For anyone who has ever tried to figure out what camera gear to get, you know as well as I do that there are a lot of choices. Even if you were to sit down and say, “I want a Canon camera,” there’s mirrorless, full-frame, APS-C (crop), point and shoots…heck there’s even film cameras. So many choices! I’m definitely not an expert in cameras (not even close) but if there’s one thing I know, it’s my own camera gear. I’m sure some of my choices weren’t the greatest and/or what you would’ve picked, but they’ve worked for me so far.
My camera is made by Canon, and in part that’s just because it’s what I chose to get on that fateful day long ago (honestly not that long ago) when I first picked up photography. When I was first starting out, their Rebel series seemed like a good beginner series (and still is) and the price seemed reasonable. It seemed like there were a lot of automatic settings I could use while still having a few manual settings to experiment with once I felt comfortable with the automatic ones. So I became a proud owner of a Canon Rebel XS (an APS-C camera, as is all Rebels). Back in 2011 when I bought it, it was a cool thing! It wasn’t the highest quality in the Rebel series but it did the job for me, especially when money was a factor. Since then the XS has been discontinued and there are a lot of upgrades, all the way into the Rebel T6 and T7 model names. But hey, I loved my camera all the same.
I started with the basic kit lens it came with and this set up lasted me until a year later when I started to get into self-portrait and discovered that my camera was one of the rare Canon models that didn’t have an IR (infrared) sensor. Self-timers did the trick but I wanted the flexibility and convenience that a wireless remote could provide, not only for self-portraits but also for group photos and night photography. So I started looking around.
I ended up selling my camera to a friend who was looking for their first camera and put that money towards a new camera. I had no qualms with the Rebel series so I decided to stick with it. I got the Canon Rebel T3i because I liked the swivel display (handy odd angles), the video capabilities, and it has an IR sensor. Throw in a case, some extra batteries, and I was set to continue my beginner photography endeavors.
Six years later, this is still the camera I use and that’s mostly just because it still does the trick for me (or at least I think it does). Newer models have come out and the T3i has been discontinued, but I’ll keep using it until it no longer suits my needs. Not investing in a new camera body also allows me to invest that money in camera lens and photography editing software, which I feel are both just as important as what camera body you have (if not more).
But there’s so many lenses out there! The best advice I have is to buy what is right for you and build up your collection as needed. Since I’m just starting out, I don’t need the biggest, badass lenses out there (nor do I have the money for them). I also didn’t need to start out with a ton of lenses when I hadn’t even familiarized myself with the kit lens. So I’ve built up my collection as needed, while sticking to a budget that’s right for me.
Don’t underestimate the kit lens! For me this is the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.5 IS II. This is a pretty standard mid-range lens and it will serve you well for a variety of purposes: sunsets, hikes, architecture, etc. And whenever you’re not satisfied with the lighting and/or colors in a photo, you can always edit the photo to your liking later.
The first lens I bought, aside from the lens above that came with the camera, was on a fluke. I happened to find an older lens attached to a Canon Film DSLR (Quantaray 28-90mm 3.5-5.6 AF Macro for Canon) and it was only $15 so I had to get it. The lens isn’t actually that great but I still use it sometimes as a mid-range lens because the focal length (zoom/mm) range is longer than the kit lens (28-90 vs 18-55 kit).
About halfway through college, I started to really get into portrait photography. I ended up borrowing a friend’s lens (Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM) and loved how it created a nice blurred background with bokeh. I’m a sucker for bokeh. The lens is budget-friendly and is often reviewed online as a “lens everyone should have,” so I bought it and have been happy with the results.
Two years later, I am now getting more into landscape and astro photography so I’ve started to look into more wide angle lens as well as lenses with a large aperture (opening through which light passes into the camera) because the larger the aperture (smaller f-stops), the more light (i.e. stars) the camera takes in. I’ve tried out a few wide angle lenses such as the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 Ultra Wide Lens and the Canon EF‑S 10‑18mm F/4.5‑5.6 IS STM but there were things about both that weren’t for me. I loved the combination of 14mm and f/2.8 of the Rokinon, but I didn’t like how heavy it was nor the fact that it was all manual focus. The lens also doesn’t have any electronic connection points. This means you won’t be able to view things live on your camera display, you’ll have to always use the eye hole. For some, these aspects are okay to sacrifice because of the great results you get (especially at night since the lens have an infinity focus setting). But for me, these things were dealbreakers. For the Canon 10-18, I loved the IS, the 10-18mm range, the auto-focus and it was a pretty light lens. But I wished it went lower than f/4.5 for the times when I want to take photos of starts. So I ended up buying the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens. It seems like a good compromise on what I was looking for in a wide angle lens and 24mm still feels pretty wide for my needs.
I’m also going on a whale watching boat tour next month so I felt that this was a good reason to get a telephoto lens. I went with the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens because it seemed to have good reviews and I liked the idea of having Image Stabilization (IS) on a telephoto lens. On Amazon, the “Amazon Choice” for this lens at the time was actually the refurbished lens, so I went with that because it’s cheaper. I’m usually hesitant to buy refurbished just to save money, but this one had good reviews and it was “Certified” by Amazon, so I decided to take a chance. So far it has served me well!
