Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase using some links on this site. The purpose for this site is to provide you quality photography tips, helpful content and recommendations. If you already read few of my posts, you would know that I don’t go crazy over gear and I don’t think you should either. I only recommend products and resources that I like, benefited from, or believe that will benefit you. Please spend your money wisely and please don’t go into debt buying camera gear. Some affiliate links are Amazon, Borrow Lenses, Adorama, Digital Photography School, Tiny Prints, and Shutterfly. Since I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you, if you’re on the market for any products, one way to support me to keep running this site is by using links that direct you to any of those sites. Thank you!
Be sure to check out my list of 2014 Gift Ideas for Photographers.
Here’s my take on camera gear.
#1 The latest and greatest, newest, expensive gear won’t make you a better photographer.
#2 Keep it simple!
If you’re a total beginner or photography is your new found hobby, all you need in the beginning is one camera and one lens.
I know the temptation. You either bought or received this big clunky, nice looking camera that you think is going to automatically take awesome pictures. You might soon realize, you’re not quite getting the results you’d like. Then you think, “Maybe I need to a new lens. Maybe I should have bought the “other camera”, or the “other brand”. Or, I need that “new camera!”
Let me frankly say, NO, you don’t need more gear. You need to learn and practice photography. If you’re ready to learn, start here.
My hope for this site is to help you take better pictures, not make you go into debt.
If you’re looking to purchase a digital SLR camera(digital single-reflex camera), minimally you need a lens, and a memory card to begin taking pictures.
Here’s my list of gear that I’d recommend.
There are so many cameras out there targeted for beginners that I can’t even keep up.
In my opinion, most cameras currently in the market are all superb. Technology simply blows my mind. However, cameras have a shorter life cycle than lenses. In my humble opinion, if you’re going to spend money, invest in a better lens verses spending the extra cash on a “latest and greatest” camera body.
For example, the Canon Rebel EOS T3i is/was one of the best selling cameras. It’s a great camera. But do you know that there are previous models like Canon EOS T3 that have similar specifications but you can possibly get for less money? UPDATE: Though T3i is still available, it’s no longer being produced. The latest model is the Canon T5i, and I bet there’ll be T6i, T7i etc. you get the point.
In all honesty, decide on what you can afford. The differences in the specs really won’t make a huge difference for a hobbyist. A camera has a shorter life cycle than a lens, as long as you take care of it. And in my opinion, all the camera bodies currently available in the market are all great. You can’t go wrong. Do your best not to get caught up in all the technical specs such as “more megapixels” and “larger viewfinder” etc, the camera makers use to entice you with. So I’d rather you save some money and invest in a camera body that isn’t necessarily the latest, and focus on investing in a nice lens for your need.
One technical spec that I DO value in today’s cameras is the wide range of ISO sensitivity. If a camera produces clean images at HIGH ISO then I’d recommend that. If you’re lost in all the technical specs companies use for marketing, I’d suggest pay attention to what the ISO range is whether it performs well in high ISO.
To put it simply, high ISO allows you to take photos in low light situations and that is a valuable thing, as it increases the situations of when and where we can take photos. In the past, ISO 1600 was highest most camera allowed but it produced “grain” in images and quality of the photos weren’t great in high ISO. As technology advanced, many newer cameras perform extremely well at high ISO’s beyond 1600, 2000 or even 3200, and I love that. Read more about ISO.
So, here are some cameras that I’d recommend.
Prime lenses have one focal length without a zoom function. Zoom lenses have a zoom function, and the the 18mm-55mm kit lens that usually comes with the camera will fall into the zoom lens category.
One of the most common questions I receive is, “What lens should I get?” There’s no single perfect lens that will meet all your needs. I’m not a fan of most zoom lenses on the market that are under $500. It must cost more to make a quality zoom lens. However, there some prime lenses that I’d highly recommend. So here are some of my recommendation for best camera lenses for beginners.
There are some quality prime lenses in the market that are also affordable. Two of my favorites are the 35mm and 50mm 1.8 for both Canon and Nikon.
***For someone starting out in photography, my suggestion is to get one of the cameras “Body only”(without the lens that comes as a bundle), and get either the 35mm or the 50mm f/1.8 listed below.
35mm Prime lens – The more I use this lens, the more I love. UPDATE: I’m so bummed that the affordable Canon 35mm f/2.0 lens is no longer available. Canon instead came out with a newer 35mm f/2.0 lens with an Image Stabilization(IS). I personally don’t see a reason why a short focal length lens with a 2.0 aperture needs to have an image stabilization feature so I find that pretty useless, but if you’re looking the 35mm focal length, it’s going to cost you more than the older version I reviewed on this blog and like.
50mm Prime lenses – The 50mm f/1.8 lens for both Canon and Nikon are great starter lenses! It’s the most affordable lens out there, and you’d get the most bang for your buck! *Nikon users, there are a couple different versions of this lens, so make sure you check compatibility with your camera model before purchasing.
If you’re thinking more long term 50mm f/1.4 lenses will be a upgrade with better built quality and wider aperture of f/1.4.
Canon 24mm EF-S STM Lens – Although I’m bummed that Canon discontinued the older version of 35mm f/2.0 lens, I’m happy about the new release of the Canon 24mm f/2.8 pancake lens. In a crop sensor camera the focal length is equivalant to 38mm, which puts you closer to a 35mm lens on a full frame camera. The $164 price tag makes it even better.
Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens is also affordable and worth considering. The compact size of this lens is definitely a huge bonus.
Canon 85mm f/1.8 – This is an excellent portrait lens. The color, contrast and sharpness on this lens is outstanding.
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is a lens I will strongly consider investing in. If you have a crop sensor camera such as the Canon Rebel series, Canon 60D, or Nikon D7000 the 30mm focal length will give you a field of view close to a 50mm lens. This is a newer version of this lens and with a wide aperture at f/1.4, it might be just be the everyday versatile lens you’re looking for.
Also consider the 28mm Prime lenses. There’s a f/1.8 model and a f/2.8 model.
I’m really not a fan of the “Kit Lens”, but it’s usually include with the camera for not much extra money, so if you get it, it’s fine.
If a zoom lens will serve your purpose better then a third party company called, Tamron, has some decent lenses that you can use with your Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax or brand cameras. Just make sure the lens you purchase is for your camera brand.
The last thing you want to happen is for your memory card to go bad and lose your images.
I recommend Sandisk memory cards, because Sandisk is the leading brand for memory cards, and I’ve use it for years without any issues, so I’m sticking with them.
Make sure to check whether your cameras uses an Secure Digital(SD) or Compact Flash(CF) card before purchasing.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5: 99.9% of my photo processing is done in Lightroom.
The best advice I received before my wife and I went on our honeymoon was to bring a tripod. We were able to get photos of us together instead of, a picture of me, a picture of her, and a picture of us with our heads cut off taken by a stranger.
Tripod is an important tool for taking nature photos. It’s also nice to have if you’d like to be in your family photos, or if you want to be in photos when you travel. Professional tripods will cost you hundreds of dollars, but here are couple of affordable options for you.
Be sure to check out my list of 2014 Gift Ideas for Photographers.