5 Critical Mistakes to Avoid When Buying New Camera Gear

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The day you’re finally in the market for a new camera gear is certainly an exciting one when you’re a photographer. Visions dance in your head of all the killer shots you’ll be capturing with a sleek new set-up. You get excited about finally having gear that not only meets your current needs, but that you can grow with into the future as well.

However, it goes without saying, that the buying process can be daunting to say the least. There’s a lot to choose from out there! You want to make absolutely sure that what you buy is actually worth the investment you’re about to make.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

In this article I’ll go over some of the most important (and most common) mistakes to avoid when shopping for a new camera or any other piece of photography equipment.

Mistake #1. Taking advice from the wrong person

It’s normal, and wise, to ask for other people’s advice before you finalize a major buying decision. However, it’s important to get it from the right sources. It’s not enough for someone to simply sound like they know what they’re talking about.

Do they actually know what they’re talking about? Is this someone that really knows their way around a camera, and could be considered an expert when it comes to photography gear? Do they actually understand all of the features associated with the item you’re shopping for well enough to have an informed opinion? You should be able to say “yes” with assurance to all of these questions. You need to make sure the person actually understands your unique needs, and the many ways they might differ from theirs.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

I need this camera for the work I do, but you may not need one so large. Get what’s appropriate for your needs.

Avoid buying anything just because another photographer you know has one, or because all the online reviews say it’s the one to have. Definitely don’t buy on the say-so of one person, who may or may not really understand photography. Ask for advice from trusted experts and take it for what it’s worth – a great tool that can help you make a decision. Even the best advice isn’t a proper substitute for research and careful comparison shopping.

Mistake #2. Assuming quality is equal to price

Yes, good quality gear should be considered an investment. It’s most definitely a purchasing decision that should be made with care, especially if you’re a professional photographer or hope to become one. However, it’s important not to simply assume that a higher price tag automatically equals a better item.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

Do your research and due diligence.

Even if money isn’t personally an issue for you, paying more money doesn’t guarantee that your purchase will actually meet your needs. It doesn’t guarantee you the spectacular photos you’ve been dreaming about either. Even great photography equipment is only going to be as good as the person actually taking the photos.

Focus less on the price tag, and more on whether or not a given item is right for you, especially when buying a camera. Does it fit your current skill level? Are you familiar with all of the functions and tools it comes with? According to your research, is it a good fit for the type of photography you do? Lots of bells and whistles, and tons of different settings won’t do you any good if you either won’t use them, or don’t understand them.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

Mistake #3. Failing to budget properly

Proper planning is the key to success when it comes to many endeavours, and shopping for a new camera or photography gear is no different. A big part of that is budgeting, and there are a number of ways people can stumble in that arena.

Many drastically overestimate what they’re likely to get in exchange for their money. An outrageously expensive camera won’t magically allow a beginner to somehow start pulling off National Geographic quality images. Nor will world class photography skills make up for a cheap camera, that’s incapable of taking professional quality pictures.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

A lot of shoppers also fail to factor the full cost of all the accessories they’ll need into their budget. Okay, so you did your homework when it comes to the camera you’ll need in order to take your landscape photography to the next level. But, did you also remember to consider the lenses you’ll require? What about the batteries, tripods, memory cards, and everything else? It’s important to be thorough from the get-go.

Mistake #4. Becoming distracted by bargains and specials

So you’re finally ready to walk into the photography shop and make your purchases. You’ve done your homework. You’ve figured out which camera is right for your needs, both present and future. You’ve even picked out the accessories and other tools you’ll need to go with it. You’re sure you know exactly what you’re looking for.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

Then you get inside, and see all the signs advertising special deals on this, and bargain pricing on that. Do you lose your focus, or do you remind yourself that item isn’t really what you went there for? Hopefully it’s the latter.

Never buy any piece of photography gear just because it’s displayed under a flashy sign, or a salesman insists that it’s what you really want. If something sounds way too good to be true, it probably is. Keep your eye on the prize, and make sure you walk out of that shop with what you actually need.

