I was told that the caption of this photo, "单反穷三代, 摄影毁一生..."

camera seller

states how costly photography is as a hobby, but I am unsure how to parse it. Google Translate gave "SLR poor three generations, photography ruined a lifetime". How should I parse this caption?

  • Which part of the sentence do you not understand?
    – fefe
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 14:07

4 Answers 4


The origin of the expression "oo穷三代xx毁一生" is not tractable. The earliest well-known record is a public education slogan "赌博穷三代,吸毒毁一生". These slogans are mostly painted in gigantic red characters in public locations like on walls and bridges. It warns people to stay away from dangerous activates such as gambling and taking drugs. The common thing of these activates is it is highly addictive and costs a lot.

At days when games especially online games are considered as bad as "spiritual drugs", a university painted a slogan "DOTA 毁一生,网游穷三代" (MOBA games and online games). It is now considered funny because it is definitely an overstatement.

Nowadays, these slogans are less usual. But the expression appears on the internet to joke on some hobbies that cost too much time/money. Such as "耳机穷三代,功放毁一生" (headphones and headphone amplifiers), and this "单反穷三代,镜头毁一生"(DSLRs and lens). I was told good lenses are even more expensive than DSLRs. The point of this joke is that the equipment for these hobbies are as costly as drugs: it might cost you everything. As is shown in this meme, at the end of your life you might end up with nothing but cameras, and then you can sell them by pounds.

The translation is difficult because of this background. You can take a well-known slogan against drugs and change it. Such as:

"Say yes to life. Say no to drugs!"

I am not sure how well-known the slogan is. I just found it on google. Then you can change it to:

Say yes to life. Say no to DSLR!

Reference: 萌娘百科 . More examples can be found there. This web site is more like Urban Dictionary for Chinese, very amusing to read.

  • Very detailed answer and background. Thanks a lot
    – Gnubie
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 23:40

Because 單反(Single Lens Reflex Camera) is expensive when you start to take photo more and more senior.

So it could let you poor for three generations(exaggerated?), and take a photograph will break your whole life.

In the picture, he is holding a Chinese old scales to weight the Camera, means he have no money, but have a lot of camera, he is weighting his camera to sale.


单反穷三代, 摄影毁一生

It should be parsed as:

单反 / 穷 / 三代, 摄影 / 毁 / 一生

This might be more readable:

单反使三代人变穷, 摄影毁掉了人的一生。

穷 (original adjective) is used as a verb, meaning make someone poor.


单反 = expensive camera
穷三代, = make 3 generations poor

摄影 = photography
毁一生 = (will) ruin your whole life

Great advertising!

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