Camera Kit Considerations

We can invest a lot of money in photography equipment and some simple camera kit considerations can help us choose the best gear for our needs. As has been stated in many of my previous articles, we should all buy and use whatever camera format, brand and camera model that best meets our individual needs. There is no such thing as a perfect, one-size fits all camera system. Best is a relative term that is totally dependent on our individual needs.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-800, -0.3 step

Determine your photographic needs.

Before buying any camera gear it is critical that we determine our photographic needs. We can examine the various genres of photography in which we are active, as well as identify other areas that represent growth opportunities for us. It can also be instructive to go back through our images over time to identify what percentage of our images fit into various categories.

Nikon D800 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/4 @ 340mm (1.7X Nikkor teleconverter used), f/6.7, 1/100, ISO-400

Examining our photographic interests and identifying how we intend to use our images can be instructive to determine what camera format will be a good fit for us. For example, some folks may be skewed to landscape photography and intend to produce large sized prints of their work. As a result they may decide that a larger sensor camera like medium format or full frame will best meet their requirements due to increased dynamic range and image resolution.

Te Anau, New Zealand, Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 13mm, f/8, 1/100, ISO-800

Other photographers may do more travel related photography and put a higher value on size and portability. These same photographers may use their images primarily on social media and may not plan to make huge prints of their images. Smaller sensor cameras like APS-C, M4/3 or a 1″ sensor camera may be ideal for their needs.

Eye of the Wind, Monument Valley, Panasonic DMC-FZ28, 5 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-100

An all-in-one bridge camera may be the right solution for people who don’t want to be bothered with interchangeable lenses. Again, there is no such thing as a perfect camera… other than the one that fits your unique needs.

Some folks may find that a Smartphone suits their photographic needs quite well and they don’t really need a dedicated camera at all.

NIKON D800 + TAMRON 150-600mm f/5-6.3 @ 600mm, ISO 800, 1/1000, f/8.0

If a photographer spent a lot of time reading online reviews and watching YouTube videos it would be easy to get the impression that ‘everyone’ is buying full frame equipment. I went on the CiPA website to have a look at recent digital camera and interchangeable lens statistics.

There’s no doubt that as camera equipment manufacturers have been shifting into mirrorless products that the sales of full frame gear has grown over the past number of years.

NIKON D800, f/6.3, 1/15, ISO-6400, TAMRON 150-600 VC, 600mm

The 2022 interchangeable lens data from CIPA indicates that the market is split about 50/50 between interchangeable lenses designed for 35 mm and larger, and interchangeable lenses designed for cameras less than 35 mm.

Doing our own assessment of our photographic needs will lead to more appropriate investments… rather than jumping on a perceived bandwagon. For some photographers it may make sense to own more than one camera system.

The camera market is ever changing. Currently some brands like Canon, and to a lesser extent Nikon, are restricting third party lens manufacturers from producing lenses for their latest camera mounts. An article written a few months ago raised the possibility of these types of actions occurring more in the future.

A fundamental question that photographers need to ask themselves is whether they would still buy the brand of camera they are contemplating if third parties lenses from companies like Sigma and Tamron were no longer compatible. It isn’t hard to imagine a camera market in the future where third party lens manufacturers did not exist.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/2.8, 1/20, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking, cropped to 4593 pixels on the width, subject distance 295 mm

Selecting interchangeable lenses.

Once you’ve selected a camera body that suits your needs, camera kit considerations then turn to choosing lenses. There are a number of fundamental factors we usually consider in terms of our shooting style, the typical¬† photographic conditions we face, and lens type, speed, size, weight, and cost.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II @ 300 mm, f/6.7, 1/5000, ISO-800, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2677 pixels on the width, subject distance 5.7 metres

Sometimes lens selection can be very straightforward. For example, almost all of my wife’s photography is done outdoors in reasonable lighting conditions. She prefers small, lightweight camera equipment that provides a lot of flexibility in terms of focal range.

After a quick review of various lens options we decided that all she needed were a couple of zoom lenses (M.Zuiko 14-150mm f/4-5.6 II and M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 II).

