Recommended "First-Timer" Gear

I'm often asked what type of camera to get.  This section is dedicated to you.

The choices are DSLR, mirrorless or compact.  Personally, I just can't get past the superior handling of a DSLR, excellent battery life and intuitive operation.  Others will have perfectly valid different opinions.

In my humble opinion the best choice is The Canon SL3.  It is the smallest DSLR available today so you have some of the "size" benefits of the other camera types along with the benefits of a DSLR.  The SL3, too, is remarkably intuitive.  It, for the most part, has everything that most will ever need (including the very advanced Dual Pixel AF in 1080p and DIGIC 8 Processing for some really good low-light/high-ISO performance).  I just can't say enough about its quality, design and value.

The only criticism of The SL3 is that Canon eliminated the center rail on the flash mount making it incompatible with non-Canon flashes and lighting systems.  Probably a non-issue for most.

If an issue, though, you might consider the Canon 77D (on the bottom of this Page).  The 77D is still compact, has a few extra features (like Back-Button Focus/AF-ON) and "better" build quality.  It sits in between the Rebel Series and the 90D (but really only lacks a headphone input).

A word of caution about GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).  If you start getting really into it you may have an urge to try out all kinds of lenses and gear and look to frequently update.  This natural phenomena must be resisted.  This SL3 kit lens, for example, is surprisingly GREAT.  Stick with that for awhile.  You can get an ultra wide angle and not use it a lot and/or various "better" zoom and prime lenses that are incrementally better, but it can get out of control fast.  Improving skill is your friend.

Speaking of that, Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Exposure" is a quintessential book to start with.

And, of course, please don't hesitate to email any questions to me at .

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Canon SL3 w/18-55mm


There's so many choices and here's the one that I flat-out love.  It's just GREAT and, combined with your growing skills, will result in exceptional photographs.

This camera will do most things.

The EW-63C Lens Hood

32GB Memory Card


The SanDisk Extreme PRO SDHC Card is probably the best one and 32GB is A LOT of space.  Many prefer a few of these vs. one larger card.  I tend to have 3 on hand at all times (even though I mostly just use one).

Domke F-803 Camera Bag


This is an amazing bag.  Fits everything, is super-durable, very stylish and is uncannily not wide.  The zippered pockets and extra compartments really top it off.  It's less expensive to do it right the first time.

Canon 85mm f/1.8


One of the most classic of all lenses.  Ideal for portraits, indoor sports, street, etc.  Astounding image quality.  Exceptional for low-light and beautiful backgrounds.

The ET-65III Lens Hood

67mm Polarizing Filter


Boost saturation and contrast (and reduce haze and reflections) for rich landscape and sky colors in bright sunlight.  Rotate clockwise (to not accidentally unscrew) for desired effect.  Step-Up Ring to use with 58mm lenses.

Canon LP-E17 Battery


One of the many advantages of DSLRs is the great battery life so chances are that you won't need a 2nd battery, but something to possibly consider for extended trips or vacations.  Always buy original Canon. 

Canon 430EX III-RT


You'll always need an on-camera flash so I'd keep it simple and start here.  Even if you go all-in one day with off-camera lighting you'll still get a lot of use from this one.  Very easy to operate and the ideal place to start.

AA Batteries + Charger


The Panasonic eneloop pro Batteries are the best rechargeable batteries that I'm aware of.  They seem to never run out, but the charger is included anyway.  This charger also works with eneloop pro AAA batteries.

DEMB Classic Flip-It


Learn everything you can about Bounce Flash.  I've tried many modifiers and like this one the best.  Awesome when there's nothing to bounce off of; and even when there is (to fill in shadows).  Check out these instructions.

MeFOTO RoadTrip Tripod


This is a stunning option.  Possibly all that you'll ever need and a tremendous value.  One leg screws off to become a monopod.  Just be sure to turn the image stabilization off on your lens when on a tripod.

Canon Shutter Release


The Canon RS-60E3 Shutter Release will come in handy when on a tripod.  You can use the camera's timer, but this will ensure that there is no camera-shake.  And I personally prefer the simplicity of wired (to bluetooth).

