Gear I Regret Buying as a Professional Photographer

Gear I Regret Buying as a Professional Photographer

Every time we make the leap to the next expensive purchase, there is a lingering thought in our head: will I regret it later? Well, at least in my head. Nonetheless, if I need to make a purchase, I do it. Here are some purchases that I wish I didn’t make.  

Recently, I sat down to review all the gear that I own to decide whether if it all makes financial sense. In this semi-improvised research, I have found photography gear that I regretted buying. Either it didn't deliver on the promise, broke, or was just sub-par in professional use. Here is the list of some gear I wish I had never bought. 

Loupedeck 

The Loupedeck is a great concept: tactile controls for editing. I reviewed the Loupedeck some time ago, concluding that it was a great way to edit a lot of photos in Lightroom quickly, but was still lagging on being great or even acceptable with Capture One. Unfortunately, my workflow is 90% in Capture One. What is very unfortunate is that I use about 5% of the functionality of the Loupedeck. This is because the only useful and usable feature (for me) is color tagging. Other features, such as tactile controls, are very unresponsive. Sadly, it is much faster to edit with a mouse. The Loupedeck is sitting on my desk, collecting dust. If I knew this now, I would not even think about buying one.  

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 II

This is a lens I bought shortly after I watched a video about the “Holy Trinity” of lenses. My plan was to get all bases from 16mm to 200mm covered. Not exactly sure why I would need anything wider than 24mm, I still bought into this marketing stunt by Canon. The 16-35mm f/2.8  is by far my rarest-used lens. The only times it comes out is when I go on trips to do some recreational landscape photography or for BTS. Those are the only two uses I have, and both can be done with something that is not a premium-quality professional lens. Hopefully, at some point, there will be more uses as I challenge myself to explore focal lengths that extend beyond 45-55mm (which is the most used focal length range in my portfolio). For now, this lens is several grand wasted. That's several grand I could have spent on something else. 

Cheap Light Stands

My first light stand was utter junk. I bought it for under $10 from Amazon and hoped to get something out of it. Unfortunately, all I got was disappointment. After a month of usage, it broke, and I had to buy a second one. The second one was exactly the same as the first one. I still have both light stands, and I use them to hold a color checker. The stands are permanently held in place with tape. While I didn’t spend too much on these cheap light stands, I still would never ever buy a cheap stand again. The good thing is that getting a good Manfrotto stand isn’t too expensive, especially if you buy used. Used Manfrotto stands are as good as new ones because they don’t break easily. I have stands that are decades old and I have yet to see them break. The rental houses probably use the same stand they used in the 90s since it is hard to innovate in light stand technology. 

Cheap Lenses 

I owned a fair amount of cheap lenses when I started out. My first lens cost only $60 and was partially broken. That lasted only a few months until I had to get a new lens. It seems to me like cheap lenses with plastic construction and lens mounts don’t last all that long and end up being a waste of money. Even bought new, cheap lenses will have a much inferior lifespan when compared to professional-grade gear. A few cheap lenses after, I finally saved up and got a used 70-200mm f/2.8 IS, manufactured in 2002. I use this lens to this day, and I will simply get the version II if this one breaks. Being a budget-friendly and also a great-quality lens, it is a no-brainer for me to save up a little bit and get a professional weather-sealed lens. There are a few reasons, besides build quality, why you should get professional-quality lenses. Although my 70-200mm was built for film cameras, it performs fairly well on a 5Ds. In terms of autofocus, it is also a strong performer, as it was made for professional use. Sure, modern lenses are miles ahead of what the good old 70-200mm f/2.8 IS can do, but that miles ahead means slightly faster speed, not dramatically faster. I would be interested in doing a comparison between the RF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS and the EF 70-200mm Mark I to prove this point.  

Cheap Speedlites

My least favorite of them all are cheap lights and cheap speedlites. Maybe I used Profoto for too long, but I can’t figure out how to use a remote from a different brand from the get-go. So, unless I have to use one, I won’t. The same applies to speedlites. If you take any speedlite, a ton of features will bombard you on the screen. It is certainly cool to have a lot of features, but they are scary to a beginner. I found that using an A1 from Profoto made the whole experience of using an on-camera flash a lot more positive. Also, the light quality and consistency are far superior. The ability to add Clic modifiers and the newly released clic softbox makes the ecosystem much better as well. I find it important to have as little gear on-location as possible, so not having to take a full speedlite bracket to mount modifiers has been great so far. 

