Upgrading Your Photography Gear? Here’s What You Need to Know

Marianne Stenger
18th February 2019

Upgrading your photography gear can be overwhelming at the best of times. Sorting through seemingly unlimited options and making sense of complex photography terminology requires patience, and you must be prepared to do thorough research.

If you’re currently in the market for new photography gear, here are some essential questions to answer before you begin shopping.

What do I want to photograph?

The first thing you need think about when buying a camera or lens is what you plan on photographing. As obvious as this question may seem, it’s an important one to think about, because your answer to it will greatly narrow down the options.

For example, if you want to practice your wildlife photography skills, you’ll need a telephoto or zoom lens. On the other hand, if you mainly want to use your camera for family snaps and portraits, a simpler and more affordable lens such as a 50mm would serve your purpose.

How and where will I use it?

How and where you plan on using your camera will also dictate the type of camera and lenses you use. For instance, if you’re on the go a lot and don’t want to be lugging around a lot of heavy gear, a compact camera might be a better option for you than a DLSR with multiple interchangeable lenses.

Whether you intend to shoot a lot of photos indoors or at night also matters, as this will determine whether you need a lens with a wider maximum aperture for shooting in lower light situations. 

Should I buy new or used?

The question of whether to buy new or used photography gear is one with no simple answer. Buying pre-owned photography equipment can be a good option if you want to invest in a specialty lens from a well-known brand, but can’t afford to buy new. However, you do need to be careful where you buy it from and make sure you’ll be covered in case anything goes wrong.

In general, it’s better to buy your gear from a store or online retailer that will offer some type of warranty, than from a private seller. If you’re buying a second-hand camera, pay attention to the shutter count and make sure all the buttons and dials do what they’re supposed to. When it comes to lenses, check for scratches and test the autofocus and zoom features.

Best photography gear to invest in

Of course, different types of photography require different tools, and what’s best for one photographer may not necessarily be right for another. Every year, the Technical Image Press Association (TIPA) recognises some of the best photography products from all over the world through its TIPA World Awards.

Based on last year’s winners, we’ve compiled a handy overview of some the best cameras and lenses currently available for everything from landscape photography to portraiture.

Best compact camera

The Lumix TZ200 by Panasonic was voted as the best compact camera, and it’s not hard to see why. Although it’s not exactly cheap at around £629, this pocket-sized camera is perfect for travel photography. Despite its small size, it has 15x optical zoom lens and sensor that can be set up to ISO 12,800, which also makes it a great option for indoor and low light photography.

Best mirrorless camera

If you’re looking for a camera that’s lighter and more portable than a DSLR, but still want the interchangeable lens feature, then a mirrorless camera is a great option. Four mirrorless cameras made the cut, but two in particular stand out; the Canon EOS M50 and the Sony a9.

Canon’s M50 is an entry-level camera geared towards photography enthusiasts. It’s a lightweight camera that performs well in low light and includes great features like a Vari-Angle touch screen and the capability to transfer images to a smartphone as soon as they are taken. 

The Sony a9, on the other hand, is geared towards professional photographers who need to capture fast action at weddings or sporting events, and can deliver fast framing rates and excellent resolution.

Best DSLR camera

Mirrorless cameras have become increasingly popular with both professionals and photography enthusiasts in recent years, but DSLRs are still very much alive and well. Two standouts from last year’s winners include the Canon EOS 200D and the Nikon D850.

Canon’s 200D is very compact for a DSLR and quite affordable at around £500 for the camera with a 18-55mm kit lens. This entry-level camera comes with an upgraded sensor and Vari-Angle touch-screen, and can capture up to 5fps in burst mode. Nikon’s D850 on the other hand, is geared towards professional photographers and can capture up to 9fps, has excellent low light capabilities, and is dust and water-drop resistant.

Best prime lens

The award for best prime lens goes to Canon’s 85mm f/1.4L, which is perfect for everything from wildlife photography to studio portraits. It’s a fast and sturdy portrait lens that’s dust and waterproof, and delivers razor sharp images full of contrast and colour, even in low light conditions.

Best zoom lens

The best standard zoom lens for DSLRs was Sigma’s 24-70mm F2.8. It’s a versatile lens that can be used for everything from street photography and candid snaps to nature and landscape photography. It performs well in low light and has a constant aperture throughout its range, which allows for more control over depth of field.

Best telephoto zoom lens

This time, it wasn’t Canon or Nikon that took the prize for best telephoto zoom lens, but the more affordable Tamron, with its 70-210mm F/4 lens. As a relatively lightweight and compact telephoto lens, it’s a great choice for outdoor and nature photographers. Other advantages include its constant aperture, internal zoom, and LD lens element for sharper images.

Analogue vs. Digital 

With a new wave in photography bringing back the analogue cameras along with film, darkrooms and other old school reminders, it's now also a photographer’s decision whether you want to invest in analogue as well as your digital. Kodak and Fujifilm are the go-to suppliers of photographic film. But which cameras are a good investment for analogue photography?

We recommend checking out the Canon AE-1 35mm for street photography fanatics, its easy to transport, affordable and has super sharp prime lenses, making it the perfect on-the-move camera.

We have loads of other fantastic blogs based around photography whether its about equipment or tips for your next shoot, check them out here.