On GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) by Tim Callister

Tim Callister shares with us his very relatable lesson on GAS. It must be said however, JCH is a proud supporter of GAS and are here to serve your GAS needs. With that, follow along in his cautionary tale:

I’ve bought several cameras hoping they’re going to turn me into a photographer I’m not.” (Nick Carver, Analogue Insights Interview, Aug 2022) 

Most of us can relate to Nick’s experience.

For me it cuts close because I realised recently that I might have let go the camera could turn me into the photographer I could be. Seller’s remorse if you will. The recent launch of Grainery community for Film photographers lets you post your images in what format you want reminded me of the time I owned the ‘perfect’ camera.

In 2019 I was thoroughly disenchanted with my photography. I’d cycled through DSLRs over the years and had become disenchanted with it all. I couldn’t do Photoshop very well and I couldn’t afford all the filters like the pros. At the same time it seemed like most of the YouTubers I followed were all miserable about their craft as well. Digital, was done. Then I found the likes of Matt Day, Karin Majoka and Ben Horne, film photographers who’d mastered their craft in their own way. No filters, no Lightroom or presets needed. Just smooth tones.

Could film be the answer?

I started in film and I knew I could work with it. I just needed the right tool for the job. My first ever “real” camera, a Nikon F55, was a good start, but it was a bit too simple and chewed expensive batteries. A box fresh Nikon FM2n courtesy of Mr Cad in London with the cheapest 50mm lens got me going again. The FM2 is probably the best 35mm camera ever. Had I not learned about larger formats this would be a happy ending.

Owing to (several) lockdowns I got to watching more YouTube. Sitting indoors watching more and more I realised I “had” to have a medium format camera. Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) duly set in.

The Pentaxes, Mamiyas and Rolliflexes were out of my budget. Then I found a Fuji GW690 and traded everything I could for it (including my first ever real camera the Nikon F55). Large plastic box of a camera with a rangefinder and fixed lens, it looked like the most ridiculous point and shoot ever; I was smitten at first sight with the “Texas Leica”.

It was only later that I realised in my excitement I’d overlooked a key detail. I did not have a Fuji GW690 rather the rarer GSW690 model with 65mm f5.6 lens instead of the usual 90mm f3.5. Pretending I meant to do this and that it isn’t really a big difference, I grabbed some HP5 and went out to shoot.

My first shot blew me away.

I’ve can honestly say I’ve never had any image as clean out of camera. The lens is as basic as it gets in terms of lens design. Every time I got the results I thought I would with no filters and a basic Sekonic light meter. 

Not only did it look like a point and shoot, it worked like one. With just a basic understanding of light and composition I took some of my best images with it. Although it’s unwieldy there’s so little to do on it, you focus on what you’re capturing and not on settings. 

Fuji GSW690; Kodak Ekatr 100

Alas the honeymoon was over after only a few rolls of film. I wear glasses and at close focus I could never be sure I had the rangefinder patch lined up. Diopters couldn’t fix it and my frustration grew. I convinced myself it wasn’t that good after all. The lens was too wide and the aperture too slow and you only get 8 shots a roll.

 Fuji GSW690; Ektar 100.

So I sold it.

Shortly after I had a routine eye test. Turns out I didn’t need a diopter; I needed new glasses. Confirmed via use of a Leica M3. I’d given up my ‘perfect’ camera for want of a current prescription.

Of over 15 years working through different camera set ups, this is the one I’ll regret the most. More so now that the Fuji GW690 and GSW690 have doubled in price putting them out of reach for me without sacrificing other gear that works just fine.

And that’s the lesson; it’s just a tool. Chasing gear hoping it will make you a better photographer is a waste of money and time. Your money is better placed buying film and taking the train to places to photograph. Your time is better placed studying the art.


You can see more of Tim’s work here: