While I think every photographer inevitably talks about what kind of gear they use, delving into their preferred manufacturer, debating the merits of various lenses and the pluses and minuses of various camera bodies, I want to start this section with a caveat. It doesn’t matter what kind of gear you have. While I find there are definite advantages to the kind of cameras I use now, I’ve won awards and sold prints from photos taken on consumer models that cost me under $100. One of my most popular photos was shot on a second hand discount lens. For that matter, my interest in photography came about because I played around with the still feature on a VHS camcorder.
This may sound trite and cliche, but the single best tool in your photography arsenal is your own creativity. You want to try your hand at photography? Chances are you’ve got a mini computer with a camera on it in your pocket right now. You can just as easily learn the basics and experiment with a $40 Walmart brand point and shoot, and then upgrade accordingly as you need or want to. There are times I feel I’m too set in my ways and will just pick up a camera and try to see a room or a building in a different way. The only thing you’re risking is having to press the delete button, so get out there and have fun!
Okay, pep talk over, and let’s talk specifics.
When it comes to manufacturers, I’ve been a big Panasonic fan since I bought my DV351 what seems like ages ago. When it came time to upgrade to an actual DSLR, I ended up going with Nikon purely for price reasons(a local store had a really good deal on a D5000), and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve never used Canon and I’m not such a diehard that I’ll debate the merits of one versus the other, but I’ve never had a problem with Nikon and can’t foresee switching any time soon.
My primary camera is a D7100, which I really love. My primary walk around lens is a bit odd, in that I use a 28mm-300mm VR lens. Since I wasn’t sure if I was going to go up to full frame in a few years, I thought it was a better investment to get a lens that would potentially work on both bodies. It’s a bit of an unusual choice, I know, but one that I’ll probably be grateful for if I ever do decide to upgrade. I compliment that with a Tokina 11-16mm wide angle lens and a 50mm prime. While that set up does leave a gap between 16-28mm for me, I’ve never had a situation where it’s caused an issue.
As a backup, I have a Micro 4/3 Panasonic GF3 with a 14-42mm and a 45-200mm lens. This is also really handy to carry around easily and takes pretty solid pictures as well. I’ve also got a Panasonic TM900 Full HD camcorder that I usually carry in my gear bag as well, room permitting. I really love the quality of video on the TM900, and it’s a nice compliment to the abilities of the DSLRs.
Two other things I’d really highly recommend if you’re serious about photography that I’ve really enjoyed. First, I love Adobe Lightroom. It just makes processing photos incredibly easy, and it works better for me than any software I’ve ever tried. Second, you should check out The Frugal Filmmaker for some really wonderful ideas on making solid accessories like lighting rigs, stabilizers and more without spending a ton of money. While I don’t do a lot of studio style work, my lighting setup as well as a few camera rigs come right from this blog, and it’s worth your time to check out!