Buying the latest and greatest gear is always at the forefront of photographers minds. With companies coming out with second and third editions to products, it’s no surprise that we are constantly in the market to upgrade. But are we buying gear to keep up with the latest models, or is there really some gear that tends to fail more than others and warrants an upgrade or replacement?
Before you make take your next big leap into making a $1,000+ purchase, we thought we’d ask pros what gear they regret buying and why. We’re also offering some of our favorite alternatives if you’ve encountered some of the same issues with your gear.
“Purchased early on in our career as our first flashes for weddings, the mid-sized Canon 430EX III-RTs seemed to us rookies like they’d be able to do enough for our style – but the price is what really got them over the line. We quickly discovered though that the 430’s just didn’t quite have the right features or the power to cover our lighting needs exactly how we envisioned, forcing us to compromise with workarounds or dismiss certain lighting ideas altogether. The take away here is to first, before anything else, identify exactly what you need (and don’t need) from your new equipment so that you can make sure that all of the options you’re considering will at least be comfortably up to the job. Price should then become a bigger consideration once those needs have been ticked off, or you’ll risk paying more in the long run for poor purchases that need correcting.”
I regret buying my Profoto D1000 Air with it’s accompanying 30lb BatPac. I would haul this thing around on wedding days and while it created beautiful light as seen in the photograph below, it would slow me down, break my back, and was crazy expensive!
“One of my biggest regrets was buying the Sigma 135m f/1.8 lens. The lens is gorgeous; incredibly sharp and quick to focus but at a time when I should be shedding weight it was a poor choice over the Canon 135mm f/2.0 equivalent. The Sigma weighs in at 1.13kg (when teamed up with a Canon 5D4 + Spider Belt plate the overall combined weight is around 2kg). I thought the additional 1/3 stop of light would be helpful in super low light, but in reality, I end up shooting around f2.0 anyway. For now, I’ll keep the lens and use it for portrait and family stuff (like this picture of my daughter taken just outside of our home), but as a piece of wedding photography equipment, it’s not very practical.”
Although this isn’t the same focal length, it gives you a variety of options for compression and a wide aperture. For wedding photographers, this is an all-star lens serving multiple uses throughout the wedding day.
- Canon 70-200 f/2.8 II – $1,799
- Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 – $2,496
- Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 – $1,499
- Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 – $2,598
“Back in 2016, I bought the Phantom 3 Pro (now discontinued) drone thinking I wanted to elevate my photography, but I found it large and cumbersome to carry around to weddings. Also, the sensor just was not that good for photos. Shortly after I purchased it, DJI then released the Mavic Pro. The Mavic was way more compact making it easier to carry along to weddings, and the sensor and field of view were also considerably better for wedding photography. The value of my Phantom dropped a lot after this release, so I quickly sold it and picked up a Mavic. However, I still don’t get to use the drone very often and it’s still such a small sensor that image quality sometimes isn’t where I want it to be. Now that the new Mavic Pro 2 has an amazing Hasselblad camera and sensor on it, I want to upgrade again! But what else will they release in 6 months I wonder?”
Drone tech is evolving with each new model released. DJI’s latest is the Mavic Pro 2 that offers portrait photographers higher quality images to capture at unique angles.
“I regret that I started the wedding photography with zoom lenses. For me, this is my biggest mistake as investing in wedding tools. I like fixed lenses because of the clarity in the image especially when the objects are more than 10 meters away from the camera. I have come to the conclusion that I can not achieve the same quality with my zoom lenses as with the fixed ones.”
“The Profoto B1 (now replaced by Profoto B1X) is the biggest piece of gear that I regret buying. You would think that more expensive a flash, the better it is. That isn’t the case! It doesn’t matter how expensive the light source it, its how you use it and apply it in your creative process.”
The light is just too big to carry around when shooting. You will definitely need an assistant when using it. They’re better options in the marketplace such as the Godox AD200. It’s all the light you will ever need, super simple to use and almost the same size as a speedlight. The Godox AD200 just beats the Profoto B1 in every category.
Photographers sometimes focus so much on handling the gear that you forget the actual artwork process. Every photographer should focus on the creative aspect of the photo. When focusing too much on the gear and handling it you lose out on the creative process. Keep your gear simple & light and watch how your creativity expands.”
“The only piece of gear that I regret buying is the Sigma 35mm Art. Yes, I know that a lot of photographers are crazy for it, but for me, it just doesn’t do the job. Yes, the colors and bokeh are superb but that’s it; the most important thing, the focus, is very bad. When I find myself a few meters away from the subject the only focus I get is on the background. And this happens in 90% of situations. At close range, I don’t have any problems. I tried also to calibrate with the dock but it’s not working. For the photo above, the focus was on background. Luckily I have managed to paste the couple from another well-focused photo to create the final image!”
“Some few years ago, when I still was a DSLR photographer (now I use a mirrorless system) I purchased for the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art. I watched so many reviews, I asked for different opinions, colleagues showed me their work with this lens, and I was so convinced that this will change the way I work. But after I got the lens I struggled a lot, I was very disappointed in the quality of my images using this lens, because the focus was terrible. I went back to my initial Canon 35mm 1.4.”
“That’s an easy question for me to answer, it’s the Canon 5D Mark IV for me. As a former Canon fanboy, I waited for years for Canon to finally answer their competitors and I bought the 5D Mark IV the night it was introduced. Unfortunately, I went through three bodies before finally dumping it for the Sony A9. What was wrong? All three bodies had focusing issues and yes I calibrated all of my lenses. It’s a bittersweet topic for me. Bitter because of the year I spent with a soft-focusing camera and sweet because I love the Sony a9! It feels like I’m cheating while using the A9! The focusing is that good!”
“For me, it’s the Fuji X-Pro 2 I regret buying. Not because it’s a bad camera – honestly, it can be a beast in the right hands. Unfortunately, not in mine. I’m a Canon user since the age of 13 and every time I have one of the Canons with me, everything seems alright – the menu and its structure, the fit in my hands the reliability – everything helps for my ultimate goal and the final image. The Fuji is different. It has a life of its own sometimes and honestly – my brain just doesn’t work like a Fuji. Lesson learned I guess.”
“One of the things I regret buying the most is also one that I use the most! Strobist Flash Gels go for a fortune on photography websites but I later found out if you go down to your local theatre you can buy massive strips of the same gels for a fraction of the price! They use them for all their constant lights and as theatre folk tend to be cash strapped they cost about 5% of the price of those aimed towards professional photographers. Use a bit of CTO and make your wedding portraits pop like the top wedding photographers!”
- MagMod Standard Gel Set – $29.95
“Nothing! I don’t regret buying anything! Do I wish I could get my money back from some of the things I bought? Absolutely. But, I’ve learned from every purchase I made in my career–both the good ones and the bad ones. And the experience and knowledge I’ve gained from that is priceless. For instance, I’m so glad I learned how ANYTHING and EVERYTHING can fail early on in my career when I was doing super cheap weddings and shoots, so that later on when I was doing higher paying weddings or commercial shoots I knew not to ever trust just having one piece of equipment and to always have some form of redundancy, be it lenses, cameras, flashes, memory cards, or whatever, even if other photographers love that particular piece of equipment and it works great for them. Even though a product is good and works for lots of other people – even people who shoot the same things as you – it might not be the best fit for you. You should always test things thoroughly before relying on them in the field for important shoots. And that knowledge is priceless!”
What Alan mentioned is the most important thing to take away from this article. What works for you may not work for someone else, and that’s okay! We all have pieces of gear that fit into our workflow and style.
What gear do you regret buying? Let us know in the comments below!