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Sunday, September 03, 2006

What's Your Whack?

Catherine Hill, Dicky at 98, 2006

One of the great limitations of hobbies is that they can get expensive. I've always loved music listening, and one of my first major purchases was a Marantz receiver and Dual turntable I bought when I was 15 with the proceeds of a summer spent caring for neighbors' yards. As a longtime "audiophile," the most expensive purchase I ever made, well over a decade ago, was a pair of used Celestion SL700 speakers that cost $2,400, marked down from $3,200 because the previous auditioner, who had kept them for five weeks before returning them to the dealer, had damaged one of the stands. They were reviewed by John Atkinson in Stereophile magazine as "extremely expensive for a small speaker" or words to that effect.

Nowadays, $3,200 for a pair of speakers is considered by Stereophile to be, if not quite "budget," then at least "good value." The average audiophile who reads Stereophile (according to its own poll published a few years ago) has $11,000 invested in his stereo, which seems like quite a commitment to me. Despite that, the magazine (and its several counterparts) routinely review single components costing more than $11,000—sometimes far more. In fact, never mind speakers themselves—I've seen speaker wires reviewed that cost more than $11,000.

Meanwhile, the audiophile magazines also routinely moan at great length about what a shame it is that young people aren't getting involved in their hobby. This seems to me to be a case of putting two and two together and just not being able to figure out what the answer could possibly be.

Two Months
Photography has always been expensive. A Leica in 1955 cost two months of a factory worker's wage. But is it getting more so or less so? To equip yourself for professional work you need:

1. Two pro or semi-pro DSLR bodies
2. Minimum two pro-level ƒ/2.8 or better lenses, wide-angle zoom and telephoto zoom
3. Two flash units
4. Laptop or portable hard drive for downloading in the field
5. Four cards and four batteries
6. Photoshop CS2, various plugins, and maybe Lightroom
7. A computer capable of handling large files and memory-intensive applications, plus storage devices
8. (Optional, depending on your clientele) a medium-format (13x19-inch) pigment inkjet printer, and supplies

What about amateurs? I worry sometimes about the financial commitment required of wannabe photo enthusiasts these days. Even with digicams getting very good and DSLRs coming way down in price, single midrange zooms being substitutable for a selection of lenses, and (commerce warning: LightZone plug coming up!) good image-manipulation programs available for bargain prices, it's still not a negligible outlay.

Mike Johnston, Proud papa (Keller and Richard), 2006

If you consider yourself a serious, ambitious amateur, and you were to consider only the equipment you own that you really need to do your work, can you put a number on what you have invested at the moment? How much of a whack have you taken?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I assume that your question was not rhetorical, and we're supposed to give you an answer? ...For me, approximately $8,000. And that's built around an aging Canon D60!

1:57 PM  
Blogger Scott Kirkpatrick said...

OK, I'll try. Olympus E-1 bought when they were new with 14-54, $1600, plus 3 more lenses, extra battery, good flash and one state of the art, sweet spot of the price curve CF card each. $2500. Various camera bags. And finally, Ricoh GR-D so that I can leave all of it at home much of the time, $800 with viewfinder. Total is just under $5K spread over almost 4 years. Less than the annual family vacation costs, about as much as a good restaurant meal per month.

Sure beats owning an airplane, which I don't anymore.


2:01 PM  
Anonymous Wes said...

I have probably spent somewhere around $3000. One body, a fast prime, a street zoom, a telephoto zoom and a wide-angle zoom. Various accessories and a nice bag. It'll go up a little more once I get a macro, but at that point, I'd consider my 'kit' complete. Sure I could upgrade lenses to have VR and other bells and whistles, maybe get another body, but I just enjoy what I have.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Photoburner said...

