When Someone Asks, “What Equipment Should I Buy?”
Written by: steve
By Steve Russell
If it hasn’t happened many times already, one of these days you will be asked one of the two most dreaded questions photographers hear. “What kind of camera/lens should I buy?” Of course, the other dreaded question is, “We can’t afford a photographer. Will you take photos of our wedding?”
Depending on how serious the person asking the question is, recommending photography equipment can be a daunting responsibility to take on. Cameras and lenses are at least 50% personal preference so the person asking for the advice might not like what you recommend. I wanted to share a recent experience with you in the event you’re ever asked a similar question.
About a week ago I received a text from my son that went something like this:
“Dad, I need to get a pretty good digital camera and lens. Nothing over the top, but something that I can control shutter speed and f-stop so I can get good photos in low light.”
In other words, his point & shoot can’t produce acceptable results under the conditions he’s attempting to photograph and the use of flash is prohibited. Sounds like a familiar refrain. His situation is very similar to the one I experienced that pushed me over the line from P&S to DSLR.
Because he is my son and I’m very familiar with his likes and dislikes answering his question isn’t as difficult as it might be coming from someone else. Nevertheless, he might purchase what I recommend and if the equipment doesn’t fit his needs or if he doesn’t like it then he will be stuck with the “stuff” that Dad recommended.
Please understand that I would never expect you to make the same recommendations and I’m not trying to convince you that my recommendations are the best ones. Besides, you don’t have all the information about this particular request that I have. Hopefully, whether you agree with me or not, this will get you thinking about how you might answer the same kind of request. If it hasn’t already happened to you, it will someday. People that want to be the kind of photographer you are will eventually ask what you think.
My first response to anyone asking a similar question would be to ask what they plan to do with the equipment. My son had already told me that in his text. Next I asked him to define “pretty good” and “over the top.” His answer to “pretty good” confirmed what I had guessed and “over the top” meant not the very best or most expensive. Then I asked how much he wanted to or was willing to spend. I also factored in that his job requires that he travel extensively, both domestic and international. With all that information I was ready to start suggesting equipment that would move him well down the road to photography Elysium. Or is it perdition?
He wants a camera that performs well in low light which means good resolution at 800 and 1600 ISO and a high megapixel count. Lots of international travel suggests the need for rugged construction. I wanted to give him a choice so I recommend the Canon EOS 60D which would give him an 18 MP sensor and an articulated view screen but with a plastic body or the Canon EOS 7D with the same sensor and a magnesium alloy body but with a fixed view screen. Of course, the biggest difference between the two camera bodies is the price.
As a side note, I recommended Canon products to my son because when we’re together we’ll be able to share equipment. If it were someone else I would probably give them both Nikon and Canon suggestions.
The next item on his list was a lens that could capture good images of people on a stage from his location in the audience. I was tempted to recommend the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L Telephoto Lens but he did say nothing over the top. I opted for the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L Zoom Lens which has a more affordable price and is a terrific and rugged lens. Alternatively, if he’s willing to give up one stop he could opt for the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L lens for less money.
Because the 70-200 lens is a little large and heavy for a walking around lens, I also suggested that he consider buying the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L.
Next on the list was a tripod and head. I’ve been happy with the one I have, that is until I get the Gitzo GT3541XLS, so I recommended the Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 Carbon Fiber Tripod with the Manfrotto 498RC2 Ball Head with Quick Release.
Last on his list was a camera bag to carry the gear. I have a Lowepro Stealth Reporter D200 AW for when I want the camera, one or two lenses and an external flash. However, I have two other bags, a backpack camera bag and the Think Tank Airport Security V2 that holds all my equipment. I decided to go up one size from my D200 and recommend the Lowepro Stealth Reporter D300 AW.
This should provide him with a very versatile set of equipment that will fulfill his requirements. He has to decide if he wants to spend approximately $6,000 for the camera, two lenses, tripod, ball head and camera bag. If not, then I’m sure he’ll be asking where he can spend less now and upgrade later.
Think about how you would respond to a request to recommend photography equipment from someone you know.
Canon EOS 60D DSLR by 아우크소(Auxo.co.kr) on Flickr Commons
Canon 7D by meflower on Flickr Commons
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens by Asif A. Ali on Flickr Commons
Becky by Steve Russell on Flickr
Dauphin Island, AL by Steve_Russell_Photography on Flickr
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