Best photography purchases of 2019
It’s that time of the year again, where we look at our best photography purchases. I have become increasingly careful with what I buy — I mean, this stuff is so expensive — that there isn’t anything that really stands out that I was disappointed with. I have even cut down on the number of self-indulgent purchases. Most of what I bought are things that I can solidly justify for my photography work. However, a trend that becomes obvious, especially when I look over the previous years’ entries for best photography purchases, is that even when I love a specific lens or camera, I will easily move on and upgrade if I think that move will help me.
Here are some of what I think were my wisest investments.
Also, we would all love to hear what you have been up to, and what astute and interesting choices you’ve made this year.
Let’s hear from you:
To make it interesting, I am offering an online tutoring session session via Zoom or Skype to each of three randomly chosen comments. The winners will be picked via random number generator, as before. Winners will be announced on January 5th. Should you win, you are also welcome to gift these to a photographer friend instead.
- More details about Online Tutoring sessions.
- More info about other Photography workshops that I offer.
My best photography purchases for 2019
While I have always had at least a sampling of the main camera brands – Nikon, Canon, Sony & Fuji – my predominant camera system has been Nikon for a long number of years now. With the advent of mirrorless cameras, and the possibility to have a completely silent shutter, I started looking at Fuji to augment my main Nikon system. I bought two Fuji X-H1 bodies. Lovely cameras. However, the Fuji f/2.8 zooms were disappointingly soft at the longer end. I felt they weren’t lenses that I could rely on professionally. I dumped the entire Fuji system at some loss, to buy into the Sony system instead. Sony turned out to be a better decision.
Sony A9 mirrorless camera
With two solid firmware upgrades during 2019, Sony transformed an already solid camera into something with an uncanny ability to autofocus on moving subjects … on their eyes! And still retain critical focus. Unreal.
The Sony A9 is a phenomenal camera, and it quickly became the camera that I use in available light settings. However, for anything involving flash, I still find the Nikon D5 to be my preferred camera then.
Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM lens
Here is my glowing review of the Sony 135mm f/1.8 GM lens.
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens
Here are my reviews of the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM lens:
Sony FE 24-70 f/2.8 GM lens
Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera
One of the other reasons why I started looking into Sony, was that at the time Nikon didn’t have a 4K capable camera that could fit on a gimbal. For that, I bought a Sony A7 iii (affiliate). I also needed a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens that could take filters. The filter thread is necessary to easily accommodate Neutral Density filters for video work. At the time Nikon hadn’t even announced their mirrorless camera yet. So I started into the Sony cameras and lenses. But my love is still with Nikon.
Atomos Ninja V 4K recording monitor
Not only is the Atomos Ninja V 4K recording monitor (B&H / Amazon) quite sexy — you look pretty serious with a monitor attached to your camera — but the main use for me is to record longer segment smoothly without stress.
Then of course, monitors like this now allow you to shoot Prores RAW video for greater quality with cameras like the Nikon Z6. As I said, quite sexy.
Other purchases I am very happy with
- The Emmy — they don’t just give the statue to you. You have to purchase yours from the Academy. Still, massive bragging rights, so I just had to.
- Even though I have several Godox flashes, including one in the Sony mount — I use these as part of the flash photography workshops I present — when I wanted to get a serious flash for my Sony A9 cameras, I immediately bought a Profoto A1x flash (B&H / Amazon). They are reliable, and very easy to use, especially in how you can seamlessly flip between manual and TTL flash. And of course, the Sony A1x fits in beautifully with the rest of my Profoto gear.
- Polarpro variable ND filter 82mm (B&H) — to use as Neutral Density filters when I shoot video and need a wider aperture than is easily possible in bright light. These high-quality variable ND filters come in 2 ranges: 2-5 stops; 6-9 stops. I bought the 2-5 stop range filters because they make enough of a difference to the amount of light let in, to give me a reasonably shallow depth of field in bright sunlight.
- Rode NTG4+ shotgun mic. I’m slowly expanding the audio gear in my arsenal.
