What Gear Should I Buy?

I get asked “what other gear should I buy?” all the time by my students. Frankly, the best answer is the gear you should buy is the gear that fits the type of photography you want to do.  But I’ve put together a list of different items that are helpful to buy when you are starting out and when you get a little further along.  Canon and Nikon dominate the dSLR market and both offer wonderful gear so I put together two gear lists, specific to each brand.


Canon Set:

Canon 70DCanon T6iCanon T5i or Canon T4i:  Any of these cameras will do a fantastic job for a photo enthusiast of varying levels of ability.  From a person who knows nothing about photography, up to someone who likes to shoot in manual all the time.  These cameras will do the job nicely and are under $1000.

Canon 5D Mark IIICanon 1Dx, or Canon 7D Mark II: These cameras are for a person ready to jump to a professional level camera body.  All three of these cameras are weather sealed so they can be taken in much harsher conditions than consumer grade cameras and have more durable shutters that will last longer. The 5D Mark III and the 1Dx are both full frame cameras.  The 7D Mark II is a crop sensor.  The 1Dx is the top of the line for Canon’s dSLRs. The 1Dx boasts up to 14 frames per second, the 7D Mark II is 10 frames per second, and the 5D Mark III is 6 frames per second.  The 1Dx is the only camera in the canon line up that has spot metering linked to the focus point.  For each of these cameras I would suggest buying the body only and then buying the lenses for the camera separately.  The L lenses that come packaged with most of these bodies do not have a very large maximum aperture. They do not have the preset modes that consumer grade dSLRs have.

2 Sandisk 32GB SD Cards: the only memory card company I suggest people use is Sandisk.  They are the very best and most reliable.  They are a little bit more expensive than the competition but they are much less likely to result in card failures than other brands. Always own at least 2 memory cards as you don’t want to be left having to delete shots because your card filled up.  I would suggest purchasing either 16GB size or 32GB size.

A second camera battery: it is a smart idea to have at least 2 batteries for your camera, particularly if you are taking the camera on trips where electricity will be in short supply.  I suggest getting only Canon brand batteries, not 3rd party versions.

External hard drive: the pictures we take are very important to us.  Nowadays people everyone just leaves pictures on their computer hard drives.  Unfortunately, these devices are prone to failure.  So be sure to have a backup.  I suggest all my students have an on site external hard drive and an off site back up as well. Now you can get Terabyte hard drives that cost only about $100!

Camera bag: You should have a properly padded bag to transport your camera with you. Digital SLR cameras are expensive and delicate.  A good camera bag can help keep your camera in good working order for years to come.

Photo editing software: I suggest to all my students that they get Adobe Light Room 5.  This is an amazing user friendly program that will allow you to edit your images and catalog them as well.  If you are currently a student at a high school or college or are a teacher you may qualify for the discounted student’s version.  You must have a valid student id or teacher’s id to be able to activate this discounted academic version, which is exactly the same as the non-academic version, just cheaper.  Light Room 5 is so great you will likely not need any other photo editing software, but if you want to be able to do more advanced edits than Adobe Light Room is capable of you can also get Adobe’s Photoshop Elements.  Elements is a stripped down version of their very popular program Photoshop, which is aimed at professional photographers and graphic designers.  LightRoom5 and Full Photoshop are also available through Adobe’s CreativeCloud subscription service for $9.99/month.

Memory Card Reader: The micro usb cable that your camera comes with is usually not very fast for transferring images from your camera to your computer.  Memory card readers make it possible for you to just take the memory card out of your camera and to transfer them MUCH quicker to your computer.  This also has the added benefit of making it so you aren’t running the transfer off of your camera’s battery.

Canon 50mm 1.8 “nifty fifty” lens: this is one of the very best photography buys on the market.  For a lens that is only $110 you get amazing image quality and all the benefits of a maximum F 1.8 aperture lens.  This allows you to have nice blurry background with your subjects in crisp focus.  It also lets you shoot in much lower light than the kit lens that comes with the camera does.  Once most of my students put this lens on their camera they never want to shoot with anything else because the pictures are so much better.  If you are thinking of making photography a serious hobby you may want to skip right to the more expensive Canon 50mm 1.4.

Canon 55mm-250mm 4.0-5.6 IS lens: If you are shooting things like your children’s soccer game this lens will become your best friend.  It allows you to zoom in on the action and has Canon’s Image Stabilization technology to help you get a steadier shot.

Canon 24mm-70mm L 2.8 lens: For those who are ready to jump to the next level the first L lens I suggest people buy is the 24-70.  It is extremely versatile, is tack sharp, and focuses incredibly quickly.  The large 2.8 aperture allows for beautiful shallow depth of field.

Canon 70mm-200 L 2.8 Lens: This is the lens I use when I shoot the runways at fashion week in New York City.  It is also wonderful for sports.  It is very heavy though.  You need to either be very strong or use a monopod when using this lens for any extended period of time. It is a fantastic portrait lens as well.

Canon 135 L 2.0 Lens: This lens is my personal favorite.  It focuses so quickly it blows my mind.  It is what I love to use for portraits.  Unlike the 70-200L lens it isn’t terribly heavy, so I can hold it for extended periods of time without a monopod and still get steady shots.  The bokeh is creamy and beautiful.  I find for portraits it just can’t be beat.

