Hey Camera Mamas! I have been getting lots of messages about what camera gear I recommend purchasing. It kind of depends on what you are wanting to accomplish and your budget so I have several recommendations depending on where you are in your photography journey. I am most familiar with Canon because that is what I shoot, but I will research what the corresponding Nikon models would be and I will post them when I figure that out.
Why Amazon? Because they are so reliable and offer easy, no-hassle returns and exchanges and FAST shipping and you can read about and research each item to your hearts content! I just spent waaaay too long reading through a bunch of reviews to buy some ski gloves! I know that camera equipment is a much bigger investment than ski gloves and it can be so overwhelming to know what you should get. I hope that this gear guide is helpful.
(These are affiliate links so I do get compensated if you use these links but there is no extra cost to you. This is the same advice I have given many times to friends and family and I decided it would be much more efficient to finally put it all together in one place that is easily accessible to anyone looking for advice on what to buy. Thanks so much for using my links, I appreciate it so much!)
Basic Starter DSLR Camera + Lens: around $900
Why I recommend this: This 50mm 1.8 lens was the first non-kit lens I owned and it changed everything for me! If you can afford a little bit more, go for the 50mm 1.4 lens because it is better and will last longer without getting scratched.
Canon Rebel: A basic starter digital DSLR. My first digital DSLR was a Canon Rebel and it served me well. In fact, some of my most cherished photos of my children were taken with a much earlier version of this camera and the lens below. You will eventually outgrow this camera but it is a GREAT camera!
*EDIT*…apparently on Amazon, it appears that it doesn’t cost any extra to get the kit lens with the camera (at least for the moment), so even though you likely won’t use it much, there’s no harm in getting it if it doesn’t cost any extra! Here’s the link to that!
Canon 50mm 1.8 110% better than using a kit lens! Trust me on this one!
If you can spare a little more cash, get this lens below instead of the lens above.
Canon 50mm 1.4 Spending a bit more on your 50mm will give you a lens that you will keep forever.
Mid-Range Camera and Lens: around $1850
Canon 6D: This is the camera that I recommended for my sister Emily and my cousin Natalie. They both take lots of photos of their kids and do an occasional photo shoot for friends and family. It kind of bugs me that their cameras can do some things that my camera, which is more than twice as expensive, cannot do! (I have the 5D Markiii and it doesn’t have Wi-Fi…so annoying!) I really feel that this camera is pretty much just as good as my 5D Mark iii which, like I said, is more than twice the price, yikes! I feel like it’s hard to justify making the jump up to the next level of camera since this one is SO GOOD! This is a full-frame camera which is a big plus. This camera was not available when I was upgrading from my Rebel but if it had been, I don’t know that I would have needed to upgrade to what I have now as soon as I did.
If you could only get one lens for this camera I would once again, recommend the Canon 50mm, 1.4 (see above). I have lots of lenses, and I still reach for this one all the time. It is a big favorite of many photographers. It is so versatile and very lightweight which is a bonus if you are carrying it around. It can shoot in very low light which is a lifesaver.
If you want to purchase additional lenses for the 6D these are my recommendations from personal experience:
Canon 24-70mm 2.8 This is the most expensive lens that I own. It is expensive because it has the highest quality of glass and because it is top-of-the line. It might, however, make you have a heart attack because it costs more than your camera body! I feel like this lens is not a trendy lens that people talk about a lot, but I will tell you what, it is a work horse and it does the job well! I can always count on this lens to be sharp and reliable. This is the lens that I recommended to both my cousin and my sister. My sister says this is the only lens she uses and she is a world traveler and uses this lens to photograph the food for the restaurants she owns. My cousin says that this lens rarely leaves her camera because she doesn’t want to mess around with changing lenses and she wants the flexibility of a zoom lens.
If you want a wider angle lens than the 50mm and you aren’t sure if you want to commit to the price tag of the 24-70 I would recommend a 35mm lens. I do not own a 35mm lens but I have been wanting to get one for a really long time! If I was going to bite the bullet and get one I would either get the Tamron 35mm 1.8 or the Sigma Art 35mm 1.4.
