Let Us Help You Pick the Perfect Gear For Your Needs!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. Please read the full version of my disclosures for more information. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we make a small commission (at no cost to you).
Not sure what to buy? Give us a call! We can help you decide, or register for our hands-on Try Before You Buy class and test out different cameras and lenses before you make your purchases. Also check out our blog and YouTube content.
Below are some good beginner/enthusiast gear selections, or scroll down for our full-frame lens guide.
As a KEH, Kuvrd, and Olympus affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.
If you are just starting out on your photography journey, our recommendation is to buy a crop sensor camera for beginners. It will provide a great introduction to photography and allow you to learn and practice the craft. These beginner cameras do have their limitations and the kit lenses are not the best quality, but those limitations will not be enough to hold you back and prevent you from capturing great shots. If you gave the cheapest camera in the world to an expert photographer they will still make art with it! Those limitations will actually help you become a better photographer as you learn to push the capabilities of your camera and lens. When you are ready to upgrade, it would be my recommendation that you upgrade lenses first and buy full-frame lenses. They will still work on crop sensor cameras and will then be compatible with a full-frame camera if you upgrade the camera body later.
Beginner Cameras The Canon EOS Rebel series of cameras are great beginner cameras. You can easily pick up a T7 or earlier version for under $500 new, and for an even better deal if you want to buy used. If you are interested in used, try the link to KEH used gear on this page. All their used equipment comes with a 180 day warranty!
There are Canon packages that include the T7 with 24.1 Megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor and ISO range of 100-12800, a 9 point auto focusing system, and an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Other packages include a 2 lens kit or a 50mm lens kit.
The newest Canon Rebel is the T8i which is much more expensive with a few upgrades like better auto focus and face detection, expanded ISO, and 4K (however if you want 4K video a mirrorless or Sony might be a better option.
Olympus cameras are great cameras that are often overlooked as well. The link above will take you to their website where you can see their line-up. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is a mirrorless micro four thirds camera that is available with body only or kits with one or two lenses. The two lens kit includes the M.Zuiko 14-42mm and the M.Zuiko 40-150mm. This camera offers 5-axis in body stabilization and 121 focus points! It is only a 16.1 megapixel camera, but megapixels are not all that counts! More than 1/2 the time when I am grabbing a camera, I still grab my old 6MP camera and I still get fantastic shots with it!
A similar entry level camera in Nikon would be the Nikon D3500 that is available as a kit. It also includes an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G lens or kit variations with 2 lenses. This camera has 11 autofocus points, a 24.2 MP crop sensor, and ISO range of 100-25600.
I have used both Canon and Nikon all my life. To me they are very similar and I do not have a preference of one over the other. I do know some people swear by one or the other, but you cannot go wrong with either. If you would like some recommendations for Sony, Olympus, or mirrorless, give us a call. These brands have some great options and we would be glad to help!
A word of caution, be careful buying a camera on Amazon, or anywhere on the internet. Not all sellers are authorized dealers and that means you could be getting a great price, but no warranty! Camera prices are pretty consistent across sites - so check the seller carefully - or go directly to an authorized seller like B&H Video. And we cannot say enough good things about buying used gear through KEH which also comes with a warranty.
50mm Lens Most photographers end up buying a 50mm lens at some point. It is utilized so often it even has the nickname – “Nifty Fifty.” As I said before, we would recommend you buy the lens for full frame. It will cost more, but it is an investment in better glass and when you upgrade to full frame camera bodies you won’t need to buy lenses again.
Both of the Canon 50mm f/1.8 and the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lenses (be sure to get AF-S or check compatibility carefully on other models) can be purchased easily for under $200 and even far less if you buy used gear (like KEH offers - check at their link above).
Cameras for Kids/Teens If you are looking for an inexpensive option for kids or teens, or for yourself, a pocket camera like the Sony DSCW800 is a 20.1 MP camera with a 5x zoom and 10x optical zoom for around $100. It does not offer interchangeable lens, but is less complicated for those who just want to throw a camera in a bag and go or not worry about expensive lenses with their children. This camera is also available in a bundle with accessories.
A Great All-Around All-in-One Beginner Lens We completed a review of this Tamron 18-400mm APS-C for Canon on our YouTube Channel. With a range of an 18mm wide angle all the way up to a 400mm telephoto zoom, this lens can give a photographer experience and practice in many different shooting scenarios. It is also available for Nikon.
