Investing in Camera Gear

After my little camera windfall this Christmas, I wanted to take a moment to talk about my thoughts on investing in camera gear.

As most of you will know, up until now I have taken all my photos with a Rebel T3i and the Canon 50mm f/1.8 or the Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 .  Neither the camera body nor the lenses were particularly expensive (for camera gear!) but I think I got some pretty good shots with them.  Here is a few taken with the Rebel that I like and happen to have on my PC......

And some shots I took yesterday on a walk with the 5D MKIII and the 85mm F1.8.....(my first attempts with my new gear!)

There is actually very little difference between them (although I did notice I when I ran my usual action for sharpening for web I had to lower it waayy down so I'm guessing they are sharper)

So, why, I hear you ask, did you just spend an extortionate amount of money upgrading your camera gear if you could have got those shots with your Rebel?  Before my husband comes charging upstairs and rugby tackles me for my new lenses to return them, the answer is options.

You can take great pictures with a entry level camera and the infamous nifty fifty but the rub is, you need to work within your camera limitations. It's those limitations that I want to lose. Outside, at a decent time of day, I can get great shots from my Rebel. I've spent a long time with this camera, understanding how to get the best from it and where it would fall short. I learnt that if I wanted to take "portrait" style shots I needed to do this outside so I wouldn't have to bump the ISO too high. I found out where the best light was in my house and at what time,  again, to keep the ISO down.  Experience told me that when using Al Servo I needed to use the centre focal point as this is the only one with a cross sensor and was therefore more accurate.  I experimented and found that if I needed to shoot with high ISO's that it was better to over-expose a tiny bit and avoid under-exposing at all costs.  I worked hard to find out what I needed to do to get the best shots from it.  The downside was I knew I wouldn't be able to get certain shots at certain times - I always had to work around the limitations the camera set.

The day I decided that I needed to upgrade was when I was trying to take some family group shots for a friend. I needed a reasonable shutter speed as the kids were hyper, and a higher F stop as I wanted them all in focus. It was a really sunny day (and the family was late so the sun was getting quite high) which meant we had to go into the shade. All of this meant less light getting into the camera so I had to use ISO800 - but it still wasn't high enough to get the shutter speed I wanted, and I was scared to go higher because of the noise I would get with the Rebel. I took the shots at ISO800 - a few had blur in the hands because of too slow shutter speed, and they all had some noise which was acceptable printed at smaller sizes, but noticable when printed larger. I knew at that point that if I wanted to do this professionally, I would need to have more options. (You can't tell a client that they can't order a photo larger than 8x10 because it just won't be sharp enough!)  With a full-frame camera, I could quite happily have worked at ISO3200 and still had images that were usable printed at even the largest sizes.

As for lenses, you can again shoot away quite happily with one, maybe two lenses. More lenses just give you more options in terms of what you can shoot and where you can shoot from.  Yes, the quality of the lens also makes a difference -  you can take perfectly decent photographs with a kit lens, but you won't see the sharpness and detail that you will get with a more professional lens.  Cheaper lenses will also not nail focus unless the lighting is good, or at least won't do it as quickly. However, use them with good light and you will find you can great shots - the nifty fifty is incredibly sharp for it's price.  It also depends largely on what you want to achieve - want to get those pictures of incredibly sharp baby bits or water droplets on a leaf?  You'll want a macro lens. I would say it's better to have one lens that does a job and does it well, rather than have a jack-of-all-trades lens.

My plan is to make money from photography one day and turn professional - the money spent on the camera gear was an investment in what I hope to earn a living from in the future.  I'm still learning, I just figured I may as well learn with the gear that I am eventually going to buy anyway so I can get the most use of it. (That's how I'm justifying it to myself anyway!) However,  if you are only shooting for yourself,  for the desire to capture your kid's childhood, then you do not need to spend a fortune on camera gear - you just don't need that amount of options (however whether you want it is a different matter)  The example I gave above of shooting a family group shot? If I were only doing this for myself, then I would simply have tried another day when the timing and light was a bit better.  If it is only for your family then you have the option of another day - if you are a professional you do not.

Pro-grade gear is unbelievably expensive and buying it will not make you a better photographer. It just gives you a lot more options.  It's really up to you which options you want to have, and how much you are willing to pay for them.  If you don't want to pay for those options that's fine too - learn your camera and what it can achieve and what it can't, and work within it. Whether you have the fancy camera gear or not, learning how to take in focus, correctly exposed, artfully composed images is a must.

I'm writing this post because this blog was intended to help everyone take better photos, whatever camera level you have. Yes, you will hear me wax lyrical about my new camera for some considerable time yet (let me know when it becomes annoying. Too late, possibly?!) , but please don't feel that you need to be investing in camera gear like I have just done - that's just a choice that works for me and my circumstances. A good photographer can make art with a point and shoot.

That's it, my views on camera gear. What's your thoughts? How important is it to you?


Penny B. said...

I promised myself not to upgrade my camera (canon t1) until I could venture outside auto-mode comfortably. I have upgraded my lens to the nifty fifty and i will probably purchase an upgraded zoom lens in the near future but i feel like mastering what i own now will make transitioning to an upgraded camera easier. HOWEVER i would like to put it out there.. if my husband were to shower me with fabulous camera gear presents that would be an exception. :) Congrats on your gear!

Audrey said...

Thanks Penny! I hope your husband is reding this! Seriously, you can get some sharp shots with the nifty fifty - get all you can out of your current camera gear first before upgrading, as you say you can learn just as well how to shoot in Av on Manual on the camera you have. X

Katie @mummydaddyme said...

Your new gear looks amazing and I love the photos you have taken so far. I can't wait to see some more.
I commented on one of your blog posts before about macro lenses to which you kindly responded to me, but I was wondering if you can answer me another question... (sorry!) I am after a macro lens, not particularly for insects, but for close up baby shots and the odd product shot....I have a Nikon D5100 (i.e not a full frame camera) and I was looking at the Nikon 40mm 2.8 Micro lens.
The only thing I am worried about is that I already have the 50mm 1.8...will these two lenses be very similar? I want to get a macro but don't want to invest in something thats too similar to what I have got.
Any advice would be really appreciated as I get so confused when it comes to lenses/focal lengths...
Thank you and sorry for bombarding your blog with my questions!!


Ticky Tab said...

Katie, dont worry I posed same questions to Audrey last week :-) She is trying to post a blog to help on this. I am also waiting for the same. When it comes to Prime and Macro, many says 100mm 2.8 macro can also be used for portraits as prime, then what is meaning investing on 50mm 1.8, I dont know yet....

Audrey said...

Hi! There will be a post in a couple of days about macro lens when I'll try to answer your questions!

Ticky Tab said...

Hello Friends!



Anonymous said...

Hi Audrey, I am lucky enough to be getting a mark iii for my birthday (yay!). I already have the 50mm 1.4, just wondering if you had to choose one lens out of all your lovely lenses now that you have played with them, which would you choose?

Audrey said...

Yay to you! If I had to save just one lens it would probably be the 135mm F2.0. It also happens to be least practical for shooting children if you are on your own (due to the distance away from them you need to be get them in shot) but it comes out every time I've got my husband there to look after my son and make sure he doesn't get into any trouble, and I can shoot from a little way back. My 50mm is my "everyday" lens. Hope this helps!

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