Best photography purchases of 2014
Looking back every year, I’m sure you too are happy with some of your purchases you made in photography, whether gear or software or website related. Purchases that you love and made a difference to you as a photographer. But similarly there are also those purchases you regret. What was I thinking? I should’ve done my homework?
In the past I’ve bought some spur-of-the-moment bad decisions. It is especially easy to get swept away at photography trade shows. But I’ve gotten better at it, especially unnecessary software purchases. So I am actually happy with most of my purchases this year. Here’s my list of best & worst purchases, with even a few “meh” purchases listed.
Better yet, add yours to the list of Best / Worst Photo related purchases, by posting in the comments section. To make it interesting, there was this book to be won as a prize. Entries closed on Sunday 21st Dec. [edited to add: Roy Barnes with entry #34 wins the book prize. The entry was chosen via a random number generator.]
How to Photograph Weddings
Behind the scenes with 25 leading pros to learn lighting posing and more. Names such as Jerry Ghionis, Jim Garner, Dave & Quin Cheung, Brett Florens, Huy Nguyen, Ken Sklute, and myself included.
Inspired by Fashion. Stories, not Pictures. Connection is the Key. Two grooms. Big Groups. A Sense of Humor.
These are some of the themes which are explored in the 58 chapter entries, covering a diverse range of topics which go beyond the technical, to also cover style and approach.
My best photography purchases for 2014
Profoto B1 portable flash (500Ws)
The one most exciting bit of photo gear that I bought this year, was the Profoto B1 flash (affiliate). Especially now that the capability of high-speed flash sync has been added, it really is a game-changer. The B1 is so easy to set up and use, that it has replaced all the times where I would’ve used speedlights, except for on-camera bounce flash situations (obviously).
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens
I was only ever “sort of” happy with my Nikon 50mm f/1.4G … I felt it was an improvement on previous versions of 50mm lenses, but I never felt excited about it. It is my least used lens, aside from the fish-eye. Then the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens hit the market, and it looks and feels like quality. Its optical performance also surpassed that of the Nikon. Check my review: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens to see how it stacks up.
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 PCE Tilt-shift lens
I bought this tilt-shift lens specifically for a timelapse photography project of commercial properties. Optically it is just crazy-sharp. The controls to lock the movements, are not as good as the Canon’s unfortunately, and a little fidgety. Annoying. But optically this lens is perfect, and for architectural photography, the tilt-shift controls are essential.
Along with that time-lapse project, I also bought new tripods which made a huge difference, as mentioned in that linked article.
Westcott eye-lighter reflector
I first tried the Eye-lighter (affiliate) at an After Dark photography convention, and was intrigued by the curved reflection it gave in the subject’s eyes. An interesting sparkle that also helped shape the eye. More than that, it was a flexible way to add fill-light in the studio. When I got to try out the Westcott Eyelighter in my studio, I was even more impressed. Check the article on using the Westcott Eyelighter in the studio for headshots.
iMac 32GB quad-core 3.5 GHz computer
At the start of 2014, I upgraded my main computer, an iMac, to an even better / faster iMac. I went to the Apple Store, and bought the iMac on the bottom-right-hand corner of the options – maxed out RAM, maxed out everything. I even got the 1Tb SSD drive, opting out of a Fusion Drive.
All those interstitial moments we lose when images load or save – those moments add up into a lot of lost time. I wonder how much of our lives are wasted waiting during those tiny tiny moments where we wait for a computer to respond. Time that we spend doing nothing … just waiting. I really wanted speed, and this computer is fast! An essential purchase.
On top of my regular D4 bodies, I wanted / needed a good back-up camera. But it also needed to offer me more than my D4 bodies do. While a D610 or D750 would be a fine back-up camera to those beasts, I really wanted a camera that offered me more and offered me different. I settled on the Nikon D810 (affiliate) for its high resolution, and for its fantastic image quality. I was taken aback when I realized that the D810 images are even sharper than the D4 images!
Things that I touched and really loved, but didn’t buy
Fuji X-T1 and Fuji 56mm f/1.2
The Fuji X-T1 and Fuji 56mm f/1.2 (affiliate) make a very sexy combo! The idea of having a walk-about camera with an effective 85mm lens, was very tempting. A portrait lens on a camera that I can easily take with me anywhere, sounded just perfect, but do I really need more cameras right now!?
I had the Nikon D4S camera (affiliate) for review purposes, and played with it over the course of a month, and loved it to the point that I was about to pull the trigger on it and just buy it. Check my Nikon D4S AF performance review. It is an impressive update on an already impressive camera. But it’s a lot of $$$ and the review of their high-ISO performance was not compelling enough for me to upgrade my D4 cameras, and I decided have a lot more to do still with my D4 bodies.
Photo related stuff that left me indifferent, or under-whelmed
.photography top-level domains
This year new top-level domains were made available, for example: .photography
I bought a few domains, but mostly to protect current websites and domain names, such as tangents.photography … but whether these top-level domains are going to be important regarding SEO, we will have to see.
Singh-Ray variable ND filter
I bought this for the time-lapse projects, but the way the Singh-Ray ND filters (affiliate) work, made them unusable for that project and other shoots. With two polarizers that are rotated, this ND filter creates an X-pattern of dark areas when used with a wide-angle lens. For me, its usefulness is severely limited, and I still have this, mint, and completely unused except for the one test. Disappointing. I should’ve done my homework first, I guess.
