Buying For Quality Over Price

Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) eating beans and clinging to mother's leg in Sepilok, Malaysia.

Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) eating beans and clinging to mother's leg in Sepilok, Malaysia.

I’m going to relate this piece to wildlife photography, but I find that it works for just about everything.

About a year ago, I realized there were some things I just kept buying twice or more. It was always something that I wanted to purchase the best, highest-quality version of, but after seeing a large price difference I decided to go with a cheaper item that did essentially the same thing.

My thinking at the time was: if ballhead A holds a camera for $60 while ballhead B holds a camera for $640, why go with ballhead B? I will save the money and go with ballhead A. Then I have $580 I can spend on other pieces of equipment.

This seems to make sense, however I would find that when I bought item A, I quite often abandoned it for item B a short time later. Then I was mad that I spent the money on the cheap item A in the first place. I have decided after taking these findings into account that it is almost always better for me to save up and purchase the more expensive, higher-quality item B and never waste my money on item A.

For this reason I purchased the Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead from the first example. It costs $640, a tremendous amount more than many other ballheads on Amazon, however it is the best one that I could find on the market, is solidly built so it will last at least ten years (probably closer to twenty) and holds my camera so steady that I never have to fuss with it or wish I had something better as my camera slowly falls over while I try to get the shot (as often happened with my previous ballhead).

At the moment I am desperately in need of a good tripod. I’ve found some good ones in the $300 range, but the one I really want is the Gitzo GT5543LSUS, which is around $1,100. It is always hard not to just buy what you can afford right now, but with this thought in mind I have decided to wait until I can comfortably buy the Gitzo. No reason to waste $300 now that I will need to spend again.

The best way to sell yourself on this process is to think, “Do I really need that new camera now even though I can’t afford the top-of-the-line one that I really want?” and “Can I hold out just one more year and then purchase the best one that I would love to have?”. Most of the times the answer to the first question is no and to the second, yes.

Hopefully this helps. I am currently saving for a top-of-the-line tripod, and after that I will be waiting patiently until I can afford the next top-of-the-line camera for wildlife photography. What are you saving for? I’d love to discuss in the comments below.