For me:
Canon 350D w/kit lens--$1000
Canon 55-200mm (since sold on ebay), sigma 50mm macro, canon 100-300mm, and sigma 15-30mm---probably another $1200

2 Nikon SB25 flash units, light stands, umbrellas, radio triggers other misc lighting gear--$500

Bag, tripod, 4 CF cards, cokin filter system and filters, external HD, PS CS2--about $750

So in the ballpark of $3500-4000

2:14 PM  
Blogger aizan said...

maybe $8000, and i haven't even gone digital. *sob*

2:20 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

I actually went back and did this a while back just for kicks. Turns out I've spent about $7500 on hardware (including the scanner and photo printer) over about 2 years. It's way more than reasonable, but this is because this is spread out over two systems. I got a RF in Fall of 2005 and then my first dSLR in Winter of 2005 and I've pretty much been buying lenses + accessories for *both* since then. In retrospect it's getting too expensive to keep up with the care and feeding of both of my babies, but you can't ask me to pick one over the other, I just love them both. It goes beyond being a self admitted gear-head; I really enjoy the contrast of RF shooting vs. SLR shooting, and I personally prefer to do color digitally vs B/W with film.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Hmmm...something I try not to think about (but I do, anyway). Canon 5d $2600, $900 worth of prime lenses (will be $1200 shortly), aging laptop that would cost about $1600 to replace. Three flashes at $300 a pop, $300 worth of grip stuff.

I'm not trying to hard but that's about $6000 right there.

One thing I can say is that I feel like the 5d is pretty much the best camera out there. And it puts me in a position where I can never say, oh, I can't do that because I don't have the right camera. I've got it.

However, when I think about how much it costs and the likelihood that it won't be worth all that much in 3 years, I want to hurl.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ezlovin said...
Utilizing your equipment list, which mirrors my stuff, also had to include 2 film bodies that I use regularly which forced me to add the film scanner.....etc. etc. $16,050. Cheaper than speaker wires, I guess...

3:37 PM  
Anonymous ph0t0man said...

I'm just enough of a "pro" to try to pay for my gear. Total investment, $9k. The good news is that I bought much of it used, and it is worth more now than when I bought it.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Tobi said...

Roughly 2000€, bought a KoMi 7D, a bunch of lenses and a flash.
I got all my equipment 2nd hand though, and I didn't rush, so it was all good value for the money.


3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$3.3K Canon 5D
$1.2K Canon 35L
$700 Canon 17-40L
$1.1K Canon 24-105L IS
$1.6K Canon 70-200L IS
$300 Canon 1.4x Extender
$400 Canon 100mm Macro
$1.5K Dude, I got a Dell
$600 Extra RAM for PC
$400 LCD Calibration device
$800 CF Cards
$380 Vosonic 120GB pocket drive
$2K Backup hard drives
$1K Backup MAM-A Gold DVDs
$1K PS CS2 + various plug-ins
$400 Flash
$100 Spare batteries
$200 Two carrying bags
$2K Printing class
$1K Printer + 1 set of supplies
$700 PS learning DVDs and books

And I am only a weekend enthusiast shooter.

If you add up the numbers, my wife would k*ll me.

3:50 PM  
Blogger al said...

A conon 300d plus 18-200 £500 got stolen
KM 5d £500
£300 on glass all used
about £150 on extras
so £1450 but have to get a new second cam so itll be up to 2k but less than other interests one could have

4:05 PM  
Blogger david vatovec said...

I`ve just purchased a Canon 5D - €3.000.

I owwn also a 4 Canon primes cca. €2.200, a film body €300, A Metz flash €350, €300 in CF cards, €500 for a PC and €200 for a used 21" monitor, cca €200 in photo bags, €300 for Manfrotto tripod with head, €0 for Adobe Lightroom beta3 =), €130 for a budget photo printer, €800 for Mamiya RB67 with 2 lenses and €200 in reflectors.

And i surely forgot something,....

So the tolal would be: €8.280 spread over 7 years.

Oh,... i`ve recently gone pro.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Geoff said...

Interesting to see the $8K figure twice already. That's what I'm into photography for, based on building up Leica and EOS systems over a period of 5 or so years. I used to think of my M6 as "the expensive camera," now fully a third of my total buy-in is represented by the Canon 5D body alone!

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Ken Hagler said...

The "considering only what you really need" makes it skews my answer a bit, as I have quite a bit of stuff that I could do without if I were poor and didn't have a choice.

My minimum from what I currently own would be a Nikon FM-3a and 50mm/f1.8 AI-s lens, for a total of around $900. However, if I were poor I'd have bought a used FM-2n (or maybe an F3) instead of the new FM-3a, so perhaps the number should be less than that.

