- Why a 50mm Lens is the Best Lens in Your Camera Bag
- What You Need to Know Before Buying a Camera Lens
Image Credit: Zlatko_Ruskovsky via iStock
Look, I'll be the first to say that it isn't the gear you use that creates a great picture, it's you that creates a great picture.
However, at some point, everyone needs to upgrade their photography kit. I mean that 18-55mm kit lens you've been rocking since 2010 is getting a little long in the tooth.
The question is, where should you spend your money?
By that, I mean, do you opt for a top-of-the-line camera? Do you get a couple of better lenses? What about accessories like a new tripod or a better camera bag?
Let's take a look at a few of these items and explore why upgrading your kit is such a good idea.
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Invest in Better Glass
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It should be of no surprise that the first thing on my list of things you should upgrade is your lens.
Hands-down, the most important piece of kit you have in terms of the quality of the images you create is the lens.
This isn't to say that you can't take good photos with a kit lens; it's just that an upgraded lens offers so much more in terms of functionality and performance.
And you don't have to spend a giant pile of cash to get that better functionality and performance, either (though you could if you want!).
In my opinion, the first lens everyone should buy is a 50mm f/1.8.
Not only are these lenses dirt cheap (i.e., this Canon version for $125), but they are sharp, perform very well in low-light situations, and highly versatile.
In fact, you can use a 50mm lens for everything from portraiture to landscapes, street photography to macro work (if you reverse-mount the lens).
A 50mm lens is also a good choice for shooting video, so it really is an all-around performer!
The Most Underrated Piece of Kit - a Good Tripod
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I've seen more people shooting without a tripod in situations in which they need a tripod than I can count.
On top of that, I've seen a whole lot of people struggling along with a bargain-basement tripod, too.
As far as I'm concerned, tripods are the most underrated piece of kit for photographers. I'm not sure why that is, either, because a good, solid tripod can make all the difference in the world when it comes to creating quality images.
Again, I'm not saying you need to invest in the biggest, baddest tripod you can find, but buy something that's solidly built, has quick setup features, and won't break the bank.
A great option that ticks all those boxes is the Sirui W-1004 tripod shown above.
Not only is this thing waterproof, but it's also made of lightweight aluminum alloy, so it weighs a scant 3.7 pounds.
But despite its light weight, it can hold over 33 pounds of gear, which means it's a tripod that can grow with you and accommodate bigger, heavier loads as you acquire higher-end gear.
The height range of this tripod is an excellent feature, too - shoot at a maximum of 65 inches down to a minimum of just 5.7 inches for widely varied and unique shots.
And since this is a higher-grade tripod, it's stacked with innovative features than any photographer would appreciate.
That includes reverse folding legs so it's easier to fit in your camera bag, a split center column for low-angle shooting, and a detachable leg that converts into a monopod.
In other words, upgrading your tripod means you not only get something that's better built and provides your camera with more stability, but you also get a tripod that has tons of features that make taking photos easier. What's not to like about that?!
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Upgrade Your Camera Bag
I've told this story many times, but it's worth repeating...
When I first started out in photography many years ago, I didn't think a dedicated camera bag was necessary.
Instead, I carried my gear in a normal backpack with no padding inside whatsoever. Not only that, there was no way to organize what little gear I had back then, so it all just piled together in the bottom of the bag.
That was a huge mistake, and one that you should avoid as well.
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Not only do camera bags give your gear the protection it needs, but they also keep each item stowed away in a nice, organized fashion. With everything in its own little cubby or pocket, it's infinitely easier to find what you need, which means fewer missed shots because you're digging around for something you can't find.
What's more, camera bag manufacturers have really stepped things up in the last few years in terms of crafting bags that are supremely comfortable to carry while looking good at the same time.
One such company is Holdfast, who makes some of the best camera bags on the market today.
Photo by Brandon Burk
I'm a particular fan of their Sightseer backpack because it's loaded for bear with features that make it the ideal camera bag.
I typically shoot landscapes, so I really like the fact that this bag is a backpack. Having the dual shoulder straps to stabilize the load I'm carrying as I hike around is a huge bonus.
Photo by Brandon Burk
And since I'm outside taking photos, the fact that this bag is water resistant (even the zippers are waterproof!) is a great feature in case a storm unexpectedly comes up.
The quality of construction of this thing is off the charts as well. That goes for the waxed canvas and American bison leather exterior, the stainless steel hardware, and the Aztec fleece lining inside the bag.
Photo by Brandon Burk
Speaking of the inside, you can't get much more organized than what you see above!
The aforementioned fleece lining is soft against your gear, so it won't scuff or scratch your cameras or lenses.
What's more, the one-inch thick padded walls ensure that each component you're carrying is safe from bumps and bruises along the way.
I know that buying a new camera bag (or a new tripod or lens, for that matter) might not be as sexy or as exciting as buying a big, bad camera, but trust me - these accessories have every bit as much to do with finding success as a photographer than a new camera body!