Ricky Kresslein

Buying For Quality Over Cost


I’m going to relate this article 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 when item A either broke or did not live up to what it promised. 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. It is solidly built so it will last at least ten years (probably closer to twenty). It 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 a 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 quality over cost in mind I have decided to wait until I can comfortably buy the Gitzo. I see no benefit to wasting $300 now that I will need to spend again in the near future.

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.

Update Oct 9, 2020: I purchased the best wildlife camera for me earlier this year - an Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark III. Check out some photos I've taken with it.