We’re going to strip things down to the bare bones. What’s the no BS, no frills, bare minimum amount of camera gear and equipment beginners need for creating epic images?
Are a good place to start. A camera body with an interchangeable lens is a good idea. Having the ability to swap out lenses can keep the initial costs low and still give you the ability to upgrade to better lenses down the road.
Here’s a few of my favourite cameras. They’re pretty well all mirrorless. The reason I prefer mirrorless for outdoor photography is because they pack the same punch as traditional DSLR’s at a fraction of the weight. That might not matter in the studio, but it sure does in the field.
I’m not saving the best for last. Sony’s line of alpha cameras is second to none. They’re faster, lighter, and better quality than almost everything else on the market. Their interchangeable lenses are light, tact sharp, and fast!
The a6300 is the perfect balance of quality and affordability. It’s weather sealed for use in the elements. It’s tough enough for action in the field. It also shoots some of the fastest frame per second compared to anything in its’ class.
Nikon Z 50
I’ve personally never been a huge fan of Nikon. This just comes from my personal experience with the cameras and based off of what I know about their competitor’s technology. That being said, there’s a camera for everyone and what works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.
The Nikon Z 50 is comparable to the a6300. The one advantage over the Z 50 has over the a6300 is that it has superior slow motion at 120 fps at 1080p. Otherwise they’re both quite similar. The feeling of each camera in your hands is also very different. That feeling isn’t overrated. A camera has to fit just right. Ergonomics is a huge deciding factor when picking the right camera for you.
Canon EOS M6 Mark II
We’re really comparing apples to apples here. The thing to consider right now is long term advantages. If you stick with photography as a hobby for years to come. Any of these cameras will do just fine. If you’re looking to pursue photography and even filmmaking as a semi-pro or full time pro, you want to plan ahead.
That being said, Canon has great lenses, good colour science, and a lot of transferable perks when crossing over into filmmaking. Sony does too. These are just some things to consider. I personally don’t love Nikon bodies but their glass is amazing. You’ll never hear anyone arguing about the quality of Canon lenses.
This list can go on forever, Olympus, FujiFilm, etc. Reality is, all of these “pro-sumer” cameras will give get you started. I’ve personally published full spread covers in international magazines using a sony a6300 using a kit lens. It’s not about the equipment you use, it’s about how you use it.
That should be super encouraging in a world where you can easily spend thirty grand on camera equipment just to get a “pro” starter kit. If anything, creating epic images with lesser recourses will just make creating epic images with the right tools that much easier down the road.
now we’re talking. Glass, glass, glass. The single greatest investment you can make as a hobbyist or pro photographer is purchasing one single great piece of glass.
You are way better off purchasing one solid lens than having five decent lenses. First of all, being restricted to one lens will be a constructive restraint. Too many options early on can be a distraction, rein it in.
Secondly, one solid lens will stand out in your portfolio. A line up of decent lenses won’t. I’d recommend always starting off with a kit lens. Something you can get a feel for different focal lengths and f stops.
After you get a decent understanding of the capabilities of a kit lens, like how fast it is, how it responds to action, what it does in low light… then it’s time to upgrade pretty quickly.
A valuable lens is infinitely more valuable than a “valuable” body.
Makes and Models
This will depend entirely on the camera body you choose. Nikon lenses won’t mount to Sony camera bodies without a third party adaptor for example. Adaptors pretty much deem the autofocus useless, so that’s not really an option in outdoor photography.
Something else to consider is how lens focal lengths correspond to the cameras they’re attached to. The cameras I listed above are crop sensors. Meaning they use a smaller sensor which crops in the image. A 50mm lens on a full frame camera is comparable to what the human eye sees. However, a 50mm on a ASP-C crop sensor will zoom the image in, making a 50mm look like a full frame equivalent of an 80mm.
The biggest thing to consider is focal length and how fast your lens is. A 24-70mm 2.8 is a fast lens with optimal coverage for a wide variety of shots. In-fact that’s what I use 90% of the time.
However, It’s not very unique focal range unless you make it so. 70-200mm at f4 or f2.8 is great if you find yourself shooting tight, zooming in and getting personal with people and places.
Tight or Wide
What about getting really personal? I mean really being in the action. I personally love the look of super wide shots. Feeling the intensity of being right there in the action with the subject is priceless. It can’t be emulated and there’s nothing more intense than being in the eye of the storm.
Figure out what you’re leaning to the most. Pull the trigger on the lens that best suits the style of photos you enjoy creating the most. Photography is like anything else, triple-down on what you’re good at, and what you love, and forget everything else.
I’m still using my first tripod I ever bought. I have two of them. They won’t die. Sometimes I wish they would break so I could justify something lighter and tougher. The truth is, tripods are a piece of equipment that can quickly eat up a ton of your hard earned cash. I use a cheap MeFoto backpacker tripod. It’s not great but it does the trick.
If the occasion calls for a greater tripod. I’ll rent one. It’s rare and I can almost always get away with just using my beaters. Save your money and buy that awesome lens. Tripods won’t help you create epic photos the way a fast lens will.
The list just goes on and on. It’s pretty easy to go broke by purchasing your initial kit. Truth is though, you don’t have to. Skills trumps tools. You get skill with experience. If you give a pro a kit lens and consumer camera, he’ll still find a way to shoot a magazine cover, no problem. Don’t let the bells and whistles distract you from time spent shooting.
The best way to take better photos is to spend time shooting in the field. Do, be, become. Most photographers spend more time on forums reading up on the next big thing being released in the camera world that will supposedly make their photos better. Truth is, if those people spent that time shooting instead of staring at a screen. They’d be way better off.
We’ll get into specific tripods, straps, filters, computers, all the bells and whistles. They play an important role in the life of a professional outdoor photographer and filmmaker. Truth is though, they just make things easier, none of that will make you better or worse.
Get outside, try everything twice. Create what you love and then use that as inspiration behind your purchases. Don’t get caught up in clever marketing. You know best.