Skip to content

Confessions of a Wanna Be Gear Head

The word Photography is defined as “the art or practice of taking and processing photographs”. This definition has not, nor should it refined for adjustment to the digital age. Because the concept has not changed.

There are those who consider themselves “purists”, meaning analog, film and darkrooms. They are repulsed by the sin of digital’s instant gratification, preferring to do their deeds in the dark and not move towards the light.

OK, enough of that. It’s would be like debating Canon or Nikon. That’s not what this is about. This is about equipment in general. Simply cameras and lenses. Which ones work best for you and how much of this stuff do you really need. This is also about age and money. That’s the age of the photographer, not the age of the equipment.

When I started with film, life was simpler with allot less choice. Especially for me and my budget resources. A lot of money in 1969 (around $850) could get you a

Hasselblad or Bronica, the great single lens reflex cameras.

Yashica Twin Lens

If you liked the format (2 1/4 x 2 1/4) for less cash you could get a Yeshiva-Twin Lens Reflex or Rolleiflex.

A Kodak Instamatic in 1971 would be around $45 but still, something you would you might

Kodak Instamatic

have to up save for.

For the average person who snapped the birthday party and dropped off their film at the drug store for developing, the choice came down to which Instamatic was popular.

For the enthusiast however it was 35mm. Canon, Pentax, Nikon, Olympus or Minolta. The 35mm through the single lens reflex with “Electric Eye”, built in light metering and auto operation. Though the electric eye had been around for years it became my thing in the late 60’s early 70’s. No more separate light meter.

The Instamatic cameras and the twin lens reflex cameras did have an advantage of sorts over the 35mm. You couldn’t change their lenses. The 35mm brought with it the wide angle, telephoto, and normal lenses, which led to the invention of the consumer camera bag, plus sore shoulders, backs and necks.

This brings me to today’s problem, which is pretty similar to yesterday's problem. Do I really need that much equipment or to spend that more?

I am not an equipment expert or a real gear-head but in recent years I have learned to ask myself these questions, “What am I going to do with it if I get it? Or do I need it or do I just want it?

During the past two years, my wife and I have been traveling Western Europe. I have turned to travel photography because it’s a way to capture what I like and provide inform to others of what’s out there. We travel by plane or train and my equipment stays close by. Traveling usually with two camera bodies and four lenses it gets weighty but I only have to maneuver till I get to the hotel and decide what to take for the day. Quickly for those asking, “Why two bodies?” This is because I can end up in situations where if I changed a lens in the open bad things could happen inside the camera no matter how careful I am. I have had to remove dust spots the size of golf balls from images, then spend hours getting the camera sensor clean.

Until recently I never thought about down-sizing but preparing for a trip to Estonia, Lithuania and Finland came the awakening. I would be traveling by car with three other people. Not a Chrysler 3000 type of car but a sensible sized European car. Additionally, we would be dropped off in Estonia to make my way to Finland by ferry while my friend and his wife went on to St Petersburg, Russia, and my wife and I would meet up again for the return. How would I pack everything I needed? How would I handle dragging the weight around? The answer was simple, I couldn’t.


Not my stuff but you get the idea.


Taking the cowards way out, the first thought was “buy something”. I hear mirrorless is “hot”, followed by frantic research, mostly on the B&H Photovideo website. Ah hah, Fujifilm has a new model. Read reviews, everybody loves it. Compact and lightweight OK, buy, buy. Wait, wait. Does it have GPS? Is it adaptable to the lenses I already have? GPS has become an essential tool for the old guy who forgets what the pen and pad in the camera bag are for. No and no.

After a reasonable time for pouting, I looked to my camera gear to see if I could lighten the load. I have Canon 5ds bodies and they are pretty hefty but also 50megapixel cameras. On the shelf was my Canon 6D, the backup camera. Mmmmmm. Lightweight and built-in GPS, fits my lenses, sold. Good to sell yourself a camera you already own. On to lenses. I didn’t know what lighting situations I would face but most of my lenses are 2.8, except for the 50mm(1.4) and 85mm(1.4). The 50 and 85mm were too long and the 16-35mm was too wide. I only wanted to travel with 2 lenses. I settled on the second lens, 24-70mm 2.8. For the first lens that I would want to use 90% of the time, I tried out the Canon 40mm 2.8 STM pancake. Stop laughing, it may look little funny but it’s terrific little lens, quiet, low profile and $179 dollars. It turned out that what I needed was new thinking, not allot of new gear.

Here’s the new travel kit. Canon 6D with 40mm 2.8 attached. Canon 24-70mm, to go a little wider or longer and just for fun a Sigma 15mm 2.8 diagonal fisheye. The lens changing rule is gone but I will try to find shelter (and the cleaning kit is in the suitcase).

Canon 6D

Canon 40mm STM

Canon 24-70

Sigma 15mm Fisheye

Posting the outcome when I return in May.I f you have thoughts on traveling with equipment, please share.

To see more images of our two-year Senior Ex-Pat travel journey, please visit my website at  You can find me on FaceBook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Our Travel Blog is Grace's Wanderlusting Dreams: Still Bohemian at 65, follow her on FaceBook and Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. Donna Valenti on April 15, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I must admit, I fall right into the gear head category, head first! When I was younger (ouch) it was no big deal to lug around extra lenses. Soon, however, it became extra lenses, and an external flash. Then I moved onto an extra body to directly hold an extra lens…you get the picture…(see the pun there?) Now I break out in a cold sweat when it’s time to pack for a road trip where I will be shooting. I literally ship my clothing ahead of time and carry my gear on board. I usually travel with one body, a Canon 5D Mll, two lenses, 16-35 and 24-105, and an external 580 flash. I’d love to narrow this down to only a 24-70, but that lens is still super expensive, even used. one day, one day…loved the article. I chuckled through it, feeling your pain…

Please wait...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Want to be notified when our article is published? Enter your email address and name below to be the first to know.