It Depends.

If you're trying to figure out what kind of camera you're wanting or needing to buy, I'd wager that you're beginning your journey into photography or are rekindling an old love. If that's indeed the case you probably haven't really figured out which paths along the way your gonna go down and which ones are gonna stick. Because at some point those decisions are going to make you wish you would have purchased different gear. Trust me I know all about this one.

For a great intro and general advice i really like Tony Northrup's take on camera gear. He's dove in and done most of the camera geekery research for ya and boils it down to "Just the Facts". He also has a much, much wider expereince with different brands of camera than I do.

But I still occasionally get asked about choosing camera gear and my number one suggestion would be this:

To the best of your ability, try to determine what type of photographer you are or what types of images appeal to you (landscapes, portraits, macro, wildlife etc)

Don't worry about getting this exactly right, but a little self inspection before heading out into the camera gear wilderness can insure that you spend your money wisely getting the best bang for your buck and minimizing the gear turnover. I'll throw two more ideas at ya.

The cheap person pays twice

Lenses are much more important than camera bodies

So buy the very best quality you can afford. If that means starting out with a simpler, but superior, kit that would be my choice.

Okay, let's get a bit more specific. Perhaps you like to travel and take landscape images with your iPhone but would like to step up your game. Well compelling landscape photography is captured with a wide variety of lenses, but it's rare that most landscape photographers don't have a fabulous wide angle zoom as one of their foundation lenses. So if I was building out a landscape kit, something I know a little about about, I'd be buying in this order.

  1. High quality constant F/4 Wide Angle Zoom lens (16-35mm full frame or 10-24mm crop sensor)
  2. Whatever camera body works with you new favorite wide angle zoom and also fits your budget.
  3. A quality tripod (which should cost about 10x more than you think)
  4. Telephoto zoom lens (70-200mm full frame or 55-200 crop sensor)
  5. A fast normal lens (50mm F/1.4 full frame or 35mm F/1.4 crop sensor)

If budget is tight and all you could afford was a wide angle zoom and a crop sensor body, no problem. Shoot the heck out of that combo and don't worry about changing lenses or sensor dust.

Of course camera buying is all about tradeoffs and sometimes money gets a real, real big vote. So if I had to make tradeoffs, which of course I do, they'd look like this for a new landscape photographer.

  • I'd go crop sensor over full frame and buy a used or reconditioned body.
  • I'd poney up for a great wide angle zoom. Again used or reconditioned.
  • I'd ignore every instinct I have to buy a $175 tripod and get the "worst" one your experienced landscape photographer friend recommends. Trust me on this. There is no larger gear money pit than the slowly upgrading to a useable tripod. And as a landscape photographer, most images will be on that tripod.

Well that's just landscape and each genre of photography, and photographer, will have different gear needs, and wants. But hopefully it conveys a mindset for prioritizing your gear and a concept of how to spend your money.

I'll answer specific gear question if I can so feel free to ask in the comments or contact me on my website.

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