Please excuse the noise, I’ve got GAS!


Just so you know you’ve stumbled across a photographic site and not a patient booklet about gastroenterology, GAS = Gear Acquisition Syndrome. In my medical career, we try to be relatively firm about our diagnosis and once it has been made, treatment options have to be considered. What is the evidence that the treatment will work? What is the cost-benefit ratio of this treatment? What are the potential harms? Lastly but most importantly, what are the goals of the treatment? I reflect upon this as a photographer who has been vacillating between various upgrades and have taken a minimal approach. First, the diagnosis:

GAS major criteria

  1. Internet search history contains >50% gear forum and review sites
  2. Everyone who is using craved item is producing images better than yours
  3. >50% of your social media history is involved with discussions about why X is better than Y
  4. >50% of your posts in such discussions ends up being arguments about semantics rather than tangible results.
  5. You start to imagine flaws in your current work that will be fixed by new gear
  6. Any item of gear has a shelf life of <18 months

Minor criteria (CAGE questions)

  1. You feel you should Cut down your gear seeking
  2. You feel Annoyed when people suggest you don’t need said gear
  3. You feel Guilt when looking at the potential cost of said item
  4. You need an Eye opener in the morning to satiate feelings of GAS

Diagnostic formulation :

  1. Explosive GAS = >5 major criteria, any minor criteria
  2. Inconvenient GAS = 3-5 major, >2 minor criteria
  3. Concealable GAS = < 2 major 1-2 minor criteria

My main invented first world dilemma at present is whether to stick with Canon or to shift to Nikon or Sony due to the better sensor technology.  This would be a major commitment with the potential loss many excellent Canon functional aspects. The camera foremost in consideration is the Sony A7R version 2. To understand why we might want to make the switch, our current bodies are the 5dmk3 and 6D. Our main lenses are the 16-35mm F2.8II, 17-40mm F4, 24-70 F2.8 II, 70-200 F2.8II. We use a gitzo and benro carbon fibre tripod and a BH55 RRS ballhead and Benro B2 ballhead. The following is a list of issues I have encountered with our images in recent times.

  1. Inconsistency of quality with wide angle images particularly with corners losing resolution and significant coma in wide angled astro images.
  2. Reduction of image quality when shooting long sessions in cold or damp environments with dirty filters and smudging.
  3. Trouble with flare when shooting into direct light and image quality loss as a result
  4. Trouble with attaining low enough angle to achieve some compositions
  5. Difficulty with blending when exposure bracketing results in different appearance of moving aspects (eg. water motion)
  6. Insufficient resolution to do significant crops for large prints.
  7. Occasional difficulty with isolating subjects using unresponsive peripheral AF points for photographing kids and pets

So , how would a potential switch to Nikon or Sony assist me with the above?

For point 1 : I realised that after upgrading our 24-70 F2.8 (after our original lens took a nasty affinity to concrete from standing height) , it is possible to have images with clean corners and I love our new 24-70mm lens for that! After much thinking, we have chosen to purchase the 16-35mm F4 version to address this issue.

By GAS reports, corner quality is greatly improved in the 16-35mm F4, but it is only an F4 lens so perhaps not ideal for night photography?

For point 2 and 3 , I’ve invested in a box of 5 dollar kim wipes thanks to the recommendation of  Michael Bolino! This will be one of the cheapest remedies if it works and I’ll be bringing a box with us for our upcoming New Zealand trip. Keeping filters clean is also something I should look at and that probably means a lintless filter pouch.

Mannum falls on a cold morning. Smudgy images from forgetting to bring cleaning gear to the field ! Kim wipes to the rescue?

For point 4: I figure I don’t do ultra low perspectives very often but I will admit to looking at several brands of centre columnless tripods. I’m hoping that in certain scenarios, I might even be able to take advantage of the 16-35mm F4 image stabilisation to attempt some low frames for seascapes within the 1/10- 1/4 sec range.

Wreck Beach at dusk. It would have been nice to get lower for this image. I didn’t have time to disassemble the centre column and invert it for this image.

