Gear for the Advanced Amateur

For you, I’d start with a caution. It is very easy to blow up a few months salary in gear! My advice is to think hard if you need a bigger lens or that shiny flash, or a “full-frame” camera, just because someone else has it, or recommended it. Keeping this in mind, I am listing camera bodies as well as lenses in order of price as well as features. As new camera models are released, I intend to update this page.


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For starters, I’d recommend getting a Sony a5000. It is truly value for money. It has most of the capabilities of the top of the next-in-line line Sony mirrorless camera, the a6000. The cost savings come from Sony eliminating an electronic viewfinder.

 


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If you can afford the $100 for the viewfinder, I’d go for the a6000. I bought a Sony a6000 after testing out it’s smaller point-n-shoot cousin, the RX100 for a few months. I was so impressed by the low light image quality that I decided to switch from DSLR to mirrorless. I had this camera for 3 years before I felt the need to move on to a full-frame system. The lenses I used with it ranged from a 1950’s Soviet era, Mir 50mm to the latest CZ 14-70mm f/4 lens. All performed flawlessly.

 


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I currently, I use this camera. Switching from using a sub-frame camera for decades to a full-frame sensor took quite a bit of convincing. I had to be convinced that the amount of money I had to spend moving up to this format coupled with starting to use that full frame was a challenge. I say this because for years, I have found myself to be a “up-close and crop tight” kind of a guy. By that I mean, I look for vignettes in an expansive view. I look for smaller stories without having the need to show the viewer a wide, sweeping landscape. Over the last year or so, I have slowly started to incrementally add the wide-angle view into my images. However, if you are up to it right from the get-go or you are not the vignette kind of person, then this is the camera I recommend.

Just because I have taken a liking to Sony camera systems does not mean that there aren’t any others that are just as good, if not better. I just chose Sony because they gave me the choice of being able to use my old Canon lenses and slightly more importantly, they have the backside illumination (BSI) sensor (more on this in another post).

Perfectly good examples can be found in the Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic families. Please note the absence of the big two (Nikon and Canon). In my opinion. lately both these giants have taken very baby steps towards innovative designs and customer feedback relying instead on their flagship icon DSLRs. So, here are three very good mirrorless camera starter systems that you might want to consider:


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For those using the Sony system, there is good news and bad news. The good news, as I have alluded to earlier, is that with the right adapter, you can slap on pretty much any old lens from your collection. When I say, any “old” lens. I really do mean it. Sony has a great manual focus assist that will help you focus these lenses. Of course, the aperture information will be lost and you will have to manually enter it into your database- which is a small price to pay. The other issue is that Sony lenses are expensive, few and far in number. For example, the ones that I carry with me currently are these three lenses:


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The last one listed above, the Rokinon is an ultra-wide angle manual focus lens, but I have had no issues focusing it even at 3am with barely any light to help.

I hope this camera guide has been useful. I encourage you to not ignore my often repeated mantra, “The camera does not make an image; the person behind it does”. So please pay a lot of attention to pre and post clicking the shutter! If you want more pertinent information to you as an advanced amateur, click here.

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