Why Are These Essential Camera Gear?
I have personal experience with every item on this list and would recommend them all. I’ve spent a fair bit of money in the past on equipment I didn’t need, so learn from my mistakes and bookmark this list now!
PLEASE READ FIRST: I’ve linked all items on Amazon US, and all are Canon products. That’s not to say that Canon are better than anyone else, I’ve just done it this way because Canon held 44.5% of the DSLR market in 2010, whereas Nikon and Sony have 29.8% and 11.9% respectively.
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Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 ii
There’s one of these in almost every camera bag these days – they’re that popular!
It’s a great lens that allows you to capture noticeably better images compared to those obtained using the poor quality kit lens that probably came with your camera. It also helps you to get to grips with aperture, as it goes all the way to f1.8.
Cheap and effective, it comes highly recommended. Be careful though – once you see the difference in quality, it will be the beginning of your lens buying habit, expanding your camera gear.
New Kit Lens
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
This one isn’t so cheap and it took me a while to make the leap but trust me, it’s worth it.
This lens is exceptionally good quality and much more useful than just a prime. It’s on my camera the majority of the time so I feel it’s worth the investment. It is big and heavy so only buy it if you’re willing to carry it around; there are smaller alternatives out there.
Canon Speedlite 430EX iI
I always thought I hated photos with flash but that was before I invested in an external flash: there’s so much you can do with it.
External flashes are extremely useful as they can make a photo look as though the flash wasn’t even fired – a real natural look. There is a more powerful version of this flash which is worth it if you’ve got the money as it brings more functionality but, if you’re just starting out, this is the flash for you.
Diffuser For Canon Speedlite 430EX ii
So simple, so effective, so cheap, so important.
This adds to the functionality of your flash by adding a basic lightbox onto the end of it. You can fire your flash upwards towards nothing and it’ll shed a nice soft light onto your subject. Far better then a harsh direct light and great for taking photos of people outdoors at night.
Flash Transmitter / Sync Lead
If you can afford one, this is a great way of experimenting with light to give your photos a professional look.
You can create some really cool effects with it, as well as using it for fill flash. It works really well with a canon camera as anything you change in the camera will then change in the transmitter and in your external flash. If you can’t afford one, try a simple sync cord instead.
I would consider this absolutely essential camera gear for every photographer. No excuses.
Sun Sniper Steel
I can’t believe how long I struggled with my old strap before I bought one of these.
It’s padded for comfort, insured for $500, uses a shock absorber and has a steal wire inside to prevent thieves from cutting it off you. Most importantly though is the functionality and comfort; it hangs at your hip without getting in the way. It also allows you to wear a backpack over the top and maintain full access your camera.
I wish I’d bought one years ago!
Manfrotto Pro Tripod Legs
A lovely set of legs is an essential part of everyone’s camera gear setup – the tripod.
When you start buying more expensive and heavier gear, you’ll want to make sure that your tripod can hold the weight and these legs do the job just fine.
It’s heavy, sturdy and does the job great. The only disadvantage is that, being heavy and sturdy, it’s not the easiest thing to carry. It does have 2 leg warmers though so you won’t freeze your fingers off in cold weather conditions.
Manfrotto Joystick Head
The beauty of the joystick head is that it’s so easy to use and does exactly what you want it to. You can configure it to suit your needs and it means you don’t have to control 3 different levers/handles just to get the right angle. If you’re someone who uses a tripod a lot, this is a life saver.
Canon Wireless Remote
The main reason I use a remote is not because I want to be in a photo but because I don’t want any camera shake.
I love doing night photography, which entails spending a lot of time with my camera on a tripod. When you’re taking a long exposure, even the slightest movement will make your image less sharp. Be careful which one you buy though as there are different remotes for different cameras – wireless and wired.
Hoya PRO1 Digital
I am not personally worried about UV light in a photo; I struggle to see a difference. Personally, I believe it was only really a problem in film photography.
What I am worried about is my lens – for not much money at all, you can protect it with this simple filter.
Get the best quality you can afford, I personally use this Hoya PRO1 because I use a high quality lens and it would be pointless to spend all that money on a lens just to put a cheap piece of glass in front of it. Always remember to check the diameter of your lens before buying.
Circular Polarizing Filter
Polarizing filters are great; an essential for most photographers.
To see exactly what they do, have a look at this article here. Remember to make sure you’re getting the right size for your lens and that you’re buying a circular (as apposed to linear) filter for a digital camera. Linear polarizing filters confuse the autofocus on modern cameras.
Color & White Balance Grey Card
You should know all about how to get the right white balance by now; using a grey card is the best way to get the most accurate results. Carry these around in your camera bag for whenever you feel the camera is getting it wrong. They’re easy to use and have a great affect on your photos.
Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
I’ve tried all sorts of cleaners over the last few years and have found these to be the most versatile and useful. They’re cheap and disposable and you can use them on your filters as well – something you can’t do with a curved cleaning pen. Their anti-static nature is great of keeping dust away too.
Rocket Air Blaster
If there’s something really wrong with dirt on my sensor, I take it to a professional and don’t risk cleaning it myself.
For anything else I use a rocket air blaster to blow away any pesky dust inside my camera. It’s incredibly effective and, once again, cheap.
Canon Replacement Battery
You should really buy one of these when you buy your camera as using it a lot will drain your battery fast. I have four and whenever I’m running on a battery below 50%, I switch for a new one. They don’t take long to charge so I only have one charger.
If you’re planning on using the camera a lot in one day on a regular basis, consider getting a battery grip. Grips are also useful if you do a lot of portait photography as the improved ergonomics make it much more comfortable to use.
Make sure you get rechargeable batteries for your flash as it’s way too expensive to be constantly buying new, fresh ones.
4 Rechargeable Batteries and Charger
Extra Memory Cards
Transcend 400X – 16 GB Compact Flash Memory Card TS16GCF400 (Blue)
These are my cards of choice. They fit a lot of photos on one card, especially if you’re shooting in jpegs. I always have 2 on me just incase I fill one up or (heaven forbid!) one of them fails on me.
Make sure you get the right card for your camera; usually SD or CF. Also, look at the speed of the card as this will effect how many photos it can take in burst mode at once and how quickly they’ll load onto your computer.
Memory Card Reader
Flash Memory Card Reader
I didn’t realise just how slow transferring photos through your camera can be until I bought one of these. It’s a HUGE speed boost and, as I take more and more photos, it saves me time, every time.
Seriously, just buy one!
External Hard Drive
External Hard Drive
Whenever I transfer important photos onto my computer, I make sure that I import them into an external hard drive at the same time so that I have access to separate back-ups.
When I’m done with them on my mac, I relocate the photo masters into two separate hard drives so that I can still see them though my photo library without taking up room on my laptop.
I’m a Mac user, so Aperture works great for me and what I do with photos. I’m not a heavy-handed editor when it comes to editing photos, so I don’t need much more control than what this program offers.
If you’re a Windows user, go for Lightroom and Photoshop by Adobe, which are industry standards. It’s pretty important to have proper photo software because using the free stuff that comes with your computer can actually damage your photos.
Something I noticed with iPhoto was that if you wanted to straighten a photo, it would end up a hell of a lot less sharp.
Finally, now that you’ve bought all of your kit, you’re going to need a bag to put it all in.
If you walk around a lot with your camera and want easy access, I recommend a sling bag. They let the bag slide around to your side so that you can access your camera without taking the bag off your back. Great usability and storage.
If you’d like to learn how to take better care of your camera (and how to take advantage of some of the gear we mention here), have a look at our recent article Camera Care Made Easy.
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