The Most Important Piece of Photographic Equipment You Should Buy Right Now

8th November 2011

Is a UV Filter, they cost anywhere from $9 (on Amazon) and up - it depends on the size of your lens, so prices may vary.

Now, you may be asking yourself: Why is this the best thing I can buy? It costs less than 20 dollars and it’s a little dinky plastic disk!

Well, I’ll show you what I saw when I pulled my camera out of my bag after work today:

Pardon the iPhone picture

Since people seem to be freaking out: that’s just a UV filter that’s shattered, my lens is totally fine.

(Eagle-eyed readers should note that I tweeted this picture quite literally hours ago, so if you want to be kept up to the minute on important developments like this feel free to follow me there)

I’m not totally sure how this happened. It could have been any number of jostles or bumps that happen as I walk off the subway to work or back to the subway from work. I didn’t have my ONA bag insert because I was using my gym bag, so my camera was fairly unprotected (this won’t happen again).

Regardless of how it happened, it did happen, and what matters (to me at least) is that instead of losing a really great lens, I lost a $10 filter that I’ve already replaced.

So if you have a camera with a lens that takes a filter (check the front of your lens for thread markings) I highly recommend you buy one as soon as your can.

One follow-up: someone asked if I used a lens cap when it’s in my bag, and the short answer is no. The long answer is that lens caps are more expensive than filters and because they cover the lens, make it harder to make a photo when time is limited. With a UV filter you have protection and it’s see through, you can take a picture right away.

Another follow-up: I don’t know how the science works, but there’s a lot of proven cases where dropping a lens with a filter on somehow protects the lens entirely. Go science!

 ·  113 notes

Hi Joel, I am an amateur photographer in LA. I really dig your photos. I would like to get your advice if you don't mind. Currently, I take most of my photos with my iPhone 4 (I know that is extremely amateur), but I have an old (1980's) Canon F-1 at home that I plan to put back into action soon (needs new batteries and some basic cleaning. What is your opinion regarding shooting with actual film over using digital now a days?

Asked by lifeofalens

You know what they say - the best camera is the one that’s with you, so don’t worry about being amateurish, you’re taking photos, that’s what matters.

I’ve recently gotten into film lately, and have been loving it. I’m going to talk about film cameras in a future buying guide post, but it’s something definitely worth pursuing.

The biggest counterpoint against film is also one of the benefits of shooting film. Because you’re limited by the number of shots per roll (and most likely paying for the development of each shot), you have to be more cognizant of the shots you take. You’ll probably be less likely to throw away shots since you will be more economical with your exposures (this isn’t a bad thing).

So basically, go for film all you’d like, just keep in mind there are actual costs associated with it, and mental costs that may actually help you become a better photographer.

 ·  17 notes

So You’ve Decided to Buy a Nikon DSLR: Intro

3rd October 2011

I’ve gotten approximately 3.5 billion questions over the past year asking me a very specific question that I’ve avoided answering for a while now:

What camera should I buy?

There are usually specific camera models in there that people ask about, and those are usually camera models that I don’t know much about. Fortunately though, I have friends who have some of the models you are requesting, and through asking them and playing with the cameras a little, I feel better recommending them to you.

There are some disclaimers before we start:

  1. All extra links are affiliate links, so if you buy anything I recommend through these links, I get a kickback (and you’re supporting me so there’s a nice warm fuzzy feeling you should feel).
  2. I’m recommending things, but your needs may be different than what I’m describing, so don’t hold me to everything I’m saying.
  3. Even though I have played with these cameras, I only have extensive, hands-on experience with the Nikon D90 and D7000.
  4. I only know about Nikons, so I’m going to talk about those.

This isn’t going to be one marathon post, it’ll be way too long and, frankly I don’t think people like reading all that much so I’ll keep these short. Up next: where do I buy a DSLR?

 ·  35 notes

I recently picked up a Nikkor 50/ 1.4 as well.

What made you decide on the 1.4D rather than the newer AF-S 1.4G? The portability?
I know the 1.4D is amazingly small and light, plus it is possessed of faster AF which I would imagine is key for street photography.

Asked by akindlystranger-deactivated2012

Sorry for taking a little bit of time to respond but I actually want to use the lens for a bit before I actually wrote about it.

I really don’t have a need for the G class of Nikons - I know that the glass is better, but I don’t need autofocus (the D7000 has an internal motor), for some reason I prefer the construction on the D lenses much more. I really really like having the focal distance on the lens (both for appearance’s sake, and because sometimes I’ll manually mess around with the focus, and it’s a nice reference to have) and the relative small size is a plus too.

So largely, I got it for it’s looks, and it’s relatively quicker autofocus is nice too. Well that and I got it used, so it was cheaper than normal.

 ·  3 notes

Hi! I really dig your photography! Well I’ve never used a DSLR ever except just take one (literally) for fun then that’s it. I’m thinking about buying one soon (after lots of month’s research). The reason I want to buy an intermediate camera is because I take photography as more of a hobby but I don’t want my limits of the features of the camera to end too quickly. Do you think it’s a good idea? I am financially stable with purchasing it. Also I was wondering which lens would be better optically 16-85mm (Nikon) or 18-105mm (Nikon) I plan to buy a prime lens afterwards though (not for a while, until I see what I really like to shoot most of). :) :) Because I don't want to buy a lens that wouldn't bring out the best of the Nikon D7000.

Asked by dreamsinmanhattan

I can’t really speak to the 16-85mm (I’ve never used it) but skimming this review by Ken Rockwell shows that it’s not all that great of a lens if you can get the kit lens for cheaper.  I had the old kit lens (that I got with my D90) and this set of photos shows that it’s been very successful for me to use.  It’s so great that I normally take it with me when I travel to places like Brasil and Miami.

