Photography Gear: How Important is it?
I remember when I got my first DSLR. It actually wasn't that long ago, just a bit over two and a half years ago. I remember thinking that I was going to be taking photos like the pros in no time! I have the right gear now right, so why not? Well, not really. There are many other techniques will need to practice in order to get "the shot". But I won't be going into photography techniques in this post 9I will explore this at a later date).
Photography equipment is fantastic. I have fought the urge to continually buy new stuff. Is it really as important as we feel it is though? Lets take some time to look through the different equipment, and look into how important I think each piece of equipment is when it comes to Travel, Landscape and Street photography. Also, what equipment do you need to get started? Lets talk about it.
Should you get a crop sensor, or a full frame sensor camera? Thats up to you. Full frame bodies are always going to be more expensive (along with their lenses). Full frame sensors are great as they collect more light, so you can stop down more and still get decently fast shutter speeds. Crop sensors are good as they can have smaller bodies and are great for travel. Crop sensor bodies are my suggestion for when you first start out. Generally speaking, the camera body is the most important part of the photography process. The body is the component that takes light, and collects it on the sensor, to make an image (very shallow explanation). Nowadays, you can get a crop sensor 24 Megapixel sensor body for pretty cheap (~£250-£2,000). Which is a decent start. In fact, this is what I started with, and is actually higher resolution than what I eventually upgraded to. The resolution is something you really only need to think about when printing large, or when you may need to crop an image.
The next big factor you need to consider is whether it is weather proof/resistant. If you want to mainly take photos of family/friends, this isn't really needed. But, if you want to travel, and do landscape and travel photos, I would recommend getting a weather resistant body. There have been quite a few times I have been outdoors and needed this. For instance, when I was in the Julian Alps of Northern Italy taking photos of a beautiful lake in the middle of the rain/sleet.
Personally, one of the main factors when considering a camera body to purchase and use is how it feels in the hand. I love working with my hands, so physical dials were something that I never really knew I needed until I found Fujifilm's cameras. It helps me quickly see my settings and adjust as needed. So overall, the camera body just needs to suit your needs. It doesn't have to be top of the line (unless you are rolling in the dough).
Lenses, to me, are the most important piece of photography equipment you will purchase. The build (material), max aperture, and focal length are options you absolutely need to consider when looking for lenses. When I first started, I thought that zoom lenses were the best invention since heated toilet seats. However, as time went on, I realized that you are losing some sharpness and image quality for the added convenience. While I am not totally against zoom lenses, as they are extremely versatile, they can make you lazy. You wont be moving much, as you have the convenience of just zooming in if you want your subject closer. This is why I have began to prefer prime lenses, as you need to "zoom with your feet". It requires more effort and more time to get the composition you want, but you end up with a more thoroughly thought out composition, and an overall sharper image. So my recommendation is to go with primes. Especially if you are just starting out, as I feel you will learn more from every image you take.
Filters are one of those pieces of equipment that you either don’t need, or can’t live without. Filters are primarily used for long exposures, or for removing glare or reflections on water or glass. While you don't necessarily need them for landscape photography as you can just blend multiple exposures to get that smooth water effect, I still prefer to capture as much as I can in camera instead of doing the work in post processing. This is something that you need to consider yourself, as good filters with little to no color casting can be quite expensive (but well worth it in my opinion).
Another valuable piece of equipment is a tripod. Since I do travel and landscape mostly, I need a small tripod. A good travel tripod will be made of light materials (aluminum or carbon fiber) and fold down on itself quite compact. The issue with getting a small travel tripod is its sturdiness. You will need to find a tripod that will hold the weight of your camera and will withstand some decent winds. Having a tripod will enable you to get sharp shots all the time; especially if you are shooting with prime lenses that don't have image stabilization. I primarily use my tripod for long exposure shots so I definitely need it. However, there have been times that I needed it, but didn't have it, so I just used a wall, rock, or other sturdy object to help me out.
There are tons more pieces of equipment that I use, that you may not need. See below for a list of other items that I like to take with me on my travels.
- Remote Shutter Release
- Flashlight (For Light Painting in Long Exposure shots)
- Microfiber towel
- Lens brushes
- Sensor Cleaner & Swabs
- Shower Cap (For leaving my camera in the rain for extended periods)
- Wrist Strap
- L Bracket (Mounting System)
- Tons of Spare Batteries
- Spare Memory Cards
- iPad (For editing on the go or remote shooting)
So, do I need all of this equipment to take good photos? Nope. If you have a camera body, and a lens, you are good to go. However, over time, you will realize that to make the experience more pleasurable and easier on yourself, you may want to start getting a few items here and there. I know a few street photographers that only need their camera body and lens, and they get amazing shots. I myself however, prefer to have multiple tools at my disposal anytime I am out and about.
I guess what I am trying to say is, that you don't need all the equipment in the world, or the most expensive equipment to have a fulfilling experience taking photos. The mere action of taking photos, and getting "the shot" are more than enough. While the topic of photography itself, and of photography equipment is almost entirely subjective, it is good to get the equipment you want or need to get the types of shots you are envisioning in your head.
If you’re finding yourself wondering what filters do, or how composition affects an image, I will be posting about Long Exposures and Photography Basics at a later time.
What equipment do you use? Do you ever feel like you have too much, or not enough?