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What’s Your Worst-Ever Gear Purchase?

Published: 26/08/2019

I stumbled across an article recently in which the author discussed some of the gear he regretted purchasing. It made me wince! Why? Because one of his biggest regrets, was also one of mine: the Canon 75-300mm f/4-5.6 lens. I bought it many moons ago and well before I began shooting professionally; and I can confirm that author's viewpoint ... it was a complete dog, repeat: DOG of a lens!! Anyway, earlier this year, I wrote an article asking for everyone's Favorite "Go-To" Gadget. So, I thought it might be fun(?) hearing about everyone's least favorite gear/gadget purchased, since turning pro.

For me, it was a large, top-of-the-line case, with tough-as-nails wheels. The promo video for it got me really excited because it was apparently built like a tank and would allow me to put all of my gear into one case. So, after filling it up the night before my next shoot, I tried to lift it into the trunk of my car and much to my dismay, it was an Herculean effort! Apparently, in my excitement to get the bag, I'd forgotten to read the specs closely enough to see that the thing weighed a ton, empty, let alone with any gear in it. When I got to the shoot, it was a new build on a huge property, with a long gravel driveway, quickly making those great, tough-as-nails wheels they'd advertised, totally useless to me.

To put salt on the wound, the house was quite elevated and, on a scorching-hot day, I had to carry the case up what seemed like ten flights of stairs. I was exhausted before the shoot began! I vividly remember how terribly embarrassed it was trying to make small talk with the homeowner, trying to fit 2-3 words together between chest-heaving breaths, trying to get air back in my lungs! All while my agent client was looking on ... I'm pretty sure she wasn't impressed!

So, what is the one piece of gear or gadget that most fills you with regret?

Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.


21 comments on “What’s Your Worst-Ever Gear Purchase?”

  1. Years ago, when I was learning photography in the Navy, I purchased a Nikon FTN Camera with a Nikon Telephoto lens. I was excited to visit Hong Kong, as cameras and Stereos were less than half of USA prices.
    Not knowing anything about tripods, (which I didn't think I needed) I bought a cheap flimsy one. As I set up to take an evening shot of the beautiful harbor in Hong Kong, one of the tripod legs collapsed and my lovely new Nikon and Lens was now laying on the deck, with the screw threads dented. The camera and lens still worked, but I couldn't screw on any filters.
    After that, I learned that my tripod, was one of my best friends and never scrimped on one again.

  2. Funny you mentioned your oversized case. Last spring I purchased a new case for my Phantom drone. It was marked down to half price, and the extra volume would allow me to store it with props attached. But I didn't check the specs. When the box arrived, I hoped it would have a box inside a box, with lots of padding. But no, this was it, the case was the size of a large travel suitcase. It filled up 2/3 of the trunk of my car, which was built for fuel efficiency, not cargo hauling. Barely enough room left over for my two camera bags.

    It still sits in its shipping box. The very nice foam case my P4Pro was delivered in is all I really need. If anyone wants a bigger case, aluminum with custom foam insert, I'll take $50 plus shipping!

  3. I bought one of those soft sided backpacks where the camera with a lens hangs from the top, and other lenses fit in next to it and such, tripod straps to the side.

    Almost immediately after opening it, I pondered, "When in my career do I need to haul 2 bodies and 3 lenses several miles without a car? Oh yeah, never.

  4. One of my many "bad ideas" in the industry was to buy a bunch of first gen LYTRO cameras with the intention of outfitting my photographers with them with the intention of grabbing a capture or two per shoot for use on social media. The cameras were crap, the gimmick was... gimmicky, and the idea wasn't all that well thought out at all.

  5. The Sony 28mm f2. It probably has the softest mushiest corners I've seen in some time. I wanted a travel lens that was light for walking, and I guess if I ever shot at f2 I probably wouldn't care. It would probably be great at flower closeups or wide-angle portraits, but it's not much of a landscape lens. I recently bought the Zeiss 25mm f2 and that lens rocks like none other on the A7rii. You could cut yourself with that one.

