Okay, so it’s time to upgrade your gear. You’re quite sure it’s not just another case of G.A.S.; this time isn’t about trying to keep up with market trends. You really have outgrown your starter camera; you’re ditching all those variable aperture zoom lenses; you’ve taken up macro or wildlife photography. There are quite a few logically sound reasons why you might need to purchase new photography gear.
One of the biggest obstacles that prospective buyers encounter is cost. I’m very sure we’ve all had one of those, “Why so expensive!?” moments. Sticker shock will cause some people to empty their virtual shopping carts and turn off the computer, while others will just bite the bullet and click “buy.” But there is a way — a few ways — to get the gear you want without having to sell one of your internal organs.
Photo by frankieleon
Here are some ideas.
Renting gear is great when you need a particular piece of equipment that you might only use a couple of times. Renting an 800mm lens is far more cost effective than buying one. Of course renting does costs money, and things can get pretty expensive for bigger items and for longer rental periods, so you would be wise to take a measured approach here.
If you have a friend or family member who is also into photography, you might get lucky and discover that not only do they have the gear you’re interested in, but they’re also willing to let you use it for a while. Borrowing gets you all the benefits of renting minus the monetary commitment.
3. Play the Waiting Game
We are bombarded with new photography gear on a regular basis, each new model seemingly much cooler and more advanced than the model before it. But you probably don’t need the latest model; the advantage of waiting for the newest model to release is knowing that the previous model will undergo a price drop. Picking up new old stock is wonderful way to upgrade your gear and save a few dollars.
Photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli
4. Buy Used
Many people are understandably leery of buying used gear; when you’re planning to spend a significant amount of money, you want as little risk as possible involved in your purchase, and buying used from people you don’t know simply escalates the risk factor. There are, however, a number of reputable online outlets that sell used gear at great prices and offer customer-friendly return/exchange policies. Adorama.com, B&H, and KEH.com are good places to embark on your hunt for used gear. Some rental sites also have a small selection of used gear available for sale, and others even allow you to put the cost of your rental toward the purchase of gear.
Then there are the old standbys eBay and Craigslist — do your research and proceed with caution. And don’t forget to check local classified ads, camera stores, and pawn shops.
Photo by Kevin Dooley
5. Buy Non-OEM
Nikon and Canon have long been two of the most recognizable names in the digital photography world, and rightfully so. Nikon and Canon lenses have earned their stellar reputation, but are typically rather pricey. Tamron, Tokina, and Sigma make several lenses that are competitive with (occasionally better than) their major brand counterparts but at a lower cost.
You can also find other off-brand photo accessories, such as batteries and lens hoods, that work just as well as the big name versions but can be had at a fraction of the cost. You will want to do some research, though, as not all third party manufacturers are created equal.
Photo by Pete Slater
6. Sell Your Old Stuff
If you’ve got unused gear sitting around, sell it. You’re obviously not going to get back all that you put into it, but something is better than nothing; any amount you get will help further offset the cost of new gear. The same outlets listed above in the “Buy Used” section are also ideal places to consider selling your gear.
Photo by Chris Palmer
7. Pace Yourself
You don’t have to get everything on your wishlist all at once. Perhaps pick up one lens at a time, and get the best lens you can afford; if you go with prime lenses, you’ll almost certainly get the best bang for your buck. And be sure to make the most of your purchases; don’t get sucked into a pointless upgrade cycle — use what you've got until you've mastered it, then move on. You will have gear to sell on top of all the other money-saving measures we've covered.