite of that, I’ve still occasionally found myself turning my nose up at “cheaper” equipment. Thank you for this wonderful reminder that photography should be FUN above all else, and that the important thing is to get out there and SEE. I do hope that young man you overheard will come to the same conclusion on his own.

  • Excellent advice! Photography is about so much more than just physics and engineering.

  • Probably one of the best articles you written here. What you say is so true and I am just as guilty. As I look through some of my favorite shots I realized that many of them were taken with an old digital point and shoot and some even with an old phone camera! Sure the technical quality can’t match my DSLR that I use on a regular basis now but that’s not what makes a photo great. As fun as it is- maybe I should stay off of ebay and photo market forums for a while… 😉

  • beauifil post, greetings from argentina!

  • This is a really well-writen. It’s about how you work with your gear, not how much your equipment is. It’s trial and error really, because things that work for others might not work for you. I’m saying this though I’ve stuck to really basic equipment choices hehe 😀

  • Thank you so much for this, really enjoyed it. Must admit Ive been blessed with decent kit in regards to SLR cameras although compared to leicas I have a very modest collection. I have always held the idea that when I could buy a new lens that I should invest the money in more film to get more photos and experience!

    This is my favorite website by the way, love it when a new article comes out!

    Keep it up 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words my friend! Happy to hear you like the site. More film is always a great thing! Happy shooting, bud!

  • What a refreshing post, James. Eloquently written and filled with such a positive message. I was that kid at one point and could not afford expensive gears. But exactly as you said, bought a camera that I could afford at the time (Canon AV-1, bought for only 25 Euros) and stuck with it for quite a while.

  • Your article convinced me to buy a silver Canonet Ql17 instead of the black for 2x the price, and to hold off on getting a Rolleicord for landscapes. It also reminds me of the pro photographer, cheap camera series that DRTv does.

    As others mentioned, it’s the same in other hobbies, like guitars or unicycling.

    • Funny, I just replaced light seals on a QL17 in prep for a writeup! Good stuff. I’m happy I saved you some cash. 😉

      And that series on DRTv is fantastic. I want to hang out with Kai and crew and shoot some Barbie cameras.

  • Great Post!

    It reminds me to keep focusing on the important things in photography, other people. I love my Leica’s and use them often, but encouraging other people to pursue their passion is indeed a more valuable pursuit.

    Thanks!

  • Did you just knock my Kodak VR35?!? *Kidding*

    I wish that I could post this article everywhere, because it puts into words what I’ve often felt but could never quite convey, and you have done an amazing job with it. I can’t knock anyone who can afford a Leica or ‘Blad and who truly enjoys shooting it and results they get with it, but it is a tragedy that people could get discouraged in what is a great hobby because of a “showboat culture” within it. There are many wonderful “common” cameras and lenses out there that are overshadowed by the most prestigious ones.

    Another shame is that the people who stick exclusively to the high end stuff will never know a certain satisfaction in this hobby, that being to take a “lesser” camera or lens and doing all you can to push it to or beyond its limits to achieve wonderful results.

    Great write up!

    • Thanks for the kind words pal! I appreciate it. You make some good points and your work with reasonably-priced and lesser-known cameras speaks for itself. Happy shooting!

  • Hello James, my first time commenting here. Your essay rings very true to me. I have more cameras than I have time to regularly use, both simple compacts and fine precision tools. My advice to those in need is to use whatever one camera you feel comfortable with and then, which is very important, use it to bits until it wears out. Time spent taking photos is the real great differentiator, not the specific camera. My personal favourite photos were taken when I had time to concentrate on just shooting, even with humble compact cameras. I have lots of bad pictures taken with expensive cameras.
    All the best/Mattias

    • Thanks or the comment Mattias. And that’s great advice that I’m sure someone will benefit from having read. Happy shooting!

