Gear Allergy Syndrome

Kyoto, 2015
Kyoto, 2015

We talk about the evils of “G.A.S.” (gear acquisition syndrome). But what if we embraced the opposite — G.A.S. (Gear Allergy Syndrome)?

Allergic to spending money

What if we become allergic to spending money on the superfluous?

Not to become a miser or a scrooge, but to be more economical. To really spend money on what we need, not what we want.

Why am I allergic to gear?

I still love looking at new gear. But I feel allergic to the idea of acquiring new gear.


When you acquire new gear, there is more stress and complication in life.

More cameras means more cameras to charge. More cameras means more complication in your workflow, and how to post-process your photos (all cameras have different sensors).

More lenses means more stress. More lenses means more options to shoot with. And whenever you want to go out and shoot, having to choose which lens to use and which lens not to use, is additional stress.

Having film and digital cameras means that you have to always carry both cameras with you. Or if you only carry one of these cameras, you might with you had the other camera with you.

Don’t compare apples to apples

Another strategy that helps me is to think to myself: “Instead of spending my money on this gear, what could I spend this money on instead?”

For me, here are some better investments of money:

  • Traveling
  • Buying photo books
  • Attending workshops or classes
  • Going to a coffee shop (and ordering my expensive single-origin espressos)
  • Taking out a loved one or friend to a nice meal
  • Having more cash in the bank, as a buffer for emergencies
  • Paying off debt — to feel less stressed by the burden of debt

For example, when you want to buy a $2000 camera — how many plane tickets could that buy you? How many good (and cheap) meals could you have with that? How many photo books could you buy with that money? How many espressos could you buy with that?

More weight, more stress

I’m trying to embrace an ‘ultralight’ lifestyle— physically, mentally, and spiritually.

If I accrue more gear (cameras, tablets, laptops, gadgets, etc) — I will add more physical weight to the stuff I need to carry around. And more gear requires more maintenance, updates, and stress.

On a daily basis, I carry my backpack around. The more stuff I need to carry with me, the more physical pain in my shoulders. And the heavier my bag of stuff, the less I can walk before I get tired.

I don’t want to add any weight via acquiring more stuff. Rather, I want to continue to shed my possessions, to become as ultralight as possible.

This is why I prefer having a compact camera (Ricoh GR II). I use that as my new benchmark; I will only trade that camera for another camera (the same weight, but better performance), or for a camera even lighter.

It is all more similar than dissimilar

Another lesson I’ve learned from reviewing tons of gear— all the stuff out there is far more similar than dissimilar.

iPhone vs Android? Much more similar than dissimilar.

All the digital cameras out there? Far more similar than dissimilar.

There are no more bad cameras. All the cameras out there (including smartphones) take incredible images. The only difference now with cameras is the design, styling, and ergonomics.

You want to find a camera that suits your personality, fits comfortably in your hand, and is easy to operate for you. Don’t optimize for having the “best” image quality or whatever— I recommend trying to have the least-cumbersome camera, with the least amount of complication. Choose the camera which is easiest to always have with you, and to always capture the “decisive moment” whenever possible.

It’s not a big deal

For me, after using super-expensive cameras or gear, I’ve learned: “It’s not really a big deal. I thought it was a lot better than I imagined.”

For others, it can go opposite. They can get hooked to the gear.

But honestly, I recommend trying out super-expensive cameras. You will find out that they aren’t that big of a deal. Sure the build quality might be a bit better, and the image quality might be a little bit better, but not enough to justify an “upgrade” or massive amounts of cash.

I got over my obsession with cameras in the last year or so. But I still lusted after all these exotic sports cars. But recently, I sat in a few high-end luxury cars. And then I realized, “It is just another car at the end of the day— a box with 4 wheels. Sure the interior is more luxurious, and it goes faster— but does that really matter when you’re stuck all-day in traffic anyways?” I then also realized I would prefer to uber everywhere instead of buying a new car (as I can take naps in an uber, and not have to stress about parking).

What will you gain by not acquiring that new gear?

Another way to think about it — ask yourself: What do I gain by not acquiring this new gear?

By not upgrading your camera, you learn how to have more gratitude for the gear you already have.

By not upgrading, you figure out how to be more creative — by figuring out how to use your limitations as a “creative constraint.”

By not acquiring more gear, you will not add more complexity and stress to your life. You will gain more peace, tranquility, and serenity.

The less gadgets you own, the less stuff you need to charge.

Don’t buy anything new for a year

We all live in a consumerist society, and are always pressured to buy more stuff, consume more, and to always be upgrading.

As an experiment, try not to buy any new gear for a year. You will have less stress, more satisfaction for what you have, and fewer complications in your life.

Make the best of what you have. And let your limited gear be a “creative constraint.”


Learn how to cure yourself of gear acquisition syndrome >