Newbie Tax

Apparently this tax applies to everyone.

We take up photography and buy a camera, maybe an entry level DSLR and kit lens. Then we buy a camera magazine so we can learn how to do things right. And in those magazines are adverts for other cameras, lenses, filters, bags, tripods etc. etc. We quickly get GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and develop a thirst for more kit. We tell ourselves (and our partners) that this extra bit of kit will make a significant improvement in the quality of our photographs. Then we start to pay our newbie tax.

So this is how it goes.

My birthday comes round and I’m asked what I want. The budget is £100. I might as well spend it on camera gear as it’s my new hobby. But what to buy? I’ve read up about protective filters and I also fancy playing with a circular polariser. My magazine says I can get both for about £100.

I often get stuff off eBay and I’m pleased to discover there are a million camera related things I can buy. I’m amazed to find that one of the filters I want in the magazine for £36 is only £3.54 on eBay, including postage. After a few hours searching, I realise I can buy the following with my £100.

  • Protective filter
  • Polarising filter
  • Flash gun
  • Light stand
  • Soft box
  • Flash trigger
  • Remote shutter release

Granted it’s coming from China and will take a couple of weeks to arrive. Also, they aren’t the same makes as the ones in the magazine. But who cares?

I order the lot. I can hardly wait. This is going to be a great birthday. How can they sell stuff so cheap when it costs so much on the high street? No wonder there are so few camera outlets these days, they are charging too much.

My birthday arrives and I have great fun unwrapping all these gifts and a great day trying them all out. Life is great, except I overtighten the clamp on the light stand and stripped the thread a bit. It still works, but I have to be careful. It was my own fault. There is also a weird colour cast in my photos when I have the polarising filter on. I’ve never used one before so they are probably all like that. And why does the flash trigger not work? The instructions are in Chinglish and a bit hard to understand. I’m not thick but I don’t get it. I’ll have a look at those tomorrow.

And so it goes on. It is my sad discovery that cheap stuff is generally crap. I’ve just spent £100, and although I’m too proud to admit it just yet, I’ve wasted most of my money.

I’ve been told by a professional that this is called a newbie tax. He explained that we all try and buy as much as we can for as little as we can only to realise that it is poor quality and doesn’t last. Then we have to buy it all again, but at a higher price.

Don’t get me wrong, not everything out of China is rubbish. iPods are made in China. You can get some bargains. But the rule ‘You get what you pay for’ applies to camera gear the same as anything else.

Having paid my newbie taxes many times over, I now only buy recognisable quality. It’s cheaper in the long run, less frustrating, less stressful and less disappointing.

You can see some of my photos on my website. But wear sun glasses because they are dazzling


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