  • Francisco Taborda March 23, 2016 at 2:57 am

    Wow I stumbled uppon this blog procrastinating on Instagram. Your writing is very funny and I enjoyed to read it. You know I started walking the path of photography when I found a very very cheap DSLR 5 years ago. I have an office job and I’m a college student. It didn’t take long for photography to become a new hobby. I loved how confortable I felt shotting and finding ways to learn more about photography and experiment with my creativity. I started taking pictures in birthdays, friends’ parties, church events and eventually grew tired of my digital friend. Then I looked for a way to revived my love for creating pictures and I bought my first film camera, an Smena 8M.Thus begin my thirst for buying film cameras. Let me tell you I don’t have much money, but I manage to find very cheap cameras. However I found myself more of a collector than a photographer. I couldn’t relate with all this “delux gear hunting” because I just want a camera which I have not shot with yet (and cheap of course). Still you reminded me I have to shoot more film and buy less cameras. I’ll be on the look out for more of your articles!

    • Thanks for the kind words, my friend. I’m glad you’re finding the parts of photography that make you love it! Happy shooting bud!

  • Randle P. McMurphy March 29, 2016 at 11:47 am

    I owned nearly all types of leica M cameras and also some of the “legendary” glasses.
    I think Leica is much overrated – I had a lot of problems with the reliable of that gear !
    Film transport get stuck, shutter was broken, film chamber was leaky and rangefinder
    was maladjusted. The reason why I sold that stuff after a while.
    Best leica camera I ever took pictures with was the unloved leica R8 – for me one of
    the best Leicas ever !

  • Great inspiration indeed and touching one…..looking forward to read more of your pieces. keep surprising u…

  • I love taking photos. Makes my husband nuts. But even after years of this, I had no idea what most of the equipment you were talking about does. Or is. Or that there was such a thing as gear porn. Truth is, I’m getting old. But I’m having a blast now that I’m retired shooting stuff around here, and on the occasional trip Somewhere Else. I wish you had talked to the kid too. Next time. Because odds are there will be a next time. Good advice, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • I have no ifea how to express my gratitude to this article…..

    I’ve just taken up photography as a hobby recently, and me and my friend contributed to buy a nikon DSC……

    I’ve told DSC’s aren’t good enough, and that I need an actual DSLR, But I just can’t afford it now…… Maybe late, but not now….

    And your article has given me that extra motivation to ignore those people, and keep at what I have going right now….. THANK YOU SO MUCH

  • Photography is such a huge passion of mine, it’s great to know that newbies like myself could still have a chance. Thanks for this beautiful post.
    Check me out in my new blog if you’re interested in mental health information. 🙂

  • As the saying goes “all the gear and no idea”. Very true for the people who like to buy buy buy but are only guided by price and not experience.
    Me and my Canon 550D (Rebel?) won’t be parting ways for a while yet!

  • cocktailsandhighheels March 30, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Interesting article, but very true and thorough. I like it very much.

  • CopperStapleBlog March 30, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    You NEVER need a Leica. Great post. I have Leica and my favourite camera is Pentax S1a serviced by Erik and a 50mm f1.4 Takumar 8 element – £200 with of photo perfection!

  • I am taking baby steps with my gear, with that said, I enjoy shooting with just about anything. Great article, thank you for writing it!

    wandersandmusings.com

  • well written ?, it’s too bad that people get influenced so much about what other people have, just do what you can with what you have ?

  • Beautiful post, not to mention very encouraging also! I used to take photos of people, now food has recently rekindled my interest. However, I feel a bit disappointed with the camera which I used to love and adore. I guess I just want a new one. I’m just thankful I found this article so I can remind myself over and over that passion and creativity are far more important. Thank you!

  • Great post! I’ve been looking at cameras to get into doing product reviews and it’s a little overwhelming and like you said easy to get caught up in the names of the products. Appreciate your level of honesty!

  • Wonderful.

  • This is the perfect post for me right now. I am a newbie to the world of photography and, as I am recently retired, I have started to take my interest more seriously. I too became obsessed with the unrealistic need to have the best of everything in order to take the best photos, but my pictures were no better. I have since realised that my best shots are those where I enjoyed the experience and allowed myself to relax into the moment. Your post is timely indeed. Thank you!

  • My Camera, My Friend March 31, 2016 at 12:30 am

    Thank you for reminding me why I haven’t purchased a bunch of expensive lenses. You’re absolutely right. It’s more important to practice and use my mind and the tools I do have than to spend the money.

