Why I Traded My $1600 Lens for the One that Cost $100

OK, that’s not the financial transaction, I didn’t give away $1500…but I did replace the lens physically, here’s why –

I did it to myself.  I have no one to blame but me.  After spending two days with other photographers at a workshop last year, I decided I needed it.  That seemed to be the lens of choice.  I had to have it.  It would make me legit.  There’s something about that little red ring that makes you feel something special…Another lens with a little red ring would make me feel legit.  It took another workshop, a year later, to realize how wrong I was.

I hadn’t taken my own advice  – “don’t buy new gear until you know why what you have doesn’t work for you anymore, and what the new equipment will do for you instead”.  It wasn’t my gear that wasn’t working for me, it was my brain.  It’s something often called the “comparison monster”, and I fed it $1600 and my confidence, and it ate it up, leaving me nothing.

I know this wasn’t the only time, and I’m not the only one.  We all do it in our everyday lives.  We compare our average day to someone else’s highlight real.  We let that monster in, and once it’s there, it’s hard to get it out.

That lens (Canon 50mm f/1.2L) sat in my bag for almost a year.  I used it less than a half dozen times, and more often than not, I forced myself to use it to try to learn to love it.  Over that time, I learned:

1.  My clients didn’t love me any more because I had that lens in my bag.
2.  I didn’t love my photography any more because I had that lens.
3.  I didn’t feel any more legit.  The comparison monster had won.

It took me a year to realize it.  Once we let ourselves believe something, it’s hard to shake.  But, letting go and accepting that I am me, regardless of what anyone else does or wants me to be,was a huge release.  Every day or decision isn’t perfect, and that’s okay.

Canon makes a version of a 50mm lens that costs about $100 – it’s a Canon 50mm f/1.8.  That’s the lens I started my business with.  My original version died after rolling out of my hand and smashing on a client’s floor.  I found other favorites that I began to rely on, and didn’t really miss it.  That version will now fill the space in my bag, and still give me the option when the situation calls for it.

And, because every post needs an image.  Here’s one from before I started my business taken with a Canon Rebel XTI and the 50mm 1.8 lens.







  • Bruce Denis - It is quite a humbling experience that feeling. The gear paid for, the sweat equity, the expectation, just don’t always translate to better photos. In a world where the cult of personality seems to dominate so much of the information we take in it’s way to easy to lose sight of the things that really count. You use a prime (pun?) example here.
    In everything we do, everything we say, we should ask whether goal or thing we desire is pure hubris or really a tool to make our work better. Pride of ownership, cool gadgets and stuff, is not bad in and of itself. Just recognize it for what it is and try to stay right-sized.
    My 50mm /1.8 is probably the best lens I own. In a controlled situation it’s a go-to lens, a real work horse.
    Thanks for sharing this. It’s a good reminder to me to settle down before laying out money for a new zoom lens.ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *