“Which camera and lens should I buy?” I get asked this question ALL THE TIME…

I usually tell them it’s not about the camera or lens. It’s about understanding how to use the equipment, taking manual control, and capturing the images as you intended.

It’s not the camera that makes a great photo. It’s the mind of the photographer.

I guarantee you that a seasoned photographer could be given any consumer-level DSLR camera that was made in the last 5 years, and we would take photos that could easily be featured on the cover of a magazine or on a billboard ad. Regardless of which camera was in our hands.

The reality is, any camera these days is simply amazing. Especially if it’s made by one of the leading brands like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, and many others. The entry level DSLR and mirrorless cameras that are coming out nowadays put my first professional cameras to shame.

Long story short, you have it good with the amazing quality in today’s digital cameras.

That being said, I do have some recommendations for which cameras and lenses to buy this holiday season. I’ll break them down into sections for everyone, no matter where you are in your photography journey.

WORD TO THE WISE: Don’t get bogged down in the camera tech details. I promise you it is more about the photographer than it is the camera. Start where you’re at and learn to master your craft first. The perfect gear can follow later.

Don’t go into a ton of debt to purchase gear. Get the equipment you can afford.

I’ve always bought my gear slowly, with cash and only when I could afford to upgrade or add to the quiver.

My first professional gigs were shot on the equivalent to the starter camera I’m going to suggest here…only the cameras were terrible back then and these cameras are 1000 times better than the Nikon D70 that I shot my first 20 weddings on.

 

Let’s Talk Cameras

I’m not going to lie, I shoot on Canon cameras. It’s the brand I recommend. I’m not paid to say that…yet. (Canon – do you want to sponsor me?)

I don’t think the other brands are bad at all but Canon is my preference and what I’m going to recommend first. You’ll see Nikon and Sony equivalents below each recommendation.

 

TOP PICK

Canon 6D Mark II

The Canon 6D Mark II is uh-freakin-mazing…it’s the very camera my wife uses to capture moments of our 4 beautiful kids!

 

I love this camera because it’s a powerful full frame camera that doesn’t break the bank. It has a touch-screen LCD display and a Live View mode so you can see what you’re shooting even at unique angles. It also has Bluetooth capability so you can wirelessly transfer your photos to any device in an instant, including your phone for on-the-go editing and sharing. It can handle low-light situations with ease and is perfect for the landscape or portrait photographer looking for a camera to enjoy for years to come.

My wife loves snapping pictures of our kids even on her busiest days with this camera, and enjoys that she can edit photos on her phone when she has a spare moment.

It’s definitely a Molnar Top Pick!

I took it with us on vacation last month instead of my 5D Mark IV, and it continued to impress me. Here are some images from a recent beachside family session with some friends using the 6D Mark II:

 

As you can tell, it’s definitely a winner, perfect for your holiday shopping list (or Santa wish list)!

Looking for a Nikon or Sony equivalent?

Nikon D750

Sony a6500

 

EVEN BETTER

Canon 5D Mark IV

Wanna upgrade? The Canon 5D Mark IV is a professional full frame camera – the exact camera I use on shoots. It’s been my favorite since I got it and I can’t recommend it enough. With 30.4 megapixels and a slew of other features, this camera is an excellent choice for high quality video, smooth Live View shooting, and in-focus action shots.

This is perfect for wedding, portrait, landscape, wildlife, and sports photographers looking to upgrade their gear and feeling ready to make a powerful investment in their photography career or passion.

Ultimately, I recommend upgrading to a camera like this when you’re actually making money or about to start making real money from photography.

Looking for a Nikon or Sony equivalent?

Nikon D850

Sony A7II

Note: Whatever brand you choose, if you’re planning to invest in a camera to shoot professionally I suggest you purchase a full frame camera and prime lenses.

 

BEST STARTER CAMERA

Canon EOS Rebel T6i

Are you just starting out or looking for a more affordable (but still awesome) DSLR camera? You cannot go wrong with the Canon EOS Rebel T6i – with 24 megapixels, it’s a fantastic camera for capturing the bird on your back porch, your recent travel spots, or your kids running across the field during a soccer game. You can also capture HD video with this camera, so all of your photo and video needs are met in just under $600.