That’s it for me. Now it’s your turn. Add yours to the list of Best / Worst Photo related purchases, by posting in the comments section.
What photo gear did you acquire which you believe will make a difference to your photography and your business in the upcoming years? Post your replies in the comments.
- Other best photography purchases, listed by year
- Review: Sony 135mm f/1.8 GM lens
- Lens sharpness – Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM vs Sony 85mm f/1.8
47 Comments, Add Your Own
1Ken Cravillion says
The A9 was a game changer when it came out. Still one of my best purchases. And the 135mm is to die for.
1.1Jon Jon Yates says
I love my Profoto B10 and trigger. It was my first large purchase for my studio and I love it! My Sigma 35mm art (Sony mount) is so buttery. My other prime lens is the 85mm Sony G master and it is also a dream. I also adore my lume cubes!
Plus one to Nikon Z50. I suspected it might be a good camera but the reality even surprised me. Not only video capabilities like autofocus accuracy and speed are the first class, but also the quality of stills. The noise grain is more pleasant and easier to cope with than in files from my D810, under the same settings (by iso 6400) – really.. Continuous AF is fast and precise so I can shoot waves of stromy Sea coming towards me with less than 2 per cent mistakes, my fault perhaps. Autofocus in the high frame rate of 11 per second is splendid. The whole set: camera plus two lenses (16-50; 50-250) and spare batteries fits in 3 liters peak design slide. I always carry this combo with me, which was recently not the case with much more bulky set of D810.. This little gem delivers. That is it.
2PAUL SELL says
Purchased my second D750 during the Black Friday price cut; my wife then surprised me with the vertical grip, so you can see I’m planning on staying with the DSLRs for a while.
3Suzanna Mars says
Sony A9 and then A9ii. I bought both bodies because I use both while shooting dance/theatre/concerts (don’t like to switch lenses). After three months of practice at “low-risk” performances (read: random unpaid things), I made the move to full-time Sony and I haven’t looked back. No more noise during quiet moments, no more trying to find the eyes of an actor in that big moment, no more locking onto microphones instead of mouths during concerts. No more missing the highest point of that arabesque.
That said, I had to buy the big trio of zoom lenses to accommodate this switch, so I purchased the 24-70 f/2.9 GM, the 70-200 f/2.8 GM, and the 16-35 f/2.8 GM. This covers all of my production/performance needs.
However, thanks to a certain wedding and portrait photographer I know (who might this be?) I have my sights set on the aforementioned 85 and 135.
I buy gear that makes me money, and which pays for itself within a year or so. Or so it should go :–).
4Tracy Page says
I went all Zeiss Otus this year! I am loving the depth of field with the Otus line of lenses and the creamy smooth transitions. My main lens became the Otus 100 which I’m using 95% of the time. I also picked up the Otus 55 and I’m liking that one as well. For the Sony I’ve been using the Batis 40 and it is getting quite a work out.
I use a D7500 camera (with a D7000 as back up), and didn’t like using a 50mm indoors. It wasn’t wide enough for small spaces. So I bought a Sigma 30mm 1.4 art.
I do like it a lot – it serves it’s purpose! I love that it gives me more stops of light.
I have also been able to purchase a Godox AD200 Pro to add to my AD600BM. I found the 600 clunky to cart around to outdoor shoots without an assistant. While I’m still learning to use OCF outdoors, I am starting to use it in outdoor shoots more often.
I love how quick and easy the AD200 is to set up and carry around. I have used it indoors as well in combination with my 600, for fitness modelling shoots. Really love the Godox system.
Maybe one day I will be able to post that I’m loving my new full frame body! Unfortunately affording one is an issue.
6Philip Jacob says
My best purchase of 2019 was two profoto A1x flashlights to add to my Nikon D850 system.
6.1Paul Ward says
Won’t do a wedding without my A1’s! Amazing performance!
For me it was definitely the Profoto B10 with it’s videolight, it’s small size and I could add free lightshapers for an amount of €500 when I bought it in the store. (Profoto promotion)
I also added a Nikon Z 50 1.8. The next purchase will be the Z 70-200 as soon as it will be available to expand the Nikon Z system which I love because of the silent mode, sharpness and it’s rich tones.