Mistake #5. Not being realistic enough

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

Most of us entertain really big dreams that we hope will come true someday, when it comes to our interest in photography. However, it’s important to ask yourself whether those dreams are realistic as far as the near future goes, before you actually sink your money into them.

Are you brand new to photography, but already picture yourself traveling the world, making big money as a travel photographer within a couple of months? Are you shopping based on a desire to jump straight into professional photography with a ton of new, expensive gear, even though you’ve never used anything more complicated than the Instagram app on your iPhone?

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

Make sure you’re not getting ahead of yourself when it comes to what you think you’ll accomplish, by spending lots of money on new camera gear right now. Shop according to what your needs and skill level are currently, not what you’re hoping they’ll be “someday”. You’re that much more likely to be happy with your purchases not only now, but in the years to come as well.

If you have any other gear buying tips, please share in the comments below. What is your though process?

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Destin Sparks is a self-taught photographer based in Brisbane, Australia. Sparks harnesses the power of digital & film, medium format cameras, to capture rare and beautiful landscapes around the world. Predominately known for his panoramic prints, Sparks also shares his expertise via photo tours and workshops. For more of Sparks’ work follow him on Instagram or 500px.

  • Leyden

    Ok, my situation: retired on a limited income, hobbyist.. Experienced with a film SLR, but still a ‘picture taker’ or hopefully, a beginning photographer. I purchased a T1i when it was ‘new’ and I’m still learning there are a lot of tricks I don’t know ( or haven’t thought of), but I’m progressing. I’ve been using Lightroom ( learning on the cheap -THANKS DPS) and I’m thinking the newest T series Canon will be a good next step.
    That being said I also covet glass beyond the long and short kit lenses that came with the T1i – nifty 50’s are cost effective, but a ‘C’ sensor seems to dictate something in the 28-35 range which is a different price category -or- an ‘all-in-one’ if I start playing the lottery and win.
    Now that I understand tripods [and heads], an upgrade in that arena is on the short list too. I don’t regret going cheap the first time, but as I was warned they are quite limiting.

    All your advice is right on, for more than just foto gear…..

    Thanks

  • Hi Leyden, glad to hear you’ve stuck with photography as a hobby over the years. Agreed, lenses and glass can be expensive especially when photography isn’t your profession, it can be harder to justify the costs. Don’t be afraid to invest in third party lenses such as Tamron & Sigma, though quality of lenses should be reviewed carefully on case by case basis before making purchases.

    I can certainly attest to a good quality tripod. Since tripods rarely come out with new and improved models shelling out for a good quality, light weight carbon fiber tripod in the early days will last you many years to come.

  • Harold Mayo

    I would look at buying used lenses (from a reputable dealer is recommended). Canon has some wonderful older EOS lenses that should be cheap now (24, 28 f2.8 or the 35 f2). I am still using a Canon 50 f1.4 that I bought used for under $200, cosmetically it wasn’t the best, however it takes wonderful pictures.

    If you want to play around with manual lenses, look at some of the old FD & m42 mount lenses (like the Helios 44-2 & Takumar) and get a cheap adapter. My Takumar 55 1.8 is very good optically and can be had for $50 (Adapter was $10).

    Regarding tripods, I would look at the used market for tripods too. I picked up a top of the line Carbon Fiber Induro at extends to 80″ tall for 40% of the original price.

    Hope that helps

  • Harold Mayo

    I find that as my gear and technique improve, I start noticing the limitations of my lenses. For example, 3 1/2 years ago I had the Canon 5Dc & 7D, so I bought the Tokina 16-28 lens. It is a very good lens shot wide open at 16-24mm. Perfect for landscapes. However, for Astro & night time photography it has 2 issues that became a big concern: it has bad coma & it flares horribly. I could work around the flares if I am careful, but the coma ruined perfectly good photos by making the stars look like UFO’s. So just recently I upgraded to a lens that is great for landscapes, night & astrophotography.

    So what is the solution when new & better lenses are released every few months?

