NEW COURSE: MATT K’s Guide to Bird Photography… Now On Sale

(photo courtesy of Fotolia.com)

A couple of weeks ago on our live weekly show, The Grid (video is below), RC Concepcion and I thought it’d be cool to do an entire show on gear. Basically, we put it out there and just said “ask questions”. In our jobs, we get to deal with gear quite a bit. We get to see a lot of it. Test out a lot of gear. And we talk to a lot of people who’ve tried things out and had success or failure. Well, the feedback was overwhelming. It was impossible to get through all of the questions but I think we made it through a lot of them.

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Anyway, after the show (and during actually), I started noticing a lot of comments that contradicted what we said. Some one would ask us our opinion on the 70-200mm lens and we’d say we love it. But then some one would comment and say that the 85mm lens was much better for portraits. Some one else would say they swear by the 135mm and that the other’s were total crap. Then some one would agree and say the 70-200mm lens is the best lens they ever owned.

Well, it got me thinking about something I heard years ago when I first got in to photography and I still live by it today when it comes to gear. See, years ago I was trying to buy a lens and couldn’t decide because every review I read and every forum I searched, pointed me in a different way. Then a friend of mine said something really simple and something I still follow today: “Use what your friends use”.

The Best Gear Advice I’ve Ever Been Given

I’ve shared that advice “Use what your friends use” with many people when they’ve come up and asked me whether they should buy a Canon or Nikon. Or Mac or PC. Or… well, you get it. And many have come back and thanked me. But the idea is something I personally still live by today. I buy what my friends buy. I have a certain group of people who I trust (that’s the most important word here by the way) and I tend to buy what they turn me on to, or recommend. I do look online at review articles/blogs and the overall tone, but those are tough. First off, I don’t personally know the reviewer many times, and it’s hard to find some one who shoots what I shoot, the way I shoot it, with the gear I’m researching. Once in a while I get lucky and see a review from an industry friend who I trust, and that helps a lot. But more often, it doesn’t go that way.

What About Amazon Reviews?

Then you have reviews like you have on Amazon.com or other places. The problem with those is that they’re usually all over the place. Every once in a while you find something that’s all 5-star. But that’s rare. Most of the time, it’s lower. Then you have to start searching through the bad reviews to really see what’s going on. If those bad reviews are meaningless (let’s say the person is unhappy with shipping, or they’re just one of those complainer-type people), then I usually discount that review and will feel comfortable with going with the product based on the 5-star reviews I saw. But again, it’s not always that easy and sometimes a product I’m buying isn’t on Amazon.

Plus, those reviews are great for finding out how people like a specific 70-200mm lens, but they aren’t great for figuring out if that lens is better for what you’re looking for than another one may be. Basically, they tell you how the product is, but they don’t help you choose between several products.

How About Forums?

Ugh! Forums. I think I just threw up in my mouth 😉 Sadly, I’ve long abandoned them. It’s not just that forums are old in terms of our current technology today. But I more just dislike the overall tone in forums. I’ve posted in forums and just been told that I should “Google it!”. Gee… thanks :-/ When I’ve asked for gear advice, I’ve been given 12 different options (usually from one person), and been told “you should just buy what you can afford”. Wow! Thanks again! So forums are pretty much the last place I go to.

The Worst Way to Research Gear

In my opinion the worst way to research gear is to go with public opinion. I’ve always known this, but the comments we got on the show, and in all of the places after the show solidified it to me once again. From looking at some of them, you’d think we were the stupidest people in the world. Hey, everyone has an opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion (you know what opinions are like right 😉 ). I’m cool with that. But when it comes to gear research, I just think it’s confusing. You’ll confuse the hell out of yourself by looking online at all of the available options you have in a Google search.

About a year ago, I posted that was thinking of getting Lasik surgery. I went for a couple of consults and thought I knew what I needed to know about it. Then I started researching online. Bad move! I researched my way in to being paralyzed. I couldn’t make a decision. It sucked. I was stuck. And it wasn’t until I asked a friend of mine, who I totally trusted on this topic, their opinion. They told me they thought I should hold off. And I did because I trust them.

Find a Trusted Source

If you’re researching gear, the best advice I have for you is to find a trusted source. Some one who thinks a bit like you. Shoots something close to what you like to shoot. And hopefully, some one who is in the same financial situation as you so they have a better feel for how you spend your money. If you have a close friend, then great. If not, then try to find some one online who you trust. If it’s RC and I during a gear show, then great. If not, then no sweat. But try to find some one (or a small group of people), and go with their opinion. I’m tellin’ ya, you’ll be thankful in the long run.

One More Thing – Try Renting

So what happens if you’re just stuck? You don’t have a friend who can help, and you really just can’t find anything online to help out. Try renting. Of course this won’t work with camera bags, prints, and many other gear-related things. But it can definitely help out a lot. And if you can’t rent, there’s so  many good reputable companies in this industry that stand by their product, that if you’re not satisfied, there’s usually something you can do. In other words… if my advice doesn’t work for you, you still do have options.

Oh, by the way…The show I mentioned is below if you’d like to watch it. It has RC in his patented “I give up!” pose with his hands 😉

Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one!

 

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