Looking for a Nikon or Sony equivalent?

Nikon D3400

Sony a6000

 

Let’s Talk Lenses

 

FIRST THINGS FIRST

The Lens Every Photographer Should Have

People always ask me, “What’s the first lens I should invest in?”, and I ALWAYS recommend the “nifty fifty” – a 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Why? It’s perfect for shooting in low light to get awesome nighttime or indoor shots and allows you to capture crisp portraits with that gorgeous blurry background (can anyone say bokeh?).

Plus, it won’t break the bank!

Amazon Prime this little guy so it arrives before the holidays!

50mm f/1.8 “NIFTY FIFTY” lens:

Canon

Nikon

Sony

 

FAVORITE PORTRAIT + LANDSCAPE LENS

Already have the nifty fifty but want a new lens this year?? You deserve something, too.

Canon 24-70mm f.2.8L II

I finally pulled the trigger on replacing my old version earlier this year…and WOW do I love how fast, sharp, and fantastic this lens is for shooting portraits and landscapes. It is extremely versatile because it can easily transition from wide angle to closely zoomed in and is perfect for low light situations.

Looking for a Nikon or Sony equivalent?

Nikon

Sony

 

TELEPHOTO LENSES FOR SHOOTING SPORTS OR PERFORMANCES:

I know you’re going to ask about shooting sports, but to be honest I can’t in good conscious recommend a cheap telephoto zoom lens to get great crisp action shots.

This is because I recommend L Series (prime) lenses with a large continuous maximum aperture of F2.8 or F4.0. (The lower the number the more light can come through and the faster you can shoot.) The L Series lenses are EXPENSIVE but worth it.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto

To learn more about lenses watch this excerpt video from my Master Your Camera eCourse:

 

Looking to really WOW someone on your gift list (even if that someone is you)? I created a couple BONUS categories to take your new camera gear gift to the next level…

 

BONUS: Battery Grips

Why I Use One & You Should Too

Let’s talk battery grips! This may not be the most flashy topic or gear recommendation, BUT y’all I do not know what I would do without my battery grip. I have to be honest…I bought my first battery grip years ago because I thought it made me look cool. It instantly gave me a confidence boost because I felt more professional and my camera looked way more expensive than it actually was.

In reality, a battery grip offers far more than the “cool factor” – it contains two extra batteries so I can take a higher volume of photos without stopping for a battery change. Its ergonomic design keeps my 5D Mark IV comfortable in hand so I can shoot longer with ease. It even offers a vertical grip option with an additional set of shutter controls so you can quickly transition from one orientation to the other – PERFECT for portraits.

If you’re wanting to establish a business, book longer shoots, or pursue portrait photography, I’ve found this to be a necessity. Plus you look super cool. 😉 I’m never without mine!

Make sure to check compatibility with your specific camera model while checking out the options below.

For Canon 5D Mark IV

For Canon 6D Mark II

For Canon Rebel T6 & T6i

For Nikon

For Sony

 

BONUS: 7 Stocking Stuffers + Gear Gifts

1. 5-in-1 Reflector

2. Tripod

3a. Camera Strap (my choice)

3b. Camera Strap (my wife Tammy’s choice)

4. Lightroom Photography Plan Subscription

5. External Hard Drive

6. Camera Gear Backpack

7. Lens Thermos

 

 

That’s A Wrap

Get it? Wrap – like Christmas wrap?! 😜

I hope this gear guide helps you this holiday season, whether you’re creating a wish list for yourself, shopping for the photography enthusiast in your life, or saving up for your next gear purchase once you have some Christmas cash.

 

If you’re ready to start pursuing YOUR photography dreams today, check out my FREE training that will equip you to Show Your Camera Who’s Boss. People who take my free training walk away a more confident camera user and better photographer. JOIN ME HERE!

free-camera-training

 

 

NOTE: All links above are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I make a small commission IF you purchase.

 

 

What are your thoughts? What kind of camera (and lenses) do you have or wish to have this holiday season?