I wouldn’t worry about buying a lens that isn’t going to give you the ‘best’ that your D7000 can do, because really, you’re just going to be taking a lot of pictures and defining your style.  As you grow that, you’ll be able to figure out what sort of shots you like to take and what lenses you can use that will allow you to improve those types of shots.

 ·  7 notes

Great photos Joel, I just got my D7000 and am using a 35mm 1.8 along with the kit lens. Would you recommend a 50mm as the next lens of choice for street photography?

Asked by vargucci

Thanks a lot vargucci! Focal length is pretty arbitrary for street photography - it really depends on how much distance you want between your subject and you.  There’s a great article that Santi just linked to on twitter that discusses this very well located here: http://www.yanidel.net/2011/02/28/35mm-or-50mm-for-street-photography/

In all reality, you are fine with the 35mm and the kit, from there, your possibilities are endless

 ·  5 notes

How well do you like the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens? Just got into photography and am now looking for a new wide angle lens. Your work is awesome and was just curious of your opinion...

Asked by n3ff

Hey n3ff, I love the Tokina.  It’s a lens I’m always excited to have on my camera (though it sadly takes a backseat to my 85mm, which I’m trying to use slightly less).  In terms of optics, it’s sharp as ever and autofocuses nicely on both my D90 and D7000.  You have to be wary of shooting with a wide-angle lens (and I don’t do it totally right all the time), but fear not, because there’s a great piece about it on Ken Rockwell’s site.  The other things you have to be aware of about the lens is that it a) is huge b) has a huge filter and c) is totally amazing but impossible to find.

So all in all, if you can find it, get it.

 ·  9 notes

Camera Care, Protection, and Safety

29th January 2011

These three questions about camera care, protection, and safety seemed similar enough that it makes sense for me to answer them all at once.  (I’ll add a disclaimer that anything I say here shouldn’t be taken as legal advice and while I’ve had generally good experiences while taking photos that you shouldn’t think that anything I say here is smart - I try to do things that fall within my comfort zone, you should do the same)

diamondsheeprebirth asked: Do you ever worry about your camera getting stolen whilst you’re out shooting? I live in Dublin and I rarely go out around the city to shoot for this reason.

Personally, I’ve never felt particularly unsafe when I’ve been out with my camera.  If you’re going to be in an area that you’d worry about your camera’s (and your own) safety then be careful.  I’ve been lucky to take pictures in safe areas (e.g. all of New York, the areas of Miami I’ve walked around and everywhere else I’ve traveled) - if you’re somewhere unsafe, or where your camera would stand out, be smart about it.

upanddowns asked: how do you protect your camera from the weather?

I don’t do anything on this front - my new D7000 is weatherproof, so I’m not really worried about it.  For my screens I use a ZAGG invisible shield for the LCD and I use a UV filter on all my lenses to protect them.  The bag I use is reasonably waterproof (as in “I’ve walked around in thunderstorms and most my stuff has stayed dry) so I just stay smart around my equipment.

1000wordsss asked: i love your blog!!! I’ve always had an interest in photography and bought a canon rebel as a xmas present for myself. I absolutely love it!!!! Any tips for a beginner? Also any precautions I should take when taking my camera out in the cold? I’m worried about condensation and all that messing up my camera.

Congrats on the camera purchase! I’ve given lots of advice over the past few months, there’s some good stuff in there (sorry it’s a pain to read right now tho), but this answer should help a lot.

Thanks all for the questions! Keep ‘em coming!

 ·  7 notes

hi Joel, love your photos! what's your recommendation for an everyday camera bag?

Asked by runawaymonkey

Thank you kindly!

I don’t actually use a proper camera bag, I just have the small timbuk2 classic messenger in all black.  I’ve thought very hard about getting a Tenba insert but I never have followed through with it.

I tend to carry one camera with one lens, and don’t carry a flash or a tripod regularly, so my needs may not suit yours.

 ·  1 notes

wich primes you recomend to buy 1st?

Asked by striatecortex

If you have a camera that does autofocusing (for Nikon it’s D70 and above) then get the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D (from B&H), if you don’t have autofocus, then get the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G (From B&H as well).  Those will set you up for great low light shots and won’t break the bank (at least so far as this photography habit goes at least).

A bit of an update:

Gizmodo has a great list of budget and excellent primes for all camera types.

I’ll just post this for all to see:

cowboydan said: Recommend: Sigma 30mm 1.4 EX. Got mine for under $400 on craigslist. Badass piece of glass that won’t make you poor yet opens up nice and big.

I haven’t had experience with it, but I’ve also heard good things from Shawn.

 ·  6 notes

Great photos; I'm always inspired on how I can better focus or direct my work by your photos. I'm also trying to save up for a better camera. Do you recommend anything cheaper than a D90?

Asked by reeseman-deactivated20110310

Thanks reese!  It’s always amazing to hear that I actually influence people.

Recommending cameras is always a tricky situation, mostly because like all branded related things, people on both sides are crazy (in this case, it’s Nikon vs. Canon) and you never really get to appease anyone.

Since that’s the case I’m going to defer to someone much smarter than me and refer you to Ken Rockwell’s Recommended Cameras.  I totally agree with him that the D3100 is a tiny beast of a camera, and if you can pick up a D3000/D5000 they are also great (and cheap, but the D3100 is newest and incorporates a lot of the technology from the D90).  You can also look for a D90 either used or refurbished.  With the new D7000 having come out (but not available yet, grr), the prices of it make it much more affordable.

That’s, of course, only information about Nikon cameras - mostly because that’s all I really know, so if you have questions about Canons… you may have to ask someone else

Thanks for asking a question!

 ·  6 notes
Load More