So I put together a short list of some of my favorite gear. I don’t own all of it (some day, maybe!) but I’ve used ’em and I highly recommend all of it. So if you’re ever looking to buy any of the stuff listed here, don’t hesitate; I personally guarantee its awesomeness.
Full frame: there’s a new bunch of these out. As with most tech, the newer cameras are usually the best—most of the time at least. The new full frame cameras from Canon and Nikon are superb. Stunning high ISO noise control, fast performance, great image quality (of course), and…they’re full frame – you can use your lenses at the focal length they were made to be used at. Nikon’s D4 and Canon’s 5D Mark III are the recommendations for full frame DSLRs.
Crop Sensor: again, Nikon and Canon—yeah I’m a fan of these two. Although I can rarely pick one of the two easily. These mid-range crop sensor DSLRs are great: great high ISO performance (for 1.6 crop sensors), very fast shooting speeds (especially the 7D), excellent build, and a very reasonable price. If you’re not ready to go full frame just yet, the Canon 7D and the Nikon D7000 are just for you.
I usually like to use prime lenses for most of my stuff—less (or no) distortions, sharper, faster…why bother with zooms? Primes also help you take better pictures, in my opinion…really working to get the right composition and crop manually, on your feet…this helps
For either Nikon or Canon, a nice range of primes would be perfect. The ideal range for me would be having a 20mm, a 28 or 35mm, a 50mm, and an 85mm fixed focal length lens. If you need more (or less), you’re looking for a specialty-purpose lens, and should know more about what you need than I do—although I’d suggest a wide angle or tele zoom lens instead of a prime, if you want to go super wide, or tele.
If you’re using a crop sensor, be aware that you need to multiply the lens’ focal length by 1.6 or thereabouts, to get the effective focal length, to know what you will be seeing through the viewfinder.
For Canon, I’d recommend:
- EF 24mm f1.4 L II USM (pricey, but if you want quality, go for it)
- EF 50mm f1.4 USM (superb lens—best 50mm lens I’ve used)
- EF 85mm f1.8 USM (excellent value for money)
- AF-S 24mm f1.4 G (pricey, as all these wide angle primes are, but a fantastic lens)
- AF-S 50mm f1.4 G (the Nikon version of the 50mm f/1.4—excellent)
- AF-S 85mm f1.4 G (pretty expensive, but you’ll thank yourself if you get this one)
But if you want a standard range zoom, the Tamron 17–50mm f/2.8 is a fantastic lens for the price, and comes in Canon/Nikon mounts (as well as others, I think)
Micro Four Thirds
The compact DSLR, of sorts…I love this format, even though I don’t regularly use it. These cameras are compact, shoot in excellent image quality, good ISO performance…definitely get one of these if size is a concern. I’d get the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 if I were buying one today. Although you might want to hold off for the Olympus OM-D E-M5…I haven’t used one yet at time of writing, but from what I see, it looks fantastic.
One word: Leica. OK, that’s a brand. But yeah, if you’re looking for a good rangefinder, I simply have to recommend a Leica. Any of them. If you want a digital rangefinder, your only option would be the Leica M9. Going film? Any Leica, from the ancient M3 to the M4…MP..M6..M7… Like I said, go for any one of them. The amazing build quality, the mechanisms, the optical quality of the lenses—not to mention the incredibly good looks! It’s unbeatable. Go for it.
Point & Shoot
There have been some rather new (well, not so new any more) point and shoot cameras in the market that have the size of a regular compact, but have the image quality and manual controls of a superior camera. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 is the best, in my opinion. The Canon Powershot S95 is also excellent—both at similar price points. Over a few features missing and a rather poor upgrade overall, I do not recommend the Powershot S100; save your money and get the S95 instead.
Built in flashes really do not work that great…if you’re interested in flash photography, get yourself an external flash unit. Canon’s 430 EX II is a great place to start, or go for the flagship 580 EX II if you can afford it. For Nikon users, check out the SB700, SB900, or the newest SB910.
The free tripod you got with your new DSLR is better than no tripod, but if you’re seriously interested in night/low light work, get yourself a good tripod. I highly recommend Manfrotto, having used their tripods and heads a lot. The 190XProB is a great tripod, along with the496RC2 head. Gitzo also makes great tripods, although I find their stuff a bit too pricey. Seriously, go for Manfrotto.
Unlike tripods, a free filter is not better than no filter. No way. A free filter is a cheap piece of glass that you’re sticking in front of the high quality glass lens that you paid hundreds of dollars for. No, if you must use a filter (protective, UV, CPL, ND, whatever), get a good one. I use B+W. They’re probably the most expensive brand, but for a reason. The glass is of superb quality, causing little additional lens flare and other optical problems that some filters have. They’re very easy to clean…and hardly affect your image quality at all. At least, I don’t see a difference.
A good camera bag is something often overlooked. You need something you can comfortably carry around, something that holds all your gear, or most of it, and protects it. Lowepro is my camera bag of choice, the Slingshot series being my favorite. Depending on the size, it can hold a large camera body, one to three (or four) lenses, other accessories, and…yeah. It’s got a great design, check out their site. They also have many other great bags that you might find more suitable. I suggest you buy their stuff because it’s a top quality product—it really is. Look for the AW (All Weather) sign on the bag you’re buying: this means it’s got a pull-out protective covering that wraps your bag completely. That’s saved my gear many times in a sudden downpour.
Well, that’s pretty much all I can think of. Hope it helps.
And apologies for sticking only to Canon and Nikon. I know other brands make equally good stuff, but this is the stuff that I’ve used most, and can recommend without hesitation. Hope you guys understand!
About the Author:
Heshan C. Jayakody writes for pixelogist.me. He is a photographer based in Singapore.