What Photography Gear Do You Really Need?

December 25, 2018

I get a lot of questions about what kind of photography gear I use. Instead of providing a list, I thought I’d provide some recommendations for different types of photographers, including newbies. Remember that your lens or lenses are as important as your camera. Get good ones and cover them with good filters (see my recommendations below).

I used to have a Nikon DSLR (and lenses). But I switched to a Sony mirrorless kit, because the Sony mirrorless cameras and, to a lesser extent, lenses, are lighter and smaller than Nikon (or Cannon) cameras. I don’t regret making the move, but I will say that Canon or Nikon DSLRs are great choices, especially since they are a bit more robust than mirrorless cameras. In addition, since lots of people are switching to mirrorless cameras, it’s easy to buy awesome Nikon (and Cannon) DSLR cameras and lenses for cheap on eBay. But if you are just starting out, I’d recommend going with a Sony (or Fuji) mirrorless camera since that’s where the market is going. Even Cannon and Nikon make good mirrorless cameras although they are catching up to Sony (and Fuji).

For those of you who don’t want to get into photography, including fiddling with camera controls and menu systems, but who do want to take great pics, I’d recommend getting a nicer point and shoot camera like the Sony DSC-RX 100 V or VI. The VI is a more versatile camera since it has a 24-200mm lens. But the V, which as a 24 – 70mm lens, is better in low light since it has a larger maximum aperture (f/2.8). In other words, it lets in more light. But both cameras are inconspicuous, small and offer many of the manual controls that larger cameras have, e.g., they allow you to set your aperture (f-stop), shutter speed, etc.

For those of you who are more serious about photography, but don’t want a bigger, bulkier DSLR or mirrorless camera, I’d highly recommend a Sony a6300 or a6500. You can find good used a6300s on eBay. These cameras have a bigger sensor than the Sony DSC-RX 100 cameras above, but not as big as the full frame sensors below. I’d pair these cameras with the Sony Zeiss 16-70mm OSS lens. This is an awesome lens that I’ve taken some great pics with. You can also pick up a 35mm prime lens to pair with your a6300 or a6500 when you want to go light and fast, e.g., when practicing street photography.

Those of you who are more serious probably already have a favorite camera and lenses. I chose the Sony a7R III full frame camera which offers amazing auto focusing, dynamic range and low light performance. It’s probably overkill but in a world where cameras keep getting better and better, I thought I’d get the best Sony mirrorless camera at the time of my purchase. Based on my experience, I’d recommend the following Sony lenses (in general I believe that Sony cameras deserve Sony lenses and I don’t like fiddling with adapters to make lenses from other manufacturers work on Sony camera bodies):

Environmental Portraits or Landscapes

The Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 Lens

Or if you have the money, the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lens.

Street Photography and Astro Photography

The Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 Lens

If I only had 1 lens, this would be it. It has great bokeh or background blur and colors and is great in low light. The Sony 55mm f/2.8 is also a great astro photography lens.

As a general walk-around lens – The Sony 16-70mm f/2.8. I bought the 16-105mm f/4 instead. Although I like it, I wish I had the 16-70mm f/2.8 since it has better low light performance (and enables you to take photos with better bokeh or background blur).

For macros – The Sony 90mm 2.8. This is the lens to get if you want to take macro photos, e.g., photos of bugs, etc. It’s also a great portrait lens.

For wildlife photography – I don’t have a telephoto zoom lens because they are big and expensive and I didn’t like the cheaper telephoto zooms from Sony (or other manufacturers). But from everything I’ve seen and heard, the Sony 100-400mm GM is an awesome lens and I’ll definately pick one up before we head to Africa or Alaska.

To supplement my lenses, I always use a good UV filter, e.g., a Hoya UV Haze HMC NXT filter, and carry a graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky, e.g., a Tiffen Graduated Neutral Density 0.6 filter.

Remember, whatever you do, good gear always helps but doesn’t take the place of good composition. More on this topic later!

About

I am an adventure photographer, explorer and athlete. I enjoy photography, writing and the outdoors. I am also an expert in helping companies develop rapid growth via global expansion and innovation, as well as a consultant who helps companies develop, launch and manage innovative products and services that improve people’s lives.

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