Podcast Episode

The Lensrentals Podcast Episode #34 – 10 Essential Pieces of Photo Gear for Beginners

Published December 3, 2020

Each week Roger Cicala, founder of Lensrentals.com, hosts conversations about the art and science of capturing images. From photography to videography, film, history, and technology, the show covers a wide range of topics to educate and inspire creators of all kinds.


10 Essential Pieces of Photo Gear for Beginners

On today’s podcast episode, we’re joined by Joey Miller and Sarah McAlexander as they talk about the ten pieces of photo gear that all photographers should purchase. Among the pieces of advice, Joey and Sarah talk about what your first few purchases should be when getting into the photography world. From lenses, camera bodies, and accessories, they walk through all the things you should know when jumping onto B&H Photo for the first time. Along with recommending individual products, Sarah and Joey also walk you through all of the intricacies within the photo world. Sensor size, ISO, resolution, and even brands are all talking points that can be argued ad nauseam on internet forums, so the team will walk you through why each of those technicals matter, and those that don’t.

Listen to the entire episode to listen to all of the ten items recommended through the episode, but as a teaser, here are a few worthy mentions below — 

Nifty Fifty

Nifty Fifty

Nifty Fifty is a name given to a number of different lenses from different manufacturers, but it means the same thing across the board – a cheap 50mm prime lens. Most of these lenses can be found for under $200, and generally have an aperture of f/1.8 or f/2.0. Usually constructed of plastic instead of metal or other materials, the ‘Nifty fifty’ sacrifices a lot of build quality to meet an affordable price point for beginner photographers. That said, the Nifty Fifty is likely the best value you can get as a starting photographer.

Card Reader

If there was one thing that photographers could probably never have enough of, it would be card readers. Typically, a card reader is a USB powered reader that can read SD and/or CompactFlash cards, though there are a number of options and specialty cards that need specific readers. That said, having an extra card reader or two is never a bad thing, and can help save you when you inevitably forget to pack up your card reader for travel. Being a product that can be found for a few bucks online, there is no excuse to not have an extra one laying around.


Listen to the podcast episode above to get the full top ten, and a ton of useful tips from Sarah and Joey.

Gear and Resources Mentioned


00:24 – Joey and Sarah talk about their first cameras, it was a Nikon D40 for Joey and Sarah had a used Nikon D200.
1:50 – #1 Cameras. Entry-level cameras have come a LONG way and can grow with you longer than they used to. Joey advises spending as much as you can without braking the bank, but don’t count on it holding significant value when you want to resell it. The value are in the lenses, not the bodies. What you don’t want to do is get an older used camera that’s already pretty aged. Get ready to spend in the $900-1500 level for your first digital camera, we don’t think you have to go up to a $3-5000 for your first.
5:00 – While full-frame cameras are still seen as the gold standard, you really aren’t going to see a big difference between that and a crop sensor. Brand loyalty really doesn’t matter as much these days, it all boils down to size, weight, and ergonomics. Take the practicalities into consideration along with what you’ll be shooting and the environments you’ll be in. Unless you’re getting into shooting concerts and in darker clubs all current mid-level cameras ISO is more than sufficient for portraiture, weddings and the like. Resolution is also equalized across brands these days.
8:20 – #2 Lenses. Sarah’s recounts the first bad lens she bought after listening to a, uh, popular blogger at the time she bought a 18-200mm. Our advice: Get a nifty 50 and only once you need a zoom should you get a 24-70. Skip the kit and “do everything” lenses.
14:20 – #3 Memory cards, and memory card readers. Don’t forget the card reader, we talk to so many people who don’t think about this when gathering their gear.
19:00 – #4 Back up system and a reliable workflow. We have thoughts and articles on both of these topics, but what matters most is that you figure out what works for you and stick with it.
22:00 – #5- Editing Software. Adobe creative suite, Capture One, or something else, it’s worth investing in software you can find a lot of tutorials for also. There are open-source options too, but they’re not our favorite.
24:20 – Honorable mention piece of advice: Just shoot in RAW.
25:00 – Break
26:30 – #6 A reflector. Sarah loves using a 5 in 1, how portable and cheap they are and how easily they up your game. Joey notes that understanding light is key to upping your game.
28:00 – #7 Speed Lights. Artificial light that’s compact, portable, versatile, and cheap! After you’ve gotten a handle on natural light, step up to speed lights or Einsteins or alien bees LINK. Also, don’t use a pop up flash, it’s not your friend.
33:10 – #8 Camera Bags! Sling, backpack, what are you going to carry your expensive gear in? We love a cool looking bag that doesn’t scream it’s a camera bag. Joey and Sarah both love the canvas Domke bags that look really cool. Another easy tip is using a bag you already love and just buying a camera bag insert. We ship our gear in Pelican cases which are great, but can be expensive and the Apache Brand cases are what we recommend for a hard case if you aren’t at a Pelican level yet.
36:15 – #9 Tripods. Tripods aren’t a place we suggest being a penny pincher. Get a tripod that supports at least 13+ pounds. We love the Mefoto tripods for beginners, then the Induro, and of course Manfrotto. Don’t forget the sandbags either. You can get good tripods used because a lot of people don’t end up using theirs.
42:30 – #10 Remote Trigger. If you are going use a tripod, you need a trigger, all the third party ones are cheap and fine overall and generally under $100.
44:00 – More honorable mentions include: Rechargeable AA and AAA batteries, Ikea batteries, pocket knife w a pen and scissors, gaff tape, cine foil to modify speed lights to make a snoot or flag, lens cloths/cleaning supplies, lens pen, lens wipe, a rocket blower…. We really like our accessories.
45:45 – Learn how to clean your sensor and buy a sensor cleaning kit. Don’t be afraid of it, but healthy respect is ok. Here is our article on how to clean your camera sensor.