The next lens I would recommend after covering the focal lengths mentioned above is the 70-200mm When I got this lens I thought I was settling by getting the Tamron since it was so much cheaper than the Canon 70-200. However, after 4 years and thousands of photos later of using my 70-200 and after more research about Tamron I realized I just got a killer deal without having to skimp on quality! Sometimes it is scary dropping so much money on a brand that isn’t as well known, but I will tell you from my experience that Tamron lenses are fantastic. I LOVE shooting with my 70-200 because I love being able to capture candid moments from across the room and zoom in from far away and get that magnificent bokeh!
Right now there is a deal on Amazon where you get a few extras along with the lens for the same price! (64GB SDXC Class 10 High Speed MEMORY CARD, Bounce Zoom Slave FLASH – Memory CARD READER – CARD WALLET – CLEANING KIT – Neoprene LENS POUCH 8″ – Dust Removal Blower System – Lens CAP KEEPER – LCD/Lens CLEANING PEN – LENS HOOD – 72mm UV, Polarizer & FLD Deluxe FILTER KIT (set of 3 + carrying case) – Corel PAINTSHOP Pro X8) …click here for that dealio:
Now the above mentioned lens (70-200) is the brand new version of the Tamron 70-200 and it has Vibration Compensation which is a great, though pricey, feature. If you don’t mind having the older model and not having Vibration Compensation you can save over $500. This is the exact lens that I have had for 4 years and have loved.
And if you are a brand name snob 😉 here is the link to the Canon 70-200. Since I don’t have this lens I can’t say that there’s nothing better about it, I bet it is a FABULOUS lens, but for me personally, it’s hard to justify the price jump. But if you have the extra change lying around I would go for it in a heartbeat! I admit it, I feel a tinge of jealousy when I see another photographer sporting around this beautiful white lens!
Ok, I do have more lens recommendations but I’m going to skip to my highest end camera recommendation and come back to the lenses…
Industry Standard for Pro Photographer, Camera Body: $3500
Canon 5D Mark iv This camera sets the standard. If you are a pro photographer this is what you need. If you are shooting weddings and need to nail those once in a lifetime shots, you need this. The things that this camera has that the 6D doesn’t have, come into play when you are shooting as your profession, day in and day out. The little things that bring the big price jump are worth it when you add up the hours and hours you spend shooting and editing. Those details are worth the money when you get to this point. I have the 5D Mark iii which is the previous version of this camera. I am looking forward to the day when I can upgrade to this camera because it has wi-fi and an interval timer which the mark iii does not have. I’m glad Canon finally caught up to Nikon on those two particular features.
For lens recommendations for the Canon 5D Mark iv, all the lenses mentioned above (except the Canon 50mm 1.8) are also lenses I would recommend for this camera. In addition, here are some more lenses you may be interested in hearing about:
One of my favorite family photographers from whom I have purchased many tutorials and videos from and whose style I love, shoots a lot with an 85mm lens. I decided that I wanted to invest in one as well. Nikon makes an 85mm 1.4 but Canon only makes an 85mm in a 1.2 and a 1.8. I was practically drooling over the 1.2 and I even rented it once, but I lost patience saving up for it and I ended up purchasing the Canon 85mm 1.8 which I have liked a lot. It is sharper and has even better bokeh than my 50mm 1.4 so I use it when I am not shooting in close quarters. I have since done research on the Tamron 85mm 1.8 and I wish I would have gotten that one instead. It’s in between in pricing and I have read it surpasses both in performance. Here are links to all 3 for you to check out:
OK, that leaves us to macros and wide angles. I wanted to get a macro specifically to shoot ring shots when I was shooting a wedding. Quite honestly that is really the only time I use this lens, but I am sure that there are lots of other things I could use it for, I just haven’t taken the time to play around with it. Canon 100mm’s:
If you want to cough up a few more hundred bucks to get image stabilization and better glass, that would be this one:
OK, on to wide angles….I do not have anything wider than my 24-70 but I would love to get one someday!
This Tamron 15-30mm is the favorite of a friend of mine whose photography I love (and is well loved by many!) and who is very thorough in her lens research. Here’s the link for that one:
One of the lenses on my wish list is the Canon 135mm 2.0…I love love love the photos that I have seen coming out of that lens!