Closing Thoughts 

Gear I regret buying, like the stuff mentioned in this list, falls into three categories: either it is a purchase I made because I was told to do so by marketing or I bought into the hype or tried to skimp on things I really shouldn't have. As a follow-up to this article, I will write about some gear that you should not cut corners on. 

Do you have gear that disappointed you? Why did you buy it and what went wrong? 

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya Ovchar is a fashion photographer based in Europe. In his work, Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

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45 Comments

I’ll give you $100 for the Loupedeck ;)

You can have mine for $50!

I'll take it for $50.

Don't have much equipment I regret, since I always wanted the best I could afford. But I do regret buying cheap stands. I even regret buying cheap C-stands.
When starting will be inevitable to buy things that won't work well, or at all, but that's part of the evolution of the beginner. As a professional/advanced amateur it's a lot more important of being critical of your needs and what brings you advantage in your work. And be very aware of your own GAS.

I agree with you 100% on the Loupedeck. I edit everything in Photoshop, and I can still do it better and faster with a mouse and keyboard. I also agree with you on the light stands. I've been through numerous cheap ones. I've yet to break any name brand, mid-level ones. I also agree with your statement on the speedlights. I never knew what I was missing while using cheap speedlights...Till I bought a high end Godox. I immediately went back and replaced all of my cheap ones. Definitely better TTL metering, brighter, and more consistent across shots. However I disagree on the cheap lenses though. I find cheap lenses have many flaws and imperfections that add unique character to photos not found in new lenses. That's what's most appealing about those lenses and the primary reason most people still adapt film lenses to new cameras. New lenses are clinically sharp, but look characteristically like every other expensive high-end new lens.

Cheap lightstands... Waste of money for sure. You don't have to pay a fortune though for quality, but unless you open your wallet you really need to consider the limitations of what you're buying. A 5KG stand isn't going to hold a 2KG strobe on a boom with appropriate counterweight, even if it's a C-stand.

For on-camera flash though... Depends what you call cheap. Godox make great gear but would you call it cheap because it's not as expensive as (say) Canon/Nikon/Profoto? Your image of the Newer vs Profoto though... Yeah, that's perhaps exaggerating the point :-)

When Loupedeck came out, I was tempted to build my own, but knew that I'd not use it enough to justify the cost.

I do regret buying an Intuos only because I use it once every few years. LR is so good now that the days of hand painting an edit at 200% are just a distant horrible memory.

I recently got some cheap Flashpoint stands. These things are pretty beefy.

Kinda hilarious to describe wide angle lenses as artificial demand created by marketing. Perhaps your photographic style doesn't lend itself to wide angle or your jobs don't require this, but wide angle shooting can obviously capture a view that longer lenses can't, which many photographers consider important.

Well, I'd offer to buy your 16-35, but what would I do with two of them?

It's literally my default lens. As an event & nightlife photographer, I'm frequently working in tight, overcrowded conditions. When the host asks for a photo with all of his celebrating friends - here, now - you have to be ready & able to pull it off. And that 24 just won't make it.

Now, if somebody would just build me a 15-50 f/2...

That's the point - it's a lens you need, a lens you have an use for, a lens you actively use.

It's not about the lens (or the gear in general) per se, it's about it's usability for a particular user; and most of all about falling into marketing traps and a trap of cheapness.

“If I knew this now…”. You do know this now. You meant to write “If I knew this then” or perhaps “If I knew then what I know now”. Why doesn’t this site have any competent editors?

Oh, get over yourself. One line out of the whole article that has no import to the thrust of the piece and you decided it was worth bitching about. Why not just thank the author for the time he put into the article and accept that not everyone is as perfect as you would like.

Why thank the author for a poorly written article?

Poorly written article because of one word??

I would thank him because I believe that one should always strive to appreciate the efforts of people and value their knowledge and contribution, not to needlessly find fault and impertinently search for the most trivial and vacuous imperfection.

