Basic Digital Photography Kit – Digital DSLR Camera

by Mike on January 25, 2010

Basic Digital SLR Camera Kit

My digital camera adventure has been mostly pleasure, but if I had better information when I started I could have saved literally thousands of dollars.

Let’s start by saying that I did a lot of research before I purchased my kit. I looked at Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Olympus cameras before settling on the Olympus E-520. Why, because of the combination of cost, quality and size. I travel a lot so I wanted a smaller camera that could still give me great quality.

If you’re in the market for a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera, you’ll soon find out that you will be overwhelmed with choices, but it gets worse. Once you’ve decided on the camera, you now need to select lenses and other “accessories” such as lenses, flashes, filters, tripods, clamps, software and more… If you want to take good photos without the complications, consider a high-end point and shoot camera. They take great photos.

I love my Olympus, but I’m sure I would be satisfied with other camera brands as well. I don’t think you can go wrong with any major brand. You will find evangelist, especially for Canon and Nikon, who espouse their version of the truth. Listen if you will, but recognize it for what it is. I’m not going to try to convince you that Olympus is best. It’s just worked for me.

What Should Be in Your Basic Kit?

You’ve decided on you basic camera. Now you need at least one lens to use the camera. You will get the best value for the lowest price if you buy the camera body with a lens at the same time. I bought four lenses when I bought my camera, the wide angle came with the camera:

  • 14-42mm Wide Angle
  • 40-150mm Medium Telephoto
  • 70-300mm Super Telephoto
  • 35mm Macro

The lenses I use everyday are the first two. Of the two, I use the wide angle most, but I also use the medium telephoto at least once a day. I use the 70-300mm maybe once a week and the macro lens maybe once or twice a month. I take a lot of landscape photos, people photos, and real estate photos.

The Six Most Important Accessories

The first two are easy. An extra battery and at least one extra memory card. Don’t even think about it. You will need it.

Next, get a bag that will protect your investment. I use a $100 bag that I bought from Amazon (Wolverine). It’s traveled about 200,000 air miles without any problems at all. There are other bags that cost more than the camera body, but find something that will protect your gear.

I consider an external flash unit, a tripod and photo processing software as requirements for digital photography. One thing that just about everyone in the photographic world agrees on — the built-in flash unit on DSLR cameras is poor to useless.

A good external flash that fits on the camera shoe will improve flash photos more than you could believe. Better yet, get an external flash unit that can be used off camera as well. That’s one of the best features of the Olympus E-520 I bought, it has a built-in remote flash controller. I can use my external flash on the camera or off and still control it with the camera without an additional control device. A stand for the flash is cheap and should be considered as well.

Do you need a tripod? If you are going to get sharp photos, you need a tripod. I doesn’t need to be titanium. I paid $100 for mine and another $90 for the head and it works fine. I use the tripod for landscape photos and to get much sharper pictures when using the telephoto lenses. I carry it with me whenever I go for a shoot, even if I think I won’t need it.

Photo processing software is absolutely necessary. There’s no way around it. Your camera will come with a proprietary software package. You can use this, but for another $80, you can get Adobe Photoshop Elements. The current version is 8. There’s a ton of resources and tutorials available on the web for this software. You can try what comes with the camera, but if you can afford it go with Photoshop Elements for a fraction of the cost of the full version of Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture.

The Basic Kit

  • Camera Body
  • Camera Bag for Protection
  • Wide Angle Lens
  • Medium Telephoto Lens
  • Extra Battery
  • Extra Memory Card
  • External Flash
  • Tripod and Head
  • Photo Processing Software

After putting together the basic kit. Take 10,000 photos. After that, decide on what’s missing and go for it. Even if you have a big budget, I would recommend this path. It’s not what I did, but if I did it again, I would start with this kit.

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