Is camera gear an “investment”?

This post was inspired by this thread at dpreview.com.

On gearhead-type photography forums, such as dpreview.com, we often see people saying something like “I want to invest in a new camera” instead of just saying that they want to “buy a new camera.”

The standard definition of an investment is “to commit (money) in order to earn a financial return.” Traditional investments are things like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, etc. Camera gear does not fall into the category of an investment!

But yes, I understand that the word investment has alternate uses. The example given in a dictionary is: “to make use of for future benefits or advantages – invested her time wisely.”

I often hear people talk about “investing in a college education.” Using the word “invest” in such a sentence always implies that the person using the word approves of the thing being “invested” in. And with the college example, there is the additional expectation of pecuniary benefits of higher paying jobs.

Camera gear is like a television and not like a college education. A television may give you many years of entertainment, but you don’t invest in a new television, you simply buy a new television. For the vast majority of people who post on dpreview.com, camera gear, like the television, is being purchased for entertainment.

When people say they are “investing” in camera gear, what that generally means is that they are aware, perhaps on a subconscious level, that they are spending too much money on camera gear given their financial situation and photographic abilities, and they are trying to convince themselves that it’s actually a wise thing to be doing. And then they are posting on dpreview.com because they want additional public validation.

The only exception is if you are able to depreciate your camera on your tax returns. And some professional photographers can do that. In that case, because it’s a legit capital expenditure, you have my permission to call your camera purchase an investment, because technically it really is an investment, even though I still think it’s a tad pretentious to call it that.

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