Worst photo-related purchases
Fuji TSL-X100 teleconverter
The Fuji TSL-X100 teleconverter (affiliate) is a lens screws onto the front of the for the Fuji X100 cameras, turning the effective 35mm lens into an effective 50mm lens. It sounded like a good idea, and I was hoping it would give me a tighter lens if I needed it, but the optical quality was so poor that I returned the lens for a refund. The image was soft wide-open, and showed purple fringing – entirely reducing the sharpness of the X100 lens.
advertising on Facebook
My love/hate view of Facebook continues. I’ve tried advertising on Facebook a few times, and every time feel completely unimpressed – like I had just fed a slot machine in Vegas, watching money disappear with no results. I know there are some photographers who have great success on Facebook, but it doesn’t work for me. Maybe I just need lessons in Facebook-ing.
Nikon SD-9 battery pack
I like the Nikon SD-9 battery pack (affiliate) and recommend it … but I also have to continually replace them. Over the past 3 years I have had to replace four of them – they had died. The worst part is that the repair is a few dollars less than buying a new one, so I have to buy new ones.
I know there are alternative brands to the Nikon here, but I like the Nikon showing the battery pack is actually working, via the two red LEDs that brighten when the flash is recycled. Otherwise, how is one to know the battery pack is actually working? So I keep coming back to the SD-9, filled with some resentment.
Let us know what photo-related goodies you bought this year which you loved, and those you didn’t.
- Other best photography purchases, listed by year
- Gear list – Starting out with off-camera flash
93 Comments, Add Your Own
1 – B1’s no brainer , ;)
2 – Sigma 50 F1.4 Art unfortunately I had pretty bad experience with few Canon copies
whole story on my blog
Tried it on D810 though and it worked flawlessly, I didn’t like the Nikon bodies , but it’s different story ;)
3 – smdv octabox – amazing thing for camera flashes
4 – G-drive’s for the backups ;)
5 – Lexar CF cards
2John Mattson says
My best purchase of the year was the Wescott Rapid Box. I love quality light outdoors but lugging an Einstein and softbox around for simple portraits is a pain. I appreciate the ease of use and quality of the Rapid Box while using a speedlight.
I’m a sucker for photoshop actions and Lightroom presets… My worst investments were in someone else’s actions or presets that I could easily duplicate on my own in the first place. Once I messed with them a little i never used them in my workflow.
I’m saving up for that Profoto B1, and now that they’ve added HSS, I see how it could be a serious game changer!
Keep up the amazing work!
3Jennifer Lynch says
Best: Spider Holster
I would a agree with your “Worst”
I had my D800 for almost a full season.
Dished out money for a newer/faster Mac Book
Dished out money for huge memory cards
Dished out money for additional external storage of ridiculous files-size
Then sold it for a D4s
Updating my Mac Pro with 2 SSD’s right now. As you said, sick of those lost moments I can never have back.
Nikon D750 – Blows my D700’s away for concert photography.
Smart Albums – Need I say more.
Paul C Buff PLM – Incredible light source.
Yongnuo Flashes – They are work horses & inexpensive. Not having TTL is a bummer, but if I drop one and it breaks, I’m only out $70.
So you like “Smart Albums”? Good to hear. I purchased Fundy’s program a few years ago and I like it but I find myself still using more my Yervant PageGallery that I purchased over seven years ago.
So I will try Smart Album program. At $299 it is a very fair price.
There was a Black Friday sale and they were letting it go for $199. I think Sal Cincotta has a $50 coupon code for SA.
6Eduardo Cassus says
My best purchase this year: fujifilm x100s camera. I made some great infrared images of NYC with it last September.
My worst purchase: lightroom mobile (part of the CC subscription). It is something that requires a lot of processing power from the ipad to work properly. Maybe in the future, with more powerful ipads or a less demanding app, the idea will eventually catch on.
7Terry Z says
Best purchases were
1. My ticket to After Dark St Louis.
2. From Sweetlight Systems. The 4′ x 6′ softball and the 14″ x 48″ Light Bender. I tried the Eyelighter at After Dark and this has similar results.
Worst purchase was a LED light.
8Layton Findlater says
Best purchase: Nikon D810
Worst purchase: cheap and nasty background system with the world most wrinkled fabric.
Moral of the story – you get what you pay for.
emmmm…. a colleague of mine gave me a background to use for a day or two. He paid $140 for it (5×7) from the US. After doing a couple of daycare with it I loved so much I started looking for something similar. I Found a Chinese manufacturer that was selling them for $18 so I bought two.
After receiving it I realized that the fabric was a cheap vinyl, however, I was concern with how the photos will look like not the vinyl (I was not about to use it as a blanket, right?). Short story the photos came up amazing! So good that I bought 5 more for the total of $200.
We took all of them to his studio and spent the day taking test shots. We were both seriously impressed, including the mothers of the kids we “borrowed” for the day.
It’s not always what you paid for. Some homework can save you a lot of money.
9Erik Colonese says
1 fuji x-t1 w/ 23mm 1.4 lens. Like you mentioned. Great walk around camera. I have even been using it for some timelapse.
2 I finally upgraded my speedlights to the 600ex-rts. Now everything just works.
1 like you said. 8stop variable ND filter. I thought I would be doing long exposure daylight shots, instead I got those dark patches.
I wonder if those ‘dark patches’ are caused by light leaks from your cameras view finder. I had a similar issue with long exposures. Try covering the eye piece during the exposure. The D800 has a built in curtain in the eye piece, once I closed that, the dark patches disappeared.
Hope this helps to solve the problem, give it a try.
9.1.1Neil vN says
Nope, Erik is referring to the X-pattern you get when using a variable-ND filter and shooting at wider focal lengths.
