Collecting Cameras – When No Is Not An Option

It’s all too easy to get sucked into the incredible breadth and range of old cameras available to us – more than any time before in our lifetimes – or indeed anyone’s lifetime in history.

A quick browse on eBay tonight shows 18139 film cameras, 32014 digital cameras and 32341 lenses for sale in the UK – and this was excluding any gear available to UK buyers from sellers in other countries.

Adding to your camera collection is unbelievably simple, and just a couple of clicks away.

The harder option is to say “No thanks, I already have all I need to make photography a rewarding and fulfilling experience”.

Looking wider than photography, we’re in a culture saturated by options and the constant pressure to buy, accumulate, upgrade.

Whilst clothes shopping with our daughter recently, we visited a popular clothing chain called New Look.

Each fitting room had the usual hooks to hang the stuff you want to try on, and your own clothes while you’re doing so.

What caught my eye was the clever labelling of the clothes hooks.

The first was “My Stuff”.

Pretty logical, this is where you put your existing clothes whilst trying on the others.

Next along was “Definitely”.

I’m assuming this is for clothes you try on and like enough to want to buy, without further debate.

The third hook was marked “Maybe”.

Where you hang clothes you like to a degree but might need some further thought before committing to a purchase.

As my eyes scanned along, I was expecting the fourth hook to be labelled “No”, “Wouldn’t be seen dead in it” or even “Not this time”.

But there was no fourth hook.

Now this might seem trivial, and even quite a fun and innocuous arrangement of hooks.

But how many young girls and women who shop here are constantly exposed to just these two options – Definitely or Maybe – with the conspicuous absence of No?

How many feel – perhaps not the first time, but over subsequent visits – that if they take something into the changing room, it’s difficult to change your mind and actually say “No I don’t like this at all, so I’m not going to buy it”?

That once you’ve stepped a toe across that fitting room threshold, there’s no backing down, and the only outcome is that money will be spilt, however ugly and ill-fitting the garments…

It’s similar to how I used to feel with eBay.

They use similarly clever techniques, of course, like your Watch List.


Once something is on that list, psychologically you’re one step closer to owning it – and wanting to own it.

When that message pops up in your email inbox reminding you there’s limited time remaining, you go and check the bidding, and see how long is left.

It’s another subtle but significant step towards wanting it, and with camera gear, by this time you’re probably imagining how it will feel in your hands, what it will be like to use, and of course what kind of amazing photographs it will enable you to take that, up until now, those 137 other cameras and lenses you’ve previously used have failed to extract from that dormant master photographer within you.

With the auction running down, this anticipation and connection ramps up further still, and the option to say no and step away becomes ever more difficult to take.

I’m fact with “no” out of the picture, and “maybe” rapidly disappearing in your view mirror, “definitely” has become your only desirable outcome for this race.

On one level, marketing absolutely fascinates me, and how even a handful of words can lodge themselves in our psyche and start to influence how we think, clouding our ability to follow our previously clear and objective judgement.

But on another level, I’m all too aware of the dangers and the pitfalls,and the ultimately when we’re constantly chasing any summitless mountain of stuff, we’re never happy.

My personal solution is pretty straightforward. Stay away from eBay!

If you’re happily married, you’d be foolish to spend every evening in a singles bar.

If you’re happy with your cameras, it’s equally dangerous to be constantly looking at others, in case they might be 1 or 2% “better”, more interesting, or higher spec’d than those you already have.

We’ve talked about the “All I Need Illusion” before, and even very recently about how to stop buying camera gear, but it’s a topic I feel strongly enough about – and a behaviour I have been caught reverting to far too often in the past few years – to feature once again.

In the end, on our clothes shopping trip, our daughter didn’t much like anything she tried on, and happily returned it all to the rails.

So perhaps I’m overestimating the psychological strength of young minds.

But that underlying message – that no is not option – is frighteningly prevalent in our consumer culture, and only leads to dissatisfaction.

We’d do well to remember that when it comes to buying yet another camera, no is always an option.

How about you? Do you still get lured into buying more camera gear even though you already have all you need? What helps you resist? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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7 thoughts on “Collecting Cameras – When No Is Not An Option”

  1. As you know I’ve had hundreds of cameras, and now don’t. I recently had fun shooting through a few old ones I retained. I still look at new cameras and evaluate them. I still have a certain desire to “add to the collection”, but so far my willpower has held out.
    But there is always that inclination because cameras are such interesting devices. I know that one day the Zen will be right and something new, or at least new to me, will be added.

    1. Marc, yes I agree that virtually all cameras are intriguing in some way, because they all perform the magic of capturing an image, in some form. I guess we have to look for the ones that are more magical than others!

  2. I too have largely avoided internet auction sites recently, partly because of my very real poverty, mostly because I have way too much gear already. Most of my equipment was bought many years ago when prices were much, much lower, and I have already sold off some of the choice pieces to a camera dealer I have done business with in Vermont for many years. When I recently needed an accessory for my discontinued Panasonic camera, I was able to find it in like-new condition on the ‘Bay in less than five minutes, and it was in my hands in two days. That is very handy. I was reminded of something an elderly friend said to me one day as I was raving about some new handy gadget “We are selling our souls for handy”. The next year will find me doing more selling than buying for sure.

    1. In my rush to comment Reader dropped me from one blog to another! Or finger trouble, I don’t know which. Avoiding ebay might be a good thing for me too, I keep looking at cameras that I already have enough of….and I am running out of room!

      1. For me it was not so much physical room, but mental room, or cognitive load, put another way.

        Having that mental burden and challenge of choosing which set up to go with every time I want to go on a photo walk was just so debilitating.

        So much easier to say “I need to grab my camera before I leave” than “I need to make a lengthy and well reasoned decision about which camera to take and then grab the one that comes out top, which might take anything from six seconds to 60 minutes” every time…

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