gear

A Guide to Buying New Photography Gear by Ricardo Seah

A Guide to getting the right photography gear for you.

I've had several people ask me for advice over the years what camera or what lens or what  tripod they should get. So I’ve compiled some of my key thoughts on the subject and hopefully you'll find this guide useful.

Photography Gear

Ok, so you’ve saved up a good amount of money, you want to treat yourself and you’re considering getting a camera, a lens, or just photography gear in general. Well you’re at the right place!, so keep reading! 

Mindset

Buying new gear is a big decision and needs to be carefully considered and thought through (unless of course you are a baller and have lots of $$$… in which case consider hiring me for a photoshoot or giving me money to help you buy gear). But if you’re like everyone else its probably a big deal and I’d like for you to think of buying a camera as an investment (much like buying a car).

You are going to need to trust that the gear you are getting won’t fail on you and that it can be depended upon to capture the shots that you want. Can you imagine getting to a breath-taking viewpoint and not have the right gear to capture the beauty in front of you, or having your gear fail you just as you’re setting up to take a shot of the beautiful stars of the night sky? It’s terrifying!  

Like anything else in life, you get what you pay for (unless it’s a Starbucks coffee in which case you probably paid a little too much). Just as an example, my friend Yow and I went out to shoot the northern lights one night and his cheap tripod broke just as he was setting up. My tripod on the other hand has been with me for the 8 years and has survived the freezing cold and extreme desert heat.

Instead of talking about gear recommendations or what I use, this guide will walk you through key considerations and questions to ask yourself to help you make the right decisions :) Here we go!

These are the key questions to ask yourself:

What kind of photography am I doing/looking to get into?

If you’re in the market for a camera then you have to decide whether you want a compact, mirrorless, DSLR, or medium format. 

  • The list above is in ascending order or typical image sensor size.

  • Image sensor matters because the larger the sensor the "better" the quality of images you'll be able to capture especially in low light conditions. Larger sensors also typically mean that you get less of a "grainy look" to your images and allow you print really large pictures. But of course if you are just posting on social media or sharing images online then you won't need such a large sensor camera (ie. a full frame camera or medium format camera).

What are the limitations to the gear that I’m getting?

  • Sure its easy to see what the positives are, because they are always marketed to you. But you need to be critical and understand what the limitations are for that piece of gear. For example, you might find a really cheap lens online and buy it only to find out that it can’t auto-focus, or it isn’t weather sealed or it has a built in lens hood that makes it impossible to attach filters.

What conditions will I be shooting in? Can I trust my gear to hold up in the conditions I’ll be shooting in? And is the gear I’m getting weather sealed?

  • Although most modern cameras are weather sealed (i.e. protected against the elements), not all are. And so it’s a good idea to find out wether the specific product, be it the lens and/or the camera is weather sealed and can withstand the conditions you will be putting it through. If you’re going to a camera store the people there should be able to help you out with this.

Do I really need “X” number of mega-pixels?

  • Come on, let’s be honest, in a side by side comparison neither you nor I can tell the difference between a 10 megapixel image and a 30megapixel image printed out on a regular piece of paper or a laptop screen.

  • The truth is that unless you are shooting professionally and your client requires a large file to be printed to the size of a billboard or the side of a building , you don’t need a camera with an insanely high megapixel count. It’s really just a marketing draw for most camera manufacturers to say that their product has more megapixels than their competitors.

Will I need something else besides what I already have to achieve that shot I have in mind?

  • For example, you might think that for a night landscape all you’ll need is a DSLR and a wide angle lens… Well think again! You’re probably going to want a sturdy tripod because its most likely gonna take a longer shutter speed to capture the image.

Do I really need that to achieve what I have in mind?

  • This is a good question to ask if you’re on a tight budget. For example, you might read somewhere that getting a remote shutter release or a certain filter is a must! Is it really though??

  • Think about possible work-arounds that may help you save such as using the in-built timer function on your camera or applying filter effect on lightroom in post-processing.

If I’m thinking about upgrading my camera or switching brands anytime in the future, should I still get that lens I really want? 

  • This is a big consideration to keep in mind because not all lenses fit all cameras even within the same brand. You might spend lots of money on a lens now only to regret that decision a month or two later when you decide to upgrade to a full-frame camera body or switch to a different brand.

These are the key considerations to keep in mind:

Good glass is like gold. Sure, third party glass might be cheaper, but if you are ever thinking about reselling it down the road, it won’t retain its value as well.

Battery life performance. You might settle on a mirrorless camera only to find out that battery performance is terrible and to make up for that you end up spending more money buying spare batteries. Generally DSLRs have better battery performance than do mirrorless systems.

The possibility of upgrading in the future. Say for example you are just getting into photography and you decide to buy a beginner or regular DSLR. If you get good at photography you might consider upgrading your camera maybe to a full-frame DSLR down the road. 

You probably don’t need as many mega-pixels as you think. 

Not all camera reviews are made equal. Many might be sponsored reviews even when they say that they aren’t  


I hope you found this little guide of questions helpful in your search for new camera gear! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or type them in the comments below and share this post with friends who might be thinking of buying some new photography gear.

Till next time, take care, keep smiling and keep shooting! :)