"So, What Camera Should I Buy?" by Zack Wussow

This is a question I hear at least once per wedding from someone's date or Uncle Bob. Here's my answer.

Canon or Nikon?

It doesn't matter. 

That's a somewhat controversial opinion, but as far as I can tell Canon and Nikon are like Coke and Pepsi. Different, but basically interchangeable. I'll recommend a Canon because that's what I use, a Nikon user will suggest Nikon, and both will be perfectly good.

Whichever you pick, you'll stick with forever, because you'll have bought Canon lenses, flashes, etc. and it would cost too much to switch.

Ok, so what should I buy?

Get the newest Canon Rebel. It's their entry-level camera. It was my first DSLR, and I used it for five years, including the start of my professional career. It's a great camera, light, easy to use but has all the features you'd want in a DSLR. It's an affordable way to get started.

My old Rebel, about a decade old now, was my first "real" digital camera. Still works.

My old Rebel, about a decade old now, was my first "real" digital camera. Still works.

Then, if you feel like you haven't spent enough, invest in better lenses. You'll get the most bang for your buck from prime lenses (ones which don't zoom). You can get very affordable primes with good quality glass and wide apertures. 


The aperture is the hole that lets light in through your lens. It's described by the f-stop - the lower the number, the wider the hole. Low f-stop lenses are great - they let you shoot in darker situations, and give you the wonderful, blurry backgrounds that everyone loves.

The Canon 85mm f/1.8 prime is a great lens for portraits, for example.

And a Rebel will get me great photos?


I mean, sure, they'll be better than your cell phone. But a better camera doesn't make you a great photographer. Practice does.

Which is why I'd suggest going a different route. Get the newest or second-newest Canon S-Series.

It's a point and shoot, small enough to fit in a pocket, which means it fits the old adage, "The best camera is the one you have with you." I carry my S110 with me every day. 

It's not just portable, either. The s-series is a powerful little camera, with tons of manual controls. it also shoots in RAW, the highest quality file format.

You can learn almost everything you would on a Rebel from the s-series, but it fits in your pocket, and it's cheap enough that if it gets lost, stolen, or broken (something I know nothing about...), it's not the end of the world. 

By far the best bang for your average photographers buck.

(Note: The links to specific recommendations are up-to-date as of the posting of this entry, but may be out of date in the future.)

FODSLR Macro Extension Tubes by Zack Wussow

This is a bit of a product review (unpaid and unsolicited), which is not something I typically do here, but some photo friends of mine have found informal versions of this on Facebook useful. So if you're just here for beautiful wedding photos, feel free to skip it. No hard feelings.


Still here? Cool. Let me tell you about FODSLR Macro Extension Tubes.

Macro extension tubes turn a regular lens into a macro lens. They are a lot cheaper than a dedicated lens, but also have some small technical trade-offs that I won't go into here. They come in "smart" and "dumb" versions, depending on whether they let your camera talk to the lens (to change your aperture and auto-focus) or not. These FODSLR (a brand name, apparently?) tubes are smart. (Dumb ones are a waste of time and better avoided.)

These are also remarkably cheap. I picked them up on sale for $25 - since the price has gone up and down, but I've never seen it above $40 (half the "list price" of $79.99). $80-$120 is a more common price for this sort of thing.

That said, there are some quality-consistency issues. My first set, two of the tubes would not come apart. A friend who bought these on my recommendation has also found his a bit "sticky". I returned mine (yay free shipping and free returns with Prime!), and the second set they sent are perfect. Take from that what you will.

I like them. A lot.

Of course, these tubes don't work in a vacuum - they're just one tool to add to your toolbox. The nice thing about extension tubes is they have no glass in them, so they are as good as the camera and lens you put them between. (The above photo also benefits from a professional speedlite, the DJ's up-lighting, and whoever lit about a hundred candles on the table.)

That said, these are straightforward to use. I'd recommend using lots of light so you can stop-down your aperture a lot.

Then just play around and have fun!