And I bought the iPhone 11Pro at last which can make nice portraits and this new phone has a loooooooong battery life!
7Shelley Koon says
I’ve debated a mirrorless camera and came close to buying the Z7 but decided to wait a bit longer (I currently shoot with a D810 and 800.) My favorite purchases this year have been two beautiful hand painted backdrops – have not yet had the time to shoot on them sadly but have a date booked in January.
8Paurav Shah says
I purchased a used Nikon D4 with only 28,000 clicks in the same price of Nikon D750. Little bit bulky but happy with the image quality. No regret for 16MP files. Easy to edit. Autofocus is very fast to lock the subject while doing street photography.
8.1Paul Ward says
Great camera. Such a workhorse!
I bought a 2nd hand D5 body (to go with my D4s & D5) and a couple of video lights … I want to try out continuous lighting for my pet photography as a few pups were totally spooked by the flash. And that’s it. Now I am watching and waiting until I can get a mirrorless as good as the D5 for action shots (read galloping race horses on finish line, agility dogs etc). I yearn for the Sony A9 with 135mm for silent event photography … or comparable Nikon Z6/Z7 with lens. Can’t wait to see what 2020 will offer.
10Kristy G says
We bought a Tamron 10-24mm G2, which does not disappoint; it’s a great wide zoom that also works on an FX body after 14mm. I happily added a third budget speedlight to my kit and continue to learn and sharpen skills. We recently picked up a new Gobe polarizer and ND filter for landscapes, too. We also discovered LeoFoto’s
Carbon fibre tripods are quite exceptional in quality and price. There have been more expensive years, so I suppose it could be said we took it easy in 2019.
11Paul Ward says
Happiest this year with my acquisition of the Sigma Art 35mm and 20mm. I’m a believer! So impressed with their performance on both my D4 and D750 cameras. Using them so much to complement my other Nikon lenses.
12Mitch Wojnarowicz says
A couple more Nikon D750 bodies. I put so much mileage on them that even if something new comes out that I just ‘must’ have, I’ll still get my money’s worth out of them they are so cheap now.
I’m very settled with a bunch of Godox Ad 200’s, and you’ll never take my Think Tank production manager from me. It can drag much of what I need for a job using these compact flashes. But their new Stand Manager is the bag that I’ve been looking for, for about 20 years. From loads of irregular sized grip. To putting everything including cameras (in padding) into it for a headshot session. The cats love it too while I’m loading out for a job.
Downsized to a new 13” MacBook Pro. The laptop is strictly a tethering and on-the-road device for me (I just don’t edit nor do other work on a laptop if I’m in the office, that’s handled by a Mac Pro and a Mac Mini) so the weight and size savings is a major bonus over the older 15 inch ‘pro.
13Colin Maclaren says
My Sigma 105 1.4. A bit tricky getting focus spot on with a dslr and weighs a ton, but boy the results are superb. Sharpest lens I have ever used.
14Tom Bond says
This year was the year I got my camera addiction under some control. I had half-finished wedding gear from Sony and Nikon. I didn’t like the colour in artificial light from my D850 and colour matching with my Z6 was a pain.
I didn’t like the Sony A7III because of the EVF, screen and AWB. My colleagues all shoot Canon so I went back.
I went RF though, and bought three EOS R bodies, 28-70, 70-200, 50, 15-35, 24-105. Cameras do the job but could do it better. Lenses blow me away! Fantastic performance.
15Quin Rickman says
Sony HVL-F60RM flashes (5) I picked up this year, I control them with the Sony FA-WRC1m wireless radio commander. I’ve been waiting a long time for Sony to come out with a reliable wireless flash system, this system has worked flawlessly with my Sony A99ii’s. With this system I have complete control of the flashes from the camera, example flash exposure lock and compensation. The Sony HVL-F60RM flash does not have the issues of overheating and shoe mount lock issues the HVL-F60M flash had.