You can use this lens with Sony if you buy the Sony adapter (by Sigma). You can also use this lens on a Canon EOS R/RP with the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R. And last but not least, you can use this lens on a Nikon Z6 or Z7 with the Nikon FTZ mount adapter (There is also a K&F Concept version that costs a lot less)
Before you buy any lenses or cameras new, check KEH used stock. You can save a lot of money and the equipment comes with a warranty. You can also sell your old gear with them.
Smartphone Photography The best camera is the one you have right now -- and if all you have is a smart phone then use it! There are many editing and graphic design apps for both iOS and Android uses that allow you lots of editing control right in the palm of your hand and they are free. We've done video reviews of both -- for editing -- and for graphic design.
Additionally there as some fun sets of lenses that can be added to your phone such as the CamKix Universal Smartphone 3 in 1 and 5 in 1 kits, as well as the Mocalaca Universal Smartphone 11 in 1 kit. If you are interested in macro, there are some macro options in those kits and there are also "Macro Lens Bands" too. These can all easily be found on Amazon.
If you'd like to show up your photography style with a cool phone case (and support FocusEd Camera at the same time) check out our Red Bubble store here.
Just like there are remotes for DSLR shutters, you can get one for your smartphone also. CamKix is one such brand that offers remotes and sometimes they offer them in bundles that include small tripods as well.
Accessories A few accessories we could recommend come from Kuvrd (pronounced "covered"). We own both the universal lens cap covers and the universal lens hood. You can read all the specs and details at the Kuvrd website (click their link/box above).
A quick word about filters... a U/V filter is not really needed anymore with today's modern camera sensors. Our YouTube video on U/V filters explains why. However, many people still buy them as a protective piece of glass for their lens instead of a lens cap. I have actually seen this trick save a lens, and I do use UV filters this way. Never stack a UV filter with other filters, you will end up with glare and spots and other aberrations.
A polarizing filter is a solid purchase and essential for landscapes/outdoors. A ND filter or graduated ND filter or an ND filter set is also a good investment. There are many different brands. Get filters that are real glass and metal rings. Be sure to buy filters that fit your lens size!
Buying a Tripod When buying camera gear it is very common for beginners to buy the most expensive camera and lens they can in their budget and then buy the cheapest tripod. Don’t do this! Your tripod is just as important as your other gear and if you buy “cheap” you’ll end up buying a second or possibly even a third tripod in the long run (which will end up costing you more money). So if you don’t have the budget for a decent tripod, shoot handheld and gain skill with that until you can save up for a nice tripod and tripod head set up. Another reason to buy a good, name brand tripod, is that they often come with warranties and stronger lasting parts so you won’t have catastrophic tripod failure.
A good middle of the range tripod brand is Manfrotto. One reason we always recommend Manfrotto is that the manufacturer makes all of their parts available to purchase, so if something does break, you can fix it rather than buying a whole new one. They are built to last – and last a lifetime! There are so many options within just this one brand, I could not possibly list them all, but two of our favorites are the Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 3 section Aluminum tripod and the Manfrotto 5 section Aluminum Monopod.
You will have to purchase the tripod head separately or purchase a bundle/set. When buying a tripod head consider what you will be using it for and try to find one with a quick release and/or Arca-Swiss type connector. We like the Manfrotto BHQ2 ball head. There is a set that includes the ball head and the 055 tripod above.
A less expensive option, which we just did a review video on, is the Ruittos B2 Panning Ball Head. While it does not offer the range of features that the Manfrotto does, it was still an easy to use and well built piece of equipment for about 1/6th the price -- a very budget friendly $28 or less on Amazon.
Other mid-range tripod brands include Oben, Slik, 3 Legged Thing, Benro, Feisol, and Induro. If you want to get the best of the best, brands like Really Right Stuff and Gitzo are highly recommended. Gitzo also sells replacement parts for their tripods, just like Manfrotto. We would be happy to help you figure out which tripod or tripod head is best for your needs, so give us a call and/or schedule a Try Before You Buy Class with us!
Macro Photography Gear At FocusEd Camera, we love macro photography! Some of our videos on our YouTube channel offer reviews and demonstrations of macro equipment. There are many inexpensive options for macro such as filters, clip on lenses, extension tubes and reversing rings. Here are a few of our favorites.
Raynox DCR-250 (unboxing and review video) is a clip on macro lens that offers 2.5 x magnification, which essentially brings the minimum focus distance 2x times closer to the focal point of the lens. It is recommended for lenses in the 100mm range, but we have used it on a multitude of other lenses. If you are concerned whether this product will work with your lens, please call us before you buy. Raynox DCR-150 is similar to the DCR-250 but offers 1.5x magnification.