Canon 100-400 L 4.5-5.6 Lens: If you are taking shots of high speed action from the sidelines during the day or are going on a daytime safari, this is a wonderful lens.  The only drawback is the variable aperture and it is not particularly “fast glass” with a maximum aperture of f/4.5, so it is best suited for shooting on bright sunny days.

Canon 430 EXII speedlite: This is an external flash for your camera that is much more powerful than the one that pops up on the camera and can be used to bounce the flash so that you get much better results when doing flash photography.  Canon does make weaker and more powerful flashes.   Most students outgrow the less powerful 270 EXII speedlite quickly and want the versatility afforded by the 430EXII.    Others may choose to go ahead and purchase the more powerful professional grade 600EX-RT at the very start.

Rechargeable AA Batteries: Flashes eat up batteries quickly.  Rechargeable ones will save you money over time.  I suggest the ones that hold their charge for a long time like the Duracell Stay Charged ones.


Nikon Set:

Nikon D3300 or Nikon D5300:  Either of these cameras will do a fantastic job for a photo enthusiast of varying levels of ability.  From a person who knows nothing about photography, up to someone who likes to shoot in manual all the time.  These cameras will do the job nicely and are under $1000.

Nikon D4s or Nikon D810 These cameras are for a person ready to jump to a professional level camera body.   Both are weather sealed so they can be taken in much harsher conditions than consumer grade cameras and have more durable shutters that will last longer. The D4s and the D810 are both full frame cameras. They do not have the preset modes that consumer grade dSLRs have.

2 Sandisk 32GB SD Cards: the only memory card company I suggest people use is Sandisk.  They are the very best and most reliable.  They are a little bit more expensive than the competition but they are much less likely to result in card failures than other brands. Always own at least 2 memory cards as you don’t want to be left having to delete shots because your card filled up.  I would suggest purchasing either 16GB size or 32GB size.

A second camera battery: it is a smart idea to have at least 2 batteries for your camera, particularly if you are taking the camera on trips where electricity will be in short supply.  I suggest getting only Nikon brand batteries, not 3rd party versions.

External hard drive: the pictures we take are very important to us.  Nowadays people everyone just leaves pictures on their computer hard drives.  Unfortunately, these devices are prone to failure.  So be sure to have a backup.  I suggest all my students have an on site external hard drive and an off site back up as well. Now you can get Terabyte hard drives that cost only about $100!

Camera bag: You should have a properly padded bag to transport your camera with you. Digital SLR cameras are expensive and delicate.  A good camera bag can help keep your camera in good working order for years to come.

Photo editing software: I suggest to all my students that they get Adobe Light Room 5.  This is an amazing user friendly program that will allow you to edit your images and catalog them as well.  If you are currently a student at a high school or college or are a teacher you may qualify for the discounted student’s version.  You must have a valid student id or teacher’s id to be able to activate this discounted academic version, which is exactly the same as the non-academic version, just cheaper.  Light Room 5 is so great you will likely not need any other photo editing software, but if you want to be able to do more advanced edits than Adobe Light Room is capable of you can also get Adobe’s Photoshop Elements.  Elements is a stripped down version of their very popular program Photoshop, which is aimed at professional photographers and graphic designers.

Memory Card Reader: The micro usb cable that your camera comes with is usually not very fast for transferring images from your camera to your computer.  Memory card readers make it possible for you to just take the memory card out of your camera and to transfer them MUCH quicker to your computer.  This also has the added benefit of making it so you aren’t running the transfer off of your camera’s battery.

Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens: This lens allows you to have nice blurry background with your subjects in crisp focus.  It also lets you shoot in much lower light than the kit lens that comes with the camera does.  Once most of my students put this lens on their camera they never want to shoot with anything else because the pictures are so much better.  If you are thinking of making photography a serious hobby you may want to skip right to the more expensive Nikon 50mm 1.4.  Do not get the cheaper versions of these lenses from Nikon.  They do not work  with most consumer grade Nikon cameras.

Nikon 55mm-200mm 4.0-5.6 VR lens: If you are shooting things like your children’s soccer game this lens will become your best friend.  It allows you to zoom in on the action and has Nikon’s Vibration Reduction technology to help you get a steadier shot.

Nikon 24mm-70mm 2.8 lens: For those who are ready to jump to the next level the first professional grade lens I suggest people buy is the 24-70.  It is extremely versatile, is tack sharp, and focuses incredibly quickly.  The large 2.8 aperture allows for beautiful shallow depth of field.

Nikon 70mm-200 2.8 VRII Lens: This is the lens focal length I use when I shoot the runways at fashion week in New York City.  It is also wonderful for sports.  It is very heavy though.  You need to either be very strong or use a monopod when using this lens for any extended period of time. It is a fantastic portrait lens as well.

Nikon SB-700 Speedlight: This is an external flash for your camera that is much more powerful than the one that pops up on the camera and can be used to bounce the flash so that you get much better results when doing flash photography.  Canon does make weaker and more powerful flashes.   Most students outgrow the less powerful SB-400 quickly and want the versatility afforded by the SB-700.    Others may choose to go ahead and purchase the more powerful professional grade SB-910 at the very start.

Rechargeable AA Batteries: Flashes eat up batteries quickly.  Rechargeable ones will save you money over time.  I suggest the ones that hold their charge for a long time like the Duracell Stay Charged ones.


Fucci’s Photos LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. All the products Vail Fucci has mentioned above are ones she has personally picked out.  She does not receive endorsements directly from the companies that make the products.

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