For point 5: I counted a grand total of 2 images from our last 2 week trip where I would have potentially benefitted from not having to blend for dynamic range. One was a seascape into direct light, the other was a shoot into direct light with gale force winds moving clouds very rapidly. The seascape image turned out OK but wasn’t that strong compositionally, the gale affected image was a spot I couldn’t find a decent composition anyway. So was the canon sensor really the issue in both cases? Maybe there will be an occasion in the future where I’d have nailed everything but the dynamic range blending for moving objects killed the image?

Mount William at dusk. The problem here was the rush to get to the summit and inability to find a good subject. Rapidly moving clouds and changing light created blending issues but it wasn’t the main one.

For point 6: I don’t need to switch systems for a megapixel upgrade  but on the other hand, I decided that I was not going to shell out $5k purely for a megapixel update with the 5dsr. I can remember a total of one occasion where a company has rejected an image because of insufficient megapixel count and even on that occasion, Marianne and I were of the impression that the messenger did not know what they were asking (requesting a 200mp non panoramic image). I have recently prepared a group of 5 posters 1.5m wide where the higher megapixel count would certainly have been handy but they still turned out very well.

Roy’s Peak from 2012 shot on the 5dmk3 : Now available as a 1.5m poster! Close viewing will reveal the limitations of resolution.

For Point 7: Much as I love my kids and pets, I don’t think that achieving the crucial composition matters in the long run. I don’t think the major switch to Nikon or Sony would benefit me anyway. If anything, I’d be considering a 7dmk2? I dunno, I haven’t really even invested time into sorting out this problem I don’t really have.

I love taking pictures of the kids but really, they are for fond memories and not intended as fine art masterpieces.

So in summary, I think I’ve remedied my  GAS for now by stepping back and looking at what we would benefit from. Even though we’re constantly on the path of self development and looking to improve, I don’t feel that an upgrade in our bodies is necessarily going to result in a dramatic improvement in our work. It will make some aspects of our shooting and post production easier but honestly, these days with some experience at using luminosity masks it is rare for me to spend more than 5-10 minutes doing an initial blend. It’s all the other post-work that takes the time. We’re lucky to be in a position in life where we could actually afford the upgrade but if we weren’t,  the upgrade price of bodies and lenses would equate to a family holiday to New Zealand for a couple of weeks. I’d rather travel with a little unresolved GAS than sit at home with my temporarily satiated GAS. The problem is that GAS not only relates to photography but outdoor gear, home computers, and basically anything that costs that you potentially don’t really NEED. Or maybe I’m just arguing all of this out because in reality I’m a miser with GAS – ugh, hand me the infant’s mashed prunes!!

Hammersley Gorge, Karijini National Park. With fine details extending into the corners, I'm hoping the 16-35mm F4 will give improved performance. Dynamic range wasn't too limiting here but the increased resolution for a potential large print would have been nice!

Hammersley Gorge, Karijini National Park. With fine details extending into the corners, I’m hoping the 16-35mm F4 will give improved performance. Dynamic range wasn’t too limiting here but the increased resolution for a potential large print would have been nice!

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Posted on August 28, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Only a GAS Freak would look at a 1.5 m wide poster close up! “The Lesser Photographer” is a good cure for GAS and your photographic skills surpass any gear ability! Enjoy another holiday.

  2. Hi Dylan a good read thanks for the post. I can’t think of any one camera/lens combo that will handle astro, cold damp environs, flare, low camera angle, moving objects, crops, kids and pets. I’ve just upgraded to the 5D3 and 16-35 f4, I’m glad to hear that a photographer of your caliber has the same gear.
    Don’t upgrade your doing just fine as it is
    Enjoy NZ (again)

  3. Loved this blog very much. You have touched on some very common “issues” we all seem to have with our gear in a very light-hearted but still profound manner. The obsession for gear upgrades is a dangerously expensive slippery slope, and getting the cost-benefit right is always a challenge. I’m far from a gear head, (although I do spend an unhealthy amount of time on Fredmiranda) and try to convince myself that the major issue that stops my photographs from being awesome is me! Thanks for the write-up!

    • No worries Camillo ! I always try to make light of potentially serious issues with a take home message. Hope that came through for you! How awesome we feel we are is another whole discussion. Many of the best suffer from ‘imposter’ syndromes !

  4. Ingrid Van Streepen

    Hi Dylan, I enjoyed reading this and agree with all of the above. My theory is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. :).
    Your photos are always superb, so a new camera won’t make them better.
    Cheers,
    Ingrid.

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