BEGINNING TO INTERMEDIATE GEAR: Many of my students ask for a list of camera gear recommendations, so this my latest bag of goodies. I know it is a little bit of an investment, but when you are ready to make the plunge, this is a great starting place that will last you until you are past intermediate. This equipment will be perfect for those taking my Comm 300 Digital Imaging course, as well as the more advanced Comm 316 Professional Imaging. When you outgrow this setup, you can jump to the full frame DSLRs and go professional. If you are at that point, or have the money to spend from the get-go, I recommend the new Nikon D800 ($3000) with the 70-200 2.8 lens, and the brand new 85mm 1.8 ($500). It is easy to sell your gear on ebay, and your lenses won’t work when you switch to a full-frame sensor anyway.
If you buy online, be sure you only get USA warranty from reputable sellers. Also, check out this link: Perfect Light in Idaho Falls, who is the best Southeast Idaho dealer and will give you free classes about how to use your camera. He offers great service and really knows his stuff! He will get as close as he can to the reputable Internet deals, and if you have any problems, you will be glad you bought locally for service and returns.
OVERVIEW – Click the titles below to link to the best deal (adorama, bandh, or amazon):
2. $58 Sunpak 6600 Pistol Grip Ball-Head, Quick Release Tripod …
… Or for travel this one fits in a backpack, yet is still 65″ tall: $60: Manfrotto Compact Ball-Head Quick-Release Tripod
1. Canon Rebel T3i w/18-135 lens
This camera is amazing and has advanced features you won’t soon outgrow. For example, the video is awesome and it has the flip-out screen for creative and low shooting angles. I believe Canon is more user-friendly, so I recommend it for the beginning-to-intermediate shooter.
Reasons to start with the Canon 18-135 lens: I think it is a mistake to get the 18-55mm kit lens, because you will soon be frustrated without enough zoom. So you end up buying a longer zoom lens, but then you have to haul both around and switch them constantly! It is better to have your second lens be a 50mm prime lens (see item #3, only $119). Spend a little more up front and get this 18-135 lens for wide angle and zoom all in one lens. It will save you a lot of hassle later. This lens has great ratings for sharpness and overall quality. Check out this review of the 18-135 on kenrockwell.com. He likes it even better than the more expensive Canon 18-200 lens ($560)
This tripod comes with the larger pistol grip from Sunpak that is $30 alone, and though the legs are nothing special, it is nice to have an all-in-one tripod for this price with the pistol grip ballhead I have added to all my tripod legs. I love how quickly it adjusts and locks in your precise angle. It saves all that time-consuming and annoying knob twisting.
NOTE: If you want a compact tripod for travel, Click here for the Manfrotto Compact MKC3-P01 quick-release ballhead Tripod for about the same price. It will fit in your carry-on luggage. It has a nice ball head and fits in a backpack! When I am not flying somewhere, I prefer the pistol grip ball head.
3. Canon 50mm 1.8 lens (great for low-light and bokeh) for $119
This “second lens” allows you to shoot handheld in low light and open up your aperture to an amazing 1.8 for only $119! You will also get beautiful creamy background blur (called bokeh) when you use the lower number f-stops like 1.8 – 2.8 (wider apertures) This is a “prime” lens so it is a fixed focal length. Without any zoom, you will need to move yourself to get closer or further away. This is a small, light lens, so it fits nicely in your pocket or bag.