Gave someone advice on some gear today. I have probably posted something along these lines together before but I thought a nice short summary of my today advice might serve a few people out there so here it is. First things first - let's get the cliches and other stuff out of the way. It's not the camera it's the photographer, it doesn't matter what camera you use, you can make a good picture with anything, blah, blah, blah.
All truisms - all mean the same thing your stuff that sucks hard will still suck just as hard with new gear or better gear so definitely spend more effort making images that going on and on about gear. Guess what - we all depend on the stuff and all the people that spew the truisms all have the best gear money can buy. The guys that tell you that the best images are made close to home all have made their best images in exotic locales. So let's just stop it for a second.
Now that that's out of the way we can go with the other cliche - the camera doesn't matter always get good glass and a shitty camera. Hmmm okay - sounds great but what the hell does that actually mean. Can you buy bad glass now? If you buy the absolutely best possible glass is that going to make a difference on a really really old shit camera? WTF? How about some useful advice.
Unfortunately if you want to shoot digital the camera actually does make a fairly substantial difference in IQ if you need it for your pictures. Not quite as level a playing field as the film days where we could all shoot the same film. Thank goodness they make some really fantastic cameras for that are affordable at the moment.
Make the call of DX or FX, APS-C/4:3 or "full frame" up to you and get the absolute best sensor you can - yes do that before you even think about glass. If you go "full frame" you have it made with any current body all of them have outstanding image quality from just about any point of view. If you go APS-C anything about D7000 or about there like a 7D or the new D7000 or any of the cheaper but same sensor cameras will do fine. Same goes for Fujis = about same vintage as D7000. A serious leap in my book compared to the prior generation.
If you go Micro 4:3 the OM-D 5 is the answer and whatever comes out that is as good or better. Prior to that there are issues for what could be considered decent IQ now. Okay now that you decided that we can move on to the glass.
In the Canon/Nikon line-up which will be a lot of you, skip the most expensive stuff. Seriously don't even think about the fastest bestest stuff. Skip the L series, skip the Nikon lenses over $1000 altogether don't even think you need it or will ever see the difference. Here's what to do…
Get two of the following lenses. The 1.4 or 1.8 50mm current models of Nikon or the 1.4 Canon. Then either the 1.8 AF-D or G version of Nikon 85mm. For canon go with the 1.8 85mm they have made forever. On the wide-ish side go for the Nikon 28mm 1.8G. On the canon side get the new Sigma 35mm. That's it. Two of the above. You can make anything you like at stunning quality fairly light weight in a small kit with two of these depending on your bent. I would choose a 50mm and an 85mm. Someone else might do better with the 28/35 and 85 or the 50. You could shoot these forever. I have shit loads of glass and usually shoot my 50mm or my shitty 85 1.8 AF-D. That translates to $600-ish of glass on the used market. It's fantastic glass just as good as anything else in the line up. Skip the zooms - skip the 1.2/1.4 versions that are way over $1000.
The shot at the top as usual is my ancient 85mm 1.8 AF-D. Here it is in all 100% pixel glory - open in new window to see all the pixels…
If you go with Fuji you are in luck - buy any two focal lengths they have - skip the zoom and you have fantastic glass at very reasonable prices. Less than a thousand for two of the normal ones. Micro 4:3. Again go for the new Oly primes - just two. Done. Keep it simple. Your back, your wallet, and your psychological heath with thank you. Everything I listed will knock your socks of in IQ unless you are doing something wrong on just about any camera available that that glass fits on.
If you disagree with me than you already know exactly what you need and why you need it. So this was not meant for you. Also not meant for sports dudes or people that shoot birds. It's meant for people that shoot normal subjects at normal distances.
Alternatively just get a Fuji X100/X100s and be done with the whole gear chasing. Seriously, this advice was given to someone that was stressing over switching camera brands (she has a really old APS-C sensor camera) and couldn't afford it because she has a 24-70 pro zoom and they cost so so much and and… Okay don't switch just get a new body of same brand. Actually sell the 24-70 and buy two of the lenses I just mentioned used and the best body you can. Based on what she told me she wants to do she would be way ahead of the game IQ, lens speed, aesthetically etc, with two primes. I also mentioned she could sell her stuff and walk away with an X100S and be happy as a clam. Scary but true considering she tends to use the wide end of the 24-70 on an APS-C sensor now.