The actual total for all my equipment is considerably higher. ;-)

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooops. That question hurts...

Canon 20D, Lenses from 10 to 200mm including some primes, Two flashes, 10Gb of CFcards, several bags, an epson 2400 printer, Apacer CF-DVD burner, tripods, reflector, computer, and I haven't even bought the 5D and L-primes I'm drooling on...

$14.000 ++. I don't dare to sum it all up. However, I'm quite sure the equipment has paid itself, so I'm not broke...

4:45 PM  
Blogger Mike F said...

About AUS$8,000 without counting my old 300D (you said to count only equipment I need so 2nd body doesn't count), lenses & flash I have but aren't needed for most of my photographs and without counting computer equipment I need for other reasons.


5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This ended being more painful than I thought it would when I started writing my response. My canon 20D cost $1200; three lenses (Sigma 35/1.4, Canon 85/1.8 and 50/1.4) at about $350 each) cost a total of about $1050; my Epson 2400 cost about $800; and I picked up photoshop CS2 for $400. So altogether, I've dropped $3500, not including consumables. I should have stuck to chess.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Svein-Frode said...

About 20% of my income...

5:36 PM  
Blogger Donald A. Morrison said...

EOS 5D, a few wide to normal primes, 80-200 zoom, printer, inks, paper, tripods, computers, software, oh god ... I don't want to think about it!

In spite of this equipment, most of my recent work has been done with an old Nikon F. This camera was found lying about the house a month or two ago, I loaded it up and have been using it ever since. I've been using some fairly antique primes (2.8cm, 5cm, 13.5cm, and 20cm, if you're interested), cheap colour print film, and home processed B/W. Suddenly everything seems so simple, I've not been enjoying photography as much for a long time.

This has taught me a vital lesson; digital makes it so very easy to lose sight of what is important in photography, going back to basics has reaffirmed what I suppose I always knew - that the instrument used has no bearing on the inherent worth of the photograph. No more agonising over noise, megapixels, lens resolution, etc. I'm still agonising, of course, but it's the subject I worry about, not the tools. Worth a try if you're suffering from digital burnout.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have spent about AUST$8000 that's about US$5800 for Nikon D100, 12-24mm zoom, 70-300mm zoom, 105mm macro and 24-120mm VR zoom plus a Toshiba laptop. The problem is that the D100 is now decidedly aged and I would like at least 10M pixel SLR and maybe the 80-400mm VR zoom..... Does the list ever end! ! !

5:56 PM  
Blogger frankpetronio said...

Back in the day (1980s) a pro around Rochester needed a Nikon, Hasselblad, and Sinar set up, plus 4 Speedotron packs and 8 heads, plus a nice loft studio with hardwood floors, a van, and a ton of grip equipment. This is what people who shot slide shows for Kodak had, and I had many an Art Director sniff their nose at my somewhat more concise and ecclectic equipment list. I substituted 6x9 roll backs and a Fuji 6x9 rangefinder for the H'blad system, which saved $1000s but made me a bit of a rebel.

Now I shoot what I want and my clients love what I can deliver with prosumer SLRs, a 4x5 with a couple of lenses, and some hot lights. No 2.8 zooms, no remote strobes, none of the "must have" mentality. I use my laptop for everything, it works well enough, I don't need any of that quad processor box just yet - or ever.

Neither do I spend the profits from one job just to buy more equipment.

Yeah, Digital rocks and is SO MUCH less expensive.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"And I am only a weekend enthusiast shooter.

"If you add up the numbers, my wife would k*ll me."

It looks like about 21k to me. You're the winner so far!


6:40 PM  
Anonymous medicdave said...

While photography is in general expensive, it's worth noting that digital has, all things considered, enabled more people to pass the "you must be this tall to ride" milestone:

You can get a capable prosumer DSLR for $1000-$1500, and the kit lens will force you to make careful decisions when shooting to get good results.

You can start processing your images on the family PC, and if you're not stuck on using CMYK or LAB workflows, you can download the free GIMP Photoshop wannabe, or drop a whopping $32 on Pixel. Again, the inability to immediately review your images in the field on a nice big laptop screen will force you to shoot more carefully and leave room for post-processing.

