So, besides the camera and a lens, what other equipment should you be throwing your money at? Well, if you’re just starting out, I’d strongly recommend you spend as little as possible, and only invest when you think you can’t go any further. If you do feel the need to splurge money though, as a rule I’d suggest you’re far better off investing in lenses rather than camera bodies. Lens technology advances at a far slower rate than camera technology, and a decent lens will still be serving you well a decade or more later, whereas camera bodies can be outdated in a couple of years.
There are some basics that are worth investing in though, and some general principles to bear in mind when you’ve got your credit card in hand, and your finger is hovering over the “buy” button. Above all, beware the false economy of buying cheap equipment because it looks too good to be true – it will be. A perfect example of a false economy would be tripods. When I was starting out I bought a cheap tripod, and it snapped, then I bought another cheap tripod, and the head fell off. I bought another one which also broke, before I realised I had to bite the bullet and buy a decent one. My Manfrotto 075 cost just under £200 (and it was on offer, as I recall) and is now over 20 years old – and still going strong. I spent at least £200 on the crap cheap ones, so basically this tripod cost me twice what it should have!
So, a decent tripod is a good idea – particularly if you’re into landscape photography, and good brands to look for are Manfrotto or Gitzo. You don’t need to spend £200+, but it needs to be solid, and having a quick release head so you can take the camera on and off easily is a godsend. Before you even start to think about a tripod though, I’d suggest you need 3 more things – spare batteries, decent memory cards, and a card reader.
Batteries, Cards, and a Card Reader
A spare battery or two should be an obvious first equipment purchase – imagine the perfect shot unfolding in front of your eyes, and your power meter flashing in the camera! The official batteries from your camera manufacturer can be quite expensive, and I find you can get away with using ones from suppliers like Calumet which tend to be cheaper. You may find some problems with how accurate the “power remaining” display is on your camera’s LCD when you use these, but the batteries seem to work fine.
Next, get yourself a couple of decent memory cards. Prices can vary hugely here, and as with tripods, I’d stick with reputable brands, the 2 I rely on are Lexar and Sandisk. The size you opt for is up to you, but I’d be wary of simply buying the biggest you can – you do run the risk of “putting all your eggs in one basket” if that card fails for some reason. I’ve been using 16GB and 32GB for years, and I find they’re perfect for my 2 bodies, 1 body with 16MP and one with 36MP.
More important that size though is speed, and here’s where price will vary enormously. Get the fastest you can afford, as it will make a big difference to how fast your camera performs. Remember when we talked about frame rates and buffers, and how your camera has to push all that data through it’s system as fast as possible? If you’re using a slow memory card, you’ve just created a bottleneck. Mine are currently Sandisk Extremes, and they’re rated at 120mb per second. I’ve never had any slow down problems with them.
A memory card reader may seem like a luxury when you can simply plug your camera straight into your computer, but it offers a couple of advantages. First off, it’s almost always faster at transferring images across than plugging straight in – I’ve no idea why, it just is! Second, it allows you to be downloading one card, stick another card in the camera, and carry on shooting. Since card readers are generally less than £20, it’s a wise investment.