Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs, and More

Welcome to my online buying guide for photographers. With over 75 articles it is one of the most comprehensive photography buyer’s guides on the web.

I get lots of photo questions, especially at this time of year, and many of them begin with “What is the best . . . .” They usually come from photographers or someone who is shopping for a photographer.  If you are shopping for yourself, or for a photographer in your life, this series is for you.

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. Re-posted November 20, 2023. Most recent update: December 8, 2023.

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Camera Gear for Trunk or Treat

Camera gear for Trunk or Treat.

This is the gear I will be taking to photograph Trunk or Treat, a big annual event in Lamoni Iowa. The camera with a 24-105mm lens will be hanging around my neck. The camera with the 70-300mm lens will be hanging from my right shoulder.  Two memory card wallets, one for each camera will be in my jacket pocket. The spare camera battery, which will fit either camera, will also be in my jacket pocket.

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A Quality Camera and Two Lenses for $300 – $500

A camera body and lens for $200.

The ideas for this article started with a question about camera gear (see my Mama Killdeer article). A friend of mine was surprised to learn I used a lens that cost less than $200 to capture an image of a killdeer. So I went to the refurbished gear section of Canon’s web site to check some of their current prices. The camera and lens combination above is $200. The lens is a good, general purpose, semi-wide angle to short telephoto lens. (To keep things simple I am rounding everything up to the next dollar.)

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Mama Killdeer

Killdeer Portrait, church parking lot in rural Iowa. This is cropped from the original image.

I captured this image in a church parking lot in rural southern Iowa. Two years ago she laid her eggs in the same parking lot and successfully hatched her eggs a few weeks later. This summer she did it again.

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How to Shoot With and Protect Your Camera Gear in Hot Weather

Covered camera during a shooting break.

Summer is here and that means hot weather. So it is time for a “save your camera gear” reminder. Camera gear has a temperature and humidity rating. A top of the line Canon camera body has a limit of 115°F and 85% or less humidity. A black camera on a hot day can easily exceed that limit. Less expensive cameras of any brand have lower limits so it is important to protect your gear.

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Pushing the Limits: $239 lens vs $2159 lens

Bald Eagle, Home Lake. Canon SL3, EF-S 55-250mm lens.

Is a $239 lens as good as a $2159 lens? Much of the time, yes (see the first link at the end of this article). Sometimes no. It depends on the photo situation. I get lots of equipment questions and some of them have to do with photography on a tight budget. I’ve been comparing a refurbished Canon SL3 camera and a refurbished Canon EF-S 55-250mm lens to a Canon 7D Mark II camera with a Canon L series 100-400mm lens.

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Lens Apertures, f-stops, and Depth of Field

50mm lens, aperture blades at f/8.

Almost every lens has a more or less round “aperture”, the opening that lets light through to the sensor or film. Most modern lenses have aperture blades that open and close to change the size of the opening. You can see the aperture blades in this photo. Larger apertures obviously let in more light in a given period of time and smaller apertures let in less light in the same period of time. The size of the aperture opening is one factor that determines the exposure. Just as important, the size of the aperture helps determine the depth of field in each image.

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The Chinese Lens Rip Off Series – Overpriced, Low Quality Camera Phone Lenses

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.

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The Best Closeup Photography Equipment

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

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.

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Get Sharper Images By Using The Best Lens Calibration Tools

Lens Calibration Tools

Lens Calibration Tools

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.

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Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs, and More

Welcome to my online buying guide for photographers. With over 75 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: November 17, 2023.

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The Starscope Monocular, It Is The Same Old Scam

Starscope Monocular Telescope ad.

We’ve been down this road before (see the first link at the end). The scam works like this. Pick an inexpensively made product from China, jack up the price, make up ridiculous and false claims about the quality of the product and what it can do, and sell it on dozens of web sites using ads thinly disguised as articles. Go to the internet and grab professional photographs created with high dollar professional camera gear and put the photos in the ads to give the impression the photos were made with the Chinese product. And for good measure, say in the ads that the product was designed by American or German engineers and manufactured in the U.S. or Germany. Create fake customer reviews to go in the ads, and for good measure, create fake reviews sites to endorse the quality of the product.

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Don’t Fall for This Scam!

Seriously, do you really believe you can see something “miles away like you’re standing next to it”? We’ve been down this road before (see the first link at the end of this article). A $47 monocular is not better than a $3,000 telescope, but thousands of people who know nothing about optics fall for scams like this. This screen capture is from the top of a long ad on the internet.

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How to See and Photograph the Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight

Perseid Meteor photographed from Rose Hill Cemetery west of Lamoni, Iowa. 4:55 am CDT, August 13, 2018. Cropped from the original image.

Tonight, August 11-12, is the predicted peak night of the Perseid Meteor Shower this year. But you can also look for the next few nights. This article will tell you what you need to know to see and photograph the most popular meteor shower of the year.

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Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More

Welcome to my online buying guide for photographers. With over 75 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.

Continue reading

The Best Closeup Photography Equipment

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

Forget-Me-Nots, Thorne-Swift Nature Preserve, Michigan

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.

Continue reading

The Chinese Lens Rip Off Series – Overpriced, Low Quality Camera Phone Lenses

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.

Continue reading

Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More

Welcome to my online buying guide for photographers. With over 75 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: February 10, 2021.

Continue reading