Guest post: what is your equipment relationship type?


Today's guest post by J Shin will tell you about the  different equipment relationship types:

In all my visits to photography rumor and review sites, one observation I have made is that a good proportion of "trolling" and "personal attack" comments have to do with people's relationships to their equipment: how often they buy things, what kinds of features they want or don't care about, their triumphs and disappointments with their acquisitions, etc.

The thing is, different people have very different relationships to their equipment, and one way of purchasing or not purchasing, using or not using, complaining or not complaining, is not necessarily superior to another. Think about all the different relationships people have with their romantic partners. Some are long-lasting; some are not. Some are intense; some are not. Some are exclusive, some are not. Some are carefully considered; some are not.

Such is our relationship with photographic equipment.

Here are some basic types of equipment relationships I have noticed, analogized to different types of romantic relationships. Naturally, these types are not all mutually exclusive: a "philanderer" may also be in a stable, monogamous relationship, and anyone can enjoy pornography or punditry. One's relationship tendencies may vary over time and, more importantly, with cash flow. One could be monogamous with a system, but philandering with bodies, lenses, and/or accessories. Most of us are combinations, and have unique features not associated with our "types"; that's certainly true of me.

Needless to say, one's relationship to photographic equipment is not going to be exactly analogous to one's romantic relationships.

What I would ultimately like is for all of us to develop self-awareness, recognize differences, and, in the end, just get along.

Of course, if you think EVF is junk, my gloves are off. 🙂


One system, possibly just one body, with few lenses and accessories. Dedicated to a limited range of subjects, or a wide variety of subjects, pushing the limits of each body/lens. Accumulates lenses and accessories gradually over time, if ever. Tends to have lower equipment budget, unless there is a non-monogamous tendency in the lenses and accessories. Probably would have been happy with any system, but feels lucky to have found the right one. Often has an arcane system, and very proud of it. Usually more choosy about equipment, but not necessarily judgmental of others' choices. Sometimes, there is a "growing apart," and a "divorce" occurs, and is quite shaken up about it. Some have good feelings towards their "ex's", and some are quite bitter about them. Can be disdainful of "equipment sluts" and "impulse buys". May have jealousy toward others with "sexier" systems, but does not act on it, and, as a reaction-formation, become very critical of new-fangled features that "nobody needs".

Serial monogamy

One system after another. Massive purchases and massive purges of equipment. One lens for each subject matter. Loves specialized accessories. Obsession with a subject, then moving on to another, often finding their existing system lacking; rather than buying another accessory or giving up on the subject, purges the whole lot. May be dramatic over each "divorce", or very casual about it. Some are always on the lookout for the next love; some are baffled by their inability to commit or find "true love". A lot of regrets about "bad choices" in the past.

Polyamory (open monogamy)

One primary system with a wide ranges of lenses and accessories, with a variety of other, smaller systems. Gets bored just using one body/system, but is largely committed to the primary system. Expert at which system is best for which situation. Pursues a wide range of subjects and techniques. Versatile and proud of it; gets frustrated if a subject cannot be mastered. Reverts to monogamy, or serial monogamy, as one's favorite style develops or limitations arise; often still has the "first love" or "cut my teeth" equipment. Sometimes a "secondary" relationship becomes "primary". Less likely to "divorce" the primary system, but, if necessary, does so with strong feelings. Some tendency to collect, but largely treats any new prospect with considerateness and respect. Often has regrets about "having brought the wrong equipment" to an occasion.


Several primary systems, each system dedicated to a specific purpose, such as "work", "snaps", "art", "travel", etc. No strong preference for one system over another, although there may be a "love of my life" camera that is not necessarily the one that gets used the most. More "professional" attitude of "I know which system to use for this assignment", rather than polyamory-like flexibility and experimentation. Often carries back-up bodies, one that is carefully selected for the occasion. Also some tendency to collect, but largely treats new prospects with critical distance. May have a "philandering" tendency in a specific area, such as family snaps, where one feels more free to experiment.


