YOU DONT NEED A $3,000 CAMERA BODY... YET. / by brandon burkhardt

Stop!!! Don't go and spend that amount of money on a DSLR... yet!

    You don't need to drop $5,000.00+, I promise you! You DON'T need a full frame sensor with a 200MM image stabilized f2.8 lens. DONT WAIST YOUR MONEY! Unless... UNLESS your equipment is holding you back. Then... THEN you need to spend that money.

I was still just 'taking pictures' of my family, nothing professional. At the time I was shooting with a 2 year old Sony Cyber shot handed down to me by my dad. This wonderful camera got me into photography. It had all sorts of manual options. But a very restricted range of each.



 Not sure if this was the exact model, but this is the Sony Cybershot body style I shot with for about 2 years. It was an excellent camera with many manual adjustments available for a point and shoot style camera.

Not sure if this was the exact model, but this is the Sony Cybershot body style I shot with for about 2 years. It was an excellent camera with many manual adjustments available for a point and shoot style camera.

When I was JUST thinking about getting more serious about photography, I took my family to a Pumpkin Patch. There was a photographer there and he was offering photographs to the patrons of the patch. We discussed photography and gear for a bit. Would for the life of me that I would have taken this guys information so I could give him credit. The advise he gave me the best advise any business person could have ever given. And I mean any business.

The advise was this...

You don't need the new gear until what you have (and I am adding "or what you don't have") is holding you back.

     Oh, this was so helpful. As any photographer can attest, we can have MAJOR "gear envy". Specifically LENS envy. From there it is very easy to become susceptible to a photography disease call "GAS" or, Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Ok, in all seriousness though, it is SO easy to think just getting the better gear will make your pictures better. This is only true if you know how to use the gear.

     I spent the next 6 months or so 'maxing out' what I could do with my Cybershot. When I was limited by depth of field options on the low end of the fStop, I decided it was time to buy a better camera. After a bit of research, we decided to purchase a Canon Digital Rebel kit from Costco. 

 This is a much newer kit & body then what I purchased, but its the digital Rebel series. The kit I got had two lenses, an extra battery and the bag and memory card. Of course the body was included.

This is a much newer kit & body then what I purchased, but its the digital Rebel series. The kit I got had two lenses, an extra battery and the bag and memory card. Of course the body was included.

     With this lens and body combination I was able to achieve shots I was capable of envisioning but was previously unable to create. I was able to blur that background, let in more light and shoot in situations where I was previously at the mercy of auto mode and ehh... on camera flash. (ahhh... it hurt to even mention on camera flash!)

Ok... this gets a little hazy... I'm reaching back like 8 years here...



     Some time during the ownership of my Rebel, I bought a Tamron lens. I 'think' this was it. And I couldn't tell you why at this point. I believe I was looking for a longer lens to capture my sons who were just starting to plays sports at that time. Again, I was limited by the focal length of the lens. Thinking more on it, it could also have been my need of a f2.8 lens. If I remember correctly the kit lens' were not that fast. Regardless.... I bought the next thing I NEEDED to achieve the image I wanted to create.

     Let me stress again... it was because I had a need to achieve a better quality image. Not because "it has all the bells and whistles". And be honest, half those bells and whistles you don't know how to use. Or, frankly, even understand. Off my high horse. Sorry.

     For about 3 years I shot with the Rebel & Tamron lens combination. I was still primarily shooting my family and once in a great while, a friends family something or another. I think I even shot a friends wedding with this! Let me say that again. I shot my friends wedding with a camera and lens combination that cost about $600. Sure, it was not professional quality at the time... but it worked!

     Shortly there after I was unofficially shooting images for Austin Disaster Relief Network. (Side note... great organization... look in to it!). They have a 3 day course on the many areas of need when a disaster happens. The last day they do a 'replication' of a disastrous event. Between day 1 & 2 my wife and I again spoke about needing to upgrade. This was because I could not achieve the image quality I wanted in order to give this group print quality images. My problem this time around was image noise on this now 4ish year old camera.

 Enter the Canon 7D.  When I got this body, it was a brand new model with some awesome features. This was an excellent camera body for the years I used it. I still have the body as my back up system. Sadly it rarely gets taken out of the bag. The only time it gets any exercise is the night before a shoot. I double check the battery is charged and the shutter still works.

Enter the Canon 7D.  When I got this body, it was a brand new model with some awesome features. This was an excellent camera body for the years I used it. I still have the body as my back up system. Sadly it rarely gets taken out of the bag. The only time it gets any exercise is the night before a shoot. I double check the battery is charged and the shutter still works.

 Canon 24-70mm f2.8L series. Lens' are where your going to spend some cash. Not on this lens per say... but on glass in general. This IS an  $1800 lens... but that is a drop in the bucket.  SEE HERE

Canon 24-70mm f2.8L series. Lens' are where your going to spend some cash. Not on this lens per say... but on glass in general. This IS an  $1800 lens... but that is a drop in the bucket. SEE HERE

     I bought this camera and lens because I wanted to be able to shoot quicker, with higher quality and lower noise. At first I used it for the low light environment of the ADRN disaster simulation. We were in a earthquake scenario with lights out in a an almost completely dark building. My only light was occasional flashes from strobes for the simulation. After that I used it almost exclusively for years of sports photography and family vacations. Plus a number of portrait sessions with family & friends.

     This was about the time I really started deciding to take my photography seriously. And, while this camera and lens combo worked JUST FINE for me, it wasn't a full frame sensor giving me the best possible image as a professional photographer. My wife was supportive of me being more active as a professional photographer. And so, she allowed me to drop the 3K+ on a new camera body.  

 My new baby (celebrating it's 2 year birthday soon). The  Canon 5D Mark III .

My new baby (celebrating it's 2 year birthday soon). The Canon 5D Mark III.

     My new baby, the Canon 5D Mark III, is a full frame sensor camera with more bells and whistles then the 7D had. Note, it is not a "better" camera because of this. It has more features important to me for the type of images I am looking to create. In many ways the 7D was better for some situations. Specifically sports. As noted, I carry both camera bodies now! With the 5D, I was most interested in the HDR feature it had for multiple exposures. Specifically that I could do 5/7/9 bracketed exposures where the 7D could only do 3.

    You are now up to date with my steps up in equipment. At this time, the 5D should last me another 2-3 years before the computer tech on board gets outdated. DSLR's are basically mini computers. There is a point where they just NEED to upgrade. BUT... you may note, I did not upgrade my lens yet. I have only ever bought 1 "professional". That's the 24-70 f.28 L series above.

My next step... the one I legitimately need for longer reach, better bokeh, a narrow field of view and less distorted portraits, is the Canon 70-200 f2.8IS L series. This lens is probably the work horse of the Canon photographic community. Here is looking forward to purchasing it!