Best DSLR Camera Bags

Finding a bag, case, or backpack for your DSLR camera can sometimes be tricky. Many photographers are very particular about their bags, and it’s easy to see why. You need something that will protect all your gear, withstand the environment you are usually in, and be comfortable to wear around.

There are many camera bags on the market, and you can find just about any price point imaginable. We have a roundup of our favorite bags out there to help you narrow down your decision.

We have identified five styles of camera bags: shoulder bags, backpacks, sling bags, messenger bags, and purses.

We recommend considering a number of things before you buy a new camera bag, including:

  • Ease of access
  • Weatherproofing
  • Dedicated pockets or inserts
  • Room for gear and extras (laptops, etc.)
  • Preferred style

With your wish list in mind, we also recommend buying the best available in your budget. As a general rule, more expensive bags will be better made – they’ll be made from better material and have better stitching and more durability.

Of course, we know that having a bag that’s fashionable is important, too, but tastes vary so widely it all comes down to personal preference. We did keep stylishness in mind in our review, though, and luckily there are plenty of options that look good while being functional.

Without further ado, here are our favorite camera bags.

Shoulder Bags

Shoulder bags are not always the most popular camera bags, but they work well for plenty of photographers. These bags sit on one shoulder (and sometimes double as cross-body bags), so it’s important that they have padded shoulders to minimize discomfort.

Shoulder bags generally aren’t as sleek as messenger bags, and they’re not meant for hiking or other outdoorsy activities like backpacks. So, they tend to be a bit bulky, but good ones will have good protection and plenty of pockets and slots for all your gear. Think Tank and Lowepro offer our favorite shoulder bags, and both brands have plenty of options for sizes and colors.

Our picks:

Think Tank Retrospective 30 (Top Pick)

While the Retrospective 30 is the most expensive of the three shoulder bags we picked, it’s well worth the money. It features plenty of storage space – the Retrospective 30 can accommodate a full frame DSLR and extra lenses. The manufacturer calls it “inconspicuous” and a blend of “old school” with new technology.

These descriptions make total sense when you see it, but we’d also go so far as to call it stylish (in a utilitarian sort of way). It’s durable and sturdy with a rugged build and quality materials. Check out the other Retrospective bags for additional sizes if the 30 is more than you need for your gear.

Lowepro Nova 180Lowepro

The Nova is not as stylish as the Retrospective, but it’s well made and features several options. It’s also less expensive than Think Tank’s. You have options for storage and carrying, as well as several choices of sizes. The Nova 180 is for compact DSLRs, but you can pick up larger sizes for bigger cameras or more gear storage. The Nova is weatherproof and features a flap lid for extra protection from the elements. It’s a bit boxy, but it has fantastic protection and will last a long time.

AmazonBasics DSLR Gadget Bag (Budget Pick)

If you do not want to fork out so many of your hard earned dollars, AmazonBasic’s line of goods has a gadget back that’s seriously budget-friendly. The compartments inside offer plenty of space and options for your gear storage, and are lots of pockets and slots for your extras. It’s not anything spectacular to look at, but it’s well made and functional. And you simply can’t beat the price.

Backpacks

DSLR backpacks are awesome for photographers on the move. They are also an absolute necessity for outdoors photographers who need to have their equipment safe and have both hands free. There are an incredible number of camera backpacks on the market, and you can spend hundreds of dollars getting some of the top of the line models. However, spending big is necessary if you need a backpack that can handle the elements and keep your gear safe and sound.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack (Top Pick)

The buzzy and award winning Peak Design has an everything-you-need-and-then-some backpack that pros can’t get enough of. While it’s a little spendy, you’re paying for expert design, well thought out engineering, and weatherproofing you won’t have to think twice about. One of the best things about the Everyday Backpack is how intuitive and functional the storage is. You get easy access to all the things you need. We love this backpack and think you will, too.Peak Design

Pacsafe Camsafe V17 Anti-Theft Backpack

While this backpack is designed with security in mind, it’s also a functional, well-designed backpack for an affordable price. The anti-theft features of the backpack are super useful for travelers – it is engineered with all the security components you’d need. This includes embedded wire mesh and RFIDsafe Blocking Material to help prevent hacker scanning. It also features a built in rain cover, lots of compartments for all your stuff, and a low profile. It’s perfect for travel or everyday use.

