Should I BUY the Canon EOS R or wait for the R5 (plugin just about anything here)?

If you prefer listening I've also recorded this entire post in audio form for my podcast JUMPSTART Sessions. You can listen below on soundcloud or CLICK HERE to access it on your favorite podcast platform.


A guide to buying “expensive gear/toys” When to buy, When NOT to buy….that is the question I ask of thee… ;)

A couple of things first. I’m not here to judge ANYONE for your buying decisions.

Secondly, my posts are always designed to take my over 14 years in owning a video production company and having many ups and downs and in the context of this post having spent LITERALLY over $250,000 worth of gear (cameras, etc.), cars, courses, and mentors/coaches and finally because I was great at making money (and spending) but NOT keeping money, it had put me in over $150,000 worth of debt with a $4,000+ a month debt bill from over a decade of reckless spending…..

So if you are GREAT with money and have a ton in the bank this post is most likely not for you….in fact, reach out I could learn from you :) !!

Now let’s define expensive. Someone who has 10 MILLION Dollars in the bank and buys with cash a $250,000 car I would say that is NOT expensive to that person. 

But let’s take the same scenario. A person who doesn’t have any money saved, has 25k in debt and makes $50,000 a year. Let’s say after taxes make about $3,000 a month-ish… To buy that same car this person would need to get a loan, and with a 60-month loan would be roughly $4,500 a month. That car would be pretty expensive for that person.

It’s all about perspective!

I have NOTHING against people buying NICE, expensive, and cool things….whatever you want to call it depending on your specific situation.

I LOVE nice things, have bought plenty of them through the years and still do. But don’t think I came from money. My dad works at a cemetary, my mom cleans houses, and I still live in the same small town of about 26,000 people here in the midwest.

The point here is that carrying lots of debt can be super stressful. It does not let you be very nimble. 

There are so many things I spent money on that were totally worth it, but plenty of things I bought that were not needed.I learned a lot through good and bad purchases and I want to share what I have learned with you.

Look this post isn’t about buying cars or my bad spending habits…it’s about YOU being able to make the BEST decisions for you and your family based on your situation!

In the context of this group, this is also about what is needed (from a gear perspective) to make a great living in video production.

Here’s an interesting sidetone. I have a friend who shoots for schools and nonprofits (typically $20,000-$40,000 projects) .99.9% of his projects have always involved shooting on-site with multiple cameras etc.

During this pandemic, he has already generated over $15,000 worth of projects with those same schools he was working with. No one will need to leave the house. The only gear needed will be the internet, computers, other people's phones, cameras and webcams, and editing software.

I’ll break this down into a few categories.

1. You are just starting out and not even 100% sure you will do this full time or just end up doing something else. Amount of money earned so far $0

2. You have gained some momentum and you KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that this is the career for YOU! Amount of money earned so far $10,000-$50,000 +

3. You are now doing this FULL TIME and you KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that this is the career for YOU! Amount of money earned so far $100,000-$500,000 + 

4. When it makes sense to buy the "Expensive" gear. Amount of money earned on :) !!!!

Alright, let's get into this!

1. You are just starting out and not even 100% sure you will do this full time or just end up doing something else. Amount of money earned so far $0

If you are in this category I would suggest depending on your financial situation either borrowing, renting, or buying just a few basic pieces of gear and spending less than $2,500. 

Before you feel like you need a fancy website, social media, business cards, business name, etc. Just start practicing and going to your friends and family and see if they know any people you may be able to shoot for. This could be for music videos, commercials, weddings, etc. Get out there and start doing some projects even for free and just see if you really like this. You should also be able to get some paid projects with this current gear setup and build a little momentum. 

