Things to buy

While we are not a camera shop, we’re often asked to recommend things that will help people with their photography. Many people find that camera shops have a vested interest in selling the most expensive items, and that camera clubs are sometimes competitive and uncomfortable.

Having been recommending certain inexpensive products for some years, we thought it would be useful to have a place on the site where people can find things and buy them if they like. We’ll put a bit of an explanation with the item to explain why you might want to buy the thing. As frugal professionals we make all our kit pay it’s way, and we don’t recommend things that are barely useful. All the stuff we recommend will make a noticeable difference to your photography!

50mm f1.8 lens
For most people, the 50mm 1.8 is the first lens to buy beyond the kit lens that came with the camera. The wide aperture lets in about ten times the light that a kit f5.6 lens would. This means you can photograph in lower light, and get a professional-looking blurry background. Sadly, this lens will not autofocus on a D40, D60, D3000 or D5000 series – you’ll need the 50mm f1.8 AF-S lens. 50mm 

28-105mm “Portrait lens”
Our favourite people lens is this flexible short telephoto. On a crop-sensor camera this is the perfect length for people photography with a reasonable aperture. It also has a useful macro feature for focusing on subjects a couple of inches away. If we were only allowed one lens it would be this one.Tamron 10-24mm “Wideangle” lens
Someone brought one of these to a course and we loved it so much we bought one of our own. It gives a far wider view than the 18mm of the standard kit lenses, and has reasonable distortion etc. It is also about half the price of the Nikon equivalent.85mm f1.8 “Rock gig” lens
85mm is a traditional length for portraits, but on a crop sensor camera it acts as a fixed 130mm telephoto with an amazing wide aperture. So you get a longish zoom, and low light ability for a reasonable price. It’s long and unwieldy for most uses, but for gigs, stand-up comedians, political speeches etc. it’s great!70-200mm 2.8 VR
This enormous, expensive but versatile lens is commonly used by wedding, portrait, sports and press photographers. On a crop sensor camera it will act as a 105-300mm while still maintaining a huge 2.8 aperture. If you fancy one of these monsters and have the budget, you won’t be disappointed, but you might want to rent one for a weekend first to see how you get on.Metz 36 AF 4 Flashgun
Buying a decent flashgun is a must if you work in poor light – the little pop-up flashgun has very limited uses. Rather than go with Nikon’s limited SB-400, why not try this flashgun for similar money but much more flexibility? The tilting head means you can bounce light from the ceiling or behind the photgrapher giving even, natural light.Nikon SB-600 Flashgun
The Nikon equivalent of the Metz does a few tricks you’ll hardly ever want to do, and the SB-800 and SB-900 do even more. We love our SB-800 flashes, but we never use the features that distinguish them from the SB-600, so we’d save the money! Nikon flashguns last for years, so if you think you’re going to upgrade it’s a good idea to start with a good one.