Lowepro Hatchback BP 150 AW II (Budget Pick)

We’re big fans of all of Lowepro’s camera bags. This one isn’t our favorite Lowepro overall, but its budget-friendly price and versatility help it land a spot on our list. The Hatchback BP 150 is designed for compact DSLRs, but it also easily converts to a standard daypack. This makes it even kinder to your wallet, as you’re essentially getting two bags in one. It features an all weather cover to help protect your gear from the elements and from dust. If you want a more comprehensive outdoor backpack, or you have more to spend, we recommend checking out some of Lowepro’s other offerings (the pro-approved Whistler BP [AMAZON LINK] is pretty amazing), but if you’re on a budget, the Hatchback is a fantastic option.

Messenger Bags

Messenger bags are a popular choice for photographers who want a stylish, comfortable bag that’s easy to access. The best messenger bags for cameras have pockets or inserts for your gear and for anything else you want to carry with you, like laptops or tablets, or keys and a wallet.

Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag (Top Pick)

Peak Design makes their second appearance on our list with this smart, high-quality messenger bag. It’s a bit pricey, much like their backpack, but it’s well worth saving up for. Peak Design worked with photographer Trey Ratcliff to create a functional bag that considers photographers’ needs. There are so many things to love about this bag – from its construction and usability, to its incredible attention to detail in organization configuration. Plus, its weatherproofing, comfortable strap, and rugged good looks, it’s a bag that will quickly become many photoPeak Design Messangergrapher’s favorite.

Tenba Messenger DNA

The Tenba Messenger DNA comes in several sizes so that you can find the perfect fit. The exterior is all-weather and rugged, making it a great choice for everyday use. The interior pays attention to the care and space you need for your camera and gear. The Messenger DNA also features an additional security strap so that you can wear it on your bike without the bag sliding around. The top has a quick access feature that makes it simple to grab your camera without opening the whole top. Price-wise, the Messenger DNA is priced well for an all-weather bag with inventive and useful features.

Ape Case Large DSLR Bag (Budget Pick)

Like our other budget picks, the Ape Case is best for a compact DSLR. Though the name says large, it’s really more of a medium-sized (or even a small medium) messenger. However, it’s very affordable and has a fun, functional look about it. It’s lightweight and contours to the body well, making it a good option if you want a bag that doesn’t call attention to the gear you have in it. It’s nicely priced, so if  you are on a budget, this is worth checking out.

Sling Bags

Sling bags are not the most popular style of DSLR bag, but they are well loved by photographers who want a more compact way to carry their camera around. These are ideal for short hikes or day trips where you don’t need all of your gear and don’t want a bunch of extra weight on your back or side. Most sling bags are inexpensive; in fact, most are available for under $100, making them a good option for a backup bag.

Think Tank Turnstyle 20 (Top Pick)

Think Tank makes it to the top of another category with this sling bag called the Turnstyle. It’s the most expensive sling bag we selected (though still under $100), but it’s worth the money for Think Tank’s smart design and sturdy construction. The Turnstyle features an option to be worn as a belt pack in addition to a sling, making it a versatile choice for active photographers. Either way you wear it, you can get to your gear quickly and efficiently. It also has water-resistant fabric and a removable rain cover.Think Tank Camera Bag

Lowepro Slingshot Edge

The Lowepro Slingshot is a smartly designed sling that makes getting what you need super easy. There is a small front pocket, for example, that has a space for your phone, plus separate space for other small essentials. All of the other access points are well thought out, and the Slingshot makes an excellent choice for travelers with compact DSLRs. You can quickly access the side pocket without taking the bag off, and the zipper placement makes it easy to get in and out of while also deterring theft. Lowepro is a fantastic brand for camera bags, and their Slingshot is no exception.

Ruggard Triumph 35 Sling Bag

You’ll notice we don’t have a budget pick for sling bags, and that’s because the Lowepro sling and this Ruggard sling are pretty darn close in price. The Triumph has a bit more room than the Slingshot, but it too has smart access points to quickly get in and out of the bag. The Triumph as a compact tripod holder and plenty of compartment options, making it an excellent option for traveling and keeping everything together.