2. You have gained some momentum and you KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that this is the career for YOU! Amount of money earned so far $10,000-$50,000 + 

Depending on exactly what industry you are going to be in will depend on what gear you will need. Now I’m going to assume if you are in this stage and you are thinking about upgrading you have been able to at least generate $10,000-$20,000 in revenue give or take. If you haven’t even been able to generate a few thousand dollars in revenue I wouldn’t suggest you are ready to upgrade. With the $2,500 ish setup from above, you should be able to get some $500-$1,000 jobs and at least get 5-10 ish of them before you consider upgrading.

I would question how much energy you are actually putting into this if, with a few thousand dollar basic camera kit, you haven’t been able to at least get a handful of cheaper jobs. If you can’t do that, and you do not have the energy or drive, better equipment is not going to help you. So true on many tasks in life.…. This will also depend on if you have been at this for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.

Now if you have been able to generate $10,000 or more you may consider upgrading your gear but there is no need to spend more than roughly $10,000 give or take. Again this will depend on exactly what you want to do. I priced out two different options that if I were in this stage and I was even considering upgrading, knowing ALL that I do now. I came up with a roughly $9,600 package and an almost $30,000 equivalent package (with the gear I see talked about in this group regularly). The two different packages included: 

2 Cameras 

2 Lenses 24-105 and 50mm

1 Gimbal 

1 Monopod 

Two Tripods 

Laptop Cheaper Setup/ Desktop "Expensive" Setup

Two Light Stands

Two Lights 

20 Cards for Cheaper Setup and 4 Cards for More "Expensive" Setup 

Audio Gear and Misc. 

Here’s a video my company created for Tony Robbins that was shot with 2 people. Some of this footage is in his documentary on Netflix. This was shot on Canon mkii, Canon 7d, 70-200f4, 16-35 2.8, 50mm, Bogen monopod, Glidecam 2000 HD. Also one quick point for those of you who may read this and be thinking about Alexa Cameras, Panavision, etc. This post is NOT about making major motion pictures or projects with MULTI-MILLION Dollar budgets. This is for people whose average budget for a project is LESS THAN $25,000 or for people who generate less than $250,000 a year. 

After over 14 years of being in business and generating over 2 Million Dollars in Revenue during that time. Averaging between $160,000-$250,000 a year. Regardless of which brands, cameras, etc. you are buying, this is the basic gear I've needed for most jobs I've done to generate between an average of $5,000-$15,000 per project.

Do some projects require more cameras, more lenses, more people, drones, etc.? For sure. I'm just talking about the 80/20 rule here. I don't need to personally own 5 cameras, 2 drones, 2 gimbals, 10 lenses, etc. you get the point. Over the course of your career you will likely own a lot. But again this is about making better decisions financially depending on where you are at in your career. (UPDATE: since writing this I have already received feedback from MULTIPLE people saying they have over $13,000 worth of gear and have not been able to generate any money yet and another who is in college and has spent $20,000 + and has generated $0.)

And again remember I'm NOT talking to you right now if you make $400,000 a year, have plenty of cash leftover, and are choosing to buy gear because you LOVE it!

I'm talking to the "younger me" who was super impressionable and didn't know any better. I looked up to people in the industry "back in my day" in 2009 from a company called StillMotion. They were the "Best in the Biz," and a ton of people looked up to them including me. I actually became friends with them. In fact, one of the purchases I made because of being inspired by them was a Steadicam Pilot. I paid $4,500 for it. I already owned a $350 Glidecam 2000 Pro (NOT HD). One of the guys Michael Wong knew I got the Pilot because it was the main one he used. Patrick, the owner of the company, used an $8,000 version of the Steadicam. After a few years, I put together a demo reel (2009)

I shared it with Michael Wong. He was like... WOW man, that's incredible. Great job I'm proud of you. How do you like the Steadicam Pilot? Does a great job doesn't it? I was SOOO PUMPED to tell him that only 2-3 shots out of the entire edit were done with the Pilot. The rest were shot with the handheld Glidecam 2000 Pro. I hated the Steadicam Pilot. It was so clunky for ME personally. I was so much more effective with the handheld Glidecam which I mainly used for over a decade. This is WHY I say it's the Wizard not the Wand. He was CONVINCED I had shot on the Steadicam Pilot. But with this particular piece of equipment the Pilot or Glidecam. If you knew how to use them both well there would be ALMOST ZERO difference in the quality of the final video. 