16Michael Bryant says
My best purchase was the Sony 70-200mm f4 lens which is far lighter and easier to carry than the Nikon f2.8 equivalent. I do a lot of landscape work so the lighter load really helps with the weight I carry and the results are incredible. Great IQ and razor sharp!
I also bought myself a new Film camera, an old Pentax ME Super which I am loving playing with. Its a great way to have some fun and to stop, slow down and think of the photography process. It’s just mindfulness with a camera! Super fun and something totally different for me!
17Jeannette Appold says
I bought the Z7 and love it!
18David Bruno says
I purchased a Canon 5D MK IV, which I feel is the most important one for me this year (My 6D is now my backup). But after that, in descending order of importance:
Refurbished HP Laptop for head shots
4 TB Hard Drive to back up customer photos
Flashpoint Backdrop System, which can go to 13 feet wide x 13 feet high
I also received as a Christmas gift a Glow EZ Lock 60-inch Wing-Like Umbrella, which I know will be great as I do a lot of “Step-and-Repeat” photography for an agency I freelance for.
19Bruce Walker says
The gear that has most positively affected my work has been a set of Gravity Backdrops. I got three in a package deal: two large and one standard size. They’re very beautiful and have significantly improved my compositions.
20Pete Stoll says
Hard to compete here – lots of pro gear!
For me, it was simple – got a new body (Canon 6DM2) and really love that. But the piece of gear I’m absolutely in love with is a Benro monopod with a fluid head. I’ve used it for photo & video, and it’s become my indispensible workhorse for a lot of the work and personal projects.
21Robert Hodson says
I needed to upgrade my lighting kit from a hodgpodge collection to something reliable that meshed seamlessly and provided consistent results. I went with 2 Profoto B10’s, 2 A1’s, an Air RemoteTTL, a Connect (magic with the A1’s for running around at events), numerous OCF and RFI light shaping tools along with various gels and grids for both the B10’s and A1’s. Oh yeah, and even a C1 Plus for my new iPhone 11 Pro Max! Everything fits into a new Think Tank Airport Security V 3.0 roller along with 4 Manfroto compact Nano nightstands, chargers and extra batteries. With my cameras and lenses in my backpack I am completely self contained for any location shoot no matter what or where it is, traveling by planes, trains, or automobiles!
I finally was able to go full frame so I got a Canon 6D MK2. Love full frame and will try to never look back. Also purchased a Tamron 24-70 2.8 VR and Tamron 70-200 2.8 VR.
23Mike Goldstein says
The most useful gear of the year was a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens that was a significant upgrade of my two-generation-old Nikon 70-200. The biggest improvement (besides edge-to-edge sharpness) was a reduction in minimum focus distance (from 58.8″ to 43.3″) that made a big difference when getting tight shots of shelter animals. For wildlife work I finally got a monopod (RRS) and a Wimberley monogimbal head; these made a huge difference in ease of use of long lenses in the field, as compared to a full gimbal head and a tripod. Scrolling through the comments above, I wish I hadn’t seen Bruce’s comment about Gravity Backdrops…those would look so good with shelter animals in front of them…very tempting!
My best buys this year was two zeiss lenses: otus 55mm/f1.4 and the milvus 21mm f2.8
what can I say they ? chalk and cheese compared to nikon lenses and the resulting imagery speaks for itself
They are manual focus; had to relearn to manual focus. I found a very fast solution, set the distance to infinity then rotate back ever so slightly to see solid green circle for focus and fire — a positive by product is that you use your feet and pause for well considered composition. Will now look at other zeiss lenses.
25Kent Olinger says
1. ExpoDisc 2.0,
2. X-Rite Color-Checker Passport and
3. 70mm prime lens (for a Pentax camera)
I bought the ExpoDisc several years ago. I now use it in conjunction with the CC Passport card: ExpoDisc sets the STRENGTH of the light; CC Passport card sets the COLOR of the light.
The 70mm lens is outstanding for shooting people at events.
I finally have some time to do a little bit of photography again, but my Nikon D700 was getting too old to find certain parts.
