Camera

With how advanced technology is this topic becomes less relevant but is still one of the most asked questions. It is a common misconception that expensive gear = great pictures. It’s crazy to me to think that some of the top of the line cameras ten years ago had the same megapixel count as an iPhone today. The advance in technology makes any piece of equipment inadequate but when it comes down to it, the best camera is the one you have on you. The most important thing with photography is capturing something, everything else is secondary. With that being said, if you are looking at getting into photography and are looking where to start in terms of gear I will try to be helpful.

First, you need to determine your needs and budget. I recommend for anyone looking to get into photography to purchase a DSLR with a MASP dial. This will give you the option to use it in whichever settings makes you feel most comfortable, whether that’s fully automatic or completely manual. What’s nice about these is that older models are still great cameras and typically begin in the $300 price range which is pretty affordable. I’ll list a few of these options below focusing more on pricing and for what kind of person it would be ideal for. I am not focusing so much on precise specifications, brands or the whole full frame vs. crop and mirrorless vs. DSLR debate.

Entry Level: $200-$500

Canon T3i: This camera came out a few years ago but still floats around the market because of how revolutionary it was at the time for offering a good camera at a good price. Since then Canon has continued with this line, releasing a newer model every year or so. The Canon T-series is Canon’s flagship for entry cameras for beginners. This is because they are great, durable cameras that are affordable and typically meet the needs of most people.

Nikon d3100: Nikon and Canon typically match each other on every model they release, so for every great camera on one side, there is almost a very similar camera from the competitor. Much like Canon, Nikon also has a flagship model series which are all affordable and great for beginners. Like the Canon models, these only get better as well as pricier with each model that came out after such as: the D3200, D3300, D3400

Intermediate Level: $500 – $1000

For the most part these are very similar to the cameras above just with slightly better elements such as megapixels, frames per second, stabilization and possibly some better video options. This price range also opens the market for a lot of new options and brands. Though I won’t go into the specifics of a mirrorless camera, they are a lot more compact and still pack a heavy punch. They are great if you want to have a good camera without feeling like you’re lugging a big thing around. They also tend to be pretty quiet and discreet which makes them a favorite for people that do sneaky street or concert photography.

  • Nikon d3500/d5300/d5600/d5500/d7100/d7200 – $600-$1000
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 –  $550
  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II –  $600 (mirrorless)
  • Canon T6/70d –  $600-$1000
  • FUJIFILM X-T100 –  $600 (mirrorless)
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 –  $640
  • Sony Alpha a6000 –  $650 (mirrorless)
  • Pentax K-70 DSLR –  $790
  • Canon EOS M6 –  $800
  • Canon 5d M2 –  $800
  • Canon EOS M5 –  $900

 

Pro Level: $1000-4000

At this point you probably have a good idea of how to use a camera as well as exactly what you’re looking for. This is where photography becomes expensive and although I put a 4k cap on it, it really is limitless in terms of how much you can spend on gear. As someone who shoots full-time as their job, having a reliable work horse camera is crucial to being successful which is why I, after shooting for years, finally chose a higher priced camera and haven’t looked back. It’s now been two years of taking over 50,000 pictures and traveled to 3 continents with my camera and I know that what I spent on it has paid itself off. What is also great about these cameras is they are capable of taking pretty high quality videos as well and I have seen several high-end videos shot with plenty of them. Without getting too technical, the majority of these cameras handle light differently due to their sensor inside. This allows for a higher dynamic range, meaning you’re able to capture a wider array of light as well as allowing you to shoot better in dark situations. Recently, the Sony cameras have been making a big impact in the video market because of their superb video capabilities and the fact that they are mirrorless allows for a much smaller size.

  • Nikon D610 – $1500
  • Nikon D750/D500/D810 –  $1200-1700
  • Nikon D850 –  $3500-$4000
  • Canon 6d – $1100
  • Canon 5d M3 – $1200
  • Canon 5d M4 – $2500-$3000
  • Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 –  $1300 (mirrorless)
  • Sony a6500/a6300 –  $1300 (mirrorless)
  • FUJIFILM X-T20 –  $1300 (mirrorless)
  • Sony Alpha a7s II – $2400
  • Sony A7r 2 – $2000
  • Sony A7r 3 -$3000
  • Pentax K-1 – $1400

Lens

Lenses are extremely underrated. Many people focus on cameras but lenses are where you really get your money’s worth from a camera. Nowadays there’s a large market for lenses, allowing you to buy from the same maker as your camera or a third party company. Previously, these third party lens companies were good but no those companies are superb and make excellent glass. Two of the lenses I use the most for events are from a third party company and I have zero complaints. The advantage of buying through them is that they make very similar lenses for a fraction of the price. They have improved so much that many photographers prefer to buy their lens through one of them instead of lets say Nikon or Canon.

50mm: It is my belief that everyone should own a nice 50mm lens as they are extremely versatile. This lens is capable of doing so much for a photographer from portraits to show photography, to some wedding shots. This lens is also usually the cheapest to purchase.

35mm: This is right up there with the 50mm for the same exact reasons. These two lens are staples for any photographer. I have yet to meet a serious photographer that does not have these in their inventory. They are native to the eye, inexpensive and deliver a powerful punch.

24-70mm: This is the lens I use the most when shooting events. It allows for a massive range of perspective and options and is extremely easy and flexible to use. It’s great for anything from close ups, wide room shots, portraits, practically anything.

70-200mm: I purchased one of these last year and although it is a lot bigger than any of my other lenses, it is one of my sharpest. These are great for portraits, weddings, and events. You have to have one of these if you’re shooting any important event in a large room or area.

Wide Angle: I don’t typically use these unless I’m shooting a conference and want to really show a room full of 500 people to give the viewer the sense of scale. These are a must if you’re a real estate photographer, however.

Software

Adobe is the staple of the entire creative industry. They have dominated the market for years and it is crucial to know their suite if you want to do work professionally. Right now, their big photography program is Lightroom. It is a powerful tool that can really take your photography to the next level. It’s great for quick edits for editing a lot of pictures at once, allowing you to apply the same settings from one picture to hundreds. Photoshop is also a great program but one I only use for specific instances when I need to do deeper edits.
To the shame and disappointment of many colleagues, I don’t use Lightroom. I used Lightroom for 3 years and loved it. It was great, organized and fast but one day that changed. I’m a very mobile worker and often times work from different computers, bringing hard drives on hard drives with me to work from. This kind of file management is not conducive with Lightroom and the catalog organization it uses, so it reached a point where no matter how organized I tried to be in the program it just wouldn’t stay the same. For this reason I switched to a different Adobe program that works within your files and not creating new ones, meaning that the interface and organization never changes. This program is an extension to Photoshop called Adobe Bridge with CameraRaw and is actually what Adobe modeled Lightroom after. It has all the same functions as Lightroom as well which is great.Alternatively, if you don’t want to feed Adobe with more of your money there are some other programs out there such as CaptureOne, PhotoLab and Lightzone. Lastly, Gimp is also a great alternative to Photoshop and can be used to almost the same caliber. There are constantly new programs being brought to the market so it’s always worth checking them out, especially when they’re free.