What I have found through the years is that when I was younger and lacked confidence in my abilities and constantly looked up to "peers", I would FEEL that if I had the gear they had I would produce the work like they did. I would be able to charge more money. 

See in 2011 my business doubled. I went from roughly never having generated more than $150,000 in revenue per year (in 5 years of being in business) to almost $300,000 in 2011. In 2012 it doubled again to almost $400,000.

Now, what changed between 2006 when I started and 2011 when business doubled?

Two things. First I will tell you what did NOT change. I did NOT upgrade my website, I did NOT buy tons more gear (barely upgraded at all for the next 8 years). My work did not get LIGHT YEARS better. In fact, my work quality barely changed between 2010 and 2011.

Here's what did change.

MY INTERNAL CONFIDENCE CHANGED DRASTICALLY. I stopped comparing myself to other people, I got off forums, I believed in myself and the work that I was producing, I had clarity in my LIFE and BUSINESS, I eliminated 80% of the offerings in my business, I got SUPER FOCUSED, and I hired a STUD named Ryan Hanlon to essentially run my company. I was getting really overwhelmed in my business and I was dropping a lot of balls. So he came in and helped make sure EVERYONE was getting responded to via e-mail, phone etc. He also started to take over and manage all the projects.  

3. You are now doing this FULL TIME and you KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that this is the career for YOU! Amount of money earned so far $100,000-$500,000 + 

Let's say you are in this stage and you have upgraded your gear to the $10,000ish package. You will most likely buy additional gear when you are in this stage. But YOU WILL NOT need to upgrade to the equivalent $30,000 + package. I'm not saying you shouldn't, I'm saying you can be earning $250,000-$500,000 or more a year without the "expensive" camera options. The $10,000 ish camera option will still produce INCREDIBLE quality for your clients. Getting beyond that we are talking about the law of diminishing returns. Meaning the difference in the quality of the footage between a $5,000 camera and a $25,000 is NOT drastic enough to warrant a $20,000 difference in price. 99% of clients don't care what you shoot on, as long as it gets them the RESULTS they are looking for. For example, the client is a dentist and wants to get 5 new patients in a month. If a guy with a $2,000 camera comes along and is able to get the dentist 10 new clients a month because he understands the client, the market, marketing, sales, storytelling, etc. do you think he would rather have the videographer who is a Technical Savant and owns a $25,000 camera make a masterpiece that gets a lot of views and likes but doesn't bring in any new clients because he doesn't understand the client, the market, marketing, sales, etc.? 

There are ALWAYS exceptions to this. I GET THAT. Right now I'm not talking about the exceptions. I'm talking about the majority....

In fact, right now there is still so much buzz about what is the right camera to buy. Should I buy the R or wait for the R5 (again plug in any “current” camera etc.)? Most of it is just marketing anyways. Year by year camera updates have VERY little change in the overall image quality. A BIG change early in my career was going from Standard Definition Canon GL2 to filming with a HD DSLR like the Canon mkii. HUGE changes like that come along every 5-10 years. If that is what you are worried about right now, I'll make a guess (which of course I could be WRONG) but I bet you are also NOT making much money during this pandemic and can't wait till we get to the other side of this...??!?!?

There are two types of Creators I talk about.

One is the "order taker" the other is the "Master Chef (Owner/Problem Solver/Entrepreneur)".

The "order taker" typically is the person all worried about the "wand" and what gear they should be buying. Leaving their finances into the hands of people in FB groups who don't pay your bills. 

The "order taker" typically gets paid the least amount of money because they are typically VERY REPLACEABLE. Think about it. You never go through the drive-through of a fast-food joint and say "I'm feeling lucky today, make me whatever you want"!!! 

