Spending vs investing

People often ask me “what should I buy?”

Interesting question, and one that occupies all of us.

To answer it, keep in mind that cameras will last for no longer than as little as seven years. Even Chuck Westfall of Canon said the other day:

“…digital cameras are no longer repaired by manufacturers seven years after the end of production”

Keep this in mind when deciding to invest. Realistically, five years is the most you’ll keep a camera. Less, usually: something cooler will become available next year.

Lenses are a different story. Lenses, especially good lenses like Canon’s “L”-range, will last you for decades and will keep much of their value for most of this time.

Buying cameras is spending; buying lenses is investing. Get the fastest (lowest “F”-number) lenses you can get, and enjoy.

Remember: when considering a lens, the lower the f-number, the better. Lower F-numbers (like f/2.8) mean the lens has more glass and lets more light in. In practice a lower f-number means three things:

  1. You can use the lens in lower light
  2. You can get faster shutter speeds
  3. You can blur the background more

So look at your lens.At the front. It says “1:3.5-5.6”, doesn’t it? That’s a kit lens. Ideally, you want a lens that says “2.8” or maybe “4”, meaning f/2.8 or f/4.Or maybe a fixed 50mmlens — 50mm f/1.8 is very affordable and stunning quality.

Anyway – what you should buy is up to you. I would put “good lenses” first and put useful accessories, like light shapers, flashes, spare batteries, etc high on the list also.


0 thoughts on “Spending vs investing

  1. A friend has a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM on his EOS-40D. It is a lovely piece of optical and mechanical engineering, and built like the proverbial tank. But that extra glass to get the speed and the extra metal to get the durability means it is big, conspicuous and heavy.

    You cannot blend into the background with this lens on your camera – he looked like someone shooting the FA Cup Final (Super Bowl for the Americans). Plus if you like to walk in a tropical country the extra weight makes a huge difference.

    Note he didn’t have the IS version which is bigger and heavier still.

    A while ago you blogged about a better camera strap: http://blog.michaelwillems.ca/2009/10/31/hold-it/

    I use the standard Canon strap. Does this strap and the other one you looked at make a difference to carrying a body + big L lens?

    Nevertheless, I think you’ve persuaded me. When I have between US$1,500 and US$2,000 in my budget I’ll spend it on a L lens that I can pass on to my children rather than a EOS-7D body that’ll be out of date before the end of 2010.

    • Do you believe that the extra cost / weight / size of IS on the 70-200 L is worth it?

      Is there any quality trade off with an IS lens vs. a non-IS of the same specs like the 70-200 F2.8 L? I’m guessing that the IS cannot be “free” in image quality terms and maybe in robustness too. I bet there are some laws of physics for me to learn here.

      • Yes, IS on a lens that long is definitely worth it. I am not often that black-and-white, but in this case – yes. Worth the extra money and every time i use this lens I thank the deities that I have it. The non-IDS lens is fine too.. but just look through the IS lens and turn IS off/on to see what I mean.

  2. The 70-200 2.8 IS is heavy and bulky and stands out like a sore thumb… but its gorgeous to use- lots of light at 2.8, or excellent quality at F4.

    Rumor has it Canon is coming out with a new version of the lens, so if you can, get a hold of your retailer and see if you can negotiate the price a bit. I know someone who got it for USD1450, new.

  3. Michael, what your thoughts are on keeping the UV filter on all the time? I was told by a professional photographer not to use the filter unless you are shooting in a harsh environment, because the filter can greatly degrade the image quality. He said a better way to protect the lens is to use the lens hood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *