Ben Ashmole

The Blog

The 10 Phases Of Gear Acquisition Syndrome

OK so if you live anywhere close to most cities in the world and you're not blind, for the last couple of years you will have probably noticed heaps of billboards showing up using images 'shot on iPhone 6'. They are beautiful images. Without the 'shot on iPhone 6' part tagged on there, I don't think anyone on earth would have even thought for 1 second they weren't shot on a 'commercial' camera, never mind an 8 megapixel smart phone. I know I can't tell the difference!

So can we all now finally stop going on about resolution as if it makes a difference anymore? If anything smashes the megapixel myth for you it should be the fact that 8 megapixel images shot on a tiny 1/3" sensor went on gigantic billboards worldwide. Obviously it's nice to have a bigger sensor and more resolution to play with (16-24mp is my ideal range), but are we sure we really need 50mp full frame images for our work to be deemed adequate?

The things that all of these 'shot on iPhone 6' images have in common are interesting subjects, engaging compositions, good timing and good light. These factors have been the key to great image making since the dawn of photographic time, and will still be in 100 years time. focus on them more than the equipment you're using and I think you're going in the right direction.

Funny thing is, most of the time I'm just as obsessed with gear as the next person

Without fail I follow the same distinct 10 step cycle every time I start getting in to the 'ooooh gear' mindset

  1. XXXX camera or lens is released
  2. 'Shiny object' phase - "wow it shoots 75mp RAW stills and has internal 10-bit 10K video!"
  3. 'Creative depression and lack of perspective' phase - "Damn, my work produced in regular HD sucks now all of a sudden". 
  4. The 'creating excuses' phase. For me the most destructive behaviour to personal growth, happiness and success - "If only I had (insert specs from #2) then my work, and by extension me, would adequate!"
  5. The 'need' phase - "my life will be perpetually empty and without purpose if I do not get XXXX"
  6. The 'financial justification' phase - "of course I can afford to spend $25,000 on XXXX. Who needs rent or food?"
  7. The 'reality' phase - "damn I really can't afford it"
  8. repeat #3
  9. The 'awakening' phase - "actually, when I think about it my work is really good and I love it. WTF is wrong with me?"
  10. Start again at #1

This exact cycle happened to me as recently as last week. Curse my inner gear demon, but it still gets the best of me from time to time. #1 started when the shiny, new, badass Fuji XT-2 was announced. Internal 4K, 24mp stills, aps-c sensor, Fuji colour science. I fell in love. “This is the answer to all my problems!” I decreed to my fiancée, who has to regularly put up with my creative bullsh*t and for some reason is still with me. I travelled to #5 within the space of an hour. I then got to #6 soon after, and was so committed that I pre-ordered it. I even wrote an article about my upgrade on this blog!

A week later, by coincidence I arrived at #9. I was due to teach an astro photography workshop on the coast with my friend Kristin Repsher. After arriving early the check out the weather conditions, we quickly realised that there was too much cloud to see the stars so had to unfortunately cancel. As there a particularly beautiful sunset in motion while we were there, we figured we might as well shoot some stuff so it wasn’t a completely wasted trip.

I shot this on my Nikon d7100.

I got home, threw some of footage together, colour corrected, rendered it, then watched it back on a 42” HDTV (a self indulgent thing I always do). It was beautiful. “Oh my god come and look at how good this is!” I cried out to my fiancée, who walked in to the room rolling her eyes in that ’here we go again’ way. She just smiled, nodded and agreed, no doubt thinking “what the f*ck is wrong with him? This is the 10 time we’ve gone through this!”

I realised what I had was more than good enough an I should concentrate on using it properly. I cancelled my pre-order for the XT-2 and thus, the cycle was complete. Well, at least until the next new shiny camera release, at which point I’ve no doubt it will start again.