When I started this post I was a bit worried that my everyday tools were a bit sparse. It always seemed that the more gear you have the more professional you were. But I’ve slowly realized how far that is from the truth! It’s actually my ability to make use of my small Sony a6500 camera that has helped me feel the most professional.
I wrote the post with the viewpoint of a newbie who has yet to invest or who has invested very minimally with camera gear already. When I started out e v e r y o n e had an opinion on what was best and I really want this as more of a guide and to bring up points that you should consider if/when you invest in more gear.
So while my photography tools might be small, but they certainly feel mighty the more and more I use them.
I always suggest camera newbies go and hold a camera at their local camera store or even Best Buy. It was actually there that I realized a bulky, traditional DSLR was not for me and that mirrorless cameras was what I preferred! There are simply somethings that online review can’t give you.
Like most people I’m pretty dedicated to my camera brand. My first camera was actually the Sony a5100 and while it certainly lacked lots of bells and whistles (let’s be honest it even lacked a viewfinder) it helped me grow and learn for two years. Once I began to outgrow it – the lack of viewfinder was becoming downright difficult to deal with – I knew I needed to upgrade.
The Sony a6500 is the newest interchangeable lens compact camera is built on Sony’s APSC sensor or 2/3 sensor. While it’s nearly identical to the Sony a6300 I choose the bit more expensive a6500 for two reasons:
in body stabilization
While most of Sony’s lenses have the in body stabilization built into them my favorite one doesn’t. So this was probably more of an exciting addition to me than it was to most people. But the new video capabilities are where the Sony a6500 really stood out. The camera is able to shoot 4K video and with the addition of the in body stabilization this is a big plus in the video world.
Sony 35mm/f1.8 lens
My first lens! And notably more expensive than the Sony a5100 body alone. If you ever find yourself torn between new lens or new camera body… 90% of the time I would vote new lens. A camera body can certainly hold you back, but I agree that investing in glass has a better chance of improving your photos. (Theoretically, a new camera body just gives you new buttons to figure out.)
Since I’m shooting on a 2/3 sensor that means a 35mm focal length actually acts like a 50 mm. And I have to say that I would suggest a 50 mm focal length to all newbies! It’s a great middle ground range that can help you figure out how you like to shoot. I always felt as if my 35mm (remember it actually is a 50mm!) was a bit too closed off and I wanted a wider view. From there I ordered a very cheap Sigma lens before investing in my all time favorite lens…
Zeiss 24mm/f1.8 lens
I essentially dreamed about this lens for a solid year. After trying out a much cheaper 23 mm lens, I knew this view was ideal for me. And seeing how this was a lens I knew I wanted I was ready to invest in quality. (There is a rabbit hole of Zeiss vs Leica vs Sigma Art articles out there, but I chose to go with Zeiss as they partnered up with Sony to make native Lenses.)
I eventually settled on Zeiss’ 24 mm f1.8 lens. It’s almost a full inch longer than my other lens, which may not seem like much, but on such a small camera it’s certainly worth noting. OH and of course about $600 more. EEK.
The quality from lens to lens is pretty minimal, though the Zeiss lens certainly wins. It’s true magic to me is giving me that wide angle AND allowing me to about six inches from my subject in focus. Truthfully, the only time I take this lens off my camera is when I’m shooting product shots. I would suggest trying out a cheaper lens with a comparable focal length to see if you really do want a wider view. If so, invest in your dream lens when it makes sense!
Adobe Lightroom + Photoshop
There was a time that I downright refused to purchase Lightroom and Photoshop. I did some quick math and was shocked just how quickly $10/month can add up, but it wasn’t until my free photo editing software was just never going to cut it. Lightroom’s ‘Sync’ tool literally shaved off hours for me and made me for more productive than I ever thought possible. If you want some more tips on the applications themselves, you can read my favorite Lightroom tools over here.
But for now let me just say this – I can’t even imagine getting rid of my subscription.
A few other notable tools I have packed away:
Tripod – I just invested into my first Giottos tripod last year. W o r l d of difference. But again start small and slowly invest. Also know that sometimes local camera stores sell them used.
Reflector – I rarely use this but it’s a must for food photography.
Extra battery – you never think you need this… until you do.
I keep back tracking and making sure I covered all my photography gear. But I think I got the ones I rarely go a day without! I’d love to hear the photography tools you swear by. Every though everyone has different preferences, I’ve actually learned quite a lot just by what others swear by.