10Michael M says
Best purchases this year:
1.) Canon 5D Mark III – I, finally, stepped up to a full-frame body and I love it.
2.) Canon 7D Mark II – My original 7D was no longer making me happy and the 7D Mark II fixes the main problems I had with the original 7D. It focuses incredibly fast, even in low light, and has dual memory card slots (something I’ve been wanting in my bodies for years.)
3.) Canon 24-70 f/4L IS – When I got the 5D III, I needed a “normal” zoom. I wanted the 2.8L II but I just couldn’t justify the expense. After some bad experiences with the Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC, Canon dropped the price on the 24-70 f/4 to $999. Fortunately, I was still within my return period on the Tamron so I exchanged it for the Canon 24-70 f/4 and I’ve been very happy with it. It focuses incredibly fast, even in low light, for an f/4 lens and is plenty sharp.
Worst Purchase This Year:
1.) Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 VC lens for Canon. I had read lots of posts about inconsistent focusing with this lens, as well as other issues, but I found a really good deal on a refurbished version from a reputable dealer. I bought the lens and the first one was front focusing a lot and I couldn’t get it adjusted on either my 5D III nor my 7D. The camera store took it back, tested it and agreed that it was defective. They sent me another refurbished Tamron. This one was razor sharp and focused really well in bright light. Unfortunately, in low light, it really struggled to track focus. On top of that, it would lock up my 5D III (Tamron said it had something to do with the aperture assembly and was reparable.) Fortunately, Canon dropped the price on the 24-70 f/4L IS (see my best purchases of the year) and I was able to exchange the Tamron for the Canon at no extra cost.
Best purchase….the Sigma 35…wow sharp….and the Sigma 50 (as you state above). Both are sharp!
Worst purchase….yeah…the silly off-brand battery packs for my Nikon….and they don’t even have the light you mention…so you really don’t know if they are working until you have 1) dark photos and 2) dead flash batteries in the 910! Also, the expo disk…I want to love it, but I need it most in mulit-light situations (LED, bulb, some window), and that is where it doesn’t do the best job. So I end up rarely using it!
Look at B&H site for Bolt brand. In my country these sell under different name. I have 6 SB-910 flashes each with such a pack – fast and reliable. The SD-9 would have added over $1,000 where I live (6 of them).
B&H have video with the product that illustrates its indicator lights.
12Ken Cravillion says
-Canon 200mm f2 IS – I love this lens and using it for weddings and portraits is awesome. Since owning the 200 I think I’ve only shot at f2. Is there really any other aperture on the lens? :)
-Canon 50mm f1.2L – I had this lens before and sold it. Recently picked up another and realized how great of a focal length it is for group pictures.
-MS Surface Pro 3 – Awesome as an iPad and laptop replacement.
-Fuji mirrorless system. XE2, 23mm, 35mm and 56mm. Bought with the intention of replacing my Canon stuff for weddings. Tried it as a primary camera at a wedding and I wasn’t a fan. Was great for portraits but since picking up the Canon 50 and 200 it’s just sat on the shelf.
13Alan W says
1. Profoto B1 Kit
2. Afterdark 2014 (assuming Education purchase counts)
3. Jerry Ghionis HowToWow Workshop
Not so much worst. If I am in doubt purchasing, and for something I don’t use on regular basis, I will try to DIY it if I can (I do have a DIY version of eye-lighter)
Try a simple sun reflector for you car’s windshield – works fine for me. I also stumbled across a 5×5 foot sun reflector ( made for those long-throw windshields of some mini-vans ), that I cut a small hole into it’s centre to poke a lens through ( silver & white sides ).
Best – Everything Olympus – Em1, 12-40 2.8, 17 1.8, 45 1.8, 60 2.8 macro, 75 1.8, 40-150 2.8
Worst – Everything Nikon – D800 and an assortment of 1.4, 1.8, and 2.8 glass. Although my D800 may be the root cause, I frankly didn’t care that much for the AF on my D600 or D7000 either. I was on the verge of upgrading to a D4S thinking I would finally have good auto focus, but after purchasing my e-m1 for personal work, I decide to invest my money into that system instead.
Sorry, but it is true. I cannot stand Nikon anymore after having used Olympus. Yes, I wish the Olympus had a bigger sensor, but I will take a smaller sensor with reliable auto focus over a larger sensor that cannot focus reliably anyday. No, I don’t think Olympus is perfect, but I think it’s good and damn good value compared to Nikon. It’s reliable, gets out of my way, and let’s me focus on making great pictures.
All four of your books were great too Neil! Definitely at the top of my good acquisitions list for 2014.
15sheri j says
I try really hard not to continually buy stuff for photography, I even said to someone I don’t need anything else and I swear right after I said that another photographer had something for sale and I bought it….. so there you go, I ended up buying stuff just because I wanted to play with something new.
My favorite things I bought this year… Alien Bees Ring Flash with moon unit (this was from the other photographer), Mag Mods, Pixelstick, upgraded Lightroom, upgraded Portrait Professional
I honestly can’t think of anything that I bought that was a dud, but sure in the past I have.
Best purchases: Wacom tablet, Alien Bee , Fundy Album builder, ticket to Shutterfest 2015.
Worst: I dont have any I can think of.
best. Cheap umbrella, and small 10″ soft box. Then learning how to use off camera flash finally
Worst. Adobe CC full subscription, never used anything but photoshop and Lightroom. Down graded to the photographer version, much better now
18Rick Krueger says
Best (tie): Either the Fuji X-T1 and 56mm f/1.2 OR my Mamiya M645 1000S Medium Format (for film) – both have inspired me tremendously to improve my work and be more thoughtful in the way I shoot.
