A Guide to Choose & Simplify Your Camera Gear



As a professional nature photographer who is consistently instructing daily photography trips and seasonal workshops, there is a resounding amount of individuals who struggle to find the gear that fits their needs and wants. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen photographers using gear that is too complex, that they have spent entirely too much money on etc etc. Now, I am not judging because I have been there and done that.

  I am going to let you in on how to properly choose the right camera gear that you will be happy with! Not only that, this information is going to simplify your gear pallet. If there is one key take-away from this short article, it is to simplify your photography equipment.


Gear Doesn’t Matter (as much as you may believe). I am one who has simplified my gear time and time again. So much so that I have one camera and two lenses and a tripod, etc.. Not only that, my gear is inexpensive and lightweight. It is perfect for what I need, even as a professional and full time photographer.



Lenses

Allow my mistakes over the years not be your mistakes as well. I am going to discuss these two lenses I owned for years but I have since sold and replaced. I will tell you why. I owned the; (wide angle) Nikon 14-24mm F/2.8 - $2,400 (price when I purchased) and a (telephoto) Nikon 70-200mm F/2.8 - $2,000 and have since sold and replaced them with a (wide angle) Nikon 16-35mm F/4 - $900 and a (telephoto) Nikon 70-300mm F/4.5-5.6 - $600. The main difference between these sets of lenses is the aperture, weight and the price.



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Aperture: There are a few things that come with an aperture of F/2.8 such as; large price tag and heavy mechanics. So, why purchase a lens with F/2.8? If you're photographing sports, wildlife or portraits, the F/2.8 comes in handy because it allows you to photograph with a faster shutter speed in low light conditions. As a landscape/nature photographer I/we do not need the F/2.8 at all and most of you do not either. The aperture of lenses I currently use are- F/3.5 or F/5.6, this has and will always get the job done. The difference in the quality of glass is, in my opinion, non-existent.

Price: As I mentioned above, the price differences are huge. Just the telephoto lens alone, you could save yourself $1,400 dollars. The amount you will save from purchasing these cheaper lenses will allow you to book photography workshops which is where you will become a better photographer.

Weight: The Nikon 12-24mm F/2.8 at 3lb 3oz compared to the Nikon 16-35mm F/3.5 at 2lb. The Nikon 70-200mm F/2.8 is 3lb 3oz vs Nikon 70-300mm F/4.5 at 2lb. This may not look like a big difference, carry this weight on your back and you will begin to feel the pounds weigh you down. When choosing lenses, it is good to cover the range of the distances, meaning wide angle for wide scenes which would be anywhere from 12-35mm and telephoto for photographing farther away subjects which would be around 70-600mm. This way, when you are out photographing, you will have a lens specifically for what the scene calls for. I would start fairly simple with this first round of lenses because I am sure it will not be the last. Save money. Save weight. Save time.



Camera

This one is fairly simple and straightforward. If you are very passionate about photography and you’re in it for the long haul, I would highly suggest going full frame. Full frame cameras will typically be a better quality image output, larger files, and literal larger images because of the larger sensor size. I started out with a Nikon D750 as my first full frame camera for many reasons. One of which is it is lightweight, long battery life, it is just a phenomenal camera that is now very inexpensive. With that said, mirrorless cameras, specifically Sony, has taken charge of the photography and videography world which means you’re able to purchase a very high end, full frame camera for a reasonable price. I currently own the Nikon Z7 and use the FTZ adapter for my lenses. The one thing I will say about this topic is this; just about any full frame camera will do more than enough for your wants and needs. Focus less on megapixels and more on the size and weight of the camera. Keep it simple & do some simple research.



Tripod

This is a very important decision. Maybe the most important of all. Purchase a high-end tripod with a high-end ballhead! Do not make the mistake of purchasing a tripod for $300-500 dollars. You will be very disappointed because your day will be filled with “tripod wrestling” - fidgeting with the floppy, loose legs that consistently loosens on a daily basis; creating blurry images, shaking in low wind and so, so much more.. Same goes with the ballhead - (what your camera attaches to), spend the money for quality or else your money will go to quantity in no time. I would highly suggest buying a Really Right Stuff tripod and ballhead. I have owned a setup from RRS for five plus years and have not had one single issue. The tripod I own is actually light-weight (carbon fiber) so it can be packed around with you everywhere you go. This ballhead I own is nice and simplistic! Do NOT buy some ridiculous fancy ballhead with all the extra levers, I see this all the time. People spend so much time attempting to get set up; adjusting each piece, that they miss the best light and miss endless photographic opportunities! I will add a link to my setup below. Keep it simple and to the point.



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Filters

Do yourself and everyone around you a favor and keep clear of GND and ND filters. These consume mass amounts of time setting up and result in un-natural looking images (in my opinion). I have been down this road myself! Now that I am a photography instructor this rings true ever more-so. I say this as a way to help, not as a source of letting out steam. 

Learn how to bracket images and put them together via Photoshop or Lightroom (it is immensely easy).

The only filters you need are Polarizers (to cut reflection off of water and leafs) and clear filters to protect your lens.

That is all! Save yourself the heartache.



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Additional Gear

These few pieces of equipment will simplify your photography and make it a more enjoyable experience.

Shutter Release Cable: This will help make each image sharp from keeping your hands off the camera. When purchasing this, keep it simple. Get one which you do not adjust settings on or that has an intervalometer.

Camera Backpack: Each lens, camera, filter and piece of gear you own will have its rightful place, safely in a padded backpack - I cannot stress this one enough. I was the one wrapping my gear in clothing and stuffing it into a school backpack. Do not be like the old me. Get yourself a nice Atlas Camera Backpack or a Shimoda.. (Link Below)



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Extra Precautions

During your time purchasing camera gear you will see dozens of add-ons, such as; weighted bags for tripods, many interchangeable feet for tripods, specific ponchos for photography, the list goes on.

I would recommend you to steer clear of all of these. If you look into them enough, you will understand that they’re a waste of time and money and will result in extra gear laying around that will never get used.



Conclusion

Keep it simple!! Each piece of equipment you purchase should have a reason behind it. The best of the best photographers do not lug around five lenses worth $10,000 dollars each. Their gear is simple and to the point. You should spend your hard earned money on education. Learn how to create great images that mean something to you, not so much on gear.




RRS Ballhead: https://www.reallyrightstuff.com/ball-heads-lp RRS

Tripod: https://www.reallyrightstuff.com/ultralight?quantity=1&custcol77=1 Polarizer

Filters: https://www.promaster.com/Product/6858

Camera Backpack: https://atlaspacks.com/products/atlas-athlete-camera-backpack

Shutter Release Cable: https://www.nikonusa.com/en/nikon-products/product/remote-cords/mc-dc2-remote-release-cord-(1-meter).html

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