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You are watching a free tutorial from Photography 101.
To view the entire course, upgrade to Premium or purchase it in the SLR Lounge Store.


10 Tips on Buying Gear

You’ve saved just enough money to buy that lens you have always dreamed of, but should it be your next purchase? Here are 10 tips to help you decipher which investment to make next to further your photography career.

1. Lenses before bodies

As far as aesthetic and overall artistic performance, you’re going to see bigger differences in the lenses that you purchase versus the camera bodies. Sure, a camera body may let you have a higher resolution, better low light performance and dynamic range, but the aesthetic quality of your images is determined largely by the lenses. In addition, camera bodies come out every couple of years, but lenses see updates ranging between 10 to 20 years. A lens is more of a long-term investment and you’re going to see a bigger overall difference in your photographs by buying and investing in lenses before bodies.

2. Choose the Right Camera Body

which-camera-should-i-buy

Pick the camera body that’s right for you. Know your purpose and know what you like to shoot, and select your body with that in mind. If it’s about ultimate portability then a point-and-shoot, or maybe a DSLR or mirrorless system. Essentially, determine what fits your needs and do diligent research of the capabilities of the camera, and then make your purchase.

3. Upgrade When the Time is Right

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You need to make sure that you’re upgrading for the right reasons, and just because the new 5D Mark IV came out doesn’t necessarily mean you need the upgrade (You can decide for yourself with our full review). Is the current camera body that you have holding you back in your process, in what you need and want to do? If that is the case, then it’s definitely time to upgrade your camera. I would say that 99% of the people that own a DSLR probably already have a piece of camera gear that is beyond their own abilities, that they’re not getting the most out of.

You could also try to rent your gear before you buy it, because if you rent it at least three times, and it stays in the bag, then you probably shouldn’t buy it.

[REWIND: CANON 5D MARK IV OFFICIAL REVIEW]

4. Avoid Certain Third Party Accessories

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There are certain third-party accessories that we really don’t like using. We typically don’t like using anything that’s non-branded, whether it’s branded to the camera manufacturer or just a name brand component. For example, the camera’s internal battery and memory cards should definitely be from a proper name-brand in order to reduce risk of dying cameras and corrupt memory cards.

[REWIND: 5 QUICK TIPS ON MEMORY CARDS]

5. Here are the third-party items worth buying

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[REWIND: OUR THREE FAVORITE CAMERA FLASHES ‘POCKET STROBES’]

What are some third party accessories that are worth buying? Lenses and flashes, triggers, flash modifiers, stands, or even lights; Basically, anything that’s not an internal component. In Lighting 101 we discuss our favorite lighting accessories, modifiers, and strobes.

6. define want vs. need

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If it’s not holding you back, it’s probably not a necessity. Most of the time a client won’t be able to tell the difference between 1.4 and 1.8 so decide for yourself whether or not it will be worth the upgrade for the necessities of your work. The main thing to consider is if it’s going to make a difference in your overall quality and the overall product that you are delivering? If so, then maybe it is something that you need.

7. Online shopping

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B&H is our go-to source, and is one of the largest online dealers for camera gear and accessories. However, when it comes to pricing, everything is the same across the board because manufacturers hold all of the retailers to the same prices. Adorama and Amazon are great resources as well, but do your homework when shopping around Amazon for gear by reading reviews and researching price points.

8. Be careful Where you Buy your gear

If you are shopping on Craigslist–or any used marketplace really–you need to proceed with caution. What looks like a brand new lens could very well be a tarnished, used-lens, disguised by a low & attractive price. Buy from reputable dealers and always test the product out to avoid finding issues later on. Saving a couple extra bucks on gear shouldn’t end up costing you in repairs.

9. Buying from a brick and mortar

Often times, brick and mortar shops end up selling you gray market goods that are basically packaged as retail, and it’s just worth avoiding. But there are reputable places to buy gear, and it is worth the research to find one near you, especially if you are looking for used equipment or even film cameras. Just keep in mind that camera gear and accessories have a certain market value, and when you see the price far below that market value most likely it’s too good to be true.

10. G.a.s: gear acquisition syndrome

G.A.S: the mentality that photographers develop overtime where they think about acquiring the gear for no useful purpose but for the sake of having what’s latest & greatest. Most of us have more gear than we could possibly use and don’t have the ability to even use that gear at its full potential. The picture is about the photographer and your skills, not the gear.

This is an excerpt from Photography 101, our A-Z guide to photography basics. Stream this along with all of our other post-production, lighting, and educational workshops as a Premium member.

10 Comments

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  1. Jatin Kapoor

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  2. Jasper Hermans

    Why not by a 3th party battery excatly? It’s usually quite appealing to buy one as they are much cheaper… what’s the drawback of them?

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  3. sean miller

    Great stuff! Lots of brand to choose, but a good review can make you decide which is the best cameras for photography fits you.

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  4. Geneva  Gleason

    Many thanks very valuable. Will certainly share site with my pals.
    wheels happy ninja

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  5. Tim Evans

    You mention buying “name brand” batteries. By that, do you mean the camera manufacturer, or are there third-party “name brands?” I know for my Canon DSLR, there are no batteries made by a third-party I’ve heard of (although I think Energizer or Duracell now makes some), but people I trust have recommended a specific knock off.

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    • Pye Jirsa

      We mean sticking to the manufacturer’s batteries for the specific camera make.

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  6. Jacques du Toit

    I know of too many people that have had issues with 3rd party flashes and triggers.

    Though there are guys that say if on a budget go for 3rd party flashes but a few do say if you want reliability then get the better brand products

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    • Lauchlan Toal

      Flashes are kind of an oddball – due to the high capacitances involved it’s very easy for a failure to occur, and stories of name brand flashes failing aren’t uncommon.

      The two main factors to consider when picking a flash are your usage and your budget.

      If you’re using the flash outside a lot (with rain risk), need advanced features, and are on the go and need something that can probably take a few bumps, then I’d probably opt for a name brand flash.

      If you’re using the flash in a studio environment or are otherwise keeping it safe and dry, don’t need lots of advanced features, and have to choose between 3 Yongnuos or 1 Canon/Nikon, I’d go for the third party brand. Which actually is what I did, and my three Yongnuo YN-560 iii’s have been working fine for over two years now. If one breaks it’s only $70 to replace, so even if they’re a bit more fragile it ends up being worth it in some cases.

      But no matter what system you buy, I always recommend having a back-up flash.

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    • Tim Evans

      As much as I am a proponent of third party flashes and triggers, I would not use them for anything “mission critical.” However, you can often buy two or three of the off-brand for the price of a name brand, thus providing you with a backup.

      For example, a YongNuo YN-600-ex-rt, a knock off of the Canon 600-ex-rt, costs around $100. The Canon version costs around $500.

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  7. Sajja T. Jacob

    Is it a good idea to buy Cannon ef 70-200 (no IS), a second-hand one. ? How many years more I can continue using this lense.

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