Worst: Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f/1.4 – thought it was going to be the holy grail of lenses with the focus peaking on my X-T1, but its color and sharpness could most easily be described as “blah”
19Peter Salo says
I don’t think my best idea was getting this…
But in truth, I’m quite happy with the GoWing lens holder. It’s that nifty double-sided lens mount on a shoulder strap that lets you carry an extra lens (or two) and do a quick and easy lens change on the run. I guess I’m just easy to please.
20Rudy Peter says
My worthless purchase was the Fujifilm WCL-X100 Wide Conversion Lens for my X100S. Optically nothing wrong with it, but defeats the purpose of having a walk-around camera. I rarely use it.
Love the site and your books! We met at a meeting of my photo club- Raritan Photographic Society.
21Barb Messina says
My favorite was my nikon 70-200mm. .love it outdoors..my worst was a portable supposedly foldable 24×24 softbox by cowboy..yep..tey folding that back into that little bag..
My best purchase: Two Einsteins plus two battery packs and the Alien Bees triggers! These things made my life so much easier. My other best purchase that I did not receive yet (hopefully Monday), a D750. Can’t wait.
You described Facebook in the MOST accurate way; a slot machine that eats your money and gives nothing in return. Two of my colleagues have been feeding this machine for a couple of years and both assured me that they got NOTHING out of it, not even one job. Why they still feeding it…? Why people keep gambling..?
I know you do not like “fakes” and willing to pay premium to have the “real” thing, so here is my experience. I have two battery packs made somewhere in China each cost $38. I bough them 6 years ago. They are still going. One for my SB-80DX and one for my SB-900.
I did a wedding once with over 1,000 images taken at the hall with flash. I had my SB-80DX on a stand at 1/4 power with a battery pack (6 batteries) and a similar pack was attached to my SB-900 that was on my camera.
I shot it all one one set of batteries for both flashes.
I also had for years a “fake” D300 battery pack. Although it happened very few times that I had to unscrew it out partly and screw again when one battery emptied (and it was moving to the extra battery) but other than that it worked like a charm for 6 years. Cost: $65.
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Oh yes, I forgot, just purchased second hand Nikon 180mm 2.8 ($300). I wasn’t sure what to expect and I absolutely love this lens! It’s light and focuses instantly on my D3. I hope to have it for a long time.
You mean the ED?
I’ve seen many negative comments and frequently offered used for sale.
DxO does not rate it very high.
And I love it.
Stop down and you get beautiful portrets with soft and smooth gradation.
Much lighter than 70-200 zoom.
If you shoot models a 35mm at closer distance may enhance features.
With “real” people the slight compression of the longer distance with the 180 helps.
Don’t tell further.
24Nicole Rich says
My favorite purchase was the Sigma art 35mm f/1.4; I love that lens. My worst purchase was a set of actions I thought would be great….they weren’t.
Best purchase – Fundy software bundle pack
Worst purchase – Nikon D600 “generic” battery pack
Best purchase — Nikon 105mm macro lens. I’ve had lots of fun making photos of water drops or lit matches.
Worst purchase — third-party cable release. Did not consistently set off my camera’s shutter and I had to return it. Seriously, how hard can it be to trip a shutter through a wire?
27Roy Barnes says
Two great things were added to my kit this year: the Canon 17-40mm L f/4 lens, which I brought and sneaked into the house past the wife! This really adds to my 5D MKIII’s capability.
The other was a cheap no-brand wireless remote that I imported from China for $20 when the same thing brought here in Australia would cost $100.
Moral of the story: buy want you want or need, look for the better price deals (there always is one) and don’t incur the wrath of your spouse!
28Jeffrey Butler says
1. Fuji 56mm f1.2 for my XT1
2. Canon 135mm f2.0
3. Wacom tablet
4. Two Cheetah light stands
1. Made a concerted effort to learn and fill in the gaps of what I didn’t know about lighting and flash photography. The results have been amazing.
2. Improved skill level in Photoshop CS6 advanced photo processing.
3. I stopped taking low-paying photo jobs and refused to negotiate. I actually made more money this year. My time is valuable.
1. Pro Master travel case for my Einstein flashes – falling apart.
2. Flashbender. Bounce flash is still the way to go, and if a reflector is needed, the black foamy thing works just fine.
3. HiTech ND Grads. Poor quality and poor results.
4. Joined Thumbtack (a consumer service site) and then got out. I quickly found out how little the average person wanted to pay for photo services. $100 for a 5 hour event???? I also question how they handle their bid/quote system.
5. Stopped using all the social sites for commercial purposes. Just use Instagram, Facebook, etc. for fun, learning and to keep in touch. The best business comes from referrals, face-to-face, word-of-mouth, etc. Nothing beats a good handshake, smile and remembering someone’s name.
SB 910 – Recent purchase but seems much better than SB 900 for heat issues.
Hama Star 61 Tripod – a very cheap lightweight tripod which holds a D700 + 24-70, I nearly spent a lot more on a carbon fibre model, but this works really well for £17 ($25).
Thrunite TN12 (Neutral White) flashlight – holy cr*p, have you seen how bright flashlights are these days?!! Over 1000 lumens from something that fits in your pocket, and it has a nice neutral white LED option, all for about $50. Really useful for photography and life in general. Blinds muggers, too.
Gorilla Tape – I often have to tape flashguns to walls/windows in confined spaces, but you could tape an elephant to the ceiling with this stuff!
7Dayshop batteries. Seemed like a bargain, but died after a year, they did replace them to be fair. One of the replacements was DOA, so back to Eneloops it is.
