Which Camera and Lens Should I Buy

“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 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!

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!

 

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:

 

 

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 Gear Accessories All Photographers Should Have

 

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

 

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!

 

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?

 

71 Comments

  1. Samantha Samuel Candela

    Love my Canon but looking into a mirrorless camera, what do you think about the Fuji T 20?

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Valencia

      I just purchased my first high level camera and I went with the Sony a7ii Mirrorless. Super excited!

      Reply
      • Ashley

        Thank you for your help!!! Your a great photographer!! (:

        Reply
        • David Molnar

          Thank you so much Ashley! You’re so welcome! 🙂

          Reply
        • Katy Barecky

          I have a Nikon D3100 that I’ve had a number of years. I’ve just always used the Auto setting. I want to learn how to take beautiful photos. Is this a good starter camera? Thank you so much for your tutorials!

          Reply
      • David Molnar

        Hi Elizabeth! I hope you’re enjoying you Sony a7ii!

        Reply
      • Alfonso

        Want to purchase the Nikon 750

        Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Samantha! The Fuji X-T20 is a great mirrorless option!

      Reply
  2. Sheila Keene

    This will be great, as I’ve always kept my Canon on automatic setting. Anxious to learn the manual settings.

    Reply
  3. Sandy

    I have a Canon ESO rebel G
    Not digital .Can

    I implement these classes?

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Sandy! I don’t currently teach on film cameras and they tend to be a bit different from Digital cameras. I’m sorry about that!

      Reply
  4. Dovely Estrada

    I don’t have a camera yet but this definitely helped me out a lot thank you!

    Reply
      • Duncan MacFarlane

        What ? No D500 ? Really ? A bit of a Canon bias here, Dave ! Every camera, every lens ? 😂No big deal … we all have them ! 😊

        Reply
        • David Molnar

          Hi Duncan! I do personally love Canon but I also list Nikon and Sony equivalents in this blog post! 🙂

          Reply
  5. Vickie Earls

    Right now, all I have is a Canon PowerShot. I love it for portraits. But I do want the Canon that you recommend. I highly doubt that I will get it though. If I do, I will start believing in Santa again!!! Lol. Happy Thanksgiving!!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      I hope you get your dream camera Vickie! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Barb Dedics

    What type of filter do I need for my canon Rebel?

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Barb! There are many lens filters available and the one needed will really depend on your personal needs. You can often buy sets of them so that you have a variety to try out!

      Reply
  7. Terrie Ann Nazworth

    Is there a book that I can buy to learn about the lenses and how to take amazing photos I would love to do it on the side or open my own studio one day
    TIA

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Terrie! There are tons of resources online that can certainly help! I also offer paid courses that teach you how to “Master Your Camera.” 🙂

      Reply
  8. Melissa Mitchell

    What do you recommend for start up studio lighting ?

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Melissa! There are tons of studio lighting kits available on Amazon for every price range! They have a wonderful selection that allow you to find the perfect kit for your own personal needs!

      Reply
  9. Monica

    What do you think of the new mirrorless from both Canon and NIkon? I’m looking to upgrade and am tempted by their smaller size among other things. Thanks!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Monica! They can certainly be wonderful options! They are more compact and more lightweight which is a great feature. It truly depends on how much you’re looking to spend and your personal preference. Some people prefer mirrorless cameras while others do not. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Susan N

    Interested in upgrading my husbands cam for his bday. He currently had the 5D Mark III. Do you think the 5D Mark IV is significanty different to justify an upgrade? He does not do photography as a business, but takes awesome photos as a hobby. Thanks!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Susan! Both are great cameras but I do personally love the 5d Mark IV and think it has some wonderful features. It’s a wonderful upgrade from the 5d Mark III

      Reply
  11. Debbie bower

    I used a rental Cannon 400 mm in South Africa for game drives what do think about this lens.

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Debbie! The 400mm is a great telephoto lens option!

