Welcome to my online buying guide for photographers. With over 70 articles it is one of the most comprehensive buyer’s guides on the web.
I get lots of photo questions, and many of them begin with “What is the best . . . .” They usually come from photographers or someone who is shopping for a photographer.
My “best of the best” series recommends the best photo gear, accessories, software, books, DVDs, online photo labs, and a whole lot more. Thanks to the information in these articles I get emails from photographers thanking me for saving them time, frustration, and a lot of money.
This article is published annually in November with regular updates. Most recent update: December 14, 2019.
The first rule when choosing camera gear is to buy what you can afford. It is hard to enjoy taking pictures if you are worried about how to pay for the camera you are holding. So buy what you can afford now, and upgrade later. And the second rule? We will get to that later.
The original DeLorme inReach Two Way Satellite Communicator
You need help. You can barely move. You are far enough from the trail that no one can hear your voice. You have no cell phone signal. What do you do?
Every now and then you hear tragic stories about people who lose their lives simply because they didn’t have a cell phone signal and couldn’t call for help in an unexpected emergency. A $260 – $340 satellite communicator would have saved their lives.
Granite Ledges and Otter Cliff, Acadia National Park, Maine
Your camera falls down a mountainside or off a cliff. An unexpected rogue wave drenches your valuable photo gear in salt water. Your photo backpack is stolen from your home, motel room, or trunk of your car. To add insult to injury, you learn your homeowner’s insurance will not replace the value of your damaged or stolen gear.
If you have precious slides, negatives, or prints that you want to scan, you have come to the right place. Choose wisely from the scanners that are available or you could get burned. A scanner that might be just fine for one person will be totally unsuitable for the next person. When it comes to scanners you need to know what you are getting and, just as importantly, what you aren’t getting. That is what this article is all about.
Camera and 70-200 telephoto lens mounted on an iOptron SkyTracker and iOptron ball head.
You would love to take beautiful, long exposures of the night sky, but even with a 24mm wide angle lens the stars start to streak with exposures longer than 20 seconds. And with a 300mm lens the stars start to steak after just 2 seconds. Not that long ago it would cost you well over $1,000 to buy the equipment that would follow the stars and allow you to take longer exposures.
Photographers with red headlamps. Field Trip, Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
A red headlamp is an essential tool for night photography. Before you rush out and buy one, make sure it has the most essential feature (other than the red LED). Some inexpensive headlamps have this feature and some very expensive ones don’t, so cost is not the issue.
There’s no question that in some complex metering situations, an incident light meter can be quicker, faster, simpler, and more accurate than the meter in your camera. Many incident light meters can also measure light from an electronic flash, a huge bonus when you are using a flash in the manual mode.
Photographers are always looking for ways to soften the light when doing portraits. The light from an accessory flash can be quite harsh so there are a wide range of modifiers to soften the light for more pleasing portraits. Here are my favorites for both on-camera and off-camera flash.
Portable “studio in a backpack” set up and ready to go.
If I am visiting family and friends and traveling by car, I usually bring my “studio in a backpack”. I never know when I might be asked to do some portraits and having some studio gear along helps create better images (especially when natural light is not a very good option). If you want to do portraits on the road (or even at home), these items are very useful. You can order these items from Amazon via the link at the end of this article.
For the best combination of quality and price, it is hard to beat AlienBees studio lights. I’ve been using AlienBees in my studio for over 10 years, and like so many other photographers, I’ve been singing their praises. It would be hard to find the same quality for less money.
Yongnuo 600EX-RT Speedlite and Yongnuo YN-E3-RT Transmitter. Click to see a larger version.
Should you spend $529 on a Canon 600EX-RT speedlite, or $121 on Yongnuo’s nearly identical clone, the YN600EX-RT? And what about the radio transmitters? Canon’s is $285 and the Yongnuo copy is $81. So you can buy three Yongnuo speedlites plus the radio transmitter for less than the price of one Canon speedlite. The price advantage is clear, but what about quality, reliability, and service issues?
There are lots of advantages to getting your flash off the camera, and it is probably much less expensive than you think. If you already have a shoe mount speedlite and if your camera has a built in pop up flash a simple $23 optical slave (see below) is all you need to get your flash off the camera.
Twelve articles (links below) to get you started with off-camera flash. The equipment you will need and how to use it.
Getting your flash off the camera opens up a whole new world of photographic possibilities. And the really good news: the equipment is way less expensive than it used to be. If you are ready to get started, I just finished writing (or re-writing) a series of articles on off-camera flash that covers the equipment you will need and shows you how to use it.
Let’s face it. While many recent DLSRs and ILCs can give you excellent visual quality in the videos, the sound quality of the built in microphones leave a lot to be desired. For a modest amount of money you can bring the sound quality up to par with the visual quality. That is why video mic sales have exploded.
A good tripod head will save you lots of frustration. For still photography I recommend two types of tripod heads. If you do a little of everything you will want a quality ball head for the quick and easy aiming of the camera. If you only do landscape or architectural photography and you want precise separate controls in each axis of motion, you will want a 3-way head.
Looking for a tripod? Choose wisely. Other than a camera and a good lens, nothing can make a bigger difference in your photography than a good tripod. This is the place to find information, recommended models, and links to more information.
There are several ways to do closeup photography. Closeup filters, extension tubes, and macro lenses are the most commonly used options. The best gear for you depends on your preferences, how you want to work, the subjects you are after, how much stuff you want to carry, and how much you want to spend. I cover your best options.
A lot of photographers have discovered their almost sharp lens was actually a very sharp lens once they tweaked the micro-adjustment settings. You will get sharper images if you adjust the settings for your specific camera and lens combinations. You do this using the micro-adjustment settings in the camera menu along with a lens calibration tool which you can buy or make yourself.
The ads started showing up on FaceBook all the time. They talk about wonderful lenses that will turn your smart phone into a camera that is better than a DSLR costing thousands of dollars. They brag about German engineering, a NASA optical formula, or the testing that proves their lenses are better than expensive lenses from Nikon, Zeiss, Leica, or Canon. The names of the companies change on a regular basis, but the scam is the same. Sad to say, a lot of people actually fall for this nonsense.
iPhone photography has become a huge thing. According to Flickr, their millions of users take more pictures with an iPhone (47%) than any other camera. A lot of iPhone photographers are looking for add on lenses for their phone, and that may include you. So which lenses are the best?
Looking for a small, mountable, “ideal for sports and action”, inexpensive, high definition video and still camera with a waterproof housing and image quality that Lucasfilm (the Star Wars people) calls “amazing”? This camera will go anywhere and mount just about anywhere. Prices range from $198 to $499 (which is a lot less than your typical DSLR with HiDef video).
Water, sand, and grit can wreak havoc with ordinary cameras, so unless you have a waterproof case for your camera (more about that later), your best bet is to get a rugged, waterproof camera for underwater and the beach. This is especially true if you are around salt water.
The holiday season is here and I am getting the usual questions about which digital cameras I recommend. In every price range there are some cameras that are better designed than others. How do you find them? That is what this article is all about.
Flash adapter and umbrella for a shoe-mount electronic flash.
There are a lot of practical and inexpensive (more or less) gifts for photographers. Here is a nice list of items starting at $8. To make it easy to track them down, these items are individuality linked plus most of these items can be found in the Misc Goodies section of my photography store which has direct links to Amazon.com. Prices are current as of the date of this post, but prices do fluctuate. Some items can be temporarily unavailable. These items are not listed in order of price.