30Jon Palmer says
1. The web domain http://www.capturedon.camera – no idea what I’m going to use it for yet, but I thought it was a cool name.
2. Manfrotto 1004BAC light stand – in the event of a nuclear blast this thing will still be standing.
3. Expert Shield protector for my 6D.
4. Sekonic L-308S flash meter.
1. Expert Shield protector for my 60D – unlike the 6D this was a nightmare to apply with air bubbles all over the place. I gave up after 1/2 an hour. The 6D protector went on first time and you can’t tell it’s there.
31Trompie Van der Berg says
Best: IceLight and Fundy Software.
32Philip Lord says
Profoto B1 ( even better now it has HSS)
Worst : none
33dr frank says
Canon Pro-100 Printer – I was always one that stated I didn’t need/want to print local and would send everything to a lab. I am able to print up to 13×19 and really like what it produces. I can make my thank you cards that I give to every client for their order (with an image from their wedding on it), gift prints as a ‘surprise’, and last minute requests that would never make it in time for a client. e.g. Print orders that came in Yesterday and needed for Christmas.
Red River Paper is tremendous
Nikon D750 – Great camera – I really like it for event work.
Worst purchase – some ‘digital’ framing items that are just okay and some training courses that didn’t wow like I hoped.
34Ginni Tuggle says
My best purchase was my Canon 6D. Just starting out in my business I couldn’t afford the 5D Mark III. Fewer bells and whistles but I’m very happy with the 6D.
Worst purchase was a really ugly backdrop that I only used once. I HATE that I wasted my money on it.
35Jessica Joy Thompson says
Best: A6000 – A perfect travel companion due to its size and price. The quality is not expected at its price point. A great way to leave the D800 at home and still get amazing images.
Worst: Sony 16-55mm kit lens. In my experience all kit lenses are not up to par with the better glass, but this lens really made me think the A6000 was a poor performer, which it is not.
36John Hobson says
Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II – Amazing piece of glass :)
37Tay Voye says
Nikon D750: I was torn between the D610 and D810 & not real pleased with either. The 750 fell into the ‘Sweet Spot’ I wanted. The incredible high ISO performance has changed the way I approach lighting.
Alien Skin Exposure 6: I may not be color blind but I am color stupid. Find a film emulation that fits the mood I’m looking for and ‘Bam!’.
RPS LED Studio Light: 1500 watt daylight balanced LED studio light with Bowen mount that I can use all my modifiers with. WYSIWYG light without burning my studio down.
Yet another Pocket Wizard AC3 Zone controller, after the previous one failed. This one didn’t even last a year. Cheap analog components make this an inexcusably weak link in the pocket wizard system.
37.1mike s says
My AC3 failed also after sitting in my bag doing nothing!!!
38Gary Derbridge says
Interesting that you didn’t get any results from Facebook advertising Neil! What sort of advertising do you think works best for you apart from word of mouth?
Best purchases: Nikon 28 f1.8 and Nikon 85 f1.8 – Replacing my standard f2.8 zoom lenses. I love the shallow depth of field and the sharpness even at 1.8, and this pair of primes complement each other almost perfectly.
Worst purchases: Cheap radio triggers from China! They only work when they feel like it! They are a bit moody, no what I need. Also UV filters, in my opinion, money wasted, I only get weird reflections when I use them
– Nikkor 85mm f/1,8
– Nikon D610 – open my eyes again
– Nikon SB700
– Yongnuo YN300II LED light – great stuff
– Yongnuo 622N-TX
– 60 x 60 cm Softbox
– poor batteries for flash and trigger
– every time I want buy something I have to think 10 times because of tight budget.
Canon 6D (my FF camera) -well impressed with the high is iso/ low light performance
Westcott Rapidbox 26″ -a great on location medium softobx
Nissin PS8 battery pack -love this pack, its supposed to give 500 full power pops per charge. Not tested this but I reckon that’s not far off the mark.
Manfrotto 055 tripod -just top quality
Manfrotto 3-way head
Reiken Focal -only used it a couple of times but does the job well
Capture one Pro v8 -spent many weeks trialing this raw processor, its a notch or 2 up in terms of IQ from Lightroom. I also love the workflow you can customise to suit you (or whomever) utilising session templates.
Neils latest book -as usual from Neil a book of quality and detail.
As others have said, being a sucker for buying LR presets, when really with just a little time you can make the look yourself.
Best buys: Sigma 15-30, its sharp, lens flare is a problem, but I like it.
Octobox, easy to set up (ish) and does the job well
Yongnuo speedlights, I had waited and read the reviews and though ok, I’ll get one. I was so pleased I
bought two more along with the yongnuo triggers.
Eneloop batteries, why I wasn’t aware of these before I don’t know!
Worst buys: A cheap light stand off ebay, it just broke first time using it, I just laughed, you get what you pay for.
I am saving up for the B1’s !
43Patrick Ng says
I’ve good quite a few “best” purchases this year including:
– Canon EF 85mm f/1.8
– Wescott Rapid Box
– Phottix Odin
I cannot really say that I had some “worst” purchases this year. I did in 2013 though.
44Jon Uhler says
Canon 5D Mk III (although I can honestly say I miss my 5D classic)
Canon 70 -200 2.8 Mk II Awesome lens. I sold my 85 L 1.2 MK II to get it….and I miss it dearly….but love the zoom.
Canon EOS M…..I wanted a Fuji film camera of some sort. Went a cheaper route and got the EOS M. Hated it….still wanting a Fujifilm……;)
Best gear of this year goes to the AF-S Nikkor 85mm ƒ1.4G – beauty!
