I Don’t Understand Why Photography Is Such an Expensive Hobby

Before I got into photography, I was completely smitten with making music for over 10 years of my life.

There was a time when I decided that I needed to take up another hobby besides photography, video games, food, reading, and meditation–and so I went back to music. Before I was a photographer, I wanted to tour in a punk rock band. I had two different bass guitars, two different amps, spent lots of time training my brain how to sing and play at the same time, slaved for hours writing music and songs while channeling emotions into words, etc. With a bit of extra cash on hand after taxes, I realized something really insane.

A Leica M6, the camera I’ve been lusting for, is now incredibly expensive. I own a Leica M4P and a Leica CL, so if I wanted to buy an M6 I’d need to spend around $1,800. $1,800 for film camera that would cost even more money in film processing (though ultimately even itself out in the long run with something like a Sony a7r III).

Instead, I reached for music. And to my surprise, the prices were far different:

  • A 1966 Violin Stradivarius copy made in France: $350
  • Repairing the neck of one of my basses: $135
  • A 100 watt Fender Bassman amp: $180
  • A 40 watt Ampeg Bass amp: $130
  • A backup violin case, new bow and Rosin: $100

This shocked me. All of this was still less expensive than the Leica M6 (body only). I was dumbfounded by how much hype and lust there is in the photography world vs the music world. Perhaps photography is seen as a hobby with a lower barrier of entry where music on the other hand requires a different knowledge. Arguably, I’d say music doesn’t; some of the best musicians taught themselves and much of modern music is a few chords anyway.

I can hear you right now. “Why don’t you go for something cheaper Chris? Do you need a Leica M6?” And you’re right. Let’s choose something more elementary like a Canon AE-1. If that’s the case, it makes sense to downgrade the musical instruments too–which can be had for even cheaper on eBay or on Craigslist. Cameras hold their value depending on the brand; so too do instruments. Comparatively again, music is a cheaper hobby.

What’s also fascinating is how the rights of musicians are far more protected than the rights of photographers.