by Andy Pickford

When anyone starts out in photography, we all make mistakes. We look at equipment on the internet and think “That looks like a good idea”, it arrives and then start to use it and find it might not be all we hoped it could be.  I want to try and help you avoid some of the pitfalls that I, and probably everyone else, has fallen into.

Try not to get GAS…. Gear Acquisition Syndrome.  Only buy what you really need, not what looks like the latest gadget.  It’ll sit in a drawer, you’ll never use it, and you’ll find it in five years’ time and wonder what you were thinking about when you bought.

Buying Guide:

The first tip is………BEWARE CHEAP ALTERNATIVES.  They are probably 10s or 100s of pounds cheaper for a reason.  Tripods are a good example of this.  If you buy a tripod for under £50, you will almost definitely regret it and end up looking at buying a better one within 12 months and spending more money.

The second tip is……. ASK THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE CLUB.  You will get loads of different opinions, but everyone at one time or another had to start from somewhere, and we’ve all built up our own knowledge and experience.

The third tip is ……… CONSIDER BUYING SECOND HAND.  People are always upgrading their kit, because manufacturers are always bringing out new versions, or new technologies (mirrorless cameras), so there is loads of good equipment out there.  You may be able to pick up a bargain, but make sure the supplier gives you a warranty.

Second hand places to look.

The fourth tip is……. CONSIDER THE MANUFACTURERS, but don’t make it the main choice.  Look at what is available for each different make of camera.  Some cameras have a range of lenses available, while others may only have a few.

Most of us don’t know if we want to specialise in one type of photography when we start, but if you do want to specialise in landscape, action, macro, or any other specific type of photography etc. look at what kit is designed for that work.

When looking for a camera consider:

  • Sensor size and Mega pixels.  The bigger the sensor size the more light and detail the camera can capture.
  • Range of lenses that are available.  The wider the range that are available the more chance you’ll be able to do what you want with the camera.
  • Battery capacity.  Higher capacity means more photos before you have to re-charge.
  • Reviews, including asking club members.
  • Go and try in person, if you can, because camera choice is a personal experience.  The feel of the camera in your hand makes a big difference to the experience.  (Suggestions of local camera shops that still exist are):
    • London Camera Exchange – Derby and Chester
    • Jessops in Derby
    • Wex Photo in Birmingham
    • Peter Rodgers – Stafford

When looking for lenses consider:

  • Compatibility with camera
  • Lens mount.  Make sure the lens will fit your camera.
  • Lens version or sensor size. Ensure if your camera is full frame (techie words, see club members for explanation), the lens is the full frame version.
  • Maximum aperture. The wider the maximum aperture (lower f number) the more light the lens will let in.
  • Quality of lens.  You get what you pay for, buy the best quality you can with in your budget.

When looking for tripods consider:

  • What it’s made from.  The materials used will dictate how strong it is, and how rigid it is.
  • Height when set up. How high up your camera can be on the top of it.
  • Height when collapsed. How big is it to carry around.
  • Number of leg sections.  The more sections the legs are made up of the smaller it will pack down too, but the more work it is it set up and collapse, and the weaker the legs will be.
  • Leg Locks.  Normally either twist or lever locks.  Personal preference to which one you like.
  • Maximum weight that the tripod will support.  Know how much your camera and lens weighs so you don’t get a tripod that won’t support it.

At the end of the day you just want to be able to take photographs that you like.