  • Great post! I bought a camera some time ago and shortly afterwards took a weekend basic DSLR photography lesson with a professional photographer. One of the things that stuck with me was that whenever he was giving a class he used an old, basic Olympus when all the students were comparing our Canons and Nikons. Someone asked why he was using it and he said “because it is important to know that the camera has very little to do with creating a great image”. Of course he proved it with every click.

  • People always think ..that with better gear u can get ..better photos…they never see talent ..@
    Owning a DSLR has become a status ….

  • Amazing post!
    First thing that people should always think about is their passion for whatever art they do. The gear is irrelevant, it’s the creative mind of the artist that creates the beautiful masterpiece.

    “…a pet hedgehog for moral support…” Had a nice laugh for that line!

  • Marianne @ Along the Side of the Road March 31, 2016 at 3:16 am

    “I wish I had shown excitement that he was a new photographer, and told him to keep at it.”
    Here, here. Showing excitement in a youth’s interest in anything and telling them to keep at it should be a lesson for us all. If we expect our future leaders to act in the best interests of humankind, we need to be kind to the human beings they already are now.
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I learned a thing or two from it. Marianne

  • dancingwithabsurdities March 31, 2016 at 5:28 am

    Great post. I love photography but it’s only a hobby. This is great advice because I often find myself trying to document a masterpiece. I end up frustrated and let down. When I don’t try so hard, I have more fun… and the pictures turn out better anyway.

  • beautiful and very encouraging post. ??

  • THE MALAYSIA TRAVEL POST March 31, 2016 at 6:11 am

    hi there James i think your leica need to work it here on beautyful malaysia

  • THE MALAYSIA TRAVEL POST March 31, 2016 at 6:12 am

    and i want you know that photography is to capture the moment,to capture the beautyful

  • Enriching, especially considering the Senegalese photographer Seydou Keita’s started with a Brownie.

    Now considered one of the greatest photographers of the second half of the twentieth century, Keita’s work is being honored at an exhibition at the Grand Palais Paris, which opens today and will run until 11 July 2016.

  • Simply live with your photography, capture it and share. Great content you got here 😀

  • You mean my hand-crafted leather camera bag won’t make me a better photographer? That’s so unfair.

    Really good post – a great reminder of what’s really important, regardless of what you shoot with.

  • A great post and I enjoyed the humour! It takes me back to my first camera Kodak Brownie 125, found in a junk shop and the only one I could afford, I still have it somewhere, but couldn’t find anywhere to get the film, it opened the possibilities up and started the love I went on to a nice collection over the years of SLR’s and now using digital to keep my costs down. I’m not really into the tech side of photography, it just has to have some capabilities and be easy to handle for me. It doesn’t matter where you start, just as long as you do. So thanks for sharing that message.

  • marinapollock123 March 31, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Really good article ! Well done x

  • telefoncasusumspy March 31, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    awesome reading!)))) thanks

  • Great article, reminder its the passion not the gear!

  • Really amazing thought! Loved it! It’s so true!

  • Very round article! Thanks for the insight! If just more photograpers could write well…

  • ingeniousmaverick March 31, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    I think i am or was about to become that boy but then i read this so i am going to buy what i can afford.
    And cone to think of it some of the great names in photography and some great photos came from les glorious geeky cameras. Photography is inside the person not the camera. Sitting in an F1 car does not make you an F1 driving guru i may drive much better in my family van. Great post.

  • Thank you. I bought my first dslr camera last week and still find point and click to be my limit for the moment. I feel a bit overwhelmed by my camera and pressure to take the “perfect picture” and this post just made me relax a small bit.

  • Stuart M. Perkins March 31, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Encouraging and funny!

  • Love this! I’m that kid (ok, I’m actually a mid-forties woman) looking dejected and wondering if I’ll ever create brilliant images with the magic box. Thanks for the post.

  • a great post

  • Brilliant post!
    It reminds me that you don’t need to have a “fancy camera” to take good photos. If you have the passion, patience and perseverance, eventually you will come out with something great.
    Great write up!