By buying lenses as needed, I’ve created a versatile collection of lenses that suit all of my interests: Wide-Angle for landscapes and night, Telephoto for wildlife, Macro for portraits and up-close animals/flowers/etc, and Mid-Range for everyday travel. Some are prime (no zoom) lenses, some are zoom. Some are EF (works for full frame Canons), some are EF-S (only for APS-C). As I continue to grow with photography, maybe I will start to consider only buying EF so that I can work my way up to a full frame camera. But for now, off I go!
To see a full list of my camera gear, keep reading 🙂
(1) Canon EOS Rebel T3i — Swivel display, video, IR sensor. Warning: make sure you know if your camera is an APS-C or full frame camera as it will affect which lens your camera can use. Canon EF lenses work for both but EF-S lenses only work for APS-C. All Rebels are APS-C.
(2) Tamrac 5684 Digital Zoom 4 Camera Bag — Solid, compact bag when you’re just looking to stuff your camera in your bag (and perhaps a small lens attached) while still keeping it protected. Paired with the lens sleeves (12), it’s a good way to transport your gear if you don’t want to carry a bigger bag.
(3) ProMater Universal Camera Remote #7613 — It seems this version of the remote is no longer available in most places, but they have a different one on Amazon that is essentially the same thing. Amazon also has its own remote that seems to be pretty good for such a cheap price, but I haven’t tested that one out. Regardless, it’s important to check your camera’s specs to see which wireless (and wire) remotes it’s compatible with. My camera, the Rebel T3i, has a place for the Remote Switch RS-60E3 (remote with wire) to be plugged in and it’s also compatible with the wireless RC-6, RC-1 and RC-5.
(4) Extra camera battery — An absolute must! Again, check your camera’s specs to see which battery you need. The Canon Rebel T3i requires a Battery Pack LP-E8 x 1.
(5) AmazonBasics Large DSLR Gadget Bag — Fits one DSLR body and 3-4 lens, lots of external pockets and straps to attach a tripod.
(6) Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM — Relatively inexpensive and perfect for amateur portrait photography. It creates a nice blurred background with bokeh and the colors are so vivid.
(7) Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens — Image Stabilization (IS) is important to me, but it’s not an absolute must for telephoto lenses, especially if you have a tripod.
(8) Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.5 IS II — Standard “kit lens” that came with my camera. Pretty solid starter lens!
(9) Quantaray 28-90mm 3.5-5.6 AF Macro for Canon — Nice zoom and feels more versatile than the kit lens, but the quality of the kit lens is a little better.
(10) JOBY GorillaPod SLR-Zoom and Ballhead Bundle — I chose this tripod because of it’s flexible legs. The ballhead bundle is sold seperatebly but it’s crucial because it is what allows you to screw your camera into the tripod. .
(11) JOBY GripTight Mount PRO Holder for Smartphone — I wanted to have the flexibility to prop up my iPhone too, so I bought one of these which can be mounted to the GorillaPod (10).
(12) Altura Photo Thick Protective Neoprene Pouches for DSLR Lenses — They come in a variety of packs that are useful if you want to take a lens on the go without carrying around a big camera bag. Warning, the Extra-Large pouch is EXTRA-Large, like pro-sport lens large. I use the Medium and Large pouches the most.
Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens — Budget friendly, great aperture, decent wide angle. This lens is great for beginner astrophotography.
AmazonBasics UV Protection Lens Filters — They come in sizes 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm and 82mm. Filters are nice because they protect the glass on your lens. Better to replace your filter than your lens! To figure out what filter size you need, look for the ø symbol (represents diameter) on the front of your lens. This number is the same for the filter size you need.
8 GB SDHC memory card — The “HC” stands for “High Capacity” but to me it also means “Highly Crucial.” It speeds up the process of writing files from the camera to the card.
Additional lens caps and camera body caps — Always a handy thing. When buying one of each, I went with the Movo Photo Lens Mount Cap and Body Cap. You pick your camera brand before purchasing and most, if not all, cameras/lenses of that brand (at least the lower end models) can use the same size of caps.
External hard drive — I use the Western Digital “My Passport for Mac” 1TB that I bought in college. Back then, 1TB was the best option out there and cost over $100. Now I’m laughing at myself because you can buy a 4TB drive for the same price and size. If you have a Mac, pay attention to the “for Mac” options out there. You can also format the drive so that it’s compatible with PC’s too using this guide: Format Drive PDF
Lacdo EVA Shockproof Carrying Case for Western Digital My Passport — Sturdy, has a place to clip a carabiner, wrist strap, and has dividing pockets inside that allow for more organization.
Editing software: on my iPhone, I use the free Photoshop Fix tool and the Lightroom app (free to use if you already have a Lightroom subscription). On my computer, I use Lightroom and Photoshop CC which I purchased through an annual “Photography Plan” which gives you access to these two programs (and only these two) for $10/month.
NOTE: I have not tested out cameras by Sony, Nikon, etc. I am confident these companies are amazing but Canon has served me well, so I’ve chosen to stick with that brand. This article is not sponsored.