Thanks to the plethora of digital printing services out there (pro-grade and otherwise) you can do away with buying, feeding and maintaining a printer entirely, and in some cases pro-grade color correction is even included. Use your cable modem to upload your images, and you get satisfaction-guaranteed silver halide prints in the mail a few days later.

Now these methods certainly leave a lot to be desired in terms of workflow and control, but they have two important benefits: First, they allow you to learn as you go, working within the limitations of your investments. And more importantly, they allow you to get into the game without dipping into the kids' college fund, and add equipment as you learn what you truly need.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

In round numbers, starting in 1991 with the family's switch from FD to EF equipment, a total of around $17,000. That figure covers the family and includes five bodies (1N, 1D, 20D, two film Rebels), eight lenses including 3 Ls, CF cards, Photoshop with upgrades, tripods, heads, and computer upgrades attributable to photography.


6:58 PM  
Blogger Big Mac said...

I know fairly accurately because I had to provide receipts for insurance. Just short of $12,000 on camera body and lenses, tripod and ballhead.

Plus about $7,000 on a PowerMac G5, RAM, dual monitors, external Firewire disks for backup, color calibration, etc.

$2,500 for a MacBook (Intel) that I use when I am on my photo trips, plus its external backup disk, Firewire card reader, Parallels software, etc.

$1,500 on printers (Epson 2400 and Canon i9900).

About $2,000 on software (including PS, Photokit Sharpener, Raw Developer, Noise Ninja, and utilities such as Retrospect Backup).

About $700-$1,000 on books and various subscriptions (LensWork, Photo Techniques, National Geographic, Luminous Landscape Video Journal, etc.)

This doesn't count ongoing cost such as paper and inks.

I am not a professional, just a weekend shooter. I am however a professional software developer, so I should really amortize all the computer stuff across two hobbies. I count programming as a hobby, although one I am lucky enough to be paid well for.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Big Mac said...

The "wife would kill me" comment is interesting. I'm very lucky that my wife supports me in this hobby. As an artist herself, she knows the importance of having a creative outlet outside work, and she recognizes the gear addiction as a part of the outlet.

That said, I do keep my equipment for years and I look after it very well.

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To date, I have burned around $14,000 on gear. It makes me pause for thought. I have been admiring pinhole photographers recently.......

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good question, and an eye-opening exercise! Gave all my old film cameras to charity near the end of 1999 (wasn't using them) and began to look at the evolving digital camera selections. From a 1.3 mpix Olympus model at the end of 2000 to Canon DSLRs today - ~$27000, not counting printing and presentation supplies. Gave the Olympus and a Canon 10D body to my best friend over the years, still have a 20D and 5D, and a good range of excellent glass and accessories.

I'm retired for three years now. I loved digital from the first exposure. The expense has been the best money I've ever spent - no regrets.

However, need a new PC - bing, bing, ... bing!

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Summing up (Nikon) film and digital equip, film scanner, bw dedicated printer, bw home lab, tripods, bags, cards, etc, etc, around Euros 8.000/9.000.
NOT counting laptop, PC and color printer, wich double as generic home hardware.

All about regular stuff, albeit complete and versatile system. D200's the big brother and the 2.8 lenses all off brand (saving +/- 3.000 euros).

80% of that is digital fault... in Europe a D70 kit + D200 + say a 2.8 17-55 all bought around the release dates will fill almost a € 5.000 bill.

The world is spinning backwards ... in most cases, the hobbyist could easily do much better with a 50mm equipped box, weather a nikon, an M or a 35mm chinese copy. Take that for granted.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Emery Ku said...

First off, I'd like to say I really enjoy your blog; the variety of well-written, thought-provoking and entertaining entries from different contributors keeps me coming back. I thought I'd make a comment because this post spoke to me on a personal level.

When I was in high school, about 7 years back, I fancied myself an aspiring audiophile. I had a subscription to Stereophile, braided CAT5 network cable by hand for speaker wire, interned at a loudspeaker company during college and eventually designed/built some decent speakers for myself. I think the cost of any technology-based hobby can be prohibitive, but there will always an economical way to enjoy it (and learn a ton and have some fun along the way) if you're willing to spend time and energy.

