There’s this common idea that “it’s the action/skill not the tools that matters.” As with all good pithy statements, it applies in most situations, it has a great deal of truth in it, but it is not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And so help me God I’ll prove it to you.

A few weeks back I put a new curtain rail up. To do so, I had to drill a couple of holes into our walls. The first was easy, but the second set was impossible. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t do it. In the end we borrowed a drill from a friend who does smart home installation.

It finished the job in seconds.

My skill didn’t matter, I needed the right tool.

Admittedly, if I didn’t know how to drill straight or what size drill bit I’d need then the right tool would make no difference (here’s that kernel of truth again). At the same time, even if one can achieve an outcome with any tool (such as making sweet sounding music on a “bad” guitar), it can be easier and far more enjoyable with a high-quality and correctly setup tool.

And when it is more enjoyable, you often want to do it more.

So investing in a good tool can lead to you improving your skills more than a bad tool.

Professional vs good tools

Professional tools don’t always meet this criteria.

They can be enjoyable to use and help beginners, but often a professional tool requires more skill than a beginners tool. If a beginner tries to pick up a pro level camera and just snap a picture, they may be confused by the controls and options causing them to accidentally set their auto focus point to a different subject.

In contrast a beginner tool might abstract the process too much and leave them to enjoy the process too little.

So while “cheap” usually means bad, expensive doesn’t always mean good and certainly not good for you.

The best tool, is the tool you’ll use

I believe this is what Chase Jarvis was getting at when he said “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

There might be a “superior” tool out there, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have it with you or choose to use it. I still regret selling my fuji x100t, not because it was the best camera, but it was the camera I took the most photos with.

Yes, part of that was due to the quality and style of images it produced, but it was also the experience of shooting with it and its size and portability.

And while many people have this same experience with smartphones, I preferred a dedicated device that I didn’t have to worry about draining my battery with.

There are plenty of good reason not to buy new gear, but you shouldn’t not buy gear just because someone on the internet shamed you into thinking that the pros all could make. something better with rubbish gear.

It’s probably true. There was a great series on YouTube called ProTog Cheap camera which featured just that.

But those pros didn’t stick with their terrible cameras. They went back to the cameras they enjoyed using.

Find the tools you like and you use and enjoy them!