Last year we made a quick trip out to Nova Scotia and all we took was her E-M1 Mark III and the M.Zuiko 14-150mm f/4-5.6 II. We found that it performed admirably during a visit to Peggy’s Cove.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-200, handheld in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 295 mm

My professional and personal needs were met by a total of 7 lenses divided into two basic kits. My indoor/low light/video kit is comprised of the M.Zuiko PRO 7-14mm f/2.8, M.Zuiko PRO 12-40mm f/2.8, M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko PRO 45mm f/1.2.

My outdoor/travel kit is comprised of the M.Zuiko 100-400mm f/5.-6.3 IS, M.Zuiko PRO 12-100mm f/4 IS, M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro, MC-14 and MC-20 teleconverters, and a set of extension tubes.

On occasion I will do some mixing and matching when I have a specific purpose in mind. For example, if I’m going out to specifically photograph flowers or macro subjects I will take the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150mm f/2.8, M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 macro, MC-14 and MC-20 teleconverters, and extension tubes.

Regardless of what you may read or watch online, there is no ‘best’ selection of lenses for a particular camera system. It always comes down to the specific needs of a particular photographer.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 244 mm, f/6.1, 1/250, ISO-1000, handheld in-camera focus stacking, full frame capture, subject distance 1.4 metres

Prime versus zoom lenses.

A basic consideration for most of us is whether we prefer to use prime versus zoom lenses. Although I’ve owned prime and zoom lenses with all of the interchangeable lens camera systems I’ve owned, I never liked using prime lenses.

Primes were always ‘speciality’ lenses to me, and usually used for video work or macro. My bread and butter photography lenses were always zoom lenses. There is no right answer to the prime versus zoom choice. It comes down to personal preference.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-4000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3581 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.8 metres

Constant versus variable aperture zooms.

Some photographers will choose a constant aperture zoom lens over one with a variable aperture if they want more flexibility when shooting in a variety of lighting conditions… especially lower light. Many constant aperture zooms come in either f/2.8 or f/4 configurations. The slower aperture f/4 zooms are typically smaller, lighter and less costly.

Depending on the camera format and brand chosen, there are sometimes variable aperture zoom lenses that can operate at f/4 or less. As such they can be a good alternative to an f/4 constant aperture zoom. An example is the Panasonic 12-60mm f/2.8-4 zoom.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 800 mm, f/13, 1/6400, ISO-6400, Pro Capture H, full frame capture, subject distance 3.6 metres

Sometimes the cost, size and weight of a particular constant aperture zoom lens may not make practical sense for a photographer. For example, I did not consider the M.Zuiko PRO 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25X as I could not justify the investment for the work I do… and did not want the additional size and weight of that particular lens.

Nikon 1 J4 + 1 Nikon 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 PD zoom and Nikon 1 WP-N3 waterproof housing, 10mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-400

Weatherproofing.

Another consideration is the degree of weatherproofing that makes sense for the type of photography that you do. Many folks don’t venture out in inclement weather so weatherproofing is a moot point for them. For other folks who’s passions are with nature and bird photography, weatherproofing may be a critical consideration. Using a rain sleeve may be a practical, and cost effective solution, for people who periodically use their gear in wet conditions.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/7.1, 1/15, ISO-200, in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 460 mm

Computational photography technologies.

There are competing views on the importance of computational photography technologies. Some traditional folks view these technologies as ‘cheating’ or as only a fad that will pass. Other people like me, see computational photography technologies as fundamental to the future of stand alone cameras.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 244 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3840 pixels on the width, subject distance 17.2 metres

On a personal basis I simply cannot imagine owning a camera that did not have a range of computational photography capabilities. I’d estimate that at least 75% of all of the images that I current create utilize some kind of computational photography technology. It could be Pro Capture. Handheld Hi Res. In-camera focus stacking. Live ND. Or an Intelligent Subject Tracking mode like Bird AI.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 454 mm, f/8.9, 1/1600, ISO-2500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3132 pixels on the width, subject distance 45.9 metres

These technologies have allowed me to expand what is possible with my photography, and I’ve come to rely on them as a part of my everyday approach to what I do. Obviously not every photographer will feel the same way as I do. The point here is for us to at least think about these technologies and decide whether they are of interest to us.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 200 mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-3200, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3900 pixels on the width, subject distance 4.2 metres

If computational photography technologies are of interest it is prudent to consider what actions individual camera manufacturers may do in terms of limiting compatibility. To me it seems reasonable to expect that compatibility will be restricted not only to being brand specific, but also to higher priced lens offerings. I believe that camera manufacturers will use computational photography technologies as important points of product differentiation for sales growth, and as a path to upsell their current users.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 18 mm, f/5,6m 1/50, ISO-400

The end of the entry level camera kit.