And last but not least…my husband is thinking about getting into wildlife photography and the lens I am looking into is the Tamron 150-600. Can you imagine? That thing must be HUGE!
OK, well, I was starting off this post thinking I would keep it nice and simple, but now I am thinking maybe I have made things too complicated! To sum it up I would say to decide if you want a Rebel, a 6D or a 5D. Start with a 50mm lens and go from there!
For you Nikon folks I will do some research and get back to you!
P.S. If you don’t have a good bag to carry your camera in and protect it, you will never bring your camera anywhere and you will realize that you have hundreds (maybe even thousands) of dollars of camera equipment and yet you are taking most of your photos with your phone! This is no bueno! I have been a tad obsessed with finding the perfect camera bag and I have bought and returned many a bag from many a company. This is the bag that I carry and I LOVE it! Currently, if you buy it on Amazon it also comes with a bunch of little bonus items. Score!
It also comes in a lighter shade, Stone Grey which I also love! I might even love the Grey better than the black, but since my other two Kelly Moore bags are grey…I wanted a bag that was not grey! (My other Kelly Moore bags are the Ester which they no longer make and is a little more structured and business-looking and the Jude which I use for client shoots when I need to bring a lot of gear.)
I also love it in Saddle Brown, so pretty!
EDIT: As I get messages and requests about different types of equipment, I will add it on to the bottom of this post! 🙂
Wireless Shutter Remote Control
This is the remote trigger that I use for my Canon 5D Mark iii. The part pictured on the left attaches to the top of my camera and then you bring the part on the right with you to take the photo. Technical stuff gives me STRESS and I actually have another, more expensive remote trigger that has more bells and whistles, but it is too complicated for what I need it for so I prefer this simple trigger that does the job! Three cheers for getting in the frame!
Katherine C. from our Camera Mama community also asked about a tripod. The tripod that I have is no longer available, but this is the newer version of the one I have. I feel like it is a bit pricey, but when you start looking at tripods they can get pretty pricey, pretty quickly. The thing about tripods is that they are holding your expensive camera equipment so you don’t want to risk getting something flimsy that could fall over! I did start with a cheaper tripod, but the adjustable parts of the tripod were starting to really frustrate me, so I upgraded. Just think of all the priceless photos you will capture because you have a tripod and you can be in the photo and it will all seem worth it!
I also bought the AmazonBasics 52-Inch Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod specifically to take on a trip and I do not like it at all. It feels flimsy and the knobs make me crazy! And although it supposedly folds up into a teeny tiny carrying case it drives me even more crazy trying to figure out how to get it to collapse down that small. Skip that one and get this one instead.
Now if you aren’t ready to drop $170 on a tripod and/or you want something more portable, I would recommend this Tabletop Tripod made by Joby pictured below. I do not have this, but I want it. I have a knock off version that was slightly less expensive, but it just doesn’t feel super sturdy. I am super impressed with the way the Joby tripods are constructed and I wish I would have gotten this one rather than the one I have. Granted, a tabletop tripod has some handicaps, like you may have to find a table or something to put it on, but it sure is a lot more portable and a lot less expensive. Likely you will want both of these tripods eventually, but if you’re looking to keep the cost down and/or something you can stash in your purse, this is a great product. It can hold up to 6.6 pounds and I just looked up how much my full frame Canon 5D Mark iii weighs as well as my Canon 24-70 lens which is pretty heavy, and together they weigh less than 5 pounds. So, this tripod should be golden for even a large SLR and a heavier zoom lens.
A word about Memory cards…do not go cheap on your memory cards. If you have a camera that can shoot really fast and a memory card that can’t keep up, it won’t even matter that you have a camera with awesome capabilities. This is the memory card that I have and that I like the most. I have had it for 3 years with zero problems. I have 6 memory cards and 4 of them are 16GB cards and 2 are 32GB cards. I prefer the 32’s I have found. You can get this card with 128GB’s but I feel like if worst case scenario happened and you lost your card or it got corrupted, it would be much better to lose less photos.
SanDisk Extreme 32GB Compact Flash Memory Card
Alrighty, I’ll be back with more gear recommendations as I receive questions! 🙂