Generally, no commitment to any one system, or may have a "primary" relationship that is somewhat tumultuous. Sometimes buys a large system, sometimes only a lens or two for a system. Constantly buys and sells on eBay. Enjoys the virtue of each system, but also easily disillusioned with a system. A bit of a "conquest" collector, aiming for some goal with each purchase, but then moves on to another interest. Tends to fall for "sexier" features. Often regrets purchases, returns to "primary love" or "previous love", if any, but not for long.

Friends with Benefits

Tends to buy many systems, a few lenses and accessories for each system. Not particularly committed or obsessed with one or the other. Reviews and tests each equipment extensively, but does not necessarily take a lot of photos with each. More interested in the feeling of having a lot of equipment around, or having a good set of options that can meet a wide range of situations. Does not easily "fall in love". Less intense than polygamy or philandering; more casual relationships and more casual attitude about photography as an endeavor.

Pageant judging

Reads a lot of reviews, rumors, and specifications. Thinks a lot about the virtues and shortcomings of each equipment, and is quite knowledgeable, but does not necessarily buy them. Reads a lot of test results, and knows what all the numbers mean and how they would translate to image quality under what circumstances. Can be opinionated on forums about equipment they have never even seen, but often has cogent observations that "lovers" would miss; many do try out equipment at stores or by renting. Often makes provocative demands for features and combinations of features that are "absolutely necessary", although they have no or limited plans for purchase. Can be very critical of manufacturer missteps, but generally kinder to the manufacturer of their "primary" system, if any. May be on the market for a new long-term relationship; public contemplation helps them make good choices.


Like beauty pageant judging, but with a lot more intense love-hate, slobbering-anger, and obsession. Does not necessarily comment a lot on forums, but can get very effusive about a new model, or suddenly get very intense, with vitriol toward manufacturers and toward people demanding the "wrong" features. Wants certain equipment desperately, but cannot necessarily afford it; often do not want it in the long run, and may not have the skill to make good use of it. Goes to retail Web sites constantly, checking prices, comparing features and specifications, but not necessarily thoroughly, and can be impulsive. Most likely, in fact, to regret purchases. Daydreams a lot about what one could do with a given equipment. Not particularly loyal to anyone, even if they have a "primary" system or is basically otherwise monogamous. At the same time, pornography can strengthen one's primary relationship, and can be a satisfying outlet that costs little.


Does not say much about one's own loves, but is very opinionated about other people's relationships. Not very open or consistent about what one wants. May not even be a photographer; may be a photographer with a lot of experience. Often has depth of knowledge, and makes thought-provoking and valuable comments, but reading the comments does not make it obvious how experienced the person really is; sometimes not even clear if the comment is comedic, sarcastic, or serious. Often develops love-hate relationships with other pundits, and engages in heated exchanges.

I hope this helps you understand yourself and others. I'd love to hear from you, of course, if you are not one of the types listed, or if you object to the characterizations. I do want to remind everyone that not one of these types is better than another. The survival of the human species and of world capitalism depends on diversity, and we all contribute to this each in our own way.

For fairness's sake, I will disclose my relationship type. I am romantically monogamous, but photographically I am basically polyamorous, and indulge in pornography and pageant judging. Leica R used to be my primary system, but we are having a "trial separation" while I give µ43 a good go. Some of the other long-term relationships I have had include: Century Graphic, Olympus Infinity Jr, Retina IIIs, and Olympus XA. I still have very fond feelings about these relationships. Some "trysts" and "one-night stands" have included Minolta manual, Polaroid, Yashica MAT-124, Leica M, Nikon Action Touch, and Retina IIa. (By the way, you can tell I am polyamorous because I clearly and fondly remember each relationship, even with compact cameras; serial monogamists and philanderers typically would not.) For a while I was pornographically obsessed with the "full-frame mirrorless" concept, but this has gone away with my blossoming relationship with an E-PM1.

With my last article on my Leica apostasy, some people complained that I didn't post any photos. I have since joined Flickr, and you can see a few of my photos at

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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