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How much will your camera really cost?

9 Feb

You’ve bought your camera, you’ve unpacked, you’ve charged the battery and taken a bunch of pictures the next day. Maybe you told the wife it would cost 400, 500 or 700 Euros/Dollars/Pounds. Maybe you went for broke and got the one that costs 3000. Whatever the case, you may now be at the point of realising that this wasn’t all, that what you paid is not really going to get you through the next big trip you’ve been planning. So you recalculate. Well, let me save you that agony and tell you up front what you’re in for.

Your camera came with a battery. If you’re a keen photographer, which in all likelihood you now are since not only do you have a brand-new toy, but you’ve also searched the web and found this article, then let me tell you: The one battery will not get you through a single day of shooting. If your camera cannot accept standard batteries, then you’ll probably end up owning three to five of the specific kind of battery needed. From what I’ve seen, certain kinds of compact cameras, particularly from Canon, require a lot of juice, so make sure you’ve planned for this ahead of time. Depending how long the battery takes to charge, a second charger *may* come in handy.

In your first few days of shooting, you’ll also likely notice that the memory card that either was part of the camera bundle you bought, or was suggested by your dealer, is small and slow. If you’re shooting RAW, you should be looking (this is where this article will get dated) for nothing less than 16GB of space on a single card, and if your camera supports fast writing, you’ll want to get a card with write rates of 30MB/s or more. Test results suggest that having a 95MB/s card is overkill for most cameras, however – save that money! You may get through more than one card during an eventful day, or certainly during a trip, so you’ll want at least two better ones, with the lamo you got bundled as a last-resort, special warning back-up (maybe step down to JPEG for the last few shots on that card, and fine rather than superfine quality – it’ll be better than having to interrupt your shooting to delete images; it’ll also use less battery than the deletion break).

So now you’ve completed your photography outing, and you get home to your computer to play with your images. Well, where you gonna put ’em, Joe? Again, if shooting RAW, you’ll want to invest in a 3TB hard disk. They’re a good price point right now (note comment about article getting dated), and if you get good about rejecting sub-par images, it’ll last you a while. You’ll also want a back-up drive with the same capacity. Paranoid individuals as well as those living in wooden huts on stilts, with cans of fuel stored underneath, will want to also invest in an off-site backup – the sprinkler won’t save your hard disk!

Finally, and few words are needed here as it mostly comes down to personal preference, you’ll want *some* kind of bag for your camera, to protect it when you don’t need it, and to make it conveniently carriable/transportable when you do.

So we’ve concluded that you need:

  • Extra batteries
  • Extra memory cards
  • Two hard disks
  • Off-site storage for your crown jewels
  • Camera bag

Now, there are a few things that are often omitted from the camera box. Camera makers differ in this, and it also depends on the type of camera you buy. Compact cameras may have more omissions that system cameras, but there are a few favourites that you should check for:

  • Lens hood
  • USB cable
  • Strap for wrist or neck (some don’t use these)

Depending on how you want to charge the battery, and whether you want to run your camera off the mains, you’ll also want to think about whether the following items are included or need to be bought separately:

  • External battery charger (so you can keep shooting while the battery is charging)
  • Mains adapter (so you don’t need to take the battery out)

Next, here is some stuff that’s handy for certain situations and may not have been included:

  • TV adapter cable
  • Shutter control remote, or wired release cable (the latter seem much less popular now)
  • Battery grip (for ease of shooting in portrait mode – the more expensive cameras have this built-in, so to speak)

Then there’s stuff that’s definitely wouldn’t be included, isn’t absolutely essential, but most people will buy eventually. An external microphone is useful when shooting video, but if you’re going to invest, I suggest you make sure that it’s considerably better than the microphone that’s already in your camera. That is, unless your camera is making a lot of noise during video capture, where even a cheap external mic will just reduce that sound by being further from the camera.

Most people also buy a tripod fairly soon after their camera purchase, and about as many will buy an external flash. Then there’s the big subject of what filters, lenses or even teleconverters to buy, which can’t be adequately covered here, but if you’re an ambitious photographer, you should probably budget at least 100-120 EUR/GBP/USD for filters when you start your hobby. Don’t ever buy cheap filters, especially UV ones – many will equally block all available light, not just UV, and may not be good at blocking UV either. The argument that they are still useful for “protecting your lens” has never convinced me – most people wouldn’t voluntarily put a speed limiter in their car, so why do it for your camera?

Finally, I’ve seen entry level DSLRs bundled with a whole bunch of stuff, including softboxes and umbrellas. It should be obvious that this is only interesting if you’re planning the fairly big step of setting up and using an indoor studio (or the even bigger step of organising outdoor shoots with manipulated light, with added logistical challenges), and that the quality of material you get in bundled deals may not live up to your expectations.

Alright, that’s “all”, I hope some of you will find it useful.

PS: I missed out one thing – the GPS unit that’s now built into some cameras, or particular models of some cameras, and has to be bought as an accessory for others. I’ve not found this to be an early investment for me, but some people like this mnemonic device (it can be a timesaver if you *want* to make your photo sites public), so you may need to consider it in your budget.