Purses

There are far fewer options for camera purses than any other bag type. This is probably because they aren’t practical for every photographer, nor are they very useful for many situations beyond walking around town. There is still some demand for them, though, so there are a few possibilities for a stylish purse that is designed to hold DSLR equipment. One thing to note, however, is that there aren’t many budget options, so you can expect to pay over $100 for a DSLR purse.

Jo Totes Gracie Camera Bag (Top Pick)

The Gracie purse is a super cute option that has plenty of room for your camera and gear. There’s room enough for your camera body and a few lenses or other gear, plus pockets for other things. The Gracie bag is fantastic for travel – it doesn’t look like a gear bag and it conforms to your body rather than being bulky. The access points are easy to get into, and there are lots of options for storage. It’s also the least expensive option in this category.Jo Totes

Kailo Chic Camera and Laptop Tote

This tote doesn’t have great padding for the camera compartments, but it’s a real winner in the looks department. It features comfortable straps and lots of compartments, so it will work well for a stylish photographer who is on the go. It is practical and sturdy, so if you are looking for a bag that will function as more than just a camera bag, this is a fantastic option. There are several print options, too, so there’s sure to be one that matches your personality.

 

 

Best Tamron DSLR Lenses 2017

Buying a new lens for your SLR camera can really break the bank. Good quality lenses can be incredibly expensive. Fortunately, there are some additional options to check out if a Canon or Nikon brand lens is outside your budget. Third-party manufacturers offer lenses with mounts that work with different camera bodies and are usually cost quite a bit less.

Tamron is one of those third-party manufacturers and they have a great selection of lenses for Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras. This guide will take a look at some of the best lenses Tamron has to offer for your DSLR camera.

Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 VC PZD All-In-One Zoom Lens 

This compact and lightweight zoom lens works fantastic for travel. It is budget friendly, especially given its range and quality. It gets great wide angle shots, and features both vibration control and a silent motor. The 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 is a super versatile lens that produces good quality images.

This lens will work on APS-C sensors and has available mounts for Canon, Nikon, and Sony – though the Sony Alpha mount does not include Vibration Compensation.  The sharpness is quite remarkable given the zoom range. For travelers and spontaneous types, this versatile lens is a great match.

Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro Di VC

This macro lens is one of Tamron’s most loved lenses. It captures sharp up close images and features advanced optics technology to reduce ghosting and flare. It’s well constructed, with both moisture- and dust-proof construction as well as front coating to repel water and fingerprints. This is a solid lens built to work hard.

The 90mm is great for low light situations, and Tamron’s Vibration Compensation elevates this lens’s abilities even further. It comes in Canon and Nikon mounts and is a great choice for everyone from macro shooters to bloggers and portrait photographers.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC G2

Though it’s a bit spendy, this telephoto zoom lens is well worth every penny. It offers incredible sharpness and little to no chromatic aberrations or distortion. The 70-200mm has fast, accurate, and nearly silent focusing, so it’s a great lens for wildlife photographers in particular.

The 70-200mm is actually one of the most compact zoom lenses in its class. IQ is stunning at every range, and the Vibration Compensation works well for image stability. Many users find this lens to be superior over the first-party lenses of identical specs.

Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical (IF) Lens

If you want a good portrait lens with creamy bokeh and excellent IQ, the 17-50 f/2.8 is a wallet-friendly option that doesn’t disappoint. This lens isn’t just for portraits, though. In fact, it’s an excellent all around lens that captures great sharpness with no chromatic aberrations or distortions.

Canon mounts work with most of the APS-C sensors, and there are mount options for Nikon, Sony, and Pentax as well. AF is fast, though at lower lights some users see issues. Overall, it’s an affordable lens that will more than meet your expectations for a variety of shooting situations.

Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD

The 70-300mm is a wonderful lens with a ton of perks: great optical performance, ultra-silent AF, image stabilization, and great focal length. It’s a highly versatile zoom lens that will be great for traveling, nature, street photography and more. This lens is compatible with both full frame and cropped sensors.

