The Evolution Of My Photography Gear

After getting more photo gear in the mail today, I just realized how much stuff I have acquired in my quest to become a better photographer. It's been four years since I started that quest, and I didn't even realize what I was getting into when I started. Here's my story.

Prior to 2003, I had a piece of junk 35mm point and shoot camera — the kind you take pictures with when you go on vacation, only to have about half of them turn out bad. I had no intentions of getting into photography, and I was perfectly happy with that. Then something happened.

2003 – The Beginning

My son was born. We found ourselves taking more photos than we ever had before. The film was getting to be a hassle. It was about this time that digital cameras were picking up in the consumer market. In April of 2003 we picked up an Olympus D560 at 3.2 megapixels and 3x zoom at a price of $300. It was good to us, and we took over 4500 photos with it before it died of telescoping lens failure in February 2005. Just before its death, our second child was born and we were taking even more photos.

2005 – Going Deeper

With a new baby in the house, we couldn't go without a camera. By this time I had my taste of photography. It grew on me and I was intrigued by it. I did my homework and found a nice ultra-zoom that would give me a little more room for growth. In February of 2005, I picked up a Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3 at 4.0 megapixels and 12x zoom at $400. I was still taking lots of kid pictures, but I started taking photos of other things too. I was exploring the camera controls and learning how to compose my shots better. I also started working with Photoshop more heavily at this point. It's been a great camera that really made me serious about photography, and it's still alive and well today with over 5500 photos under its belt.

2006 – Getting Serious

There came a point when the ultra-zoom started holding me back from growing as a photographer — March of 2006. I got myself a birthday present. After doing months of research on dSLRs, I came to the conclusion that I was getting a Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D (now the Sony Alpha is the closest equivalent) with a 6 megapixel sensor and all kinds of buttons and knobs. I spent $1100 on the camera body only to find out that a few months later they were bought out by Sony and my camera was selling at WalMart for $500. I was ticked, but oh well. I also picked up a Konica Minolta Maxxum 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 lens (which now only has a Sony equivalent) as my first glass for around $450. Within a month, I picked up the Minolta 3600HS flash unit for another $300 along with a backpack, cheap tripod, lens cleaning kit, UV filter, extra battery, and extra memory card for an additional $350 or so. I was in heaven. But I was also out $2300. It didn't matter because I was in heaven. I've taken over 3500 shots with the camera so far. All the while, I've been keeping up with the latest versions of Photoshop — from version 6 through CS3.

A few months after I got my camera, we decided to pick up a pocket camera for everyday stuff that would be easier to travel with than the DiMAGE. In June of 2006 we got an Olympus u720SW at 7 megapixels and $400 because it was shockproof and waterproof — essential for traveling in my wife's purse. It's been a good little camera, and it fits right into my pocket when I don't want to lug my monster around. We've only taken about 1300 photos with it, but it's still young.

I've also started getting photo gear for Christmas. This last year, my parents picked me up a Giottos MM-9160 monopod and a Kenko 25mm Uniplus Extension Tube. Hooray!

2007 – Going Overboard

Is that the end? No. Not yet. In March of 2007 (for my birthday again) I picked up two new lenses. I wanted something that would go well with my already versatile 18-200mm lens. I ended up getting a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens for around $350 and a Sigma 10-20mm f/4-6.3 EX DC HSM for around $470. I haven't put a lot of miles on them yet, but they're a lot of fun to shoot with. I also decided that it was time for a nicer tripod so I got a Slik Pro 700DX ($130) and a Slik AF2100 Pistol Grip Ballhead ($80). That tripod is bulletproof. I just got it in the mail, and I started playing with it — what a difference!

What's Next?

Is THAT the end? I thought so, but Michael Brown is putting bad ideas in my head with reversing rings and 50mm primes. Darn that guy! Next year, I want to pick up a super telephoto… something like the Tamron 200-500mm f/5-6.3. I had my eye on that one, but I opted for the two lenses instead. I also want to get a ring flash and a macro focusing rail eventually, but I haven't picked them out yet. And someday, when my camera dies, I'll probably pick up one of the new Sony dSLRs that have yet to be released.

Did any of you “experienced” photographers go through the same type of evolution? Exponential spending, more equipment than you can drag around with you?

And are any of you “less than experienced” photographers going through the same evolution? I'm not trying to “brag” about the photo gear I have (it's really not much compared to a pro), I'm trying to give a heads up to any of you heading down the path of serious photography — it's not cheap, and it's addictive.

Am I normal, or just an obsessive spender heading for the poorhouse? Either way, I'm having a good time.