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 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.
The Canon EOS RP 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. Impressively small despite having a large full-frame sensor, the Canon EOS RP offers flexible imaging capabilities along with a portable form factor. Featuring a high-resolution 26.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor along with a DIGIC 8 image processor, both stills and UHD 4K video can be recorded using a broad sensitivity range, from ISO 100-40000, to suit working in a variety of lighting conditions. Continuous shooting is also supported at up to 5 fps for photographing moving subjects. The sensor also facilitates an advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, with 4779 selectable on-sensor phase-detection points for quickly and accurately acquiring focus during stills and video operation.
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 RP:
As you can tell, it's definitely a winner!
Looking for a Nikon or Sony equivalent?
Wanna upgrade? The Canon R6 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.
significantly less expensive than Canon’s top-of-the-line R5, which sells for $5,000. This is one of the reasons why we recommend this camera. You’ll have what you need to take amazing
images without having to sell your firstborn child!
What is there to love about this camera? Plenty.
to have a point where you need it. Plus, it has a significantly longer battery life and goes up to
204,800 ISO, twice that of the RP’s 102,400.
second). But the R6 speeds things up considerably with 20 fps (under certain conditions) that
will allow you to capture the exact instant you want!
The R6 has a considerably longer battery life and comes with two memory card slots. Both of
these options are helpful when you will be shooting for a longer period of time. Plus, you can
write to two cards at once to have an instant backup for shooting weddings or other critically
Both the Nikon Z6 and Z6 II are somewhat less expensive than the Canon R6. The Nikon
camera body is slightly smaller than the R6, but the LCD screen is slightly larger with better
resolution. The R6 has bigger pixels, which helps to offer better low-light performance.
The Nikon has fewer focus points and is capable of 12 fps when shooting quickly. It also only has space from 1 memory card.
Sony Equivalent: A7 IV
At roughly the same price, Sony offers more detail with its 33 MP Alpha 7 IV camera compared to the R6’s 20 MP one. However, MP count isn’t everything so don’t get too hung up on it.
Both cameras produce high-quality images, and the R6 even has a slight edge over the Sony in low light conditions.
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
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?
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!
50mm f/1.8 “NIFTY FIFTY” lens:
FAVORITE PORTRAIT + LANDSCAPE LENS
Already have the nifty fifty but want a new lens this year?? You deserve something, too.
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?
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.
To learn more about lenses watch this excerpt video from my Master Your Camera eCourse:
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.
BONUS: 7 Gear Accessories All Photographers Should Have
3a. Camera Strap (my choice)
3b. Camera Strap (my wife Tammy's choice)
7. Lens Thermos
That's A Wrap
I hope this gear guide helps you this 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.
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!
NOTE: Some of the links above are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I make a small commission IF you purchase.