Maybe the article has value. Maybe it doesn't. But your sanctimonious comment sure didn't add anything worthwhile to the discussion.

I would thank that author because they are discussing a topic that I think about pretty often and it feels validating that I'm not the only photographer with a similar mindset in regards to gear purchases.

16-35 2.8 III - my absolute favourite lens, almost permanently attached to my camera. I find there is no reason to leave the house without it.

While dirt cheap flashes can be a huge issue, there is often not much need to go with super expensive ones either. For example some companies will charge $500 to $1000 for a 76ws (GN60) flash , that will not be as useful as something like the cheaper 200ws off camera flashes from companies like godox, that end up giving better results due to them working well with a wider range of modifiers, and with a higher output capability, you are not running them close to their output limit much of the time.

Regarding Godox off camera flash, I think the v850II/V860II are awesome. I had a Panasonic/Olympus mount flash and kept that when I moved to Sony (as well as buying the Sony mount) because it's using the same wireless system, all I needed to do is change the transceiver.

I'm ready for a new keyboard. My old one's getting a little quirky. Logitech has a new one with a dial. I love dials. I hate sliders. Mouse sliders just aren't fine enough for me. And don't make me go all grumpy old man about touch sliders. Give me a machine with a dial.

So I'm reading about the Logitech Craft and it sounds pretty unimpressive. Someone mentioned, why don't you just get a Loupedeck? So I did.

I bought a used Loupedeck CT about a month ago. Took me about 30 hours to get it configured. Quite the rabbit hole. I use it pretty much exclusively with LRC.

It changed the way I edit photos. Keyboard is now gone entirely, as are mouse sliders. I've never used the Loupedeck+, so maybe the knobs on the CT are better. The CT ones certainly are awesome. Never again will I use mouse sliders. The Loupedeck CT is a permanent piece of kit in my world.

Still using my Logitech G510 keyboard. While it is a gaming keyboard, it has been amazing for photoshop and video editing, since it has lots of macro keys, that I can bind to various shortcut combos, thus instead of multi key shortcuts, I can bring those down to a single key press.

I bought into the hype and bought a 16-35mm F/4. Supposed to be the sharpest of the group. And it is sharp. It's a great lens.

But other than toes-to-mountains landscapes, I haven't really found a good use for it. It's very hard to use at the wide end. There are a million ways to screw up an image with a 16mm lens. That number probably drops to 350,000 with a 24mm. Much more manageable.

I'll take a 12-40mm f/2.8 in m43 format, thanks! I'd have plenty of use for it.

I love the Sigma 17-50 constant aperture f2.8 I use with my Pentax K-70. While not branded as a pro lens, I'd be happy to use that zoom for pro shoots as it is well built and quite sharp throughout most of the zoom range. Would like a weather sealed version for sure.

I could not live without my loupedeck. It allows you to fly through Lightroom and quickly tweak exposure and color across an entire set of images. Clicking to each slider with a mouse one at a time would be insane. If you don't like it then you haven't pushed it to it's full potential.

That still hold true with the recent changes to the masking engine?

The masking engine completely changed how I edit images and I don't tweak sliders in the same way that I used to any more.

The Loupedeck CT works well with the new masking tools. You still need to draw the masks with a mouse; drag gradients and paint with brushes. But once the mask is defined, all the tool adjustments can be done with dials and buttons.

Thanks for the clarification.

Still sounds like for my editing style there's no advantage (only 1-2 slow adjustments at a time, lots of consideration). That and my desk is too messy!

Having just been the second shooter on a wedding this weekend, I have some insight on the cheap flash vs the expensive. The main shooter was using Profoto lights and I was using Flashpoint(Godox). The Profotos were consistently troublesome. My Flashpoints were solid the whole day. The Profoto trigger is expensive and lacks many basic features, like showing what the flashes are set at. Plus, battery life on Profotos is about half what my Flashpoints are.

I am not trying to sell people Flashpoints. But, for the money they are hard to beat. One Profoto B1 is about $2,000. Flashpoint xPlor 600 is usually found for a little over $500. Triggers are about $400 vs $75. Is the Profoto built better? Maybe. Is the light better? No. Profoto modifiers are nice, but very expensive and proprietary. Flashpoint uses the universal Bowens mount. This gives many, afforable options.

