If you have ever been a regular visitor to an online photography forum, you have undoubtedly encountered a Gear Snob. Usually a “he,” he is happy to help you spend your money on only the best equipment, because that’s what he has.
I encountered my first Gear Snob about ten years ago at an outdoor photography workshop. The leader was demonstrating his Really Right Stuff tripod with RRS ball head and L-bracket. He reassured us we needed to buy an expensive rig in order to be successful outdoor photographers. Never mind that his equipment cost close to $1,000 (as he pointedly reminded us). He was clear: this truly is the Right Stuff and if you settle for less, you’ll be sorry. (I agree that a $69 Walmart tripod is a waste of money, but there are many other excellent options to consider that cost far less than his.)
Fast forward to the present, where Gear Snobs lie in wait for innocent questions about purchasing tripods, cameras, lenses, and camera bags. When a new user asks for buying advice, the Gear Snob reflexively recommends only the expensive option. Why? Because that’s what he has (or so he says). Never mind that there are probably less expensive options that are well-suited to the user’s needs. The Gear Snob emphasizes that one should only invest in the best if they’re serious about their photography. Often, the argument is, “If you buy X, you’ll eventually outgrow it and end up spending money replacing it.” True. I did that with my first car (and many cars thereafter) and my first house and subsequent homes. I also sold those cars and houses when I “upgraded.” And, I bought cars and houses I could truly afford and that fit my lifestyle and needs. Silly me.
Ultimately, the Gear Snob isn’t really interested in being helpful, he wants to boast that he has premium lenses, the most expensive camera model, the best camera bag, and other top-shelf equipment. Nothing wrong with that, but the user doesn’t want to be your Mini-Me. They wanted to know what features or brands were worth the money, and which were optional or could be passed on. The Gear Snob should have asked, “What’s your budget?”
There is an argument to be made for spending more money on better equipment. However, most of us gradually upgrade as we can afford and need to, and sell our old equipment to someone who can get good use from it. Most of us have other spending priorities and budget considerations. So, Gear Snobs, join us in the real world and concentrate on the photography, not the accessories.