Worst of the year = “Made in China” knock-off’s of the infamous ‘Super Clamp’ – the screw-thread on a pair of these actually stripped! Imagine how cheaply made that metal must have been. Luckily I was able to salvage the clamps with 3 inch long ?” eye bolts, now I only use them with J-hooks attached to a pair of autopoles…
46David Hall says
Best: Profoto B1. Really love HHS now that I’ve upgraded.
Worst: Westcott collapsible background. Returned it within a week.
My best purchase this year was my trip to AfterDark, followed by my Fuji X100s for a trip to New York City. I obviously need to travel more.
Nikkon 85mm f/1.8G – just superb
Yongnuo triggers and controller – radio TTL flash on a budget
Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 – good image quality, excellent value, but limited zoom range
Haida ND3.0 filter – horrible colour casts
49mike s says
Profoto B1, TTL controller and 1×3 softbox
PW Flex system continues to irk me with its inconsistent results. Why cant it work as well as the Profoto???
50Ramona P says
Best purchase … upgrading to the Canon 5D Mark III (love!)
Worst purchase …. many,many Lightroom presets that I never use. Ugh. I still create my own and every time I scroll through all the ‘can’t live without’ preset bundles I have bought I cringe.
51Doug Daubert says
– Nikon D3s: been looking for another body in addition to my D700. Found on e-bay with 8k clicks on the shutter. Camera looks and performs like new. Wonderful purchase.
52Dave Block says
Best purchase: workshops and conferences – lot of learning in 2014. At the end of the day it’s usually not about the gear.
Worst purchase: yet another camera bag that overpromised and under-delivers.
– Yongnuo 560 manual flash. Cheap, simple and reliable over the last 2 years.
– Eye-fi Pro X2 memory card. Very handy to transfer small jpeg to my phone or tablet to show a client. Nevertheless much to slow to transfer raw files.
– A Black Foamie Thing for a few euro cents.
– Some rolls of Lee CTO filters + Lee filter swatchbook. Hundreds time cheaper than filters from Nikon, Garyfong, Honl, etc…
– A sun sniper camera strap with steel wire. Expensive, supposely robust but in fact not at all. The metal wire breaks by itself and hitch my skin. Annoying since not compatible with tripod mount.
– Nikon SB600 speedlight. Just not enough power. Quickly replaced by a bigger SB900.
– A Nikon ML-L3 IR remote. Much too expensive for a basic IR remote. My friends are satisfied with no-brand compatible remote for a tenth of the price.
– A white fabric background that has too much wrinkles. Replaced by a vinyle one.
– Canon 6D (my upgrade to full frame)
– Sigma 35mm ART (had to replace with a 2nd copy and then have that copy calibrated by the distributor to correct focus issues, but I love the colours and contrast of the lens. When it hits focus, it’s so sharp)
– Yongnuo 622 triggers (getting into off-camera flash has been a ton of fun)
– Canon 50mm 1.8 (lots of people seem to love the ‘nifty fifty’, but I just can’t get past how it either hunts for or is slow to focus. Maybe I’ll replace it with the Sigma in the future)
Best Purchase: The Wescott Rapid Box, Dennymfg EZ stand and Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 lens
Worst Purchase: Can’t think of any
Computer and monitor Upgrades
Books from Neil and a few other photographers
So far enjoying a Sigma 50-150 2.8 for my nikon DX’s
A Panasonic LX7 that has been a life saver at concert venues that don’t allow DSLRs or anything with a removable lens.
Although nothing comes to mind, I do have A LOT of equipment that I have yet to put through its paces and decide good or bad.
57Ed Sward says
Best and worst in one event, a double header.- was at a 2 day trade show and bought a D5 M III with L-series lens the first day. Great start to get into full frame. Just happens this was the day before Canon announced their $300 year-end promo. Wish I had waited 18 hr. Arrrhgg!
Best is relative so I will say my favorite purchases for 2014 were:
~50mm 1.2 L. amazing lens wide open and oh-so bright.
~BlackRapid Yeti Dual Camera Strap. Should have bought it years ago.
~Westcott Apollo Softbox (28×28) Just wow!
~Mastin Labs Portra and Fuji LR Presets. Best film emulation out there. Going hybrid (film and digital) in 2015.
~SmugMug website. Loved Squarespace but having clients order right from the site is the best.
~Stopped blogging. Not a purchase but still a great decision. All my sessions are now private.
~Ravelli ABSL Photo Video Backdrop Stand Kit 13′ Tall x 15′ Wide. You can’t beat the quality and price combo.
~Yongnuo YN-622C-TX E-TTL flah controller. What a time saver!
~Vello BG-C9 Grip for my 5D MK III.
~Thumbtack credits. While I hardly use it anymore (site went from good/decent to bad) because of all the window shoppers, it did allow me to shoot events that I would have never heard about otherwise.
~Adobe CC. LR and Photoshop for $10/month!
Purchases I avoided (I research and return if it does not meet expectations)
~Tamron 24-70 VC (rented several times) missed focus too often and soft in the corners.
~7D MK II (Returned) Great camera but as a backup, the 7D continues to work just fine.
59Sue Eisert says
best purchase-Fuji XE-2 camera and their 14mm 35mm and 55-200mm lenses.
Best purchases were Nikon D750. Brilliant camera but still getting to grips with it.
Worst purchase was a cheap tripod – buy a good quality one and it wil pay dividends.
61Cathy Jonker says
Canon 6D – loving the upgrade from faithful old 5D!
No Meh purchases, just lost my heavy old Monfrotto tripod that has travelled with me for 25 years. Very sad.