I have been pushed to buy 'high-end' lights for almost two decades. The thing I have learned is never by the cheapest option. But, the difference between good enough and great is subtle and very expensive.

We've actually standardized our studio on Profoto and Rotolight and couldn't be more happy. It works all the time and the AirRemote/Connect triggers work great combined with the app on your phone. However, I do agree that you don't need to go that expensive. Usually Godox/FP or Elinchrome offer good solutions too. The key is that you familiarize yourself with the gear and standardization makes that easier. Nobody likes a photographer fiddling around to get things working...

Yup, I work with a few other photographers with different camera systems, but since they use Godox like me, we can all control each others' flashes whenever we need to.

Ugh. I did the cheap lenses. I wasted so much money on cheap lenses. Makes my stomach knot up every time i think about how much I wasted. Like you, I ended up getting a 70-200mm f2.8 for my Nikon cameras and it's the lens I use for 90% of my work 5 years in to owning it. Purchases I don't regret are all of the bags I've bought. I still use every single one of them.

I also did the cheap flashes but after the first cheap flash (Yongnuo) I vowed never to buy one again until Godox became a big thing. I bought my first Godox speed light with their "pro" trigger and while the trigger leaves something to be desired in terms of how solid the build is the speed lights them selves had better build than my nikon sb-600 and seems to have higher power out put with more features for waay less money. The Yonguos misfired ALL the time. They were near unusable. Definitely would not use them on a paid shoot. The Nikon sb600 I had, had issues firing consistently too and I had to change the power in the menus of the camera or manually on the strobe itself and the "Wireless" feature was bunk if you had to be in a separate room or were farther than a short distance. The Godox speed lights and strobes have been the most reliable out of the ones I've used. The trigger too. Even though it feels cheap it's always worked for me. Mine is really beat up too. My AD200 fell over and broke the power switch off but I was able to buy a new switch for like 7 bucks off Ali Express and soldered it back in. Boom back to working again.

A lens I'm glad I didn't buy when I was shooting canon was the 85mm f1.4 L. I used it for some shoots I did and while the glass was sharp it didn't seem THAT much sharper that the 85mm f1.8 non L. It also had chroma that was on par with the 1.8 but it also focused a lot slower than the 1.8 did too. Not to mention shooting at f1.4 made keeping eyes in focus a heinous task of a job. Over all the Canon 85mm f1.8 is my favorite 85mm lens and in my top three favorite lenses of all the lenses I've used. If I could use it on my Nikon cameras with out giving anything up I would be supremely happy.

For me it has to be those one off crowd funded and independently produced products.
The hype of buying a 4th axis gimbal support for my 3 axis gimbal. Had bought one (albeit a well made unit by Scotty Makes Stuff) for the Zhiyun Crane 2. But after the Weebill S came out, I sold my Crane 2 for the smaller form factor and now the 4th axis support unit is lying unused and unsellable..Maybe I can re-engineer it into a vehicle mount unit in for my Weebill S but that's a pipe dream for a job I haven't done till date. In most cases, proper form will always do the trick unless specifically doing running shots and there too proper technique might actually help.

The other product was this handheld power plus shoulder rig plus audio amp unit called the Pandora DSLR Optimizer. While it ended up becoming a sizeable paper weight, thankfully it wasn't a Pandora's box in terms of it's functionality. But since then I've sworn to not buy anything that isn't mainstream or more importantly, not really needed.

I usually regret NOT buying something!

Now that I have recently got my hands on 3 manfroto tripods, I wish I hadn't wasted so much on cheaper models.

The Loupedeck is indeed a waste of good money for most. I personally prefer a Wacom Intuos combined with a keyboard and Capture One. For photo editing the small version of the Intuos is perfectly adequate.

Cheap light stands are not only annoying but also dangerous. I've seen cheap stands tumbling over more than once, ruining expensive lighting kits on the go and only by sheer luck not injuring models.

My main money drain however, has indeed been unnecessary lenses. The idea of a full coverage from 16 to 200/300 is the result of being unfamiliar with your own style and artistic voice. The more you 'zoom in' on your style, the less gear you need. Today, I would be comfortable with only a 50 and a 90/105 for professional work.

