I am going to show you the equipment I have, but I think the answer to the question depends on where you are in your journey and where you want to go. I started off wanting to take pictures of my kiddo. Then I wanted to try my hand at some professional shooting and that prompted at least two upgrades/purchases. Now, I just want to capture my memories in a professional looking way. What is that you want to do?
Cameras and Lenses
- Nikon D7000
- Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 D
- Nikon DX AF Fisheye Nikkor 10.5mm 1:2.8 G ED
- Nikon D600
- Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8
- Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8
I currently shoot 95% of everything I shoot with my Nikon D600, but that’s not what I started with. I learned on a Nikon D40, upgraded to the Nikon D7000, and then upgraded again to the Nikon D600 to get a full frame sensor. I kept the Nikon D7000 as a backup camera and I use it occasionally with the fisheye lens for fun. The fisheye lets in more light and the camera is small and lightweight, so I take it when I don’t want to lug around something larger. Once I really got going with photography and learned the basics, I had to have a full frame sensor, so I went with the D600. It was a great investment and I have loved it. It was tough for me to spend that money, but it was well worth it. Now, I’m itching for the Nikon D750.
As you upgrade, I find the main difference, other than sensor size, to be the amount of control you have through buttons on the back of the camera. On the smaller cameras more things are buried in the menu and not easily accessible when you are in the middle of a shoot. Once you learn to shoot in manual mode, you’ll want to be able to easily change your settings on the fly and its easier to do that with a button rather than having to go into the menu.
If things like sensor size and shooting in manual mode don’t mean anything to you, you are fine with a smaller, less expensive camera. You can always upgrade when they do mean something.
My first Tamron lens was the 24-70 and it is the one I use the most. I bought the 70-200 when I was asked to photograph a wedding. Both times I bought lenses, I compared the Tamron to the Nikon and I went with the Tamron because of the price difference. Yes, I’m sure the Nikon is better by a hair, but not in a measurable way that is going to show in my pictures. When you are talking about $1,000 difference on the 70-200, it’s hard to justify that much more money. The Tamrons have been workhorses and great investments. I’d also like to add the wide angle Tamron lens to my collection.
Light and Studio Equipment
- Nikon Speedlight SB-700
- Phottix Strato TTL Transmitter and Receiver for Nikon
- Westcott Softbox and light stand
- Westcott Xdrop backdrop stand and several backdrops
I couldn’t get by without an off-camera flash. My Nikon Speedlight is great. I generally use it on my camera, but I can also use it with my radio transmitter and receiver and put it on my light stand. I’d love two of these babies. Yes, you need a radio transmitter and receiver for your camera and flash to communicate when they are separated.
I use my backdrops more than I use the stand. I have an empty wall in my office that I hang the backdrops on instead of the stand and it’s the perfect place to do a little indoor shooting. I have a white backdrop and a few fancy ones, but I mostly use the white one and one of the fancy one’s on the backside where it just looks black. I use this set up for special photo shoots like Halloween costumes or for Valentine cards.
You’ll also need a bag of some sort to carry everything around in. At one point I went for the fancy Kelly Moore bag because it wasn’t a plain black bag. It was more of purse style. I envisioned being able to casually carry around my camera in my purse. That didn’t happen. That camera is heavy. One year I loaded that bag down with equipment and took it on a flight. I could not even carry it! Huge mistake. I have a very streamlined ThinkTank bag/system. I have the bag for the camera and the add on compartment for the light and another add on for a lens. This is what I carry. Yes, it’s black, but it’s so much easier.
For a short period of time I was convinced I could just carry my camera around. One shoot I had it hanging from my arm on the strap and I had my brand new 70-200mm lens attached. I was getting out of the car and gathering my things when wouldn’t you know it, the strap came off the camera and the lens fell on the concrete and broke. I had to shoot with my backup. I was devastated. I had to send the lens in for repairs. It turned out to be okay, but that’s when I decided I would need to make sure I had my camera in some sort of bag until I was actually ready to take that first shot. You invest so much in equipment, you need to make sure you protect it.
Every dollar spent on photography equipment has been well spent. I would buy every single thing I own again. I recommend Nikon, Tamron, Westcott, and ThinkTank. Check out what they have to offer. Start where you are comfortable. You won’t regret it.