  • Great review. The opposite happened to me. I spent months obsessing about a new camera. I read internet reviews. I drew up an Excel Spreadsheet of pros and cons. I went through ‘Choice’ with all the attention of a young lover. I finally made up my mind based on ‘the best numbers’. Exactly what you warn against. I wanted the all singing all dancing, most perfect camera in the world. I forget what I settled on but it would have cost a few thousand dollars. I was lucky. In the camera shop I met a sane photographer who gave me a quick run down on the balance in photography. I’d not realised if a camera features one ability over another it means that as well as being good at something, it will be bad at another. We recognise this in life. The brilliant mathematical genius may be a poo to live with. Anyway I’m no professional photograph, I bought an Olympus Stylus 1 and am as happy as a fish with chips. Thanks for your insights and your writing.

  • This brings back so many memories from working at the camera shop when I was a kid 🙂 Zeiss , Contax , Leica, oh and Hasselblad! Gawd those things were expensive. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
    Cheers

  • Just love the way you explain it. Thank you and so you inspired me to go on and have fun even if I am still saving for a camera and have to make use of my phone ?

  • Thanks! Nice post. Every word is true!

  • fitandfabulousjointhejourneytoo April 1, 2016 at 7:09 am

    Nice post with some words of encouragement for us newbies 😉

  • Love this post! I am new in photography and accepted the fact that I will start lame. I told my self it’s gonna be fine, anyways I’m here to share and express, not to impress.

    “If you’re just starting out, remember that every photographer was, at one point, just a person holding a magical box about which they knew absolutely nothing. So shoot what you have, shoot what you can afford, and don’t worry about it.” — I totally agree!

  • Fantastic point, I’m looking to take up photography and even try making a video or two but was overlay concerned with what camera I should get to start. But you’re right, I should just start and practice first before all the gear aspects come into play!

  • I love vintage cameras but don’t know how to use them.

  • Anyway, great read and very true.

  • So true!

  • FitnessFreak4Life April 1, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    I appreciate your honesty, very inspiring

  • Outstanding. I saw so much of this snobbery when I worked at Leica. The bag likely has 3 inches of dust on it. My Samsung S3 does just fine by me.

    • Its not simple dust – its made out of stars – for the Leica “glow” !
      Some people will never learn………

      =)

  • Sam On Adventure April 1, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    As someone who is just getting started in Photography myself, this is very inspirational and encouraging! I don’t have expendable funds to spend on gear, but I am trying my best to learn what I do have! Thanks so much for this great read! And – if you would ever like to give some constructive criticism on photos, I would love the advice!

  • I have never had the means to afford expensive equipment but have been enjoying photography for many years. I really enjoyed this as it encapsulates the concept of focussing on the potential of a shot rather than what the camera will do to it. Best wishes and thanks! TJ

  • Wonderful post, very inspiring! As someone who is just starting out with photography however, are there any brands I would veer towards or away from? I love polaroids/instant prints but I don’t really have a purpose for the pictures, it would just be for fun and I know the ink and paper can be costly. Suggestions?

  • cleveridiotblog April 2, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Great encouragement! Loved the way you wrote. Thanks for sharing!

  • Nice post!

  • cruiseplannersctwv April 2, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Great insight and advice. Creativity and fun is paramount.

  • A big thank you for this excellent article. Although I’d love to have the greatest gears, I figured what I love about photography is more about the subjects of my photographing than the tool I use. So I’ll settle with the portability of point-and-shoot and iPhone for now. ?

  • Seriously, bless you for this! I want a digital SLR because I enjoy taking photos. Thank you for making it clear that I can accomplish this without drool-worthy equipment. 😉

  • BrownEagle32.com April 3, 2016 at 1:34 am

    Thank you so much this article was very influential for me. I love life and capturing all the wonderful and beautiful moments with great photography. The thought of how much money it would cost me to really make my photo’s pop is enough to just store those beautiful moments in my memory bank. lol, until now, thanks again.