Overall sound advice: buy less, but of good quality.

I LOVED my 16-35 f/2.8 II - was sad that I broke it. Great lens.

What I regret? My original SYRP Genie - it was $700 and I used it for maybe 4 timelapses because it was needlessly heavy and complicated to set up that I never ended up carrying it anywhere.

I've been using a Loupedeck CT for about six months. It was fussy at first, to get things set up the way I like, but once I did, I loved it! Keeping track of Photoshop actions is a dream, now, and I never hesitate to create new ones. I use a Wacom tablet, alongside, for the best of both worlds.
Also, there's more to the Loupedeck besides photography. It switches seamlessly between most other applications, Evernote, Excel, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, web-browsing, and OS tasks like folder/file navigation.
ANY process you use to get your various workflows under control is good. Loupedeck was a game-changer for me, but I can imagine the trouble it takes to get it into the swing of how you like to work, could be annoying to the point of not bothering with it.

Not buying but I regret selling my Canon 180mm macro lens

I absolutely do not regret my 16-35 one bit, I do regret switching to Sony

For Windows, at least, set Loupdeck's task to Realtime priority, and you'll get instant feedback from it. It's my #1 favorite editing tool, and it never gets old or outdated.

What's Realtime priority? I'm using the CT model and I don't think I've run across that word in the configuration. I've got "Dynamic Mode." Is that the same thing? I spent about 30 hours configuring my Loupedeck. Once I got it set up, though, it's amazing.

I never once regretted purchasing my 16-35, its one of my top "go to" lenses in my kit. I do however, regret switching to Sony.
2 shutter failures in less than 3 years on cameras with after only a few months of use.

Sorry, but i find this article pretty stupid.
It all comes down to: use the right tool for the right job.

I don't have a Loupedeck, but i use a programmed audio midi device for may years now, and i don't want to miss it. If you edit a bunch of photo's in a smart way (like you work in a factory; one adjustment at a time for photo's a-z, like only looking at rotation and then the second from a-z like exposure ) this is a great tool. Especially for rotating and transforming the vertical lines, using dial buttons are way easier than any other solution.

A "cheap" but especially 70-300 is great for traveling. Especially for someone like me who only uses the telezoom in 5% of the images.
That brings me to the great 16-35 f2.8. This one is on the camera 80% of the time while traveling. It's about personal style. I like to get close and i love dynamic perspectives. But no-one can deny the value of 24-25 range.I can always crop to 50, but wider than 24mm with a standard zoom is no option. Commercially i use it a lot too when doing reportages indoor. And i photograph a lot of retailers too.
Chaep lightstands.. Well ofc you don't use them in the studio right? But on location indoors i use light Bowens stand with my battery flash (AD200's; also cheap but great) and outdoors i use a C-stand. again; right tool for the right job.

Sorry for my English (not my first language)

I don't think it's stupid, at all, it wasn't made personally for you, it just doesn't apply directly to what you do. The autor just said that those were his experiences, for his use, as his regrets.
I think this articles was meant to open up discussion about our experiences with buying equipment we regretted, not comparing the author's experiences with our own and, if they don't match, calling it stupid.

If it just applies to one man's situation it's even more stupid to post it. :)
And if the word "stupid" bothers you (you mention it twice), just ignore it please. My point is more about my explanation that most gear have their own use in the right conditions.

The author is not saying all of these products are inherently bad. Although cheap light stands are pretty bad if you use them outside what they they are physically capable of. He's saying for his personal use case they didn't fit. Like the 16-35 f2.8 is not an inherently bad lens. It just didn't fit his shooting needs and it ended up being a regrettable purchase for HIM. In my case I bought a 35mm lens and I almost never use It. That's a purchase that I regret. It is not stupid to post this article because he is also asking the audience to share what their regrettable purchase experiences are. He's trying to have a discussion about our personal experiences with products that each of us regret buying for various reasons. It is an interesting topic that is worth discussion. Using your own words you are getting the point of this article with out actually getting the point of this article.

"My point is more about my explanation that most gear have their own use in the right conditions"

That's the point. Not every tool is going to meet the needs of every photographer which results in a regrettable purchase and again this article is here to discuss those regrettable purchases.