  • Granted we do seem to be going through a lens period where manufactures are coming out with new and improved lenses pretty consistently. Though historically most lenses tend to have a 5+ year life span. One bonus is that lenses hold their value, so selling off old equipment to finance new purchases makes good financial sense. Curious to know which lens you decided on for your nightscapes.

  • Jerus Ortiz

    Hello, I’m deciding on buying either a new lens (my current options are Sigma 17-70 2.8-4, or the 17-50 2.8) or a new body (D7100). I’m currently using a D3200 w/ 35 1.8G and 18-55 kit which I almost don’t really use anymore. For the past 3 years, I’ve been shooting punk/hardcore shows (mostly low light), my little problem is that the 35mm is not so wide for me and I’m having problems with the quality of ISO 800 and above. For the lens, I wanted to have a multi-purpose lens that can cover a decent wide and reach. What would you recommend? Thanks!

  • It can be a tough call when choosing between upgrading a body or upgrading lenses. Most photographers will tell you to invest in good glass before you upgrade the camera. I’ve had no personal experience with either lens though my understanding is that the 17-50mm is the sharper of the two. The 17-70mm however is equally compact and lightweight but has the extra reach making it more versatile. It’s only shortfall is the lack of constant aperture and perhaps a touch soft at the end of the ranges which is to be expected.

    When shooting with the Sigma 17-70mm, something to keep in mind is at 48mm the widest aperture is still quite good at f3.5. Then at 49-70mm the aperture then drops to f4.

    Upgrading to the D7100 will see a mild bump in low light but perhaps not the dramatic improvement you’d expect. The real improvement there is the ease of manual control, build quality and focus.

    My recommendation would be to try and rent each combination for a solid period of time to really test them in your own environment.

    The third lens option would be look at something like the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 if you’re shooting mostly wide aperture and wide angle. A slightly more pricey option but beautiful optics. It’d probably be my choice, though we’re all unique in our shooting styles.

    Something to keep in mind is that none of the above lenses are specifically suited to full frame cameras if you ever decide to go that route.

    Hope that helps.

  • Leyden, that’s not unlike my own situation, though I am not retired yet. My first DSLR, after years of 35mm film, was the Canon 450d (one model older than the T1i). I scrapped the kit lenses a long time ago and moved to a Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 (new – nice lens, reasonably priced) and Canon 70-300 UMC (used and reasonably priced). I then upgraded to a used 60d body for the better manual control and low light handling.
    BUT – my “lightweight” kit is the old 450D with the 24mm “pancake” and “nifty fifty” lenses alongside and old, very light, Chinon 100mm macro (cost me £30). I find this an excellent combination to walk around with, and a lot lighter than the 60d with either of the other lenses.

  • Harold Mayo

    I could have probably lasted another 6 months with the Tokina, however I wouldn’t have gone out twice last month to shoot the Milky Way.

    I purchased the Sigma 20 F1.4 Art. It isn’t perfect of course, but it gives me 2 extra stops of light so I can shoot with ISO 400-800 for the night skies.

  • rijopr

    Hi Destin,
    I am not at all a professional photographer.I want good good pics to come out during my family gathering and travelling that i do occasionally.I am thinking to buy a new camera.What should I look for. I have a budget of Rs.20,000 to Rs.25,000.

  • Hans Heisenberg

    Easy Peasy :). Sell everything and get D7100 and Sigma 17-50mm. That’s the best way!

  • Hi Rijopr, you could take look at some of the bridging style camera’s offered by either Sony or Canon. These cameras are essentially a ‘compact camera’ that don’t allow for detachable lenses but offer a larger flexibility in zoom range. They can be great for travel as they’re also less expensive and more compact than an SLR.

    If you have your heart set on an SLR which will provide better images and better performance in low light. Something like the Nikon D3XXX series would be a good option. By buying it with just a standard lens it won’t offer much in the way of zoom but its a system you can always build on.

    If its within your budget I’d look at getting a twin lens kit with the Nikon.

  • Jerus Ortiz

    I’m probably choosing the 17-50 over the 17-70 mainly because of the constant aperture. f2.8-4 might be a little hard in low light although it is very good for travel. The 18-35 might be too pricey for me at this point, but might consider it in the future. Thanks Destin.