      Reply
  12. Patricia

    Can you advise the three lenses for the Canon EOS, Rebel SL2, please along with the battery grips. Thank you.

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Patricia! I would recommend the same gear as listed above just for your corresponding camera! 🙂

      Reply
  13. Janie

    I’m a beginner and have a Canon SX20 IS PowerShot, it’s not digital,:(. Do i need to get one to learn on or can I use this for now?

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Janie! Your camera is considered a Point & Shoot which is a bit more limited compared to DSLR and Mirrorless cameras. You can still do a lot with that camera so it’s completely up to you if you’d like to purchase a new camera. 🙂

      Reply
      • Angie

        I currently have the Canon T3i and learning manual with your videos. I have a goal to master manual, so then I will get my dream camera. I am between the 5D Mark IV and the EOS R. Can you tell me which would be a better solution. I’ve heard the future is the mirrorless is why I am leaning toward the EOS R

        Reply
        • David Molnar

          I Angie! That’s truly a personal preference. Both are fantastic options and I don’t think either is the “right” or “wrong” choice. I personally love my 5D Mark IV but many people love the EOS R as well! I don’t think you can go wrong either way! 🙂

          Reply
  14. Betty J Sorenson

    I do most all my shooting with the Canon. I own a Canon 80d, a Canon 5d Mark IV and a Nikon. I shoot most all my bird shots with the Canon EF 100-400 Lens and Landscapes with my 24-70 Lens. I recommend the Canon.

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Betty! Thanks for stopping by! I love my Canon as well. 🙂

      Reply
  15. Thuy Thomas

    I have Olympus mirrorless camera mark II , what do you think about this camera, and I am going to buy a len 20-49mm /2.8 f to combine indoor and out door to portrait as well, please advise

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Thuy! That’s a great camera! I hope you’re enjoying it! 🙂

      Reply
  16. Angela Reid

    Is the Nikon D5100 a good camera to work with? Your thoughts.

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Angela! The Nikon D5100 is a wonderful option! It has wonderful features for the affordable price!

      Reply
      • Missy Mcclure

        I have a Nikon D5100. Apparently finding a wide angle lens is a challenge. My spouse tried to get one for me for Christmas last year but got the wrong one. When we returned it, we were told we would have to order it. Just having trouble making that purchase. I would also love to take your class but as a newish realtor, funds are limited. Hopefully soon!

        Reply
        • David Molnar

          Hi Missy! I’m so sorry you’re having trouble! Hopefully it gets resolved for you soon! I would love to have you as a student in the future! Best of luck! 🙂

          Reply
  17. Becky Gronquist

    According to this list I just need the battery grip, 70-200mm, 😉😉 and I’m dreaming of a camera upgrade 💙💙 though I want the 1D-X2 for the FPS. Thank you for all of your awesome education!!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      You’re so welcome Becky! I hope you get your dream camera and all of the camera gear! 🙂

      Reply
  18. Jenny Minter

    I have a Canon t6i, but it’s only 10 mp, maybe it is an older version or something. I’m thinking of upgrading to the t7i, the mp jump up to 23 and the price is decent. So you think that would be a good upgrade? It is compatible with the lenses I have, or would you recommend another in the Canon family, that is comparable and can use my same lenses?

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Jenny! The t7i is a great camera as well and would be compatible with your lenses!

      Reply
  19. Lynette

    What is a good lens that isn’t to expensive, that I would be able to shoot for wildlife? Like birds and stuff? Thanks.

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Lynette! For wildlife photography focal length is very important. Telephoto lenses tend to be quite expensive. You may want to check out a 55-200mm because it is cheaper but you should still be able to get some great shots!

      Reply
  20. Chanie Reifer

    Hi! I have the rebel T1I and telephoto 18-200mm lens. I wud like to upgrade both. I’m thinking of the canon 5d mark lv.which lens do I think I shud purchase fir blow me away sharp outdoor telephoto lens?. Please respond. Thank you

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Chanie! The 70-200mm I mentioned in the blog is a wonderful telephoto lens and definitely worth looking into!

