In this episode I talk about the best places to get Photography Gear on a Budget, Getting Quality Glass for Little Money and in segment three What Lenses Should I Buy????
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Best Places to Buy Photography Gear on a Budget
Frequently I hear students say that they don’t have much in the way of photography gear due to cost of ownership. It is true that photography gear is not cheap, unless it’s cheap quality and hence gives cheap results. I’ve had quite a few students ask me how I have acquired so much gear in the last 18 months and I tell them all the same thing, you have to know how to find the deals.
Craigslist – Craigslist can be one of the best places to get a good deal on most anything, especially camera gear and lenses. I have bought numerous pieces of gear on this site, but you have to watch out for scammers and always meet people in public places like a coffee shop or store parking lot during the day.
eBay – eBay is handy for buying items too as you can find more sellers on there since they are world wide. The problem is you also run into more scammers. Also since you are buying on-line, there is no way to check out the item in person and you can get burned.
Pawn Shops – Pawn Shops are a great place to buy used gear and they often have no clue what they have. A person goes into a Pawn Shop to pawn their gear and the shop looks at what the gear sells for on eBay and then offers the seller like 25% of the actual value. If the person forfeits and the Pawn Shop can then sell the item, it is usually months later and the shop doesn’t really keep track of the value, they just price it to make a profit.
Local photography clubs – Often times you can find local photography clubs and there will be members selling gear from time to time.
Warehouse stores – Another good place are warehouse stores like Sam’s or Costco. Here you are buying new and getting a warranty and you get the better pricing offered by someone that can leverage volume pricing.
Amazon – Amazon is another great place to get camera gear and anything else. They have a wide selection of lenses from Canon’s FD to EF and Nikon, Sony and others as well.
The big thing to remember buying used gear is that you can get burned if not careful. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is but sometimes you do get lucky and the person has no idea what they are selling. I personally bought a Canon EF 70-300mm IS USM lens at a local pawn store for $200 in mint condition. This lens new retails for $900. I also bought a Manfrotto tripod at the same store for $50 and it was missing the release plate that attaches to the camera. I bought a new plate for $7 on Amazon, the tripod with the fluid movement head turned out to be worth $500. Just remember, if you buy used, test it good before you part with your hard earned money. Meet them somewhere public for safety and test the lens or whatever it is on your own camera body to make sure it is fully operational, NEVER take the seller’s word for it.
Getting Quality Glass for Little Money
I have spoken with a lot of the new students lately that are on tight budgets but need good quality glass. This week’s post is one of the best ways to accomplish this for the absolute least amount of money.
In 1987 Canon switched from their FD lens mount system to their current EF mount system for their current line of cameras. Now, how does this benefit you the student? Well FD lenses are easy to find and some of them are as good quality and image creation wise that they are still useful today.
How do you as a photographer make use of this information, well for one thing, you can find old Canon FD lenses in a lot of places, yard sales, pawn shops, old camera shops, even Craig’s List or eBay. The problem I am sure that you are asking is what good does an FD lens do me on an EF mount camera body? Enter the Fotodiox Pro Lens Mount Adapter, for Canon FD lenses. This little adapter allows you to mount your FD lenses on your EF camera body and the adapter only costs $32.95 on Amazon. One thing to remember is FD lenses are manual only, so you need to be comfortable shooting manually, which is something you need to be doing only for some of your future classes.
The sample image I have included here is a white rose I shot on my neighbor’s rose bush and I shot this using my Canon EOS 6D and a Sigma 28mm F/2.8 FD lens and mounting it on my 6D using the Fotodiox adapter. Another thing to take into consideration is these lenses don’t register on your camera so your aperture will show as 00 and you will need to know how to calculate your ISO, and shutter speed to match up with your manually selected aperture on the lens and accounting for the available light to get a perfect exposure.
I personally think all this manual work is worth it as it makes you a better photographer in the end and makes you more of a master of your gear. F/2.8 lenses are generally not cheap, but now you are armed with the knowledge on how to obtain all the F/2.8 glass you want with little money, the Sigma 28mm F/2.8 that I used for the rose cost me $7 at a local pawn shop and they usually have tons of these lenses and are usually not able to sell them as everyone else wants EF mount lenses as they have no idea how to use an FD lens on their EF body. So get out there, find those cheap wide aperture lenses and make some great images.
What Lenses Should I Buy?
One of the questions posed frequently to myself as well as to the professors at AI is this one. The question is a tricky one to answer because there are a couple of factors to consider, such as how much money you can afford to spend and what your photographic style is.
If you shoot landscapes, then you want to buy a wise lens such as a 10-20mm or 17-40mm. Both Canon and Nikon offer a decent 18-55mm as one of their standard kit lens. Although the 18-55mm is a inexpensive one, they make very good images from my experience. Of course if money is not a major concern and you shoot Canon, you can go with either the EF 16-35mm or the 17-40mm L lens. On the Nikon side you have the 14-24mm which is an excellent, high quality lens that makes fantastic images.
For those that want to shoot wildlife or anything else that requires more reach, you can look at 70-200mm, which is an extremely popular zoom used by many professional photographers. At 70-200mm you have the most popular focal lengths in a single lens. Both Canon and Nikon make very high quality lenses in this range, as does Tamron if you are budget minded. This lens is also available in both a less expensive F/4 aperture and the faster, more expensive F/2.8. If you want the F/2.8 without spending $2,000-$3,000, then look at the Tamron, which runs around $1,000 and from every review I’ve read by pros say that it takes every bit as soon an image as the more costly ones made by Canon or Nikon.
Your bread and butter will be portraits, then you want to get a prime portrait lens. The most common lenses for portraits are the 50mm, also known as the Nifty Fifty, 85mm and 135mm. When it comes to Canon, there are three of each the 50mm and the 85mm to choose from and again, it mostly depends on how much you want to spend. The 50mm F/1.8 is inexpensive at around $100 and makes really good images, the 50mm F/1.4 USM is around $400 and is much better build quality and takes even better images. The third is the 50mm F/1.2 L which is very expensive but also makes the best images. In the 85mm, Canon makes the $500 F/1.8, the 85mm F/1.2 L original and the newer 85mm F/1.2 L Mark II. The L series lenses are expensive, running around $2,000 and believe it or not, the less expensive F/1.8 makes much better images. The original L series 85mm had lots of issues with color fringing and the Mark II edition has AF issues. The third and final really good portrait lens on the Canon side is the 135mm F/2 L.
Regardless of what you are going to shoot primarily, it is always a good idea to have 3 or more lenses as you never know when you might need another focal length or prime. I love to shoot landscapes, but like most photographers, I know I need to shoot portraits as well as that is how most of us pay the bills. Since I need to do portraits as well, I own the 85mm F/1.8 USM and the 50mm F/1.4 USM. I am also planning to at some point down the road to buy the 135mm F/2 L so that I have a little more reach.
I hope this information helps you to make some choices on what you want to carry in your camera bag, now get out there and make some images!