  • Jerus Ortiz

    Yeah maybe a good decision, I’ll think about it. Thanks 🙂

  • JP

    What about Panasaonic GH4? I heard it’s a good camera for slowmotion and taking videos. It’s pretty expensive so I want to know if it will be worth all the money that I will be spending. Thank you!

  • My personal buying advice (in a few points) is to:

    1) Go in an actual store and try the stuff you want to buy or rent it for a day or two to know what it’s like to use it. My personal mistake was to order my first “serious” camera on the Internet as a full set with accessories and two lenses (on top of incredibly expensive import fees that I didn’t know of beforehand), eventually selling or giving everything except the camera within a few months. I did keep the camera and it was good enough for my needs then, but if I had tried the gear I might have chosen other lenses.

    2) Choose the store properly. Around where I live, there are many camera stores, but most of them are focused on selling, selling and selling, profit, profit and profit. The clerks are more interested by their spiff than by what the customer needs. If you choose a proper store with good customer service, everyone in there can actually help you properly choose what you need and yes, maybe they’ll make you change your mind, in the end, but it might be a very good thing. And sometimes, good deals aren’t necessarily too good to be true.

    3) Try to consider the good AND bad of what you want to buy. We recently had a customer (yes, I do work in a camera store, although I’m mostly printing photos and, when I do sell, I always try to be very honest and very customer-oriented) who came in wanting a 70-200mm f/2.8 because it’s “what everyone needs for weddings”. They came back eventually saying that it’s way too heavy. Are you ready to carry that shiny new gear? Maybe not, in which case you might want to aim for something smaller, easier to bring.

    This said, the article has very good points! Especially the first one. We have so many people wanting to buy X camera because their cousin has it, or Y lens because “every [insert photography style] photographer” has it.

  • Hey Amaryllis, some excellent additional points there. Though I must admit, I probably would have recommended the 70-200mm 2.8 for wedding purposes too. But this is one of those things that hiring before you buy or dealing with a local store will help to eliminate. What setup suits one person may not necessarily suit another.

    Thanks for your contribution.

  • Is it mostly video you’re interested in? If so the GH4 is an excellent purchase. If you’re mostly interested in stills and want to dabble in some video there’s probably a better option.

  • Further to this, there is an article on DPS about bridge cameras http://digital-photography-school.com/bridge-camera-what-is-it-and-is-it-for-me/

  • Brenda2124
  • miker33

    Have to disagree with a couple points under #2: “Does it fit your current skill level? Are you familiar with all of the functions and tools it comes with?”

    Skill level isn’t static. If you’re still learning, still growing as a photographer, and still working to become better, there’s nothing wrong with reaching for gear you can grow into. When I upgraded from my Canon T3i to my 70D, there was probably a few things I didn’t know about the T3i. And a LOT I didn’t know about the 70D. But using the 70D and learning those things made me, and my photos, better.

    Sure, if you buy expensive gear and don’t bother to learn how to use it, then that’s a waste. But on DPS, the audience here does want to learn.

  • Charlie Floyd

    I find that there are few real photography equipment stores in most areas. I live in Nashville, TN and I am aware of only one camera store in the city or surrounding area. Just how do you get to pick up a camera, check it out and find someone around who knows anything about camera functions. This is especially true in the big box stores. I MISS the old style Mom and Pop kind of camera stores where you could go, talk photography, check out the cameras and maybe even try one out.

  • Hi Charlie, that is unfortunate. Here in Australia we still have quite a few smaller camera stores. They are mostly chains rather than a true Mom & Pop store but we lack anything remotely similar to B&H or Adorama. Online retail does seem to be killing off some of the little guys…. all the more reason for us to support them when we can.

  • You make a good point Miker, there are some tools and gear you can grow into for sure. All within reason of course.

