My photography gear has changed a lot since I first started shooting with a DSLR in 2006. I want to share what worked for me as a beginner (and make a couple of recommendations to those of you looking to buy), and then I’ll share what works for me now.
My first DSLR was a Canon Rebel XT. I wanted to be able to shoot all of my product shots for my stationery line in-house, and my husband bought that camera for me in 2006. I used it with the kit lens (EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6) until Tristan generously sent her used 50mm f/1.8 to me when she upgraded to the f/1.4 lens in 2011. The nifty fifty was the lens that led to my photographic awakening. The next lens I got was a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. I bought it to replace the kit lens because I wanted the fixed 2.8 aperture, and I was very happy with it for a long time.
I no longer have that camera or any of those lenses. I sold the Rebel with its kit lens on eBay when I upgraded to a better camera body, and later sold the Tamron as well. I sent the 50mm back to Tristan so she can pass it on to her husband, and it became the traveling pants of lenses.
My Recommendation for Beginners
- Buy the nifty fifty right from the start. Get the Canon Rebel T4i with its 18-55mm kit lens, and you’re set for around $1000.
- If you know you want to upgrade that standard kit lens right away, get the Canon Rebel T4i body only, plus the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. That setup, along with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, will cost around $1500.
I waffled between the 5D Mark II and the Canon 7D when it came time to upgrade. I went with the latter and I’ve been happy (though if I were buying a camera today, I’d want the new 5D Mark III). Next, I turned my attention toward photographing interiors. I rented and tested a few wide-angle lenses, and chose the Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5.
I received the 50mm f/1.4 as a birthday gift in 2012 (that’s when I sent the f/1.8 back to Tristan). Just as the nifty fifty taught me the importance of lenses, the f/1.4 taught me about the difference in quality. Soon I wanted to upgrade my Tamron as well. When I’d heard that the new Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II had come out, I used my accumulated credit card rewards points to buy it. (Some people get plane tickets — I choose fancy photo gear.) It’s the most expensive lens I own, but photographers always recommend investing in lenses rather than a body, and this is a lens I’ll have for a long time.
I could have stopped there, except I went and fell in love with another lens. I was looking through a preview copy of Click Magazine, and I noticed that many of the photos I liked were all shot with the same lens: the Canon 35mm f/1.4L. My 50mm always felt a little too close/zoomed in since I have a crop sensor (APS-C) camera, but the 35mm is perfect. The lens has barely left my camera since I got it, and it’s my favorite for photographing my kids indoors and in low-light.
My Current Camera Body and Lenses
- Make sure you have a UV filter for each of your lenses as scratch protection.
- Pick up a lens cleaning kit and a blower.
- Get yourself a proper camera bag. I like ONA and Epiphanie, and you can take a look at my roundup of cute camera bags.
- Get yourself a tripod too. Originally, I bought the cheapest one I could find at my local camera store. Sure, it was a little wobbly and basic, but it was fine to start with. When I upgraded, I went with the same tripod and head that Nicole Hill Gerulat recommends.
- If you want to get yourself in the picture, you’ll likely want a remote. The Canon RC-6 Wireless Remote is only $20. I keep one attached to my camera strap so I don’t lose it.
I’m only familiar with Canon cameras, but feel free to ask any questions you may have and I’ll at least attempt to answer them! I’m always happy to hear other opinions and recommendations too.