The sharpness on the 70-300mm is consistently excellent. It’s both lightweight and compact, and one of the best things about it is the affordable price. This is a perfect next-step lens when you’re ready to move beyond the kit lens. It’s also high quality enough that enthusiasts and even pros will appreciate it as well.

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Wide-Angle 

Our last Tamron lens pick is another full frame compatible lens. This excellent wide angle lens has a fast 2.8 aperture and Vibration Compensation, making it a great choice for a variety of shoots. Real estate, architecture, and other photographers will appreciate the solid build and tack sharpness.

The 15-30mm works great in low light situations, and has been used for astrophotography with good results. It also features weather sealing and premium optics. It’s a high quality wide angle lens that is well worth the money.

Best Sigma Lenses for Nikon 2017

When you are ready to add to your photography gear, you might find yourself immersed in the world of Nikon DSLR lenses. There are multiple lens options for any situation and at every price point. Our guide to Nikon lenses for beginners covers some of our favorite lenses for those looking beyond kit lenses. But there are even more options out there.

Third-party lenses come from manufacturers that create lenses that will work with different camera bodies. Sigma is one of the most popular third-party manufacturers, and their lenses are quite popular with everyone from novice to professional photographers.

Buying third-party lenses can save you a lot of money, and Sigma has some excellent offerings. In this guide, we’ll talk about some of the best Sigma lenses you can pick up for your Nikon camera.

Introduction to Sigma

Sigma has been producing great camera lenses since 1961. Their products are highly regarded and less expensive than Nikon lenses.

Sigma lenses are available in DG (full frame) and DC (APS-C). The three lines you’ll see are Art, Contemporary, and Sports. Features of Sigma lenses match what you’ll see on Nikon lenses, with Sigma’s own terminology used instead. A few of those features include:

  • OS: Optical Image Stabilization, to minimize vibration
  • HSM: Hypersonic Motor, for fast and quiet focus
  • EX: High-quality, professional lens

Before You Buy

There are several ways to narrow down your selection of lens options. The first is to determine what you usually shoot. Some examples include landscapes, events, sports, or portraits. From there, you can get to know lenses that are best suited to those situations. Shooting wildlife requires longer zoom lenses, while portraits usually need larger aperture settings.

You may also need to pay attention to the format compatibility of the lens. This is primarily if you have (or plan to get) a full frame Nikon such as a D750 or D5. Sigma DC lenses will not work well with full frame Nikon bodies.

Finally, make sure the lens has the Nikon mount when you buy. Those are the main factors to keep an eye on; otherwise, the sky (or your wallet) is the limit.

Best Sigma Lenses

Here are our top picks for Sigma lenses for your Nikon SLR.

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro

This macro lens captures superior shots every time. It features exceptional construction and glass that corrects chromatic aberrations and distortion. The optics also include Super Multi-Layer coating that reduces ghosting and flare. The Optical Image Stabilization (OS) feature makes close ups easy and counteracts shaking.

This is a full frame (DG) lens, so it will work in any Nikon FX or DX body. It is a prime lens, so it has a set focal length, but it is a great length for macro shots. It features great bokeh and sharp subject capturing. It’s a bit on the heavy side, but that is typical for a quality macro lens. This is an excellent option for photographers who want to focus on capturing beautiful close ups.

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM

The super wide angle 10-20mm f/3.5 is a versatile lens that is beloved by street and real estate photographers. It effectively captures the whole scene, and the aperture is great for low light shots. Another perk of this lens is that it minimizes distortion, which can often be an issue in ultra-wide angle lenses.

This is an EX lens, which means that it is extremely well constructed. You’ll get sharp images on this cropped sensor only lens. The price is fantastic, especially when you compare it to comparable first-party lenses. Some pros even prefer this lens’s performance to the Nikon equivalent.

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 Art DC HSM

The 50-100mm f/1.8 covers three popular lengths in one lens. It has the sharpness of a prime lens with zoom capabilities, making it an excellent go-to lens for a variety of situations. Fans of this lens rave about the bokeh and the contrast. There is little to no distortion and flare, and it is tack sharp out of the box.