At the moment, I'm a starving grad student (studying acoustics). My interest in photography has taken off in the last year, and I've become quite serious about learning and improving as much as I can.

My current kit consists of a 350D and a 50mm 1.8, a couple old kit lenses inherited from my dad's old elan, a self-built cable release, a cheap tripod from amazon, a couple memory cards, and a laptop with the GIMP and UFRaw software. It's far from complete, but I think I still have a lot to learn with this basic set of gear. Total cost (not including laptop), probably about $900.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Dwight Jones said...

My set up is identical to Scott's: Olympus E-1, three lenses, and a Ricoh GR-D. $5000.

If I could do it over again, I'd keep my old camera until the Sony R-1 came out. $1000. I like my stuff, but I'm not sure it was worth paying an extra $4000 to get it all sooner. Several well know artists do fine work with the $1000 Sony R-1.

7:45 PM  
Anonymous macdaddy said...

Olympus E-1 kit w/ Grip, 14-54mm, 50-200mm, FL-20 flash, 5 Hoya Digital Series filters, 4-4GB SanDisk III Extreme CF cards, Lowepro Computrekker bag, miscellanoeus digital cables, etc.; Voigtlander 250th Anniversary Bessa R3M manual film camera w/ 50mm/f2 Heliar and 90mm/f3.5 APO-Lanthar and case; Intel 17" iMac-loaded and with CS2 and Aperture (sorry Mike—I think it's better than Lightroom) and 17" MacBook Pro laptop, also loaded. $12,000.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, Canon 350D - 85k yen, Sigma 18-50/2.8 - 49k yen, Sigma 30/1.4 39k, Canon 50/1.8 7k, traveltripod 10k. Add a couple of memory cards, small nylon bag and a few home-built gadgets and it comes to about 220k yen in total (roughly $2k I guess).

I have one used 70-210 lens on permanent loan, which I use very little and which doesn't cost me anything. My computer, backup system and so on is stuff I use for work already, and I have not added or upgraded anything for photo use. My software, since I run Linux, is all free - Gimp, UFRaw, F-Spot, Hugin and so on are all freely downloadable.

220k is a decent chunk of money to be sure; it is spent over the course of a year and a half, however, and absent an accident I'll be using this setup for at least another couple of years so for a hobby it's not all that bad. A friend who has performance biking for a hobby spends that kind of money every year just on tires, never mind the loss when he totalled his Yamaha on a track run last year.

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Stan said...

Use to be, a camera was only as good as its lens. Used to be, you could get a used body that could rival just about any current model. Used to be that a like new F100 body with an equally LN 20-35mm Nikkor would have been a pro's wet dream for $400 a piece. Thanks to digital, it's my current and very happy reality (along with all my other outdated and very productive film gear).

8:16 PM  
Anonymous rich said...

I was in a REALLY boring meeting at work a few months ago so I made a list of all my camera bodies, lenses, classic gear, etc. and how much approx value each is if sold second-hand (I justified my time spent thinking it's a good list to have for the insurance man should my place be ransacked or burn down). Came out to about $5.5K, and no I am not digital, at least little more than a decent P&S digicam. Good thing is I use about 70-80% of the gear on a fairly regular basis but have been telling myself I can probably do without about 50% of it at least. One of these days, when I feel I need $2-3K, I'll list that 50% on day....

8:21 PM  
Anonymous scott said...

I get paid for some of my photographs, so that must make me a partial pro. Include The 2 Canon EOS bodies, lights, softboxes, new computer just for Photoshop, Photoshop, film scanner, flatbed scanner.....
Probably $16,000.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I might be lucky, in that my profession (software development) has some nice overlap with my photography hobby. I'd have much of the computer hardware already (but not the 1tb of disk storage).

But adding up the 5D, the 16-35L, the 24-70L, the 580ex and 430ex strobes, the Epson 1800 printer, all that paper, and all those CF cards, I've easily spent $8000.

And when Leica releases the new digital M, I'll order one and a brand new 50mm Sumilux. Because I'm that sick.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Barb said...