  • I began using cameras at about age nine, and I still use cameras, including a cellular phone camera. The bottom line, for me, is that the best camera that I have ever used was the camera that i was able to use at that time, no matter what the brand, the style, the size, the megapixels, or the lens, whatever I had in my hand at the time was the BEST camera I had ever used. And that includes small point and shoots, and disposables that I have used to take very memorable pictures in my life journey. Yes, what you said, “remember why you got into photography in the first place” and that’s the whole key. I never got into photography to impress anyone with my gear. I got into photography to simply tell a story in pictures or in pictures and words together. For me, any camera works for that as long as I continue to use my very keen eye for the wonderful images that grace our world. Good entry. Thanks for sharing your opinions here. readmyphotos

  • You made me smile. When I was a teenager I “decided” to become a photographer but never got started ’cause I thought I’d need a Hasselblad to do it! Which I obviously didn’t have the money for. I’ve been going through excellent photographs I took in years past with a pretty simple camera, and then a basic digital till about 5 years ago. I just got myself a digital Sony something (?) and some of the photos seem to be worth it, though I wonder if I’ll really need all the multi-features that pop up each time I turn something the wrong way 🙂

  • Great post:) I got into photography when I was in high school. Brought my first SLR film camera back then. 18 year later still shooting with that same camera because I can’t afford to buy some of the photography gear that out in the market. You just got to make the best with what you have because at the end, it the photographer that make a great photograph, not the camera.

  • I love this post. I’ve been experimenting with photography for a few years and starting to think about investing in expensive equipment – but I don’t have the budget. I just love taking photographs and your words are encouraging.

  • Excellent points well made! A camera is essentially a tool – a tool that you use to take pictures. The quality of your pictures depends much more on the way your use your camera than the price tag it carries in the shop.

  • As someone fairly new to photography, I found much comfort in this! Personally, I just really enjoy taking photos. I’m not in it to compete or compare gear, just the simple enjoyment of it all. Thanks for thinking about us newbies!

  • So true! Very encouraging for aspiring photographers. Most of them are so obsessed with getting a specific gear, professional lenses, bodies, full frames, that they actually forget to shoot. I went too through that phase, although I couldn’t afford professional gear. Thanks for bringing this out..!

  • Happy Rabbit Travels April 4, 2016 at 5:17 am

    I love photography and as a newbie, I’ve been thinking about the cameras I have to get. Been checking a lot lately and having a hard time which one should I get. Thanks for this post 🙂

  • Thanks! I really feel like this helps beginning photographers understand that you don’t need the best, you just need the motivation. This includes me!

  • Charli Kornblum April 4, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Love this, thanks for sharing with us 🙂

  • Pleats and Keats April 4, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Hey, I’m just starting on with photography, and am going to invest in my very first DSLR cam soon! Any suggestions?

  • Great read! I think it was the late Leonard Nemoy who advised that you learn your camera inside and out, regardless of what you were shooting with.

  • Wonderfully said and very encouraging might I add!

  • I absolutely love how you phrased all this! I’m glad there’s someone else that understands it’s the quality of your picture, not how expensive or widely known your camera is.

  • I have a friend who’s a budding photographer, never goes anywhere without his Canon DSLR, calls it his “first child”.

  • I just loved this I found myself hanging to every word I am a aspiring photographer and what I mean is love it and want to be one,one day to many other them go on about what you need to be a decent photographer and what equipment you need but what they forget to say is to have fun with it shoot what you have and do what it is you love Ye so what that person has the new Nikon d what ever but hat don’t matter a thing they could still have grate equipment and be no good at it at all its not the equipment that makes a good photographer but the eye behind it Loved the read defo going to follow your page if you right such words as these grate job

  • Thank you for this amazing post. I am 16 and I love taking pictures. But seeing all these people with fancy cameras really discouraged me. But I have always said when people say “your pictures only better because you have a better camera” . My response to this always is “Its not the camera, its the person behind it” Yes a good camera is an advantage but as you said “be creative”. Thank you for this❤

  • Awesome post!
    I have limited photography experience. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a camera in hand. My first camera was a Pentax K-1000. I first got it when going to vocational school while studying Graphic Design & B&W Photography. I loved that camera. I competed with it, took hundreds of photos with it. I had that camera for almost 20 years. Then it “died”.
    Here it is 4 years later and I was finally able to replace it. I’m now the proud owner of a Pentax K-50 dslr. There is a LOT to learn about it, but I plan on enjoying it to the fullest! <3 🙂

  • This was so beautifully put!