Switch from Canon 7D to Nikon D610. I was able to get a good price for my Canon EF-S stuff.
Nikkor 16-35 f/4
Nikkor 50 f/1.4
Megacheap wire remote for the D610, about $3 incl shipping from Chine
Lytro lightfield camera, the simple cube one. Not a complete waste of money as I picked one up for $70 but it’s nothing more than a simple gadget with little practical use. Interesting technology though.
Sold my old, unused for years, Canon EOS analog camera for €10 on an auction site. Could have kept it, buy an old lens and some film and do some analog work as well.
No doubt there will be good and bad purchases in 2015 as well but until then Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.
63Christophe Baixas says
Unlike a professional photographer who makes money from photography, it is hard for an amateur or enthusiastic photographer to spend thousands of dollars for its passion.
My list entitles my best buys for low budget… may look cheap to you but it is something that has to be taken intoo account nowadays :o(
– I bought my first series L from Canon : 24-105 f4 L.. one step into quality and its worth the jump !
– The software “Set a light 3D Studio” from elixxier software !!! This is a very good photo studio simulation for photographers with which you can build lighting setups in advance on a PC or Mac. It realistically simulates the expected picture results and print a set plan with the lighting diagram. The last version even allows speedlights simulation and displays an animated model… everyone should give it a try, it is a very good learning tool to use in workshop or shooting preparation.
– A complete set of speedlights bought after having chased for several month on the “2nd hand market” in France : 2 Speedlight 580EXII + 2 430EXII + 1 ST-E2 (I know it is limited to IR signals but there is so much to do with it… it makes me try the techniques of Neal more easily than before !)
– The books of Neil and Roberto Valenzuela !!! Neil suggested “Picture Perfect Posing” book on tangents blog !!! Thanks a thousand times Neil, this book really helped me understand a lot of things I had never read elsewhere before. I am reading “Picture Perfect Practice” and it rocks too !
– “Safari Classic harness” for my camera (from a company called trekking.fr)… This really relieves my neck strain ! And it is good quality and cheap (30€ only !) I am no more afraid to carry my camera a whole day while traveling outside.
– Profoto B1 seems to be a must have (seen on Paris Photo convention)… I have been surprised by the ability of this system to go far beyond the sync flash speed… barely believable. A must have for a Professional photographer… but price still high
No meh or “worst” purchase… I rely on the advices shared on the forums and Neil’s blog and it helps save money. I will probably jump next year for a Canon 100-400 L f4-5,6 and maybe a Canon 7D… unless I feel like being crazy and buy a Canon 5D Mark III.
Loving the Tangents! Bought one of your books too Off Camera Flash – excellent!
With regards the SD-9 battery pack – I wouldn’t bother! I use a battery kit from Lencarta/Godox/Wistro/Neewer – various re-brands on a theme! Search for PB960. Then use a Y cable to put the two outputs into one Nikon speedlight.
I use it with both the Nikon SB910 – battery just keeps on going and going!!! Bought a second battery for it and it doesn’t get used on a shoot! Certainly saves all the faffing around with AA batteries (though you clearly need to keep some in the 910 whilst using the external pack?? – never quite figured that one out!)
But also with their Bare Bulb Flash a Godox (etc) 360 which is surprisingly good!!! Certainly suggest you try them out, be interesting to see you complete a back to back trial!
Y- Cable – https://www.amazon.com/NEEWER%C2%AE-DB-02-Cable-adapter-PROPAC/dp/B00GLFJSHE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1419183072&sr=8-3&keywords=PB960
PB960 Battery Pack –
Nikon Cable – https://www.amazon.com/Godox-PB820-PB960-External-Battery/dp/B00DGLTGBE/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1419183164&sr=8-10&keywords=PB960
Godox 360 – https://www.amazon.com/Godox-Witstro-External-Portable-Speedlite/dp/B00F19OBA0/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1419183231&sr=8-2&keywords=Godox+360
I didn’t actually buy all that much new gear this year, but towards the end of the year I did make a purchase that I’m going to call my best for this year: a Canon 5D Mark III.
I’ve been a Nikon shooter for a long time, but for a variety of reasons I’ve wanted to try out the this camera, and I decided to take the plunge. The reason that I’m calling this my best purchase is that I found myself really enjoying using it – from the ergonomics/feel to the images. This isn’t a Nikon vs Canon comment; tt hasn’t made me sell off the Nikon gear, and I don’t plan to at all, but I’m gravitating more to the 5DMIII for a lot of my shoots. The reason that I’m calling this my best purchase is just that I’m having so much fun learning how to get the best images out of it, and just shooting with it – and anything that increases the fun of shooting is a worthwhile purchase for me!
66SEAN SHIMMEL says
Uggh… that Westcott Eye Lighter!… I sampled it as a loaner from the company itself for review and summarily returned it… such a hassle to construct and what minimal results.
Neil, perhaps you had a secret up your sleeves I’d overlooked but on my end, I’d never use it even for free.
Best purchases: VSCO and Alien Skin Exposure mixed with fundamental vision.
Here’s a peek:http://lifeascinema.blogspot.com/2014/12/here-comes-sun.html
66.1Neil vN says
I keep the Eyelighter permanently set up in my studio. No need to construct it every time. When not in use, it is on top of one of the shelves, out of the way. It is light-weight, but it does take up space.