In my mind the convergence of two market forces… the decline in dedicated camera market volumes… and the advancement in Smartphone photography/video capabilities… will kill the entry level camera market. Manufacturers will simply not be able to build that type of camera gear with sufficient contribution margin for it to make economic sense for them. As a result, the resale value for this type of gear will fall to virtually nothing in the future. People planning to buy their first interchangeable lens camera kit today, will need to consider this potential in their overall plans.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III + M.Zuiko 14-150 mm f/4-5.6 II @ 25 mm, f/6.3, 1/320, ISO-200

Creative potential for the future.

I’ve been thinking about the creative potential that is currently available to photographers. When I’m out with my camera gear I’m still amazed with what I can create with it. Especially when compared to how limited that potential was only a few short years ago. Regardless of what sensor format best meets your needs, and the interchangeable lenses you may choose, the creative potential for the future for us as photographers is incredible.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from out-of-camera jpegs or RAW files using my standard process. For those readers who are interested in calculating equivalent field-of-view, multiply focal lengths for Olympus M4/3 cameras by a factor of 2 and Nikon 1 cameras by a factor of 2.7. This is the 1,257 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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8 thoughts on “Camera Kit Considerations”

  1. No argument there Tom. I guess we will always “want” more. As you have stated many times, there is no “perfect” camera or system but we certainly have lots to choose from. The used market will only get larger and much of the gear hardly used. Cheers.

  2. Hard to take a bad picture today at least from a technical standpoint. The modern equipment and in particular the smartphones with computational exposure gives everyone a clean capture without much knowledge or thought. Of course, photography is much more than exposure. Should the new camera market contract considerably, there will be always be the used market. There is plenty there to choose from especially over the last few years where the technology has likely reached a point where the photographer at any level has all he/she needs.

    1. Hi PK,

      I agree that modern equipment has advanced to the point that it is difficult to capture a bad picture. Whether folks have what they ‘need’ versus what they want is another thing.

      Tom

  3. I agree with your projections on where the market is going. The question is whether there will be enough people purchasing ILC equipment to support a competitive market from which we all benefit.

    1. Hi Lewsh,

      That is the big question… “whether there will be enough people purchasing ILC equipment to support a competitive market from which we all benefit”.

      We could speculate that if the market ends up contracting back to the ILC volumes that were common in the early part of the 1970s then we may very well see some companies leave the marketplace. How many, and which companies, will no doubt create a lot of discussion in various photographic chat rooms.

      The companies that survive will need to keep their costs tightly controlled, effectively manage their product portfolios, and create defensible product positions in the marketplace. I don’t keep up on the latest financial data and product developments in the market to be able to make any assessments of this nature.

      Canon restricting the use of its newest lens mount and Nikon taking a similar but less aggressive stance in this regard, seems to indicate some defensive strategic actions. We can also see this when manufacturers limit the compatibility of their computational photography technologies to their own brands of lenses and/or certain levels of products. While consumers may not like these types of actions, they make sense to me from a strategic perspective.

      Tom

  4. The ILC camera market will continue to lose ground against smart phones until they invest in computational software at greater levels than now. Except for telephoto shots, smartphones make it questionable for the rank and file to buy any ILC.

    1. Hi Lewsh,

      I agree with you that the dedicated camera market will continue to be under pressure from Smartphones.

      The latest data from CIPA is showing some year-over-year improvement with the ILC camera market… but it is modest. The fixed lens camera market continues to show declines. I remember back in 1974 when I bought my first interchangeable lens film camera with a few lenses. Back then ILC cameras were specialty goods that were purchased by three basic groups. Professional photographers… folks who needed an ILC for work… and dedicated hobbyists who had the financial capacity to support an expensive hobby. I think that’s the future of the ILC camera market today.

      Tom

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