Tied for best purchase:
1) I bought a Godox V1 flash, which is a cheaper alternative to the Profoto A1. With the Godox V1, I didn’t have to carry as many batteries.
2) Godox released a bracket that would allow me to mount the bracket to my old Lastolite Ezybox softboxes. This bracket also hold the V1s. I had so much trouble finding a bracket that worked with the V1, as nearly all of them were designed for rectangular flash heads.
I also bought the accessory kit for the Godox V1, which comes with a plastic flag and some gels using a magnetic mount similar to MagMod. The plastic flag is a small plastic card that is arguably no better than the Black Foamie Thing (BFT), and I think the gels are just ok. I don’t think the gels are color calibrated, so I will likely just cut up some Rosco 1/2 CTS or 1/2 CTO gels into round shapes and tape them to the V1 with gaffer tape, just like Neil used to do it years ago.
27Barry Milton says
Three years ago I purchased a Canon 7D Mk II, Canon 100-400L IS II & Canon 24-105 L.
Just this month I traded in everything except the 100-400 for a 5D Mk IV, 11-24 f/4, 24-70 f2.8 & 70-200 f/4. This will be my first full frame body and I’m excited to see the results especially at the wide end. My friends tell me that they regularly shoot up to 10,000 ISO with the 5D4 And that will open up some interesting possibilities.
Thanks for the wonderful information Neil, please keep the great ideas coming.
28Annie G says
I usually take photos of animals at Zoo, flowers and grandchildren but I said yes to shooting a wedding for friends. OMG – up ship creek without a paddle for sure! Anyway, I am a beginner to all things flash so my best purchases (on a very tight budget) were
1&2 The Godox V1 and Godox AD 200
3. The black foamie thing of course!
Lightroom Pre-sets Most of them just make my photos look un-natural and I like natural.
Haven’t mastered anything yet but I’m trying!
29Martin van Kuilenburg says
Not so much main gear but some accessories. An Aodelan external power pack for my flash, after draining the internal batteries once too often during a shot. A SpinLight 360. Yes I also made a Black Foamie thing (BFT) in the past as per Neil’s instructions bu the ease of constantly redirecting the SpinLight makes it a snap to use. My flash photography has never been better thanks to the “direction of light” instructions by Neil. Finally a Spidercheckr24 to control the colors in my images.
Best purchase this year, two albums—one of my street photography work, the other, my car photography work. The “Cars & Characters” book I plan to use as a portfolio when attending local car shows.
My best move this year was to “un-purchase” great gear that I don’t use: zoom lenses! Started with a focal length / lens analysis. I used Lightroom to grab exif data and discovered I used zoom lenses as two primes! So my 24-70 was mostly shot at either 24mm or 70mm and very little in between. Ditto with my 70-200! and my 16-35! So I shot a few weddings with just prime lenses albeit with 2 bodies. Kept a wider lens on one body and a more telephoto lens on the other – combinations of 24mm, 50mm and 135mm. I am pretty happy with the results. There is a much more uniform “look” and consistency to the photos.
I did keep my 100-400L as I actually use it at a variety of focal lengths.
Of course, in a year or two I hope to moving to the Canon RF system as the lenses are amazing – but probably only three primes and no zooms.
Canon 1Dx MKII was my best purchase in 2019. Having used D bodies since the 1D, I was torn about buying this, a 5DM4 (price), or an EOS R. The mirrorless camera didn’t satisfy me in my hands or my style of shooting at this time.
The 1Dx MKII does everything I want in a camera including FPS, High usable ISO, multiple light source correction, and comfort of use! I shoot a session on P mode for the first time ever to see what this camera could do and edited it in auto in LR. I was blown away! White balance, focus, and images were spot on.
I shoot events as well as nature and the camera balances well with my Tamron 150-600. The AI servo is clean and accurate. This camera has done everything I have asked it to do and I am still reading the manual! Happy happy!
33Victor logan says
I used to work with a 21 inch monitor for my post. Then I got the Benq sw2700pt 27 inch monitor. Changed my DNA, man.