Best purchase: Canon 16-35 f/4 lens. After losing my job and having no permanent place to live at the time due to odd circumstances happening at once, I decided the time was right for a cross-country photography trip and I lived on the road for a month, going to many places from Grand Canyon to Yosemite. I always borrowed a 16-35 lens from work for wide angle stuff, but that was no longer an option so I took the only lens I owned, my “jack of all, emphasis on ‘master of none'” 24-105 lens. I hit too many scenarios where I wanted a wider angle yet, so when I got to Vegas I located a camera shop and purchased the 16-35 f/4. I absolutely did not regret it and have gotten amazing shots with that thing. The lack of 2.8 was of no concern as I would primarily be using the lens on a tripod anyway.
Worst purchase: Metz CT60-4 flash (initially). While the hammerhead flashes are past old-fashioned now, a photographer I know still swears by them as they are far easier to adjust (no menu-driven settings), the heads pivot easier, more powerful than speedlites and used units can be had for cheaper. I agree with these points, and the units couldn’t be easier to use and put out wonderful light, better than the Canon speedlite I own. But the problem with buying used units is that they’ve typically been sitting around a long while unused, which is bad on both the capacitor and battery. Bought one from B&H, only for the capacitor to start popping when powered on (and not in a good way). Returned it and tracked down one on eBay in terrific condition which still even had it’s original packaging. Worked fine, except the battery was likely very old and could barely hold a charge, taking MINUTES for a flash to recycle. So it was my worst purchase, at least until I bought one of the newer Li-ion batteries that Metz users have been raving about. Much lighter and easier to charge than the original Metz batteries, aside from some of the laughs one might get from speedlite users, now the unit is amazing.
You don’t need Facebook. Facebook are for those who need publicity. You are a brand in yourself.
I’m sitting here in India viewing your amazing photographs, and thinking, if ever I could ever save enough to attend your workshops and meet a genius like you in person.
My best: Eventually I bought a roll of film and I am trying for the first time the canon ae1 that was sleeping at home. Don’t know about the result, funny thing is that unlike with Digital, I don’t really care the experience is fun !
Best: A 12 TB RAID 5 (from OWC) and a SSD as the main drive for my computer (a 2011 MacBook Pro). The performance improvement in LR and PS was stunning.
Worst: Singh-Ray VariND filter…I thought it would be a lot more useful that it actually is. The ND range before the “X-pattern” distortion sets in is too limited. That said, I have friends who love the thing. I wonder if the distortion kicks in at different ND levels on different sensors?
70.1Neil vN says
I suspect that crop-sensor cameras will be less prone to see this X-pattern.
The Vari-ND filter is one of those items which, when you first learn about it, your reaction is, “this is exactly what I need!” … but when you actually get to use it and see how it works, disappointment kicks in. I was hovering on whether it should be in Worst Buy or just in the “Meh” category. I bumped it up into “Meh” because it is actually well manufactured.
It seems more like they sell linear polarizers. In the “film” days these were common but could helix with your TTL meter.
If your sensor has some polarizing layer that would explain it.
The adjustable double linear polarizers were commonly used in movie film for fade-out and fade-in.
One polarizer was fixed and the other could rotate.
71Neil vN says
Roy Barnes at entry #34 wins the book prize.
(This entry was chosen via a random number generator online.)
In case someone stumbles on this post much later, and Roy’s entry isn’t at #34 anymore, do keep in mind that subsequent comments can be nested, and will bump the numbering of other comments.
Thanks everyone for adding your comments and opinions. It’s been interesting to hear what everyone liked and didn’t like.
I would like to know where did you bougth the black/gray muslin you have in your first photo of this post.
Greetings from Puerto Rico
73Neil vN says
It was a muslin from Denny Manufacturing. It was on a $25 special for a while, but I don’t see it listed anymore, so I think they might have sold off old stock.
Since they won’t ship the BFT material to Finland, a simple black piece of paper has done wonders to my learning of my speedlite-bouncing. Thanks for the blog and the YouTube videos you’ve put for us here.
Good purchases (in addition):
Sigma 18-35 f1.8 as a general purpose lens
Used Canon ef-100mm/2.0 for portraits / highlights / extended view
Done my homework with those, so no surprises there.
Been using these also as my full kit. Fits good in the shoulder bag, along with the 580ex II and good old Rebel Xti. Also in the cabin while abroad.
75Serge Kay says
I accidentally came across your website as I was searching for Back Button AF for my Nikon D300s.
Very impressive. As an avid amateur hobbyist who recently developed a sincere passion to photography, your photos are giving me inspiration to acheive and to better myself.
As my passion developed, I wanted to improve on my equipment. I must say I love my D300s … but there is always new and better technology. My choice to purchase was a new D810 or a new lens Nikor 70-200 VRII.
I opted for the lens.
Incredible glass. I am pleased with my choice as I love portraiture and street photography.
So this gets the vote for my best purchase.
Best purchase: Nikon D800 and Nikon 14-24mm. Much better than my “old” Canon 5D MkII anyhow.
Worst purchase: not really worst but very unhappy with my GODOX PB960. After one year of use, one of my two battery cells collapsed during a portrait shooting session where I decided to bring only my 2 flashes AD360!!!
My retailer sent me a new battery under warranty 2 days after which was really great.
I also discovered that GODOX sells this unit as a 4500mAH when it is really only a 3800mAH! Too bad as the AD360 is a real killer! Hope GODOX will be more serious in the future, because I tend to believe that this is a great brand.
77Monika Bauer says
Ah, well you need to watch this if you want to know why your ‘promote’ on facebook doesn’t work…..
Very interesting, hey???
canon 70-200 f2.8 non is
canon 50mm 1.2
planning to buy a new gear and still undecided either the profoto b1 or a fullframe camera :)
which one i should buy first?