The "order taker" right now is sitting at home waiting for their orders from their clients and there aren't any coming in...

On the other hand the "Master Chef" is dealing with the hand he has been dealt with and is getting creative and being resourceful.

People TRUST the "Master Chef". Example Jiro from the Netflix Doc "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" charges USD 270 per person. It takes months to get a reservation. You don't get to pick what sushi you’ll eat. He puts it in front of you and you eat it :). This was a line from a review: "Jiro is a sushi god- this is not a meal, it's an experience!"

The "Master Chef" provides an EXPERIENCE! People pay MORE for EXPERIENCES, especially rare ones. But creatives with cheap or expensive cameras and the ability to create quality looking work are a dime a dozen! Having quality work is no longer a competitive advantage.

The ones winning through this pandemic are the "Master Chef Creators". They are getting creative about HOW they can help and serve their clients in ways that WAIT FOR IT....WAIT FOR IT....AHHHHHHHHHHH...DARE I SAY ;) DON'T REQUIRE MUCH GEAR AT ALL.

If you haven't made $50,000 in your business yet and are considering buying all the "expensive" gear, could you dream of getting paid $5,000-$10,000 for a video job that you didn't shoot, was shot on phones and webcams, and the ONLY two things you have to do is direct/coach/consult/problem solve and get it edited!!

My friend Ryan is doing that right now during the pandemic with his clients. He got an inspired thought, which led to an inspired action, which led to a free gig (he calls it a CASE STUDY), which led to him sharing that Free Case Study with one of his old clients who hadn't paid him or worked with him in years. They ended up hiring him for $5,000, for 5 videos that will be user-generated content. No one will leave their house and No Fancy cameras or gear will be used.

This led to another inspired conversation with a university about doing a graduation video with user-generated content. He told me they were very emotional on the phone about his idea and they were so GRATEFUL and THANKFUL for him and TRUSTED him to DO HIS THING! This will be a $5,000-$15,000 project. 

All in ALL, I have zero doubts that Ryan will generate over $50,000 + worth of business during the pandemic with jobs that won't require shooters, fancy gear or cameras, just zoom, webcams, phones, and CREATIVITY! Director and Editor that's IT!

Now I just did an interview with Ryan (Click Here and I will send you Ryans interview where he talks about how he gets $15,000-$40,000 to work with schools and non profits and interviews I did on the JUMPSTARTER Virtual Summit with Parker Walbeck of Fulltime Filmmaker, Paul Xavier of Next Level Creators, Ronnie Gordan who is doing $2,500-$4,500 per month with stock footage, Brett Culp who has a documentary of Netflix and Hulu, and finally Casey Jones who did $25,000 in Real Estate photo/video in March 2020 during the pandemic. We dig into FOCUS, Confidence, Niche, etc.) and the reality is Ryan falls into the category of Creator who is the "Master Chef". He doesn't really know how to use any of the gear, and doesn't care about what gear is used. Ryan has UNSHAKEABLE CONFIDENCE and CLARITY. INCREDIBLE skills when it comes to directing, creativity, and SERVING the CLIENT! But Ryan is not a talented shooter or editor. He hires INCREDIBLE Shooters and Editors, of which those shooters are now editing for him during this pandemic.

This also did not happen overnight for Ryan. He has spent a decade building his clarity and confidence and his relationships. 

Just like the decade transformation that I made in my confidence.

4. When it makes sense to buy the "Expensive" gear. Amount of money earned doesn't matter to me ;) WHAT??!?!

I believe buying "expensive" gear/toys/cars etc. can be done for VARIOUS reasons. 

Let's address a few.