  • I heartily agree with your sentiment. Photography is about the person behind the camera. What that person sees, and makes into art. I started out on Flickr just using my iPhone 3s instead of a big black beast because I wanted to concentrate on the seeing. Today I use a compact zoom point-and-shoot set on intelligent auto for the same reason.

    I am on Flickr and am interested in seeing your work if you are there too. My Flickr name is “Theen …” if you want to look me up.

  • Here here! When I was getting my BFA there was a lot of this going around. Especially when we moved into medium format. I had a meager price range to work from and ended up with a Mamiya 645 which suited my purposes just fine and dandy. There was one guy who was a trust fund kid and he had the sweet Hassie. Admittedly, I did have square format envy for a while, but I was producing way better images than this cat.

    Reading this makes me want to go into the spare room and bust out my Pentax k1000 and give it a big hug. That solid steel beast will be able to take great images long after I’m dead and has gotten me through many a late project without fail.

    My neighbor is a shutterbug and every time we chat over chain-link all he talks about is the new thing he wants to buy. We never talk about what I want to talk about which is actual photography, composition or meaning.Or at least war stories about nightmare wedding shoots.

    Thanks for the perspective!

    • Great stories and memories. Take that Pentax out for a spin. ??

      • That old baby got my father through college and me through high school and college.

        Now-a-days I am bereft of darkroom facilities so I am not too eager to deal with film anymore.

        It’s not you Pentax K1000, it’s me.

  • Wise words. I just have a bog standard bridge camera but I am quite pleased with a few of the results, especially one of two of the live music pics. Check out my WordPress site if you like. There’s a few pics on there linked to my Instagram account. Would love to know what you think.
    Thanks for sharing. ?

  • Bravo, well said. I hope that young man went home and spoke to his wise father who went and pulled out his old minolta x700 and handed them to him. When you cant afford a ferrari you find a hot vw beetle instead.

  • I wanted to take a minute to thank you for writing this. I just bought my first film camera for hobby use (I’m just barely old enough to remember a time without digital cameras). I picked up a Nikon L35AF on eBay after reading your reviews and I can’t wait to start shooting with it. Thank you for encouraging new photographers such as myself, even if its just a hobby its always good to have someone remind you “just have fun”.

    • Thanks for the kind words my friend. The best part of running this site is knowing I occasionally help people enjoy this hobby a little bit more. Keep shooting and enjoy that Nikon!

  • A great post and a great site… it’s a shame you didn’t get a chance to talk to that kid, but hopefully he’ll realise all this on his own.

    I suffered the curse of ‘gear’ more than once. My first camera was a little compact APS (remember that?!) back in the 90’s – it was a Fuji I think. I loved that camera (RIP) and it went everywhere with me for 4 years. I did selfies and lomography with that thing before such things existed, I ran dozens of rolls through it, including b&w – it was great.

    And then a pro photo bloke I know told me I wasn’t a proper photographer because I didn’t have an SLR! And then he sold me a 70’s minolta – and to be fair it was a great camera, but I had no idea about how to use it, what exposure was or anything – it almost killed my interest but thankfully I stuck with it over the years and collected a nice range of old film cameras – enjoyed printing – could work with a non-metered Zenit and sunny 16 – loved old cameras and loved putting my shots into albums… I’m not very good but it was FUN!

    And then I bought a DLSR because the gear envy kicked in and I felt I needed Digital to be a ‘proper’ photog – and within six months it had killed my interest in photography stone dead.

    5 years later I was walking by a second hand shop and saw an old Canon Highboy in the window and picked it up – it didn’t work but something has stirred over the past week – I feel the need to buy some film, dust of my F-1, my 35RC and most of all my cheap Canon sureshot compacts and get shooting!

    Because it’s FUN!

    Great post!