This is a DC (crop sensor) lens, so it is designed for APS-C bodies. It is a bit heavy, but the zoom and aperture make the weight necessary. Price wise, you can’t beat the Sigma for this telephoto zoom lens focal length and quality.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

This prime lens is beloved for portraits, but it’s also an excellent lens for landscape and street photography. It has an exceptional build quality and an efficient HSM system. The optics feature SLD glass and virtually eliminate chromatic aberrations, making lovely high contrast shots. Sigma’s Super Multi-Layer Coating here means a huge reduction in flare and ghosting.

It’s the sharpness that really sets the Sigma 50mm apart from the rest. It consistently outperforms other comparable lenses, and users can’t stop raving about it. It has the creamy bokeh many photographers clamor for, and it is ultimately an excellent lens for pros and enthusiasts alike.

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary

The 150-600mm is a hyper-telephoto lens that is both dust and splash proof. It’s a fantastic lens for landscape and wildlife photographers. It’s portable while featuring the must have silent HSM and OS elements. It retains sharpness throughout the zoom range and it focuses fast and effectively.

This lens is good for full frame and crop sensors and has all the bells and whistles of a pro level lens. It’s definitely worth saving up for, but even at the price, it is significantly cheaper than some other equivalent lenses.

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art DC HSM

This wide angle lens has a pleasantly large aperture, making it really stand out from the pack. Shooting in low light is a dream, as is shooting in tight spaces. It has tack sharpness and an excellent build. This lens is perfect for a variety of shoots: portraits, landscapes, close ups and more. As with the other lenses we’ve covered, the 18-35mm boasts SLD glass to reduce chromatic aberrations. A 9 blade diaphragm means you’ll get beautiful bokeh.

The 18-35mm is a must have for nearly any camera bag. It is a DC lens, however, so this is only good for crop sensor camera bodies. But if this fits your camera, you’ll get all that wonderful quality, plus fast and accurate focusing. It’s truly a versatile lens that is a spectacular upgrade from your kit lens.

Best Sigma DSLR Lenses for Canon 2017

When you are ready to take your photography to the next level, the next logical step is to add to your selection of SLR lenses.

Lenses for DSLR cameras give you the ability to shoot with different perspectives and to capture scenes in new ways. There are seemingly endless options, from long telephoto lenses for sweeping landscapes to macro lenses for intense close-ups.

We took a look at some of the best Canon lenses for beginners, but we wanted to also talk about some additional lens options for photographers of all levels through third-party manufacturers.

Third-party manufacturers make lenses that fit with several different camera bodies via mounts specific to the brand. These tend to be much less expensive than first-party (such as Canon and Nikon) lenses, but they often still offer high quality. Some of the most popular third-party manufacturers are Sigma and Tamron. This guide will take a look at some of the best Sigma lenses for your Canon camera body.

About Sigma Lenses

Sigma is a popular lens among many photographers, including pros. They are known for producing quality lenses of all varieties for over 50 years.

There are three lines of Sigma lenses: Sport, Contemporary, and Art. In addition, Sigma has a variety of lenses meant for certain types of shooting, such as landscape, portraits, and weddings. For formats, Sigma manufactures lenses for both crop sensor (DC for APS-C) and full frame (DG). You’ll see the same kinds of features on Sigma lenses versus first-party lenses with their own terminology. Examples include:

  • OS: Optical Image Stabilization, to minimize vibration
  • HSM: Hypersonic Motor, for fast and quiet focus
  • EX: High-quality, professional lens

Buying Sigma Lenses

As with first-party lenses, you will want to determine which lens is best for your specific needs. This typically means understanding the type of shooting you do most often (landscape, sports, architecture, and so forth) and the characteristics you want from a lens. This will help you narrow down the selection so you can find the best fit.

Sigma lenses offer the various focal lengths, speeds, aperture, and so forth that first-party lenses provide. When you purchase a Sigma lens, the only thing you need to do differently is be sure you’re buying the right mount for your camera. This is easy to find – most sellers simply label them “Canon Mount” or “Nikon Mount.”

There are some who only swear by first-party lenses, but many photographers love Sigma’s offerings and quality. Sigma is much more budget friendly in most cases, so they tend to be more accessible to many enthusiasts and professionals alike.

