What gear do you GET ?

Pro­fes­sional-qual­ity cam­era gear is expensive, so how do you de­cide what equip­ment to buy?

NPhoto - - Special Feature -

When you’re plan­ning on mov­ing from am­a­teur or semi-pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher to full-time pro, your choice of equip­ment be­comes cru­cial. If you de­pend on your cam­era gear to pay for the roof over your head, you need it to pro­duce top-qual­ity files day-in, day-out. Re­li­a­bil­ity is para­mount, and you can’t af­ford for a cam­era to go down. Pro­fes­sional gear doesn’t make you a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher, but it does at least buy you some peace of mind.

Al­though you’ll want to buy the best kit you can af­ford, you need to keep an eye on the bank bal­ance; a £1599/$1700 Nikon AF-S 58mm f/1.4G might be the lens you al­ways as­pired to own when you had a day job, but how long would it take you to turn a profit when you’re shoot­ing wed­dings or por­traits with that lens and hav­ing to cover all your other costs at the same time?

There are some ar­eas of pho­tog­ra­phy where expensive, spe­cialised lenses go with the ter­ri­tory. Wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers, for in­stance, won’t get far with­out a tele­photo lens in their bag. But long prime lenses come at an eye-wa­ter­ing price – any­where from £4000/$5780 (Nikon AF-S 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II) to £13,995/$17,900 (Nikon AF-S 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR). Throw in a shorter zoom for en­vi­ron­men­tal shots, a wide-an­gle for the oc­ca­sional land­scape, a macro lens for close-ups and more, and it’s ob­vi­ous that you need to shift a ton of fox pic­tures to see a fi­nan­cial re­turn.

Own or loan?

This is where lens hire starts to make sense. For a frac­tion of the in­vest­ment you’d need to make in these costly lenses, you can rent the very lat­est ver­sions for spe­cific jobs. This way, you can keep your core day-to-day kit to a min­i­mum and up­grade as and when you start build­ing your client base and in­come.

One thing’s for sure: you’ve made the right choice by go­ing with Nikon. The build qual­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity of Nikon’s cam­eras is leg­endary, as is the breadth and depth of the lens and ac­ces­sory range. “It was the sys­tem of choice when I was train­ing on news­pa­pers,” says Alex Bai­ley.

When I was start­ing out the Nikon F3 was the best cam­era in the world. It was ev­ery­thing a great sports and news cam­era should be; strong, fast and re­li­able. It took me three years to be able to af­ford a ropy sec­ond-hand one

Mark Pain, sports pho­tog­ra­pher

“The F2 and the FM2 had rep­u­ta­tions for be­ing vir­tu­ally in­de­struc­tible, so they were per­fect for a hard life as a press cam­era. I’ve never doubted any Nikon I have owned and that’s quite a few now; I’ve used nearly 20 top-end pro bod­ies in 30 years of pho­tog­ra­phy, and 30-plus lenses and count­ing.”

It should come as no sur­prise to dis­cover that many pro­fes­sion­als were first in­tro­duced to the sys­tem by their par­ents. “I grew up with Nikon as my dad was a pho­to­jour­nal­ist, work­ing with Nikon FM2s first and later pro­gress­ing to the F3 and F4,” says San­dra Bar­tocha. “I al­ways liked the us­abil­ity and dura­bil­ity of the prod­ucts and now, in dig­i­tal times, more than ever; so­phis­ti­cated bod­ies, in­tu­itive menus and a great range of high-qual­ity lenses.”

Stick with Nikon

Other pho­tog­ra­phers have ditched a ri­val man­u­fac­turer’s sys­tem al­to­gether and switched to Nikon as the com­pany pro­duced ground­break­ing lenses and cam­era bod­ies un­ri­valled by those from other firms. “I switched to Nikon from Canon in 1987 to buy the then-leg­endary bird pho­tog­ra­phy lens the Nikon 600mm f/5.6 IF ED,” says David Ti­pling. “It has al­ways made sense to stick to what I know, plus I gen­uinely be­lieve top-end Nikon cam­era bod­ies such as the D4 are bet­ter made than their Canon coun­ter­parts – but I’m bi­ased, of course.”

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