34James Osborne says
Mine was the one-on-one Skype tutorial with Neil On event/speedlight photography. I couldn’t write fast enough and still refer to those notes. I’ve got enough kit (also bought the Z6 to accompany the D850 and D5 this year), so investing in wisdom and experience is always my best purchase.
35Marco Borroni says
Photography, to me, is more an exploration than anything else (I don’t want to become a professional at the moment).
Last year marked my introduction to the ‘serious’ mirrorless world – we all own a cell phone boasting a mirrorless camera, don’t we? – and my choice was a Fuji X-T30. Whenever I did not want to carry with me my ‘serious’ gear – Canon 5D IV, lenses, speedlights – I took that small and nearly pocketable camera with me. What a lesson! Words as flickering, banding, rolling shutter effect, electronic shutter vs mechanical shutter, shutter speed vs sensor readout time, depth of field equivalence with a crop sensor etc… initially were just a little more than a few theoretical concepts. Now are my own experience!
Is the Fuji X-T30 a good camera? Definitely so!
Is a Canon 5D IV a good camera? Definitely so!
But now I have a better understanding of those tools and can choose the one that best suits my specific needs in a specific situation.
Finally I want to take this opportunity to thank Neil for his generosity in sharing his knowledge
36Stacey Nolan says
As I am just learning photography, using the Sony 70-200 2.8 has been a thrill! I used to think 50mm was the best portrait lens from what I read, but I love outdoor natural light portraits at 150 to 200. Also, buying my first ever speedlights and strobes is giving me plenty to learn and experiment with. Looking forward to getting these basics down in 2020!
37Jamie Stenson says
My best camera related purchase of 2019 was DXO PhotoLab 3, which was half price on Black Friday. It’s giving me much better results on my Olympus RAW files than my previous RAW engine and it’s noise reduction is excellent.
38Bob Hardick says
My best purchase was buying Capture One to process my Fuji files. The detail I get from the same files that I edited in Lightroom is amazing. No more worms!
39barbara smith says
~My best purchase this year was two (used) Canon 600EX-RT flashes, a transmitter AND a Magbox softlight kit. Whoo Hoo! Getting back to OCF and all of the fun it offers, thanks to Neil and his awesome tutorials and books. I am THRILLED with my newest work, and would never be this focused, this quickly without this blog :) Thank you Neil for the difference you’ve made in my focus.
40Neil vN says
And with that, we are closing the entries for the Skype tutoring sessions.
As before, I used a random number generator. Since there were a few nested comments, I made the total number 43. (The 40-43 numbers would have been allocated to the nested numbers, 1.1 and 1.2 etc.)
Comment 18 — David Bruno
Comment 38 — Bob Hardick
Comment 20 — Pete Stoll
41Bob Shurtleff says
Best decision I made this year was to purchase a Leica Q2 mirrorless rangefinder Camera, which has a Leica 24mm Summilux 1.7 ASPH lens. The 47 megapixel full frame sensor, paired with this lens is a game changer.
I chose Leica specifically to shoot street photography during my recent trip to Europe. The rendering of color and detail is extraordinary. This refreshed my approach to the things I love most about photography.
Yes I’m too late for the prizes, but wanted to share nonetheless.
42Mike Burch says
I revamped most of my kit this year, traded in the 5dmk3 for a 5dmk4, it was the camera I wanted when i got the mk3. Sold off all my random bits of lighting gear and went flashpoint with the ad400pro and 3 speedlights and grabbed a nikon trigger for my buddy. I ordered 2 studio strobes to complete the system this weekend. My worst purchase of the year was the 5dmk3, after using my 80d for so long it just felt like old tech. It was a fine camera but didnt blow me away, the mk4 does everything better, focus, sharpness, touch screen. This years big purchase will be a new macro, and maybe a new 70-200 to replace my old sigma.
With the state of the world it all seems kind of anticlimactic, went from a long cold winter to a pandemic. Hopefully by the end of this year we will be able to safely hit the streets again.