There are macro magnification filters that screw onto the end of your lenses such as the Polaroid 4 piece set of +1 +2 +4 and +10. A few words of caution: 1. Get only metal rings with real glass, not plastic. 2. Read the reviews to make sure the glass doesn't have bubbles or flaws in it. 3. Order in the correct size for the lens you intend to use it with.
We can also recommend Fotodiox extension tubes. These are inexpensive sets made for many different camera brands. I own the set for a Canon crop sensor camera and lens. You will have to use manual focus with these tubes. Other more expensive versions, such as sets from Viltrox, allow the autofocus to work. Again, a few words of caution: 1. Get metal rings, not plastic. 2. Decide if you want to pay the increased cost for autofocus capability. 3. Be sure to purchase the correct extension tubes for your lens mount and camera brand. If you need assistance, give us a call!
Another inexpensive option is reversing rings. These come in manual focus and autofocus versions. You need to buy the set that fits your camera and lens mounts.
There are many other options for macro, including dedicated lenses that can run into thousands of dollars. If you are interested in Macro, consider taking our Macro class where we demonstrate many inexpensive options as well as dedicated lenses and telemacro options (such as the Tamron 18-400mm lens detailed above in our recommended all around lens section).
When working in macro, the depth of field is very small. Since the plane of focus is so narrow a focusing rail, especially for studio work, can help dial in precise focus. It can also be used to create images to use in focus stacking programs (see our video demonstration). There are many expensive brands, but a simple to use, less expensive option that we have in our studio is the Neewer Pro 4-Way Macro Focus Rail (unboxing video). There are two versions, one with a quick release plate and a less expensive version that does not have the quick plate. The quick release plate has been a great option for us when we use this rail and we think it is 100% worth the small increased cost.
Lighting your subject during a macro photography shoot is important. One inexpensive version of a flash/ring light is the Neewer Macro Ring Light 550D. It allows you to use the light as continuous lighting or as a flash. The level of intensity is adjustable. We use this ring light for a variety of purposes and there is an unboxing video on our YouTube channel if you'd like to see what's in the kit.
White Balance – Critical to Good Color! While most cameras have an automatic white balance feature or photos can be corrected in post production, it is still a good idea to get the color correct in camera and there are times when you will want to use the custom white balance settings in your camera. If you are a beginner, use AWB for now, but keep this item in mind and put it on your wish list. White Balance cards come in different sizes and price ranges, but they almost all include three cards – white, grey 18%, and black. Some include specialty cards, or only 1-2 cards.
We are hoping to add a video about white balance to our YouTube channel soon and in it we will discuss some different options.
Beginner Videography Equipment - Starting a YouTube Channel? If you are interested in videography, you will also want white balance and color cards for video. You will need a set specifically designed for professional filmmakers. We use the X-rite Color Checker Video XL in our studio. It is sturdy and allows easy color correction using video editing software.
There are many great microphones that can be set up on stands for studio recording, on table top for podcasts, or mounted on your camera (known as shotgun mics). We did a sound test and review of the Boya BY-M1 under $20 lapel mic and if you don’t mind cords, it did a great job on sound for video recording using a smartphone. It is an inexpensive way to get started using the phone you already have when you can't afford expensive gear. If you are going to commit to more expensive cameras, then you should upgrade the microphone as well. While this Boya did very well with our iPhone we did find it was not as compatible with our Blackmagic video camera. Read the reviews and call us if you need help picking a microphone!
We also did a demo video to show you our lighting set up for our YouTube videos which you can view on our YouTube channel. These are the video lights we use in our studio set up. Like anything else in photography or video work, you can spend a fortune on equipment and while we do have expensive studio lights and creator kits for portrait and product photography work, we often find that less expensive options will be more than adequate for your beginner to amateur users.
For side lighting we use the Neewer 660 Bi-Color LED which is available in single light units or in set of two or three lights. Our hair/rim light which we use on our back wall behind our set up are the Neewer 660 RGB LED lights that we can change the color and customize our look with. These also come in single light set ups, or in kits of 2 or 3 lights. We use the two light kit. While we use these in our studio, they do offer "scene" lighting which could add color, moody effects, and more to portrait photography or a film. For example, some of the settings create lightning storm effects or emergency vehicles flashing lights. For our front light on our subject, or the key light, we use an older model that is discontinued that is a photography studio light, but what we would recommend if you are going to buy a new light is the Neewer 2.4G 960 Bi-Color LED (single light).
We could fill pages and pages with recommended gear! This is a fairly inclusive list of some basics. See our lens guide below (it does not include links - but copy paste the lens description into KEH for used and BH Video for new and you should find them). Let us know if there are ways we can assist you! Fill our a contact form if you have suggestions for what we should include on this page that might be missing!