20

What is this GAS that all the pros talk about?

It sounds pretty bad. How do I avoid it?

Is there a cure?

  • 5
    Ask your bank manager for a bigger line of credit. – Crazy Dino May 24 '18 at 19:26
  • 6
    @CrazyDino He said "avoid", not "indulge"! – chrylis May 24 '18 at 23:43
  • 3
    Owning gear without using it damages it severely over the years. Manual pieces need to be moved (springs, oiled mechanisms), electronic devices need to be charged and discharged regularly, equipment has to not be collecting dust, be checked for fungus, etc – MicroMachine May 25 '18 at 1:26
  • 8
    @MicroMachine - the only sentence missing from your comment is "so, to keep this from happening, send me your gear and I'll make sure it stays fungus free" – Hueco May 25 '18 at 1:50
  • 3
    All the pros talk about it? GAS affects non-pros much more than pros I would say... – osullic May 25 '18 at 13:36
41

"GAS" is a joking acronym for "Gear Acquisition Syndrome" — basically, a hobby that is adjacent to photography. See also "Lens Acquisition Syndrome" and similar. It means buying new equipment for its own sake, and a drive to keep doing so, probably with an ever-increasing budget.

I don't think it's necessary bad. There can be something fun about following the technology trends, or being a collector. As collection hobbies go, lenses (either old or new) seems just as reasonable as stamps or baseball cards. And it's worth noting that this isn't specific to photography — one hears similar in other areas where there is both a creative aspect and a tools component. I think the term actually came from musicians (as that's where I can find earliest use of the term), and there is a similar thing with buying tools in woodworking.

This "syndrome" is often accompanied by a fixation on technical data and an obsession with review sites, forums, and rumor sites. I'm sure a lot of us here can at least relate ­— answering questions on this site is another photography-adjacent hobby, and (um) people with "GAS" are often quite knowledgeable about all kind of technical details.

The problem is when what you really want to do is actual photography, but you're kind of itchy and unsatisfied, and you start to think that buying something new will fix it. (See for example How to get back to photography after having a long break?) And buying something new sometimes works! Maybe that new lens or flash or lighting modifier will help you see in a new way and break the rut. But, it might also only be a temporary jolt, leaving you back where you were, only to spend more money again and again.

One fix? Before you buy something, try something new with what you have. Only buy something new when it fills a specific need — never because you feel bored with what you have.

Another suggestion: if you're in the habit of reading camera gear focused blogs and sites (I'm lookin' at you, Digital Photography Review) daily, switch it up. Those sites basically run on GAS (sorry — can't help the pun!) so of course they have incentive to encourage it. Instead, make an internet reading list centered on making photographs. Frequent sites which are all about discussing, showing, and sharing photographs rather than technology or equipment.

If you must buy something, try a book — maybe something about the creative side of photography from Michael Freeman's The Photographer's Eye series, but even better, try a book of photographs by someone you admire. Or, a compromise: Why Photographs Work (which never offers "this works because it was shot with the latest full-frame and $3k lens").

As the humorous acronym suggests, this isn't usually a serious term. It's said by enthusiasts who spend a lot of money on an expensive hobby to poke fun at themselves a bit, to maybe assuage a bit of guilt through self-deprecating humor. Occasionally, I do see it as a complaint or a warning, particularly when someone seems obsessed with buying a full-frame camera or big heavy lenses with special-colored rings when they don't seem to really be getting the most out of what they have in terms of actually making photographs. But even then ­— it's okay for people to have this adjacent hobby, as long as that's what they want and they're not fooling themselves.

  • On the DPReview Pentax forum they coined the term LBA: Lens Buying Addiction, back in 2004. Just another TLA. – Mark Ransom May 24 '18 at 20:34
  • 5
    I once read on a messageboard the quip that the only relief from GAS is TUMS (Time to Unload My Stuff). :) I also tend to quote this What the Duck strip. – inkista May 24 '18 at 21:14
  • You might want to mention DPReview is owned by Amazon. :D – inkista May 25 '18 at 18:41
  • @inkista #1630 will forever be my favorite WTD. – Michael C May 25 '18 at 20:33
  • I'll add mine: #1606:) – flawr May 26 '18 at 15:05
7

The only thing missing from the other answers is a reference to the well circulated Letter to George, which is written by Michael Johnston, the former well known editor of Camera & Darkroom magazine who later became editor-in-chief of Photo Technique. I always took it to be written from the point of view of a camera salesperson who wants to give a friend the 'inside scoop' on how to not fall for all of the other camera salesperson's tricks to maximize their sales commissions.

In it, "Mike" explains to "George" why he recommended an expensive, top-of-the-line camera right off the bat to "George" when he asked what camera he should buy to start doing photography. It was to save him the time and expense of spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) before he bought that model anyway.

Then there is this one from the archives of What the Duck, a cartoon strip that took a humorous look at the many aspects of photography. In this strip we meet a duck who started out with photography as a hobby but then transitioned to another hobby: justifying purchases of photographic equipment.

enter image description here

6

The less obvious risks of GAS (other than to your bank balance) were nicely summarized by Ansel Adams in his introduction to The Camera:

It is easy to confuse the hope for accomplishment with the desire to possess superior instruments

2

One possible way to avoid GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is rental, so you can try something out for an extended period without purchasing it. This way you have the reality of the tool in your hands to compare against the possibly romantic ideal you may have created in your head about the shiny new gear. Disillusionment may be enough to keep you from purchasing.

OTOH, this approach can backfire. It's how I ended up with an X100T when I really wasn't planning to, because I thought that renting an X100S for a week would just be fun. :)

  • 1
    This is why I haven't yet rented the Pentax 645Z. I did rent the 85 f/1.2...and now I look at my 100 f/2 like it's a red headed step child. * sigh * – Hueco May 25 '18 at 21:00
  • @Corey, my sympathies. I avoided renting the Canonball by dint of owning a 135L. :) – inkista May 25 '18 at 21:22
  • I was really torn over a potential upgrade from the 100 to the 135. But, decided to sink the money into the 400 f/5.6. I spend a lot of time outside and at the zoo these days...and am now wanting that 500 :-). GAS is all too real with wildlife shooting. Always need to go longer! – Hueco May 25 '18 at 22:12
  • 2
    @Corey. I love my 400/5.6 for the birding, but for zoo shooting it's often too close and make me want a 100-400L We're totally not making the case for easing GAS, though... :) – inkista May 25 '18 at 23:09
  • My 100/2 suffered the same fate when I found a good deal on a 135/2 less than a year after buying the 100/2 (partly because I was beginning to think I'd never find a deal on a 135/2). Anyone want to swap an 85/1.8 for a barely used 100/2? – Michael C May 25 '18 at 23:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.