The one that got away: the gear we sold – and now regret letting go of

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The gear that got away

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We've all been there. You needed some cash, or you went overboard trying to downsize your gear stash. Selling that camera or lens seemed reasonable at the time, but in the razor-sharp clarity of hindsight, you know now it was a terrible mistake.

Since misery loves company, we thought we'd share our own stories of the gear we let go and shouldn't have and offer a space for you, reader, to share your tale of woe. Think of it as a kind of group therapy session.

So take a deep breath, count to five as you exhale, and read on. Leave a comment with your own story of the gear you let go of – we'll be publishing a few of them in a follow-up article soon.

Richard Butler, Technical Editor

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Photo by Richard Butler with DX Nikkor 18-70mm F3.5-4.5

I usually end up using cameras until they have little to no resale value, and I have no real regrets about selling my last DSLR. Oddly, though, I do regret selling the lens I bought it with. The DX Nikkor 18-70mm F3.5-4.5 wasn’t a great lens, in the grand scheme of things, but we’d been through so much together.

That lens: a longer and slightly faster alternative to the standard kit lenses was the thing that finally settled the Pentax vs Canon vs Nikon decision I’d been agonizing over for weeks (months, maybe). Over a decade of extensively using every maker’s cameras has just reinforced the idea that picking the right lens was more significant than trying to choose a ‘right’ brand.

It vignetted like crazy at 18mm F3.5, which was the setting the impetuous younger me used most often, but 70mm F4.5 was appreciably more useful than 55mm F5.6, and the sturdier build made me feel a bit more ‘serious’ and a bit more confident that it would survive my misuse.

I don’t have any use for a DX DSLR lens anymore, but as the lens I used every day, and that helped me appreciate the value of upgrading your everyday lens, I sometimes wish I’d held onto my Nikon 'super kit lens.'

Dale Baskin, Editor

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Photo by Dale Baskin, taken with the Canon S300 Digital ELPH.

The Canon PowerShot S300 Digital ELPH was my first digital camera, purchased in 2001. To be honest, I never really loved it, but that’s beside the point. I was planning a cross-country road trip and figured it would be a good opportunity to experiment with digital. Back then, choosing between a 2MP or 3MP sensor was a pretty big decision, but I ultimately decided the third megapixel wasn’t worth hundreds of dollars more, which is mostly how I ended up with the S300.

Off I went into the sunset shooting digital for the first time in my life. I loved the instant feedback and I have fond memories of uploading photos at night on a 28.8 Kbps modem. Good times. Eventually, I moved on to other cameras and sold the S300 to a guy who wanted to use it for SCUBA with a dive housing.

So why, after all these years, do I wish I still had it? For a simple reason: it was my first. We all have memories of various firsts in our lives: first kiss, first car, first time falling in love, etc. The S300 was the first camera that allowed me to shoot in a new way that would eventually change my life, influence my career and spawn adventures I never would have dreamed of so many years ago. I’ve thought about buying a used one for nostalgia, but it wouldn’t be the same. It could never be the same as my S300.

Carey Rose, Reviews Editor

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Photo by Carey Rose, taken with Nikon 85mm F1.8 D

I got my Nikon 85mm F1.8 D lens in college chiefly because I had a D80 that produced pretty horrific images when you cranked the ISO. And I found I was cranking the ISO pretty often while photographing for the college rag in wintertime in Bellingham, Wash. The days (if you can call the interminable grayness 'day') provide only eight hours of light, and so often my cheap secondhand F2.8 zooms just didn't cut it. The small, light, snappy 85mm quickly became a favorite.

Fast forward a few years, and the 85mm became a staple for my wedding photography, and may as well have been permanently glued to one of a pair of DSLRs. But as I was now making some of this thing called 'money,' I found myself taken by a lens that would of course be superior in every way: Nikon's 85mm F1.4 D. I found one at a price I could stomach and promptly put the 1.8 up for sale.

Cue the regret and sad trombones. Turns out, though that F1.4 lens was optically fantastic, the autofocus was far slower than the F1.8 I had so carelessly cut loose. For everything I really liked shooting, from weddings to concerts to street photography, it made such a difference that I never used it anywhere near as much as its more humble cousin. And with today's modern sensors, I would happily trade the extra light for the extra focus speed. I still think about getting another F1.8 D someday.

Dan Bracaglia, Editor

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Photo by Dan Bracaglia with the Fujifilm X100T.

The gear I most regret selling is my Fujifilm X100T. I purchased it when it first debuted in late 2014 and owned/loved it for two straight years; it was my go-everywhere, document-everything camera. But eventually I grew tired of using it and the images it produced and felt compelled to go back to shooting film in my free time. And so I sold off my X100T and replaced with a well-worn Leica M6 and went on happily shooting for another few years. But eventually I too tired of film's limitations and once more craved the freedom of a lightweight personal digital camera.

Fortunately by the time that feeling crept it dawned on me: it's OK to switch back and forth between film and digital for personal work. And so this time I held on to the M6 and picked up an also well-used X100F to satisfy my digital cravings. These days I still love and shoot with both as my personal cameras (along with a few other film buddies) and I'll never be so quick to sell off gear again.

Gannon Burgett, News Editor

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Photo by Gannon Burgett, taken with a Mamiya C330 with an 80mm F2.8 lens on Portra 400, pushed one stop.

I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a collector, but I generally tend to keep nearly every camera and accessory I’ve purchased, aside from giving a few away to friends and family who are starting their photographic journey.

That said, there is one piece of gear I regret selling—my Mamiya C330. I started my photography career in the digital age and although I told myself from the get-go I wouldn’t ever shoot film, that quickly faded. As tends to be the case, I quickly made the jump from 35mm to medium format film. I found the Mamiya C330 at a local antique store and purchased it for roughly $60–70, I believe.

Over the next year, I took it on countless adventures with friends across the midwest and put probably twenty-five rolls of film through it—mostly Portra 400 and Tri-X 400. Something about the TLR waist-level viewfinder and square format drew me in and left me enamored with nearly every shot captured with it.

In search of something a little more automatic though, I ended up splurging and purchasing a Contax 645 with a Zeiss 80mm F2 lens (that I still use near-daily adapted to my EOS R). From that point on the Mamiya C330 didn’t get much use and I eventually realized I could sell it for about five times what I had initially paid for it. So, I did just that, to an anonymous individual via eBay.

Fiscally, it was a successful sale, but it’s one I still regret making. It was a beautiful camera that afforded a unique user experience; one I’ve yet to replicate since, as it was the only TLR I’ve owned. Maybe one day i’ll have to pick up another, but for the time being, it’s the camera that got away.


Sound familiar? Share your story of the gear you regret letting go of in the comments below – we'll pick our favorites to include in a follow-up article.

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