Thanks Tim, for opening a line of discussion that gives an opportunity to get some perspective on this craft/art/hobby. If by any chance you run out of subjects you were considering for this discourse, I have two humble suggestions which I am offering, as they have given me a lot of headache :
1) Is photography creative?
2) The right to privacy (in connection with street and documentary photography)
Perhaps these have been thrashed to smithereens already, but would be interesting to do a re-run with this nice forum...!
As for the topic you have raised as the opening question in this thread - "hardware vs. everything else" - I can only say that I view myself as a minimalist in anything that is connected to "gear". Once I get past the learner's level of gear, I am usually content with the next level up, and this is true not only in photography.
I have had the same guitar for about 20 years. I have had the same bicycle for the last 12 years. These are items that I sometimes see people around me "upgrading" every few years. For me, the ones I have get the "job" done.
My Ricoh PX is my first digital camera, and actually the first camera I have ever bought for myself. Until about 6 years ago, I was using, quite rarely, a Pentax K-1000 film camera that came part and parcel with my wife (
), and before that I was using a Pentax Asahi H-2 that belonged to my father. I would never have considered buying a camera when I had these - photography just didn't interest me enough.
I'm not even sure why I decided that I wanted to re-try photgraphy as a hobby again - I believe that it was mainly because digital made things so much easier and cheaper, and also that I had started to travel abroad a bit, and I was sorry that I didn't have images of places and people that I might not see again.
Of course, I don't see myself as a professional in photography, music or biking - in which case I would probably see things very differently.
I am treating the PX as my "learning" gear, using it to mainly reflect on what interests me in photography, and it seems pretty obvious to me right now that once I will come across the right camera for me, the PX will be given away - like my previous bike and guitar.
I would like to believe that this liking of minimalism is born not only out of necessity (dictates of budget and priorities), but is something that has its value for me in all walks of life. However, until I win the lottery, I cannot truly say that my belief has been tested....
On the other hand, if someone has a great passion for something (and is always "upgrading"), and chooses to place this above everything else (even if I feel that his motivation is not completely based on self-awareness) - I certainly don't feel that I am in a position to judge him. As long as the outcome is a more harmonious life, I think rather that I should look on it as one more interesting piece of the human mosaic.