The Three Phases of Camera Ownership

If you remember buying your first DSLR, you probably can also recall your thoughts and the research you did. You can graze the Internet, find most anything about any camera and read reviews before making a decision.

After finally making up your mind and paying for the camera, you wait for the delivery. Until the camera arrives, you have difficulty concentrating on anything else, except for package tracking.

There is a moment or two, between paying for the camera and taking delivery, when you wonder whether you made the right choice. Then, the camera arrives and, after taking it out of the box, you examine all the knobs, dials and menus.

The Honeymoon

The first phase of ownership lasts but a brief time — only a few weeks. You become acclimated to the placement of the controls and the fit of the camera to your hands. Initially, you shoot for the pleasure of photography and also to test the new addition.

As you meet other photographers and peers, you describe to them the merits of your new baby — shutter speed quick enough to capture a Higgs boson and video capture quality to make James Cameron proud — and everything you are planning to to do with the camera.

That’s on the outside. The inner photographer uses these facts and hyperbole to validate their purchase.


Once you’ve used the camera for a while, it becomes an extension of you. All of the controls are right where you expect them to be, and the camera’s performance (hopefully) meets your expectations.

It’s here where you really determine whether this new camera is worth the money you spent. If your results show a smidgen of improvement over what you’ve done in the past, you attribute it to the new camera, of course.

You don’t consider that your personal photographic expertise might be improving, too.

On the other hand, maybe the images don’t show an improvement — and experimenting with advanced features consistently produces unacceptable pictures. You blame the camera. Sure, you saw examples when researching the purchase, but your images don’t compare.

That &%*#@ camera! All the advertising was just hype.

Could it be your failure to understand and learn how to use these new features? No, of course not. It’s the camera.

It’s always easier to blame the object and not yourself. If you ever hit your thumb with a hammer, it’s always “that &%*#@ hammer!”


Things have changed and you are ready to consider something newer — maybe somewhat more shapely or with added features. You are face to face with temptation; comparing a recently released camera’s sexy new features to yours produces a sense of seduction.

You step back and try to think rationally: Do you really need those new features? This is more tricky than it appears.

If your current photography has a clear and present need that gear might address, then, of course, the new camera must be considered. On the other hand, the lure of a new camera’s abilities can outweigh any sense of moderation.

In justifying the purchase, are you painting targets around arrows?

For some of us, spending money on a new DSLR is an expensive treat. For others, it’s purely a business decision. Either way, sometimes you just want a new camera — and that may be the only rationale you need.

10 Responses to “The Three Phases of Camera Ownership”

  1. This was a funny post, especially the example with the hammer. I don't think anyone would blame their finger or themselves for that one. Hehe.

    I don't think a photographer needs a single justification to purchase a camera. Often people seem to think they are entitled to explanations as to why someone is purchasing a camera, when in fact they are not. Some people own shoes, handbags, and of course these next two items: cars and homes, that are more expensive than cameras and do not have to explain a thing to anyone when purchasing them. Somehow, the camera purchase eludes this.

    Want to start an upset on Twitter? Mention that you want a new camera, tweet it and go leave and get a cup of coffee or tea. When you return you will have 5-10 tweets all from the basic "why?" down to direct insults to your photography knowledge and even quotes that you have NEVER heard before such as "Owning a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer, it makes you a Nikon owner." Nevermind the fact that you are in fact a pro photographer, have owned some type of camera since age 12 and are very aware of the capabilities and limitations of cameras. Nevermind the fact that you are quite the minimalist and own fewer cameras and equipment overall than the people insulting you for simply wanting a new camera. For this reason I think many photographers feel the need to validate their purchases as you mentioned early in the article, not because they spent a boat load of money, most would not buy the camera if they did not have the money--the validation is needed because they know they will be judged and insulted by their peers for its purchase in the first place.

    It is in style right now to hate cameras and pretend that interest in them does not exist. Certainly it is never about the gear in the way that some people think. However, I do not live in the land of hyperbole where I have to hate cameras to have a sense of art or so get caught up in gear that I can't realize that it is not the gear that will improve my art. I live where the rest of the photographers who have sense live who don't own a ton, enjoy creating with what they have and think about getting a new camera from time to time.

    Good post, thanks for sharing.

  2. This is so true; I've been considering upgrading to a new camera for a few months now, but I haven't made the leap, because I love my camera and step up just doesn't provide enough to justify the cost!


  3. Nothing is funnier than the truth. Amen! I'm still laughing and I read the post 30mins ago.

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful article. I recently bought a D300s, my first DSLR and my first camera since my F3 back in 1979. The joy of learning to use it is currently neck and neck with the sense of being overwhelmed by the new flexibility. White balance that is basically a filter kit, ISO that can be changed with every frame if desired... Still, when I showed off proudly my first good shot of an Eastern Mockingbird, my buddy who is a Photoshop expert just said, "that is a terrible photo." It is good that I showed it to about 7 non-photographers before hand and they all really liked it...

  5. Great post - picked up the link from Red River Paper. Very timely as I am currently awaiting delivery of my new 7D - an upgrade from my 30D (purchased three and a half years, a trip to SE Asia and a new grandchild ago!).

  6. I purchased my first DSLR at a camera store. A wonderful place where you can walk in and handle things and get to know equipment a bit before you buy it. Anyway - I got my box home and found trouble with the card slot. Brought it back and the camera was exchanged for a new one, no questions asked. I am considering purchasing a new camera and chances are, I'll go back to the store. Can't beat the Internet for research and deals, but . . . well, . . . sometimes it is good to deal with real people face to face.

  7. 😀 Very funny article.

    It took me a year to get out of Auto mode with my first DSLR- and oddly enough for that first year I took very few pictures, upset with how unimpressive they were.

    Turns out I'm just better at photography than my camera is. Since I went manual I never leave the house without my camera.

    I bought a higher-end model after four years, not because of having reached the Dissolution stage, but because the camera simply gave out. I loved it very much and worked it very hard...

  8. Interesting how this starts with "first dSLR". Some of us started without that d there.

    Also, in amongst the general wisdom of this post, the point is, dSLRs *have* improved in quality - obviously you have to know how to get the best out of them, have to have a vision of each photo first & foremost, to the extent that the mere mechanics of using the hardware don't really count, but still. They weren't peddling 21MPel low-high-ISO-noise monsters 15yr ago.

  9. I've gone to quite a bit of couples therapy to make sure that my Bessa and I stay together for a very long time. In the past, I didn't devote the time i needed to really build a relationship with my cameras and they all ended up on ebay.

  10. Well said !! 🙂

Leave a Reply