    • Fantastic first hand account of the way these things often go. I’m really glad you’ve stuck with it and I’m confident that you’re a better photographer than you say. Modesty seems to be a hallmark of really talented people. Happy shooting, bud!

      • Thanks James – that’s a nice thing to say.

        I’ve just ordered my first rolls of 35mm in years – nothing special, just Kodak 200 – oh and a long time expired roll of Russian ASA100!?! Not sure why I did that but it’ll be interesting to see what it produces.

        Happy shooting to you too 🙂

  • Thank you!

  • You should preach this brother. Spot on! People tend to forget the advantage of owning only one lens or two, it’s the mastery. I find it funny photogs in the street with a huge DSLR body, battery grip attached, a very long lens, a tulip lens hood like it’s a war zone out there.

  • angela bautista May 23, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Great read indeed..Thanks for reminding me to just have some fun shooting. I do sometime feel intimidated by not having those gear and lens feeling that the outcome of my photo will not be as good as what I imagine or envision. Such an encouraging article..

  • Great post and great advice! When I was a starting out, I shot with borrowed cameras, developed film in my parent’s basement and printed with a 25 year old Federal enlarger. I had a blast!

    It was 40 years later, after digital photography made some of these legendary film cameras finally affordable, that I was able to buy them. And even with my Leicas, Hasselblad and Nikon pro-bodies around, I still love shooting my little Pentax ME Super that I bought with lens for well under a hundred bucks.

    Photography should be fun no matter how much you can afford to spend on equipment.

    • I’m happy this post resonated with you, and your experience is a happy assurance for those of us with limited budgets. 🙂

  • Photography is first light, then eyes to see what the light paints. The camera is tertiary. Good stuff. Thanks for the post.

  • Very well put. I think more people that are just getting into photography or already have been into it and are struggling with acquiring a “new” camera or “faster” lens should really look at what kind of pictures they would like to make and base their purchases (if they must) on that factor. I am very guilty of wanting the next “best” camera and lens and have made ridiculous purchases and trades, etc. to acquire gear that i’ve lusted after, only to learn that it really doesn’t make a difference at all. I think it comes down to what you are comfortable shooting with. Being an owner of several LEICA M’s, and Rolleiflex 2.8F I’ve learned that most of my “best” shots came not from either of these cameras, but from cheap point and shoot film cameras! This was a very liberating experience to actually break free from thinking that I needed an expensive (to me) camera and lens to make good pictures. I think in the end, what it boils down to is equipment that is “good enough” and will work as it should when being used. That, and of course the basic knowledge on picture taking. I’ve since sold all of my leicas and the rolleiflex btw. Thanks for this great post!

    • James – Founder/Editor September 21, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      Thanks for reading, Michael. And thanks for your thoughts on this. Though I do admit to really wanting that Rollei…

  • I guess this kind of article needs to be written every so often just as a reminder, but the observation is hardly new. I have been reading the same lament since I got started in photography in 1973. Also, it rings a little hollow when written by someone who already has a Leica and a Rollei.

    • James – Founder/Editor November 4, 2016 at 3:07 pm

      I think the article’s helped some people gain perspective or appreciate their stuff, which is all I really care about.

  • Years ago, I photographed a montage of my now-wife’s neighborhood which had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. One of the neighbors “complimented” me with “John has a good camera.” Beh. In any case, it was a Nikon D70, not at the top of the heap even then. But she didn’t remotely understand that it’s not the equipment, but the grey matter standing behind the equipment.

  • I confess that I’m not your biggest fan, but I must congratulate you on this article. It’s superb written and well worth to pause and think about our photography, not our gear. Bravo.

  • Yes they do. Will give me more time to save up for a Contax G2.

  • I started with cheap Yashica screw-mount cameras, but now own five Leicaflex camera bodies (two with motors) and nine R lenses. It took a while, but I now have pretty much everything i could possibly use.

  • Sold all my Leica – Now use Pentax SV and S1a – Nikon F and Nikkormat – Never missed the Leica – Sooner have £50 worth of film – See You Soon

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is the founder of CP. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic cameras and the most advanced digital machines. In addition to his work on CP, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

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