Where do I start Buying Camera Kit?
If you’re reading this, then you no doubt have kids, and you’ll know that it’s time to take photography seriously. Either you buy the kit, become a camera buff or you book a pro, but someone is going to have to document these kids growing up and prove to them that you did indeed spend every waking hour entertaining them!!! Buying Camera Kit is complicated, so as a way of telling you about what you need, I will explain my own kit and why I have chosen it. If you need advice you can always drop me an email, I’ll be happy to help you out.
What I have in my Camera Bag
So lets start with the kit that I use for my portrait shoots. I decided back in January that it was time to make the switch to Mirrorless Cameras. There are many reasons I made this decision and that is the subject of another blog (read about the mirrorless switch). But basically I did away with my trusted Canon kit and have plunged headlong into Sony.
Camera Bodies – Mirror-less
So I have 2 Sony A7iii camera bodies – very high tech, face recognition technology and the best sensor on the market (currently). These cameras have been around for only around 18 months or so, however you can find them second hand (either use Ebay – with care – or www.mpb.com or Wex Photo too I have used both these companies and both were extremely good customer service as well as products) – Second hand is completely fine, as the standard of kit that I use is such that it lasts extremely well and obviously you get a much better price. I presume that some people who have made the switch to mirrorless have decided they actually preferred their previous set up which is why there are a few to buy second hand.
Another good thing to do and that I did before buying, was to rent a camera set up for a couple of days. It’s not too expensive and you’ll then be sure what you want. I have used hireacamera.com to great effect.
Camera Bodies – DSLR
If you don’t want to go mirroless then the DSLR range from Nikon, Canon and Sony are all amazing and have excellent lens selections. Go for full frame if you can afford to as this give a more true representation of the lens you have put onto the body. If you get one that is say 3/4 frame then essentially you’re cropping the image..not a huge problem but it makes more sense if you can to go big.
I used Canon prior to my Sony switch, and had the 5Dmk3 which is an awesome camera and one that a huge number of pro’s use. I think if the 5D is a bit pricey for your needs then maybe go for the 50D (the smaller the number with canon, the more expensive, so the 1D is their top one!). There is plenty of second hand kit around for the 5D as it’s been around for a while, in fact the 5Dmk4 has been out a while too..also these cameras are amazing at video, so much so that TV crews often use it when they need to be more mobile.
Now lenses are the thing you want to spend your money on. This really does make a huge difference to your images. Camera bodies actually have less of an impact on the image quality then the lens does so go ahead and splash out here.
Telephoto v Prime
The other decision you have to make is are you going to have a one size fits all lens that zooms into your subject or are you going to get a prime (fixed) lens where you have to move your feet?
My advice is, if you don’t know what you’re going to be using your camera for at this stage, then get a telephoto lens. It is more economical and covers a multitude of distances so you don’t have to do any lens changes on the go. If you know you want to do portraits for example, then I would say go for a prime, fixed lens. The reason being, that the primes are usually better quality glass, and allow for a wider apperture (which leads to much nicer blurry backgrounds), and it’s this reason I’ve only got prime lenses in my kit bag.
In my bag I have:
Sony 35mm f2.8 used for taking babies from above
Sony 55mm f1.8 used for maternity portraits in the studio
Sony 85mm f1.8 used for closer cropped studio portraits
Samyang 100mm macro f2.8 used for close ups of babies hands and feet etc
Sigma Art 135mm f1,8 used for location portraits
You tend to pay more for lenses that have a smaller f value (wider aperture – I know confusing right?) and the smaller this number the more blurred the background to your images. So if you don’t need/want that blur then there is no point at all in getting the really pricey f1.2 for example. In the studio, I have no need for a blurry background as the background is plain and there is nothing to blur, hence my studio lenses are not f1.2 ones. My location lens is my most expensive lens, but at 135mm then the best f you can get would be f1.8 so that’s what I went for. The longer your lens the larger the f stop value would be for the best lenses (ie if you went for a 50mm lens you can get f1.2, if you go for 135mm it’s f1.8 and if you go for 400mm it’s f3).
Again buying lenses second hand is completely fine, they last a very long time and if you buy from a reputable reseller they will analyse it’s condition accurately so you know how much use it’s had.
Telephoto options for starting out
A good all rounder Lens would be the 24-105mm for example, this lens comes as the kit lens for the 5D and is a great lens to start with. You don’t want to go too wide (ie starting at 10mm) as that leads to distortion and is tricky to get right.. Another good one for sneaking up on kids in the park (preferably your own unless you want to get arrested!) is the 70-200mm lens which comes in a variety of flavours and prices.
If you want a nice prime lens to start with then I would consider either the 35mm or the 50mm – anything longer and you’re not going to be able to get very close to your subject, which of course may be what you’re after… horses for courses!
I do hope this has been helpful. There is a shop in Chiswick I go to that has hugely knowledgable staff and a good range of stock especially considering it’s a small shop, but you can buy second hand kit here too. If you want advice from the techie pros, then do give them a buzz. https://chiswickcameras.co.uk/
Susan Porter-Thomas London based family photographer BSc MSc LSWPP