Do You Have GAS?

I think I can say I don’t have GAS now but I may after eating my polish mother-in-law’s cabbage filled lunch.

The GAS I am talking about is Gear Acquisition Syndrome, originally penned Guitar Acquisition syndrome in a 1996 guitar periodical. Gas is the description of the urge to buy and acquire gear for your respected hobby or interest.

GAS though is not the same as building a collection. GAS is in some ways similar to obsessive compulsive disorder, though in no way as severe as this medical condition, GAS hasn’t received any major medical attention yet and GAS is not a clinical condition. It can be the result of a psychological lack of personality (trying to give an impression of being the best by imitating a famous icon or celebrity).
From reading the testimonies of people who “suffer” from GAS, it appears that there are usually a few steps in this syndrome.

First there is a “trigger”, this is usually based on the internet, in forums or gear websites but not solely here it can also be an article or talking to friends and even seeing a person with a certain camera or lens. And from this trigger a GAS “Sufferer” starts to get the hunger for this piece of kit, even if they have not seen a picture produced by it. This will make their images better.

Next there is the routine, this is different for each person but generally it will be a period of time when they convince themselves they need this gear, how it will improve their work, the possibilities that are held within. This leads to searching for cash; How can I buy it? What do I need to sell to buy it? Once answered go searching for the best deals.

Final stage is the reward. You have the gear, it arrives in the post and you can now be the GOD of photography as this is the key.

Looking on forums it sounds like this GAS epidemic is sweeping through photography wiping people out by its stench and turning us in gear addicts. When I have read the confessions of some GAS addicts I strangely don’t feel sorry for their “pain”. Why? Because they have more money than sense.
By spending all your time on a forum ( I will now generalise) when do you find the time to go out and take pictures? or don’t you. How about friends, family and your spouse, do you really sit at home glued to your internet device, salivating over a 300mm f1.8 lens, dreaming of the DOF, IS and Bohkeh speaking in a language that no one can understand, ignoring your life around you (my imaginary 300mm F1.8 lens does sound sweet).

In my opinion GAS is just that, a load of gas. It was a term to describe people who acquire too much stuff, not to be an armchair psychological explanation for people having no sense. People who buy a lens over paying rent, because their images are going to be “oh so great now”, and then never use the lens, or buy an antique camera where the film is no longer in production.
I am not saying as hobbyists and enthusiasts we can’t treat ourselves with a nice piece of kit but would we sell our car to do it?
To me these people inhabit the bottom level of Ken Rockwell’s levels of photography , “HELL”- with the not quite polite name “Equipment Masturbators”, people who pore of technical specs and magnifying images, cameras and lenses, where the features out way the specs,  and will always want the next upgrade and jump to it. Ken’s best description of this person, “they have more gear than they do good pictures”.

GAS is just another modern way of excusing your behaviour,


The truth is that there will, in the digital age of photography, be a newer camera than yours. There will always be new lenses and flashes and gizmos, that promise to make your images better. In some cases that may be true.
To combat the urge to get GAS I would think what do you need for the photography that you practise?
For me I do landscapes and still lifes and occasionally portraits usually on request. So I need a camera, a wide angle lens, a medium length lens, 2-3 flash units and a few tripods, reflector and lens filters. Yes I would love Mamiya 645 with a digital back or a Canon 1DX, but at this moment I won’t own them, they won’t make me a better photographer, shooting more images will make me a better photographer.

I am not a doctor, psychologist or any other form of medical professional my comments are purely observational and of my own opinion.

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