Practical thoughts on gear and how easily we adapt to it:

Adaptation is human

A recognition:

No matter how great our devices (phone, camera, laptop), things (car, home, clothes), tools are — we will adapt and “get used to it”. Things which once gave us “pleasure” no longer thrill or interest us— thus, we are always seeking to upgrade our devices.

Thus perhaps we should change our mindset from,

Buying this new thing will make me so much happier, more productive, motivated, inspired, and powerful

To

This new tool I buy will have positive utility, but no matter how good it is, I will become accustomed to it.

Now — what are the ramifications of this line of thinking?

Upgrading is still important

God forbid if you owned the same phone, laptop, or camera for 10 years. I cannot imagine still using an old Acer Windows brick laptop from the past, using my original EVO 4G HTC phone from 2011, or even using my original Canon SD 600 1.3 megapixel digital camera today. Nor do I desire to use 56k dialup internet modems.

Upgrading is important — but perhaps the questions we must consider are:

  1. How often should we upgrade our equipment?
  2. Why upgrade your equipment?
  3. What types of upgrades are worth your money, and what upgrades aren’t worth your money?

“Value”

Value is an interesting concept, because it is totally subjective. What you consider a “good value” is different from other folks. You must dictate “value” for yourself.

So the questions you gotta think about is this:

  1. Don’t worry about whether others think it is a prudent use of your money or not — consult your own conscience and judgement.
  2. When in doubt, don’t buy it or upgrade it. Only buy or upgrade things when they’re obvious decisions.
  3. Determine for yourself what is a “worthwhile” upgrade for you? Are you willing to spend $1,000 for a 10% upgrade? $10,000 for a 10% upgrade? What’s your percentage-value financial calculus?

Is adaptation a good thing?

When we adapt to things, lifestyle, devices, etc — is this a good thing?

Another question:

Should we adapt to things?

A lot of philosophy tells us we should be grateful and appreciate of the things we own, have, etc. But isn’t this thinking inimical to innovation and making new things?

Thus if your goal is innovation, adapting to things is a good thing. Because the boredom and dissatisfaction we have drives our lust for the new and for innovation!

Thus it seems that adapting to your gear, lifestyle, etc is a good thing if you’re a producer.

What if you’re a consumer?

Now things get trickier if you’re a consumer. My practical suggestion is this:

Better to buy cheap equipment and gear, because you’re gonna get bored with it anyways.

Furthermore, the rate of financial depreciation on technology is so high— buying new electronics seems to be a sucker mistake.

Practical money economizing ideas

Thoughts on maximizing the monetary impact/economization of devices and stuff:

  1. Whenever possible, buy a 1-generation older device.
  2. Buy refurbished electronics. You save a save of money, and if is often MORE reliable after it gets refurbished. I bought a maxed out 13 inch MacBook Pro on the Apple online store and saved $1,000 (comparing if I bought the device brand new).
  3. Buy used devices or cameras, lenses, tools on Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, or from friends.
  4. Don’t upgrade or buy new electronics if the new thing isn’t 10x better than the thing you own.
  5. Buying new devices won’t make you “happier”— but it can make your life more convenient or productive in certain ways. But do you consider spending $X of money for more convenience and productivity “worth it”? (this is up to you).

What I consider a good value

The things I’ve bought in my life which I consider an incredible value (which has improved my life):

  1. RICOH GR II: $500 for the best digital camera.
  2. Apple Airpods: Best value headphones, and the Bluetooth syncing works 100x better than any other Bluetooth headphone.
  3. Merino Wool Clothing: Black merino wool T-shirts, socks, etc. I love Outlier NYC black merino wool t shirts and their socks.
  4. Exofficio Boxer Briefs
  5. Clothes from Uniqlo: Fit well, comfortable, and super affordable. Black Oxford Uniqlo button up, their stretch jeans, etc.
  6. Maxed out Macbook Pro 13 inch (turbo creation). Buy refurbished.
  7. iPad Pro (smaller one). Great for processing photos, battery lasts all day, and adds a new creative flair to your digital life. Fun for photo workflow too.
  8. Coffee: Coffee makes me more productive, thus it is good. Coffee at home, coffee at the coffee shop, etc. Any money I can spend on making me more productive is good.
  9. Travel: Living abroad in hotels or Airbnb; traveling is a great great creative stimulus to myself. I prefer a more nomadic/intermittent lifestyle and mode of living for my creative productivity.

What don’t we adapt/get bored of?

We easily adapt to electronics and devices, but for the most part — we don’t adapt as much to material things (shoes, clothes, natural materials).

For example our entire ERIC KIM / HENRI line of leather products seems to be “adaptation-proof”in the sense that we don’t seem to get bored of leather (natural) products. For example the more you use a leather product, the more beautiful patina it develops. There is something lovely about seeing the beautiful wear and tear on an organic object (golden brassing on a Leica, wear on your raw denim, or the patina on a leather product).

RICOH GR II x ERIC KIM NECK STRAP MARK II

Thus when it comes to buying stuff, I always ask myself:

Will this improve or get better over time, or get worse over time?