  6. Parabolic mirror (0-360 Panoramic Optic from It was used in pre-iGUIDE IMS-2 camera which also had a spinning green laser for measurements and the whole contraption looked like a space station. While the idea of a single shot 360 pano was nice, its vertical field of view was only 90 degrees. On a positive side, it was possible to just crouch down next to tripod and not have to run and hide in another room. However, the images were soft at top and bottom. But worst of all, any speck of dust was much more visible in the image than it would be with any lens. Cleaning the mirror produced permanent scratches that were also very visible in images as the silver layer is on the front surface of the mirror under a very thin protective coating.

  7. Pretty much anything from a local camera shop. Don’t get me wrong, as I love supporting local businesses, but selling knockoff items at inflated prices seems to be the norm in every one of them I’ve walked into.

  8. I needed a wide zoom for work.
    Through CraigsList I met some "guy in a parking lot" who had a Sigma 10-20. I put it on my camera, took a few shots at different zoom settings and it seemed okay on my 3" screen.
    Sitting at the computer after my next shoot I noticed that every single photo was soft on the right center and right upper portions of the frame.
    So it became zoom, crop or hope nobody noticed.
    The contract I but out on that "guy in a parking lot" is still open if anyone needs an extra $50.

  9. Purchased a used 1DX from a 'reputable' local camera store with a big tag on it that read; "New Shutter Just Installed". The salesman told me they'd sent it to Canon for "all new guts"... I really loved that camera for about 2 weeks until: It fell (in it's case) about 6 inches and stopped working. I sent it to Canon via CPS and received a report it had over 1 million clicks on it. I insisted it was all new inside and someone probably just forgot to reset the clicks. The senor tech re-examined it and called me back with a polite laugh; "it couldn't be more obvious the camera had never been touched".

  10. @Dave Clark - I wanted that fong puffer to be a good purchase so badly. I actually liked what it did with light for some easy diffusion for small room events, but hot damn - that top piece of plastic wouldnt stay on for the life of me!

  11. My Glidecam HD2000 - literally unboxed it and *never* used it. Been sitting on a shelf since Day 1. Also, a bunch of expensive bags that I own that still have tags (mostly Peak Design bags) and sit in my closet.

    Oh yea, anyone local to NJ looking for a Glidecam to purchase? 🙂

  12. Thanks everyone for jumping in and sharing your purchasing horror was fun!

    @ Bill Baughman ... Nope, am no longer shooting RE but that agent introduced me to the top builder in my hometown and he's been my longest-standing client. pays to be out of shape! 😀

    @ Ken Brown ... Thanks for the offer but there's no need to spend $$ for the 75-300. All I need to do to match the performance of that lens is to simply apply a Gaussian blur layer! 😉

  13. Tony, you forgot waiting until the photo opportunity has gone past before hitting the shutter button to simulate the focusing speed.

  14. I don't think I have one big mistake in particular that comes to mind. But I know over the years I purchased quite a bit of those gadgets that have been resting ever since...:)

  15. Samyang/Rokinon 12mm f2.8 full frame fisheye. Was cheap enough as had visions of stitching 360's including zeniths. While that never materialized, it's manual focus and my eyesight didn't agree.

  16. Several years ago, on the advice of my VAR, I made the investment in a Prime Cache-A LTO 4 tape back up with a 5 TB virtual drive for archival storage. Worst. Investment. Ever. Over $4,500 new. Can't give it away on Craigslist now. Needless to say, the VAR is now out of business. LMAO!

  17. While this might be an unpopular answer, the Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. I get it, it's cheap with a wide aperture so it's become everyone's darling "nifty fifty." But let's be realistic, it's built super cheap, bad chromatic aberration anytime it's used with contrasting light, it's slow to focus, and I find the 50mm focal length to just be boring. I bought it, used it a few times, and sold it without regret.

  18. Canon Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E7A. Hands down!! It should have been called the Wireless File Transmitter POS. it was so complicated to use that I never could use it in the way it was intended. I called an IT guy up to my desk at work and they couldn't get it to work either. I did get it to work ONCE but after that it takes 30 minutes to set up each time.

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