Best Sigma Lenses

Without further ado, here are our picks for the best Sigma lenses for your Canon SLR.

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM

The Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM is an excellent wide-angle lens. If you are a landscape photographer, this is a great, affordable option. It also does fantastic in low light situations, and the Super Multi-layer coating reduces both flare and ghosting.

This lens is also well liked by real estate and architecture photographers thanks to its wide angle and excellent construction. The EX in the name indicates that it has superior quality, and this is evident in everything from the glass to the overall feel of the lens. Do take note of the compatibility, however: this lens is for APS-C format and will not work with full frame SLR cameras.

Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC 

The Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 is a large aperture standard zoom that takes sharp images and is ideal for both portraits and landscapes. It features OS, Sigma’s image stabilization technology and has HSM – a fast and nearly silent autofocus. This is a great lens for low light shooting, and is overall a very versatile lens.

Like the previous lens, this is a DC (APS-C format) lens, so it is not meant for full frame bodies like the 5D Mark III. Also like the previous lens, the 17-50mm f/2.8 is an EX and features high-performance glass for the best possible image quality. This is a wonderfully versatile lens that can handle your low light shoots.

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM

This full frame 150-600mm f/5-6.3 is a top choice for many wildlife photographers. The OS and telephoto zoom makes it simple to get great shots of birds and other wildlife from a distance. You get sharp, clear shots and a handy zoom lock plus manual override.

Because this is a full frame (DG) lens, it will work with any full frame of cropped Canon SLR. Quality telephoto zoom lenses are not cheap, but the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 is nicely priced compared to comparable first-party lenses. Though it is a bargain (relatively speaking), the IQ does not disappoint and the included Sigma software lets you keep the lens up to date and functioning at full capacity.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 ART DG HSM

For photographers who would like a prime lens good for weddings, videography, or astrophotography, this versatile 24mm f/1.4 is a perfect choice. It handles a range of low light situations without any problem, and the bokeh can’t be beat.

This lens has many fans in the astrophotography genre. But it’s the quick and quiet AF, as well as the creamy bokeh and superior optics that make it a top choice for event photography. This full frame Art lens works on all full frame and APS-C Canon bodies.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

When you need to capture the best portraits, the 85mm f/1.4 is a top choice. It has everything a good portrait prime lens needs: large aperture, smooth bokeh, precise focusing, and more. This full frame compatible lens boasts super high-quality construction – including glass that dramatically reduces chromatic aberrations.

Many photographers note that the Sigma version of this lens is superior to the Canon version in AF speed and consistency. Plus, it’s a fraction of the cost. This is a fantastic lens for detail, vibrant colors, and consistently good IQ.

 

 

Beginner’s Guide to the Best Canon Lenses

So you have a new Canon DSLR. Congratulations! You are probably excited about all of the possibilities that camera holds, and you’ve likely discovered that there’s an entirely new world of information to learn about: lenses.

The unique part of DSLRs over other digital cameras is that they feature interchangeable lenses. This means that you can find the best lens for whatever type of picture you want to take – landscape, portraits, extreme close-ups, and so forth.

This guide is meant to introduce you to the world of Canon DSLR lenses. We’ll talk about some of the common terms and lens types you’ll encounter, as well as some of our favorite lenses for you to consider.

Why Buy Lenses?

If you purchased an entry-level Canon body with a lens kit, you probably received the Canon 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 lens along with it. This is a good starter lens to help you get used to shooting your new camera. However, it is pretty basic, and many budding photographers find themselves limited by its abilities.

Here’s a little bit to know about the typical entry-level kit lens. 18-55mm is the focal length. The numbers here mean that you can zoom between 18mm and 55mm. This range is good for landscapes or for family pictures. However, it has a narrow aperture (f/3.5-5.6), so it won’t work great in low light. (To learn more about DSLR terminology, check out our Beginner’s Guide!)

The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 is a great value when you get it in a kit, and it is an easy to use lens for beginners. So why would you want to buy more lenses?

Buying new lenses for your DSLR camera lets you start shooting different situations and gives you more creative freedom. In fact, it’s often said that if you feel like your camera is holding you back and you want to upgrade, try upgrading your gear first.