Photo equipment, computer equipment - it comes to about $15,000. Thats with 2 digital bodies (canon 10D,5D), a desktop computer, laptop, printer (13x19), scanner, odds and ends and the following:
24 2.8
50 1.4
85 1.8
135 2.8
28-135 IS
70-200 4.0L
70-200 2.8L IS
100-400L IS

9:52 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I don't know if I'd qualify as a "serious, ambitious amateur", but I've been doing photography as a hobby for over 40 years and SLR photography for about 25 years.

My current DSLR (Rebel XT) configuration was chosen with an eye to keeping costs under control. I have enough experience to know what I like to do and want to do, and thus I know what equipment I need and what I don't need. I made it a point to buy exactly what I need.

Software has been a bit more of a learning experience for me.

Oh, and there was the little debacle with the extra hard drive that I added to my computer to hold my photos. I got the 160MB drive for $40 (US) but it overloaded the power supply so I had to buy a newer and bigger power supply. But the bigger power supply overheated the computer so I had to buy another chassis fan.

At this point I have about $2000 (US) in hardware - including about $300 in CF cards - and about $400 in software. I have no plans to add to that except perhaps one more CF card next year.

10:30 PM  
Anonymous john robison said...

Interesting question. From 1969 until now? I have no idea. Don't own any digital equiptment but have spent about $800 in the last five years on what is strictly a hobby. Last purchase was an Asahi Spotmatic with a 50 f1.4 super tak for $37, didn't really need it, I have alot of OM gear, but it was pretty and I didn't want to put it back down. Current favorite is a old Pen f with a 20 f3.5 and a 38 1.8, if I want anything longer I use a Pen to OM adapter. Have a darkroom but finally considering a scanner and printer combo, any suggestions?

10:31 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Mamiya 35mm slr, Rolliflex, Nikon fg, nikon 950, nikon d1, nikon d70, and 3 or 4 (can't really remember) point and shoots. Grundle of lenses for the Nikon and Mamiya. Cannon film scanner, 4-5 printers, 3 PC's (over the years), software, Memory cards, etc. Well over $7000 And I do not have any top of the line gear. Damned expensive, until you look at the neighbors boat that he has had out 2 times this year.

10:49 PM  
Blogger dyathink said...

this question is like thinking about how much it costs to raise a kid from crib to career. A pro fotog told me "you never finish buying" and that's true. I'm schizy and shoot digital, film, 35mm, MF, macro, street, nature, night, polas and am actually paid to shoot ballet. So i have a coupla Leicas, a Bronica, an F100 a D200, a CoolPix8400, 3 polas, a Holga and some other collectibles that are packed away. I have a flat bed scanner, a dedicated film scanner and a MacG5 with two screens and my next investment will be a server with maximum storage capacity to accomodate the huge files from scanned MF negs. Lenses, batteries, cards, bags, film, tripod, monopod, Nikon SB800 flash, my book collection, some prints from other photographers and even the all important dehumidifier to protect it all from the tropical climate. i don't upload to a laptop in the field cuz it would be stolen out of the car while i was out shooting. i like being extremely portable and go shooting with my camera of choice and two lenses max. The only filter i use is UV or a circular polarizer. Right now my favorite format is MF so lets add the cost of pilates classes to make my back strong enough to carry the Bronica around all day long. Really, it goes on and on so i guess i'm gonna be like the credit card commercial and just say, the cost of photographic bliss? priceless.

11:32 PM  
Blogger dyathink said...

oh yeah, and last but not least, the Gossen Luna Pro lightmeter. Don't leave home without it :)

11:34 PM  
Blogger Ade said...

Well, I added up and got the $8-9K average, which surprised and disappointed me as I bought most of it low-end and either used or discounted. I've noticed that many amateurs tend to buy more camera than they need ("Because I'm worth it..."?): "Just got my D200!! Here's a picture of my dog!!!!!" I guess I've got a lot of cameras for my outlay (about a dozen), some of which are "well-used". Ironically, the one with the most features that was my biggest expense, a Nikon F80, is now worth almost nothing. By the time I came to buy a DSLR, I decided a D50 was adequate for my needs and I haven't regretted that. I did look at getting into rangefinders recently, but even a basic Voigtlander setup costs almost as much as that F80 did.