The Lensrentals Podcast is a production of Lensrentals, founded by Roger Cicala. Our production staff includes Drew Cicala, Ryan Hill, Sarah McAlexander, SJ Smith, Julian Harper, John Tucker, and Zach Sutton. Other contributors include Roger Cicala, Joey Miller, Ally Aycock Patterson, Joshua Richardson, and Philip Robertson.

Thanks to Jacques Granger for our theme song.

Submit a topic idea, question, or comment, leave us a voicemail at 901-609-LENS, or send us an email at podcast@lensrentals.com.


Author: Lensrentals

Articles written by the entire editorial and technical staff at LensRentals.com. These articles are for when there is more than one author for the entire post, and are written as a community effort.

Posted in Podcast Episode
  • Ralph Hightower

    Enjoyed the podcast.
    First SLR: Canon A-1 with Canon FD 50mm f1.8, 1980. Added MA Motor Drive, 80-205 f4, Sunpak 522, 400 f6.3
    Second SLR: Canon New F-1 with AE Motor Drive FN, AE Apeture Finder FN
    First DSLR: Canon 5D III with EF 24-105 f4L, 2013
    In 2011, my wife wanted to buy me a DSLR. When I found that her budget was a Canon T3i, I talked her out of it. As a consolation, I bought a used Canon FD 28mm f2.8.
    Editing Software: In 2011, I bought Adobe Lightroom because, as a computer programmer, I liked the database aspects of organizing photos even though I was shooting film.
    Tripod: I’m on my second tripod. Slik was my first tripod. I replaced it with a Manfroto in 2012.

    Remote trigger: I have a wireless and a cable release for the film cameras and a wireless for my digital.

    Joey, you shoot large format? Awesome. Large format and medium format film (Mamiya 645 & RZ67) are my bucket list cameras.

    Sandbag? I used a sandbag during the 2017 solar eclipse.

    I’ve been a traditional pan/tilt tripod head guy.

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    This episode was full of terrible advice ???? Kit lenses in 2020 are, for the most part, really good! And nothing beats using an 18-55mm lens for a couple of months to learn which FLs one really likes, or if wider/tighter lenses are needed. A “nifty-fifty” on an APS-C camera is a portrait lens, and thus good only for people into portraits.

    Cheap, older cameras are extremely good too! And there’s nothing wrong with purchasing used gear, especially for people not expecting to run a business right out the gate (one would think that the people employed by a business that sells used gear would know better, FFS).

    There are TONS of software alternatives out there, so there’s no reason to feed users into Adobe or C1. And there’s nothing wrong with learning on JPEGs either… it might actually be better, as it encourages better exposure and WB habits.

    Off-brand (i.e. Godox) speed lights are excellent, much better than any first-party overpriced garbage, and can be used even if the photographer changes camera brands later.

    And so on, and so forth. What a disappointment.

  • Henry Winokur

    The link to the article on cleaning the camera’s sensor is MIA! 🙁

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