Typically, lenses you buy for your entry-level DSLR will work on other DSLRs of the same brand, so if you do move to a mid-range camera down the road, you can keep those lenses to use with the new one. (There are some exceptions here, so always double check compatibility before you buy.)

DSLR lenses match up to your purpose, so you can get the best possible shot in any circumstance. For example, if you are interested in portraits, you can pick up a lens with the focal length and aperture that work best for that kind of session. You can find a lens that gives you the speed you need for shooting sports. Or you can find a telephoto lens that will help you capture stunning landscape shots.

Most importantly, lenses help you advance as a photographer. Photographers never stop learning their craft, but gear helps them keep pushing themselves for better shots. You have so much more power with different lens options. However, there are some things you’ll want to know and do before you buy.

Before You Buy

If you’ve researched DSLR lenses at all, the first thing you probably noticed is that they can be very expensive. In fact, if you bought an entry-level camera, in particular, many lenses are close to twice as much as the price of the body – if not more.

It is well worth it to save your pennies to get the lens you actually want, so you should spend some time figuring out what you want out of a lens. You can also get to know Canon’s terminology regarding lens labeling. Let’s take a look at what the names of Canon lenses actually mean.

Canon Lens Terminology

You’ll notice numbers and letters on canon lenses, and this is meant to tell you nearly everything you need to know about a particular lens.

  • Focal Length: As we mentioned above, this a number (usually a range) followed by millimeter (mm). This number lets you know the range of zoom you have. In addition to helping you get the right angle of your shot, focal length also affects the perspective of the shot, so it’s worth learning more about focal length before you buy (especially if you’re looking at telephoto lenses).
  • Aperture: Typically this number indicates the maximum aperture of the lens, but it also may show a range (f/3.5-5.6) which simply means that the aperture narrows as you zoom. For Canon lenses, this number is always preceded by f/.
  • Generation: Sometimes you’ll see II or III on a lens name, and that just tells you which version of the lens it is. You’ll usually want to get the most recent version of a lens.
  • Image Stabilization: When the lens has IS in the name, this means that it has optical image stabilization. This is an important technology added to lenses that use slow shutter speeds – it helps to counter shake and provide sharper images.
  • Sensor: The letters EF (full frame) and EF-S (crop) tell you which sensor type the lens is for. EF lenses will work with any full frame or crop sensor DSLR, but EF-S only work on the crop sensor and aren’t compatible with full frame cameras. This probably won’t matter now but is something to keep in mind if you foresee yourself buying a full frame camera in the future.
  • Focusing Motor: If the lens reads USM, this means that comes equipped with UltraSonic Motor, a technology that helps you focus quickly and quietly.

There are, of course, plenty of other terms and specs that you’ll run into on your journey through the land of Canon lenses, but this is a good list to help you get started with your first lenses.

Canon vs. Third-Party Lenses

In your quest for the perfect lens, you’ll eventually stumble across third-party lenses. Third-party lenses, by companies like Sigma and Tamron, are less expensive lenses that mount on different camera bodies. So, for example, you might see one that offers the focal length and max aperture you’re after, and you’ll see that the third-party lens requires a mount to attach to your canon. You’ll also see that it costs much less than the same specs on a Canon lens.

Talking about first-party versus third-party lenses inevitably opens up a debate that is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Purists will claim that only first-party lenses have the quality and compatibility you need for good photography. Others will point out that many lenses are only in budget if you consider a third-party model.

There are important elements to each side of this debate, and it’s worth it to do your own research to decide what you believe and what you will buy. For our part, we’re not going to choose sides, but we will stick to recommending lenses manufactured only by Canon, just to keep things simple.

What to Look For

Now that you know a little bit more about lens terminology and features, let’s talk about the next steps you can take when you’re ready to buy a lens.

Purpose

By the time you start shopping for a new lens, you will probably have a good idea what you want out of a lens. At the very least, you can refine your purpose and the types of photos you like taking. Do you gravitate toward landscape shots? Are you taking family photos or action shots of your kids?