Your client is NEEDING/ Requesting it. Ok great. Too many times I bought a $5,000 piece of gear that I used once for the $5,000 job that I got it for. I could have rented the piece of gear for $500 or less and actually made a profit! If you find that it’s going to cost you more in rentals than the cost of the camera or piece of gear then 100% buy that piece of gear. My point is don’t automatically buy a piece of gear because a client requests it. If you find that you are regularly losing jobs, like ACTUALLY losing jobs, because of your equipment... then you should possibly upgrade. This is also a great opportunity to network within your community with the people that do have that gear, an alternative to renting or buying.

You just WANT IT! Look at the end of the day. You can buy whatever you want, whenever you want. You can buy it with cash, or you can buy it with debt. There is NO judgment for buying or wanting NICE or "expensive" things. There should be NO SHAME about buying NICE or "expensive" things. If it didn't come across after reading all this, if you made it this far :) GO YOU!!! My goal is actually NOT to get you to NOT buy NICE or "expensive" things but rather to take a DEEP look at WHY you are really buying it. I wanted to prove that you can do great quality work, make a great living, and SERVE your clients on a high level in various different ways that won't break the bank! It's about the EXPERIENCE you provide to clients. It's about the RESULTS you help clients get.

If you are in a position to drop $80,000 on gears, cars, etc. and won’t hurt your pocket book, DO IT if you really WANT TO! But hopefully it’s not to just fill a void inside of you that you are trying to fill with “external” things. There are plenty of millionaires who have all the money in the world but are emotionally bankrupt. There are also millionaires who have all the money in the world who are personally, professionally, and emotionally WEALTHY!!

The same goes for people who don’t even make $30,000 a year. Some are emotionally bankrupt and others are TRULY the happiest people on the planet. After being around all income levels in my career, I can see this more CLEAR than ever before. In fact, there are people who have been able to save $5,000 a year out of their $40,000 a year jobs and have $50,000 + in savings because they saved for a decade. While other people are going bankrupt because they had nothing saved even though they were generating hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars a YEAR! But they didn’t save a DIME!

After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars over a decade on various "expensive" and NICE things, cheap things, gear, cars, courses, coaches, etc. I can look back and see that I wouldn't be able to write this post and help people (which is my MISSION in life) if I didn't do all that I had done. I could easily have ZERO debt right now and probably $100,000 + saved with the things I purchased through the years that really didn't do anything but give me the ability to write this post. Which to me in the big picture is worth it! It might seem crazy to some. Honestly, it was writing this post that made me FULLY see it that way! 

I have chosen a career in coaching where I feel like I’m a human guinea pig doing certain things that others don’t need to do. Look we all need/will experience pain and suffering in our life.

I’ve become very skilled at getting knocked down and getting back up and doing that AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN! Some of the experiences I’ve had have almost broken me. They were scary, they were painful, and THEY SUCKED at the moment. I don’t believe I or anyone else will be able to remove all your pain and suffering. But there are certain things that you just DON’T have to GO THROUGH if you are willing to learn from a post like this. You will have plenty of your own “learning” experiences as you go along your own journey of LIFE. PILES of debt doesn’t have to be one of them. Not to mention, the amount of stress and anxiety you can avoid, especially in times like these, if you focus more on the skills, and less on acquiring equipment. Build confidence in yourself, and spend the time learning more about the non technical or tactical aspects of the business.

I didn’t even get into almost going bankrupt in 2016. That’s a whole other story. Happy to share another time.

Who knows when a “pandemic” will happen again in our lifetime! You can bet “something” will happen. 

So rather than spending 90% + of your time focusing on what camera to buy and the technical skills, start spending more time and $$$ working on yourself. The days of just buying the Best Gear, Making the “BEST” videos are over! The soft skills matter more than ever now:

Leadership Skills.


Communication Skills. 

Problem Solving Skills. 

Work Ethic.


Interpersonal Skills.

Emotional Intelligence.

Self Awareness.

Your Mindset and ATTITUDE MATTER!

Your ability to provide an INCREDIBLE Client Experience MATTER!

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