For example my denim and leather straps will get “better” the more I use them. But the more I use my electronics and the more time which elapses, my electronics get worse.

So perhaps with organic or natural things — they generally get better over time//anything electronic or inorganic tends to get worse over time.

What are you willing to sacrifice?

Technically you can “afford” to purchase anything you desire in life. The only question is:

What am I willing to sacrifice in order to obtain/achieve [x]?

For example if I want a Lamborghini (blacked out, matte black aventador) I must ask myself:

How many life hours (money) do I need to sacrifice in order to buy this thing?

And after I buy it, what practical utility will it give me? How quickly will I adapt to it, and do I expect it to bring me “happiness” or something else?

Conclusion: Focus on creative productivity

My conclusion in life so far has been this:

Prioritize your creative productivity over everything else.

To me this is the secret to “happiness”.

I derive the greatest pleasure when I’m in the creative zone of creation. I’m happiest when I’m making stuff, thinking, creating, and sharing.

Invest in tools and equipment (economical) which will allow you to maximize your creative output. Optimize your lifestyle to maximize your personal strength, vigor, and focus to constantly create the new!

ERIC

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EQUIPMENT

There is no “perfect” camera. Don’t fall into GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and falsely believe that buying a new camera will make you a better photographer. If you’re not feeling inspired in your photography, I recommend you to buy books, not gear. Also check out these 75+ Inspirational Photo Books You Gotta Buy. You can also download my free books.

Equipment Articles >

Smartphone Photography >

Film Photography 101 >


My favorite camera for street photography

There is no perfect camera for street photography and everyone’s tastes are different. My favorite camera for street photography is the Ricoh GR II. 1x1.trans Street Photography Camera Game Changer: The Ricoh GRD V The Ricoh GR II is the best bang-for-the-buck camera for street photography on the market. It has an APS-C sensor (DSLR-sized sensor), a super-sharp 28mm lens (no anti-aliasing filter), and literally fits into your front pocket. The Ricoh GR II is pretty much the same as the prior Ricoh GR, except it has Wi-Fi built in. Why do I recommend the Ricoh GR II? First of all, for street photography you want the smallest, most compact, and inconspicuous camera (that you can always carry with you). I find that with other digital cameras, you end up never carrying them with you 24/7, simply because they are too big. The Fujifilm X100F and digital Leica’s are fantastic tools, but honestly even those cameras are too big to fit in your front pocket. In street photography, the size of the sensor is also not very important. In-fact, having a non-full frame camera is generally preferable, because you have more depth-of-field in street photography, which is beneficial to “zone-focusing.” When I shoot with the Ricoh GR II, I generally keep the camera on “P” mode, ISO 1600, and center-point autofocus. I treat it like a point-and-shoot: I simply point and click. This makes me have to think less when shooting, and spend more energy focusing on the composition, framing, and capturing emotion in the photos. Many photographers bemoan the fact that the Ricoh GR II doesn’t have a viewfinder. Honestly, I feel that viewfinders are a bit overrated — the LCD screen helps you be more creative with your compositions (shooting super-low angle, or a super-high angle), and also helps you photograph your subjects closer (putting a small compact camera close to someone’s face is less intimidating than putting a big DSLR lens into someone’s face). Also if you want, the Ricoh GR II has a fantastic “snap mode” which allows you to pre-focus to a certain distance (1 meter, 1.5 meters, 5 meters, infinity), which is like zone-focusing on a rangefinder camera. This means when you’re shooting on the streets on a sunny day, you can set your pre-focus to 1.5 meters, ISO 1600, aperture-priority mode in f/8, and take photos that are all sharp and in-focus. In addition, the Ricoh GR II has the simplest yet comprehensive menu out of any digital camera I’ve used. You can change the function buttons, you can change whether the power lamp is on or off, and everything in the menu is easily searchable. I believe the Ricoh GR II was designed by photographers, not simply by engineers. The camera is extremely affordable, which means you can save all your hard-earned cash on buying experiences, not stuff. Use that money to travel to a country you’ve always wanted to travel, to buy photography books, and to invest in photography-education (workshops, classes, seminars). Furthermore, you can charge the camera via USB, which means you don’t need to travel with a bulky battery-charger. As long as you keep the camera off while you’re not shooting on the streets, one battery should last you a full day. If you end up buying the camera, I recommend picking up a 3” LCD screen protector, shooting in RAW, and using my free Lightroom film simulation presets.

