I love GEAR! Gear doesn't make you great, but having the right tools makes getting the right shot much easier. For YEARS I've used my iPhone or point-and-shoot Canons on auto mode. It wasn't until the past few years I've invested time and money in learning how to manually shoot with a DSLR and I'm in love. Once you understand how to manually control your camera, you can get some great shots with relatively inexpensive gear! Here's a list of the major components of my camera setup currently.
camera body: CANon Eos 80D
There's a lot of debate right now in the camera world between DSLRs and Mirrorless. It seems as though many DSLR Canon shooters are switching to the Sony lineup, and honestly they are decent cameras loaded with capability. I recently just purchased my first personal DSLR and I took some time working through exactly what I wanted. For me, flexibility was more important than anything. I am both a photographer and videographer. In all honesty, the Sony A series cameras have more features for video (120fps, 4k, etc…) but the DSLR ecosystem Canon has created is unbeatable. I decided the Canon DSLRs still produce great video quality AND I can use the same camera for amazing photography.
Once I decided I wanted to stay with Canon's DSLR lineup, I had to work through if I wanted a full frame or a crop sensor camera. The major advantage with the full frame is low light capability. Bigger sensor equals better low light imaging. The major advantage with the crop sensor is price (which is a big deal for me) and size (which is not really a big deal for me). I ended up buying a crop sensor for the fact I would rather invest in better lenses and eventually upgrade to a full frame camera.
I ended up buying a Canon EOS 80D. This is one of the the top of the line crop sensors from Canon and one of the best DSLRs for video in my opinion. I can wait on 4K. My computer can't handle the editing anyways yet.
RUNNER UP: I was strongly debating between the crop sensor 80D and the full frame 6D. If I was upgrading just for photography, I would have bought the 6D, which is about the same price. The 80D has some really good features for video though, enough to make me choose a crop sensor.
The Canon EOS 80D is known for it's amazing dual-pixel auto-focus, which makes this camera stand out. This high-end auto-focus paired with the articulating touch screen sold me on this camera. I am able to make videos along with having a very impressive photography camera. After having this unit for awhile, I have no regrets on my decision. QUICK TIP: I purchased this camera on Canon's Refurbished website. If you watch for the right deal you can save hundreds! I have also purchased several lenses from their refurbished site and never had a problem.
Favorite Lens: Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens
This is by far my favorite lens. It's great for video, it's great for portraits, is great for bokeh, and it's dirt cheap! I bought this lens for less than $100 on Canon's refurbished website. You can't go wrong with it.
I purchased the STM lens because I use it for both photography and video. There's other versions of the same lens, but from what I hear, STM is great for video and I've never had a problem with my STM lenses.
As much as I want to use other lenses, I seem to always come back to this one because of it's beautiful images and ease of use.
One of the best features of this lens is it has the same "look" as our eyes. Some lenses make things look farther away, or closer up (We'll talk about lens compression later). The 50mm has a similar look to what we see.
Regarding Prime Lenses: There's a lot of debate about prime lenses (fixed lenses you can't zoom). For me, most of the time, the best route is to buy zoom lenses. Prime lenses are typically more expensive for only being able to cover one focal length. The 50mm, aka as the nifty fifty, is a dirt cheap, QUALITY lens. Although it isn't a zoom, this lens is almost always on my camera. For the most part, the best use of your dollar is a zoom lens, but this one wins the "favorite lens" award from me.
Ultra wide angle lens: CANON EF-S 10-18mm STM
When it comes to ultra wide angles in the Canon universe, there's two EF-S lenses: the 10-18mm and the 10-22mm. After researching for weeks, I had the impression the 10-22mm wasn't worth the extra money. I am very happy with my ultra wide lens I chose. Although this is a very particular lens with a particular purpose, It usually ends up staying in my bag.
Ultra wide lenses expand the focal range of the picture along with capturing a very wide angle. With this lens, it's best use is in wide open spaces, such as a lake or cityscape. Getting too close to faces or objects can create a very distorted image.
Along with being able to capture a very wide angle, it essentially stretches the image out. Something 20 feet away looks like 100. This works well on certain things, but not on others. With the right angle, I can make a 25 foot dock look like it goes on forever, but, recently visiting Belle Isle in Detroit, trying to shoot the skyline looked a million miles away. Depending on the look you want, you can create a very unique shot. I've found the best use for ultra wide angle lenses are in Nature, or trying to capture a whole room. At 10mm, you will see distortion in the room. Although this is a fairly slow lens (f4.5-5.6), I find most of the time I use this lens in the daylight with decent light so the aperture still works. Typically you want big landscape images all in sharp focus so depth of field is not an issue either.
Telephoto Lens: Canon EF-s 55-250mm stm
I am always trying to find the balance of having great gear and spending money wisely. If I had the money, I would run out and buy a 70-200L, but that's a $2000 lens. The 55-250mm is surprising good for the price. It's a step up from the 75-300mm lens and you can pick one up for a relatively small amount of cash.
Although this is an inexpensive lens, I am still able to get really nice telephoto shots. The opposite of of a wide angle, a telephoto lens compresses images along with being able to shoot very far away.
One of my favorite features of a telephoto lens is being able to get a nice depth of field in my images. Even though the aperture is pretty high on this lens (f4.5-5.6), because of the far focal length, I am still able to take clear shots from far away with a nice blurry background because of the distance between the subject and the background. I would suggest any telephoto lens you have NEEDS to have Image Stabilization. The farther away you are, the more magnified your tiny shakes and movements are. Although a smaller f stop would be nice, this lens is a great compromise for the famous L white lens. It's very compact, light, and inexpensive, all things I want in a lens. In the future, I will probably upgrade, but for now I will craft my skill with this telephoto and when I upgrade my gear, I will already have the ability to shoot great shots.
A few Extras
Besides my 3 main lenses (10-18mm, 50mm, 55-250mm) there's a few extra components I use almost every time I go out to shoot.
Manfrotto BeFree Travel Tripod - There's few things I really like about this tripod. This is a very light tripod with a small footprint when it's folded up. In the wind, it's so light, it actually can move so Manfrotto added a hook on the base to hang a backpack to help! This tripod has a built in quick-disconnect base. Another huge plus for me. This tripod is great for photography, but not so much for video. There is a version with a fluid video head you can buy.
Peak Design Clutch - This is a simple but very effective extra. All this strap does is hold the camera on my hand. I've tried straps that go around my neck, but for me, I love the extra support I feel on the back of my hand with this clutch. It never leaves my camera. If you haven't already, check out Peak Design. This is a solid company with great products. I also use the Capture Pro and Pro Pad for long shoots.
Canon EF-S 24mm f2.8 STM - This is a 4th lens I occasionally use. It's really useful because of it's small size. With a crop sensor camera, it's about a 38mm so it's technically a wide angle lens. This is a perfect lens for selfies, keeping the camera small or chasing around a 2 year old. I am able to quickly get the close up shot. For around $150 new, you can find a deal on a refurb or used for around $100. It's worth to have on hand for certain occasions.
These are basically the main tools I use every time I go out for a shoot. In all honesty, you can have a great setup for relatively cheap and still get some amazing photos. Gear is important, but you always need to know the equipment you have and use it to it's fullest. Someday I will probably upgrade to a full frame camera and all new L series lenses, but for now, I am able to capture great photography and video. I am very pleased with my setup and proud of the art I am able to accomplish.
What's your favorite piece of gear you have? Do you have any experience with the gear I have?