More and more I have been thinking about what photo gear means to how we photograph. A misconception that I find many photographers have is that the actual camera and lenses you have is important only for quality. In fact, it strongly affects how and what you photograph and your approach to subjects. You'll notice that there are no pictures of gear in this blog, only photos I like from a recent trip to SW Missouri prairies. The gear I used was my gear, not anyone else's ... I am actually not talking about borrowed gear.
A problem arises when a photographer's gear is not his or her own. That photographer may have carefully selected the gear, looked for the best price, then purchased it all quite deliberately, yet it is not really their gear. It is actually someone else's, gear based on someone else's needs, gear that then affects how and what the photographer shoots based on that someone else's needs.
Not too long ago I gave a talk at a camera club and a couple of women commented how they had a particular mid-range camera, liked it, but that they hoped to "graduate" to a higher end camera. Why? Because that is what other more experienced people in the club had. In other words, they wanted someone else's gear in their bag, even though the gear they had worked for them.
I love my Panasonic GH3 and Olympus 60mm macro, for example. It is truly "my" gear because it fits so much of what I do with some of my close-up work. But it might be the absolute wrong gear for someone else ... or the best gear ever ... but this is totally dependent on how it fits the photography needs of a person, not because I have it or anyone else does.
I recently visited my friend and wonderful bird and butterfly photographer, Richard Day. He shoots quite a bit with a Canon 5D Mark III with Canon 100mm macro. It is definitely "his" gear, but if I got a similar set-up, I truly would not be shooting with my gear. His gear would be in my bag even if I had paid for it. For gear to meet my needs, I really need a swivel, tilting LCD, which the 5D does not have, plus the 100mm is a little short for a macro for how I like to shoot insects and other small critters (my 60mm is equivalent to 120mm in 5D size, and even then, I often go to an Olympus 50-200mm f/3.5 Four Thirds lens with extension tubes and shoot at 200mm for close-up and macro work).
That also means I would not use any Canon full-frame camera because none of them have a tilting LCD. Now here is where prejudice comes into what is "your" camera. Many people call an APS-C format camera a cropped sensor camera. That is as misleading and inappropriate as calling a person of a certain race a derogatory term based on comparison to that person's race. A 35mm-full-frame sensor is a cropped sensor! There are bigger sensors.
The problem then comes because "cropped sensor" makes a format seem inferior when all it is, is a different format. It creates an unwarranted prejudice that makes many photographers think they need some other gear than what is "theirs", even though they are happy with it, because they should get a "full" sensor, even though that means putting someone else's gear in their bag. I know a lot of photographers who are unhappy carrying someone else's "full" gear because they bought into this prejudice. Now they deal with carrying big and heavy gear, more expense, and they get nothing better compared to their old gear for their needs. And they no longer use their "own" gear.
In today's world of high-quality cameras, all formats, from those larger than 35mm-full-frame to APS-C to Micro Four Thirds, are quality formats offering great features. Any one of them is perfect ... or absolutely wrong. Paying too much attention to a lot of "reviews", or worse, Consumer Reports, may be the worst thing you can do because then you are paying attention to how someone else is choosing gear. Our needs are both subjective and unique and often do not fit the worldview of the reviewer. Reviews can be helpful to understand what a camera (or lens) can and cannot do, but beyond that, you have to compare it to your specific and unique needs.
No one would go around comparing Ansel Adams and Ernst Haas photography simply because of the formats used. Adams had gear that was truly his, and Haas had gear that was truly his (if you are not familiar with Ernst Haas, Google him). It is funny how so many amateur photographers want to compare photography based on format used by the photographer rather than on the actual photography.
I believe we get our best results when we shoot with gear that is best suited to our specific needs, whatever they may be, and that it takes some effort, and even courage to go against trends at a camera club, for example, to find "your" gear.