Have to say praise be for free software; my software costs are about $100 (licenses for VueScan and Bibble). Running on Linux, Photoshop and all its plugins was never an option and it also means I haven't paid a cent to Microsoft or Apple. I've used the GIMP a lot (you don't miss what you never had) and am lately moving towards LZ which is free on Linux, although I'd buy it if I had to!

3:49 AM  
Blogger ANDREW! said...

Dunno if I'm a serious, ambitious amateur but I'm probably at the low end of the scale here. Under $1,000.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Bryce Lee said...

Hmm Stereo Equipment in 1994 decided
the best was for me. Bryston 4B amp and preamp for C$3700.00 Also that same year Magnum Dynalab tuner C$900.00. Acquired from an estate sale
pair of large Quad Electrostatics for
$100.00. Also a 40 foot outside tower
and directional head for receiving broadcasts, another C$2000.00. Am firmly in the flat disc player division, although when mobile use cassettes.

Photography though, different story. Have bought and sold three used
Nikon D100's in the last year, not sure each time if I want to forego the convenience of film. At present still have and use a Nikon F100
and a Pentax Espio for photography, the latter being the
preferred camera. Computers, as most
of my work is writing is Macintosh,
very expensive at roughly $3500
replacement every three years. Macs
and computers in general are fraught
with obsolence long before their
time is due. So too is digital
photography! I often wonder what happens to "old" less than four megapixel consumer cameras, still
working. Do they end up on shelves
with the Brownie Hawkeye or are they
discarded for the garbage as a black
and white computer monitor?

9:16 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

I'm on the cheap end too: maybe $1500 spread over about four years. This figure includes everything: photo equipment, film, hard drives (I already have computers for other work), printing and other professional services. I use cheap old film cameras, a cheap new digicam, PS Elements 2 ($25), Picasa, an old HP S20 film scanner and bulk B&W movie film. The results are fine.

My biggest cost by far is time, and it dwarfs the small monetary cost. I love using film, but the process of developing (or driving to the lab), scanning and spotting film is so time consuming that it was discouraging me from making photos.

The digicam has been a revelation. Certainly its capabilities are limited as compared to a dslr or even an old film rf, but the time and money cost to produce images with it is so low that I am much more productive -- i.e., I produce more good photos for the time invested -- than I am with film cameras. So I think the better question isn't, "How much money have you spent?", it's "Which equipment helps you be most productive?"

For me the path toward greater productivity clearly lies in the direction of dslrs and -- camera-company gods permitting -- the digital rf. So I am sure that not only will my future photo expenditures dwarf any I have made so far, but also that they will allow me to produce more good photos for my investment in money, time and effort.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous katie said...

One of the anons who had spent 14k USD said: I have been admiring pinhole photographers recently...

So I did my sums. I'm about 80 to 90 per cent pinhole. Including consumables, I've spent about 2k USD on photography in the past few years, and mostly in the past 14 months to get myself properly started.

That includes about 500 spent on 4x5 and 120 film, and another 500 on a flatbed scanner. The other thousand covers all my developing and processing kit, a decent tripod, chemicals, paper, a box full of toy and vintage cameras, and a shiny antique full-plate camera. My main pinhole camera was about 70; the rest are homemade, traded, or gifts.

Also, I was lucky: I inherited a rollei 3.5f, and I'm still using the Nikon FM2 I was given over 20 years ago.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Randomrubble said...

To go digital I had to have a full frame camera... and saw a second hand 1Ds. so then I got a 16-35L, 24-70L, 70-200L IS, TS-E 24L, 2x converter, and Lowe Pro bag. Add in Filters, memory, tripod and geared head and you're looking at £7.5K.

Then my existing mac found itself getting 2x external drives and a copy of Capture 1 Pro. so add another £600 for a total of just over £8000...

just as well I'm Single!

6:32 PM  
Blogger Doug Plummer said...

I wrote about this last year here:

Outlay after 9 months of turning digital (pro version): $27,000

Doug Plummer

8:41 PM  
Blogger cosburn said...