6-Stop ND Filter


The highest-quality neutral density filter available (from Breakthrough Photography) for long exposures - flowing water, clouds, etc.  6-stops is the one to get if you get just one.  Step-Up Ring to use with 58mm lenses.

Collapsible WB Target


This is worth it (if you don't mind the high cost).  Use your camera's White Balance settings or do a Custom WB to calibrate your camera to mixed lighting for spectacular results.  It's easy and periodically important.

SpyderX Pro Calibration


The SpyderX Pro calibrates your computer's monitor to the room's lighting for accurate colors.  It's an extremely cool device and is very simple and precise.  Probably essential if you get into shooting in RAW one day.

Rode VideoMic Pro+


If you're going to get into video you might as well go all-in with this mic (for superior audio).  It's the industry standard for consumer mics.  The instruction is excellent, but also check out my DSLR Video article if you like.

Think Tank Travel Bag


The Think Tank Hubba Hubba Hiney is a very nice and easy-to-carry smaller bag for travel or anytime you'd like to travel light.  This is the brand new version.  You're covered with this and the one above or just this.

SanDisk Card Reader


There's different ways of downloading pictures and video; with the SanDisk UHS-I SD Card Reader a favorite of many (for those who use a card reader).  Fast (up to 170 MB/s), easy and very high quality.

2 TB External Hard Drive


An external hard drive is not a bad idea for backup and this is a great option.  They all say to get at least 2 TBs.  More seems like a little overkill.  Compatible with Windows.  Requires a simple reformatting for Mac.

2-Stop (.6) Soft-Edge GND


Formatt-Hitech makes the best value graduated neutral density filters.  Often used to balance out a bright sky with a darker foreground.  A 2-stop soft is probably the most common if you were to get just one.

Cokin Wide Angle Holder


Cokin sets the standard for the best value in GND accessories.  This "wide" version prevents or minimizes vignetting with very wide angle lenses so you'll be completely fine with almost any lens with threads on the front.

Cokin 67mm Adapter Ring


Screw this onto your lens with 67mm threads to attach the filter holder to.  Cokin, again, setting the standard for value and quality.  Super easy.  Use This Adapter Ring for lenses with 58mm threads or a 58-67mm Step-Up Ring.

Rogue 2-in-1 32" Reflector


Often used for fill light both indoors and out and/or to focus on and define the subject.  The white side is normally the default option, but silver is sometimes great for a brighter look.  Collapsible and some say essential.

Neewer LED Video Kit


A GREAT 2-light option that you can power with the enclosed plug-in cables or batteries.  Comes with stands, detachable barn doors and removable diffusion panels.  Very well built and comes with 2 cases.  

15 Pound Sandbag


Not a terrible idea to anchor your light stands with a 15 pound sandbag.  Not overly essential indoors, but not overly not essential.  15 pounds is the right weight and will also serve you well if you get into off-camera lighting.

Canon 77D w/18-55mm


This is arguably the best of the Canon crop-sensor cameras, but I'd still stick with The SL3 unless you need the features.  The image quality on them all is about the same.

The EW-63C Lens Hood

Canon 55-250mm IS STM


The image quality that comes out of this lens almost doesn't make sense for the price.  A very good choice for outdoor sports/events or indoors where the light isn't terrible.  An extreme value.

The ET-63 Lens Hood

Canon 10-18mm IS STM


A very wide angle lens for real estate, vlogging, landscapes and creativity.  An ultra wide angle lens is generally not used in landscapes to get it all in, but to get up close to highlight the foreground.

The EW-73C Lens Hood

Canon 24mm Pancake Lens


This is an amazing lens offering phenomenal image quality.  Paired with The Canon SL3 for the best travel camera known to man.  Consider This Step-Up Ring for 67mm filters.

The ES-52 Lens Hood

Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM


The 24mm Lens and this lens is a world-class combo for the serious enthusiast.  Will definitely give you the tools to reach a very high level.  Consider This Step-Up Ring for 67mm filters.

The ES-68 Lens Hood

52" Translucent Reflector


This outstanding device is for blocking out harsh sunlight when shooting outdoor portraits.  Pair with a good Reflector for outrageous results.  You'll need an assistant or two, but is worth the hassle if you have the time.