Best Equipment by ERIC KIM

eric kim photographer hanoi portrait by cindy a nguyen
LINDBERG glasses / UNIQLO button-up / UNIQLO jeans-joggers / Nike Flyknight Motion RN
This is a list of my personal favorite equipment in photography, computers, and life: Of course, this list probably won’t apply to you — but this is advice I would give myself (if I needed to buy stuff):

Cameras

My favorite cameras:

Digital cameras:

eric kim street photography x100f fujifilm-7030

Best value digital camera for street photography

Fujifilm X100F Review // Buy on Amazon for $1300 >

Best digital compact camera

Ricoh GR II Review // Buy on Amazon for $600 >

Best 3-inch screen protector

For Ricoh GR II: Expert Shield 3” LCD protector ($14)

Best designed mirrorless camera

Olympus Pen F (silver): $1200 + Olympus 17mm f/1.8 Lens: $500 //my review

Best value mirrorless camera

Fujifilm XT-2 ($1600) + Fujinon XF23mmF2 WR Lens ($450)

Best digital rangefinder

Leica M10 + Leica 35mm f/2 ASPH Lens

Best digital video camera

Sony A7S II ($2700) + Sony 35mm F2.8 Sonnar ($800)

Best SD card

Transcend 128 GB SD card UHS-3: $73

Best fashion digital camera

Pentax Medium-format digital 645Z ($6500) + Pentax 55mm F2.8 AL ($960) // 7 Lessons I’ve Learned Shooting Fashion Photography For the First Time

Film cameras

If you’re new to shooting film, pick up a copy of FILM NOTES.
eric kim melbourne benjamin thompson
Portrait by Benjamin Thompson // Leica MP + Henri Neck Strap + SF 24D flash + Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH lens

Best film rangefinder

Leica MP + Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron Lens

Best affordable film rangefinder

Leica M6 + Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 Lens

Best compact film camera

Contax T3

Best medium-format film camera

Fujifilm GF670 (discontinued, find on eBay)

Best black and white film

Kodak Tri-X 400 (pushed to 1600): $5

Best color film

Kodak Portra 400: $8.50

Best film scanner

For medium-format/35mm: Epson v800: $800 For 35mm: Plustek OpticFilm 8100: $270

Camera accessories

eric kim street photography gfx fujifilm medium format digital-7340

Best camera shoulder bag

SAIGON SATCHEL

Best camera backpack

Fits 13” Laptop and Camera: Thinktank Perception 15 (black): $120

Best photography neck strap

Best photography wrist strap


eric kim street photography x100f fujifilm-7189

Best photography inspiration website

MagnumPhotos.com

Best photography news blog

PetaPixel.com

Best photography software

Adobe Lightroom

Best video editing software

iMovie (free) or Final Cut Pro X ($300)

Books

buy books not gear eric kim See all my free books.

Best educational photography book

Magnum Contact Sheets

Best black-and-white photography art book

“Exiles” by Josef Koudelka

Best color photography art book

“The Suffering of Light” by Alex Webb

Best photography handbook

Street Notes

Best philosophy book

On the Shortness of Life – Seneca ($8) // 10 Lessons Seneca Has Taught Me.

Best digital tools

Best laptop

Any MacBook Air or Pro

Best tablet

iPad Pro 10.5 inch, 64 gb, space grey

Best phone

iPhone X

Best value phone

iPhone SE (cheapest model): $400

Best android phone

Samsung S8

Best value android phone

OnePlus 3T ($440)

Best Mac Apps

Best writing app

IA Writer (for writing) + Ulysses (for note-taking)

Best screen recorder

Camtasia

Best image resizer

JPEGmini Pro

Audio

eric kim hanoi street photography-0012663

Best noise-cancelling headphones

BOSE QC 35 (black): $350

Best earbuds

Apple Beats X

Apparel

Cindy Project Monochrome-3

Best watch

Casio Men’s F108WH Illuminator Collection Black Resin Strap Digital Watch: $13

Best underwear

ExOfficio Men Boxer Brief (black): $26

Best T-shirt

Outlier NYC Merino Wool T-Shirt

Best socks

Darn Tough Socks Merino Wool

Best shoes

Nike Free Flyknight RN Motion (black/white) // my review

Best pants

Merino Wool Leggings (black)

Best glasses

LINDBERG – Titanium

Finance

eric kim street photography x100f fujifilm-7232

Best bank / credit card (USA)

Chase / Chase Sapphire credit card

Best entrepreneurial tools

Best blogging platform

WordPress.org + Genesis theme (I use the ‘Academy Pro’ theme).

Best paid online services

eric kim street photography gfx fujifilm medium format digital-7360

Best cloud storage

Dropbox (Pro)

Diet & Nutrition

Food

Intermittent fasting — with one big meal a day (only dinner)

Workout

Deadlifts (one rep max) + squats + dumbbell press + chin-ups + pushups

Conclusion

eric kim hanoi street photography-0012576
Hanoi, 2017 // Portrait by Cindy A. Nguyen
Of course this is just a list of stuff that work for me. It probably won’t work for you. But I got inspired to make this list– because it took me about 10 years to figure out the best equipment for me. And this works for me, and I hope it can help simplify your purchasing decisions (at least in photography and some other details). Cindy Project Monochrome-12 I’ll continue to do articles and videos related to equipment– because I do believe (up to a certain degree) having the ‘right’ equipment in life makes life easier. But the problem is falling victim to GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) where we are buying stuff for the sake of it (has happened to me). If you already have a bunch of equipment that works for you– stick with it. But if you need some help, I hope this list helped you. Always, Eric

Learn more: EQUIPMENT 101 >