      Reply
  21. Jen Ross

    I have a Nikon P900 (fixed lens) camera but decided I wanted to jump into the interchangeable lenses and just bought a Canon T7i. It should arrive tomorrow…can’t wait to get started! Thanks for all the info!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Congratulations on your new camera Jen! I hope you love it!

      Reply
  22. Ruth Hosterman

    What Nikon lens do you recommend for indoor and outdoor sports?

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Ruth! Nikon makes a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens as well that is wonderful for sports! 🙂

      Reply
  23. Jen Fuller

    I have a Nikon D3400 and zoom (55-200) lens. I would LOVE a more powerful zoom lens for wildlife photography (I live in Custer, SD about 5 mikesfrom Custer State Park & Wind Cave National Park). Without breaking the bank (I’m retired), what lens should I consider?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Jen! Focal length is important when shooting wildlife photos. Unfortunately, telephoto lenses tend to be rather expensive. The 70-200mm is a great option as I talked about in the blog. The 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 may be a good option to look into as well!

      Reply
  24. Juan Torres

    I’m considering a Sony A77ii. How do you feel about this camera?

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Juan! The Sony A77ii is a wonderful option!

      Reply
  25. SLM

    When you 1st set up your camera, exactly how should you set the settings? I want to mainly use mine for Portraits.I have watched a lot of your videos & they are really helping me. But maybe I missed one about how to set it up after you first buy it. I want to make sure my settings are correct. I want crystal clear photos. I have the Canon Rebel T6.

    Thank you

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi SLM! Camera settings will be different for every shooting situation and based upon personal preference but I do recommend setting your camera to shoot in RAW so you achieve better image quality and have much more control over the photos when editing!

      Reply
  26. Elaine Schneider

    I have had many cameras in the past, but my first DSLR was a Canon EOS Rebel XS and when I upgraded I went to a Nikon D5200. Don’t ask why for I couldn’t tell you at this point and time.
    I like both cameras, but now going back to the Canon Rebel T6 so asking is a T6 and a T6i the same camera? Next question is the lens you are telling us to get is a 50mm f/1.8 is it the same as a EF 50mm f/1.8 II? I have the EF one and need to know, please.

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Elaine! The Canon Rebel T6 and T6i are not the same camera. The T6i has some features that the T6 does not have.
      There is a 50mm f/1.8 ii and a 50mm f/1.8 STM. The STM option has an STM motor which provides a smoother and quieter operation (which helps if you record a lot of videos). I hope that helps!

      Reply
      • Elaine Schneider

        Thank you David, this helps and do not plan to do a lot of videos at this point. If in the future I do I will get the STM at that point. I currently have the the T6 and will stick with this for now also. Thank you for your help, much appreciated!

        Reply
  27. Brenda Moss

    What do you think of the canon rebel T6 1300 D as a starter camera ?

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Brenda! The Canon Rebel T6 is a wonderful beginner camera!

      Reply
  28. David Molnar

    You’re very welcome Elaine! So glad I could help!

    Reply
  29. Gina fletcher

    Hi David, I am lucky to have the Canon 6D II and two l series lens. I am looking at the new canon zoom lens 70 – 300, f4-5.6, not L series to take landscape overseas. I am governed by weight and price. What do you think.

    Reply
  30. Gina fletcher

    Hi David. I am lucky to have a canon 6d m II and two l series lens. I am now looking at a zoom lens 70=300 f4=5.6, not an L series but I am governed by weight and price to take overseas. What do you think if that lens?

    Reply
    • David Molnar

      Hi Gina! That lens may be a good option for you. The downside is that you may need a tripod unless you pay a considerable amount more to get the version with image stabilization. 🙂

      Reply

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