  • Dr Reg Fardell

    Destin. Good article. What I find frustrating is that ‘gap’ – a gap in both expertise with photography and cameras that match the budget. For example, I am an amateur enthusiast – strictly amateur – and I don’t want a career in photography, just good shots and easy post production software. I have a Nikon DSLR but am increasingly attracted to the bridge camera range. With DSLR’s they are usually bulky and every time you change the lens you increase the risk of getting dust on the sensor – and you have a problem you are stuck with. The attraction of bridge cameras is that you don’t need to change the lens but you still seemingly get good quality results, especially zoomed shots. But, and the big but, is that the better bridge cameras are seemingly more expensive that a lot of DSLR’s (Camera body only). So, as a hobby enthusiast I would like to switch to a bridge camera but the expense is relatively prohibitive. I could probably replace the camera body of my Nikon for less. Any suggestions? PS I live in Australia too.

  • Hi Dr Reg. The size and flexibility of bridge cameras can certainly be attractive, along with the weight savings too. In terms of selling off your current SLR to replace it with a bridge camera I’d take a good look at your shooting style before doing so. One thing that isn’t initially clear when comparing the two is the better low light capabilities (and higher ISO) of SLR’s. Something people tend to make use of without realising it. Especially when birding or shooting wildlife and fast shutter speeds are required.

    A bridge will perform well in a nice brightly lit scene but it certainly starts to fall behind as soon as things get a bit darker (even under trees).

    If you’re set on a bridge and can’t justify the cost perhaps look at a previous model. Bridge cameras tend to be superseded every 12 months but the upgrades aren’t always necessarily quality wise. You can often pick up last years model at a heavily discounted price. I’d be less inclined to buy second hand as the life expectancy isn’t as long when it comes to compact cameras.

    Have you looked at any of the micro/four thirds options? More specifically something like the Olympus OM-D’s with an all in one type lens? It could be the best of both worlds. I wouldn’t hesitate buying one second so long as its been well looked after.

  • Rijopr

    I feel like I am away from this one( Mistake #1. Taking advice from the wrong person). Thank you for reply.After your reply I think I will start looking at SLR cameras.There is always a starting for every thing.I will start trying them.

  • Stephen Eather

    Great article Destin, created a lot of interest. I’ve chosen to use a Sony A6000 which I love. It’s compact, light and punches well above its weight. Apart from a Sony 24-70 and a Sigma 30, I have 2 classic Minolta lenses from the 80’s (24-70 & 80-200) which work incredibly well with an adapter. If you’re budget minded, similar lenses can be found on eBay. Best idea is to join a camera club and find a mentor to assist with your knowledge and growth. Thankfully there is still a “mum and dad” camera shop or 2 in Brisbane (where I live). Keep up the great work mate, regards, Steve.

  • Hello fellow Brisbanite you make a really good point about having a mentor. The Meetup site is also a good source of active photography groups. Back when I was running regular events using Meetup, even without ‘teaching’ per say, participants found so much value in the group. Everyone was sharing what gear they had, what they recommended, what they’d learned and where to buy things from.

    There are some amazing cameras coming out from Sony as of late. I’m keen to see where it pushes the camera industry moving forward.

    Thanks for stopping by.

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  • Alan Bryer

    Bit late to the party Reg, I sold all my DSLR kit back in 2009 due to all my carry on when going on holiday was my photography gear. Started off with Fuji bridge cameras and then last year brought a Nikon P610 bridge. Very good camera but I found myself lacking with the total flexibility a DSLR gives. Now I have brought a cheap Canon, a small selection of lenses and filters to suit and a couple of other necessary bits. Now if holidaying at home I take all my kit and if going on a flight I have the Nikon.

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  • Ernest

    Miker33,

    I beg to disagree wth you miker33.

    The problem with buying a gear above your skill level is if you eventually loose interest in photography, that expensive gear becomes a waste. I know of a guy who sold his Canon 1DX after 3 months of use with less than 200 shutter counts after realizing that photography was not for him.I know because I bought the camera off him for a bargain on ebay!.

    Enthusiasts forget that sustaining your interest in photography has a lot to do with self motivation! I believe that you should not buy a gear above your skill level until you are sure you will use it. Sure there is fun in acquiring all sorts of photography gear.We have all been there. However, the bigger fun in photography is using what you have and using it well.

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