Over $10,000 in debt, but now I have a B.F.A.!

Out of school with no desire to photograph for money.

Now what? Spend more money on going back to school or maybe I should just open a studio, that would have been cheaper in the first place.

By the way, this doesn't include the $4000 or so I have spent on equipment and film over the last 5 years.

Funny thing matter what you spend, it's never enough.

8:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, almost afraid to add it all up.
I would say well over 20k in the past three years.

10:47 PM  
Blogger m. said...

Powershot A95, $300.
Wide lens and zoom lens adapters, $200 total. Probably not worth the
money, either.
CF cards, $500 (that may be high).
Card reader, hoodman, and other odds and ends, $100.
Tripod, $350.
So that's around $1500. Definitely on the low end, but never fear--I'm
looking at a low end DSLR. The A95 is nice for a digicam, but I am
pushing the limits.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous josh stromberg said...

nikkormat ftn with 50mm f/2 lens inherited from parents, but lets say worth $100 used. film and processing for 2 years, $400. fujiE550 plus memory card $350. Total $850, so you don't have to be rich to be an enthusiast.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Ian Rees said...

Nikon D70
24mm f/2.8
50mm f/1.4 (borrowed)
105mm f/2.5 AI-S (long term loan)
tripod + ball head

total: less than $1500.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Toby Speight said...

I've spent quite a bit on the hardware (and my 5D is already in camera hospital after having it for less than I waited for it!), but I question spending money on software. I've spent nothing on software (unless you count the blank CDRW I used for the initial Debian boot CD). Hugin, Gimp and the rest cost nothing to install, and are maintained by those with most to gain: their users.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The more you think about cost, the less creative you'll get.

1:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the type of work I like to do (non-people photography) I use:

4x5 kit: $12,000.00
Med format kit: $6,700.00
Leica M6 kit (used): $5,600.00

You can do large format a lot more cheaply, but I really like what I got. I still love film so that's what I use.

I know a fair number of young (20's) enthusiasts from our local Filckr beer drinking & photography group who do quite well with inexpensive cameras, both film and digital. Lots of money isn't really necessary to be good or to have fun with phtoography.

6:48 PM  
Blogger David said...

I have the unfortunate experience of having both the audiophile and photography addictions. About 10 years ago I spent nearly $40K for Mangnepan speakers, Spectral electronics, Theta digital, VPI turntable etc., etc. I had to stop reading the high-end photo mags, because they just made you feel that whatever you purchased last year was far surpassed this year. Of course it wasn't so, but you'd get sucked in. Still I listen to my stereo quite a bit and given the thousands of hours I've enjoyed the music, I haven't regretted the expense at all. I'm just grateful I was able to do it.

Back then analog photography was a pittance in expense compared to the audio expenses. I went from a Nikon 8008s to an F-100 (that I still have), with about three decent Nikkor lenses and the total cost was about $3,000 to $4,000 and no need to engage in any significant upgrade (I've had my own darkroon for years, but I'm not counting that for purposes of responding to Mike's post).

Digital, of course, changed all that. Started with a used Nikon D1x, moved up to a D2X, with several newer pro, VR lenses, a reasonably quick computer with plenty of storage, dual lcd monitors, Photoshop CS2, Epson 4800 printer, Gitzo tripod, RRS Ballhead, etc., for a total somewhere around $15,000 all told. And when Nikon finally comes out with a full frame digital camera, I probably won't be able to resist. But, to be honest, I don't miss the nights in the darkroom till 2:00 a.m. in the morning (but do still miss the magic of watching the print come up in the developer, never got over the "magic" of that and nothing in digital is comparable) and I have no regrets about the expenses. I love the outlet it offers, the creative release, and the richness it adds to my life, not only in taking my own photographs, but in viewing the pictures of well known photographers in books, at exhibitions and a few prints I've purchased and in being involved in something very different than my workaday life (being a lawyer - love it, but need the total break from it that photography offers). All in all, cheaper than psychotherapy.


8:04 PM  
Blogger matt said...

right now, I have about $8k in equipment, but I've also gone through another $13k of bodies and lenses before getting my current system.

9:01 PM  

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