Here are a few of the primary categories you’ll see when discussing lens purposes:

  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Wedding
  • Sports
  • Wildlife
  • Architecture
  • Creative

Types of Lenses

There are three main lens categories: normal, telephoto, and wide angle. However, you’ll see more categories than that when you start looking for the best lenses. Some types you’ll see include:

  • Standard
  • Prime
  • Telephoto zoom
  • Wide angle
  • Macro
  • Fish eye

Price

Price is going to be a huge factor when it comes to lens purchases for most photographers. It can be difficult to justify spending several hundred to over one thousand dollars for a single lens. There are some budget-friendly options, but the fact of the matter is, you will likely have to spend a significant amount on gear at some point.

However, there is more to the story than the initial price. Most photographers will upgrade their camera body at some point – especially if they start out with an entry-level model and advance their photography skills. Lenses, on the other, might be a one-time purchase. At the very least, a lens is something that can last you a long, long time, and move with you to both new camera bodies and to richer photography skills.

Remember: purchasing a new lens is an investment in your photography.

Our Lens Recommendations

We’ve thrown a lot of information at you, and there is a lot more to know! But for now, you might be wondering, “Which lens should I buy right now?” To help you answer that question, here are some of our favorite lenses for beginners.

Best Budget Lenses

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

This lens is exceptionally priced and is a perfect option for a first lens. It captures lovely pictures in low light conditions. It also lets you attain a shallow depth of field due to its large aperture. Practically, what this means for you is that you can get those great shots where the subject is clear but the background is soft and blurry.

Shallow DOF

Canon EF 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6

This affordable wide angle lens lets you capture architecture and landscapes. This is also a great lens for you if you shoot interiors or indoor shots and find it difficult to capture everything. Remarkably given the price, the lens also features Image Stabilization (IS).

Best Lens for Portraits

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

You might think that basically any lens can be used for portraits, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, there is a lot to learn about perspective and focal length and aperture in order to get the best possible portrait shots. A lot depends on where you usually shoot (ex. indoors or out in nature) and the kinds of shots (close-up, etc.) you prefer to take. As a general rule, wide-angle lenses are bad for portraits and short telephoto lenses are good. But – as with everything related to photography – it depends.

Having said all of that, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 is our pick for the best portrait lens. It is reasonably priced and produces consistently high-quality portraits. Many photographers actually find this to be a great all-around lens that becomes their go-to for most shots. It is a bit more technical than the budget lenses we mentioned above, so you’ll want to dedicate some time to get to know it before doing a photo shoot.

Best Lens for Landscapes

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 IS USM

There are plenty of options for landscape lenses at nearly any price point. Wide-angle lenses are usually a good choice for landscape shots, and even the standard 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 kit lens will do a decent job. For our pick in this category, we considered price, versatility, and longevity.

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 isn’t cheap, but it is a well-made, highly rated lens that is excellent for landscape photography. It’s also a versatile telephoto lens that many photographers find useful for a range of shooting conditions. This version features Image Stabilization – a valuable element – but you can get the budget-friendly version without IS and save yourself some money.

Best Lens for Action

Canon EF 135mm f/2L

You might be looking for specific kinds of action shots – certain indoor or outdoor sports, or wildlife in action for example – so it’s a good idea to do a bit of research if you have some specific needs. A few key things to look for no matter what when it comes to action/sports shots: Image Stabilization, fast shutter speed, and (sometimes) zoom lenses.

Our pick for this category took into account price (most lenses meant for action/sports are expensive!) and versatility, and we landed on the 135mm f/2L. It is fast and has good autofocus capability, and it’s liked by many for portraits and weddings.

 

Best Wide-Angle Lens

Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Wide-Angle Lens

Wide angle is coveted for travelers and nature enthusiasts, in addition to many other shutterbugs. The nice thing about wide angle lenses is that they don’t immediately jump up in price like telephoto lenses or lenses meant for action. Our pick for the best wide angle lens is budget-friendly and beautiful.

The EF 35mm f/2 is light and compact, and the image quality is outstanding. Some complain that the autofocus is a little buggy, but for the most part, this lens is a bargain – and one that will last you for years to come.

Best Macro Lens

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro

Macro lenses have great quality and get you closer to your subject than non-macro lenses can even dream of. Like other types of lenses, there is a pretty wide range of prices for this type of lens. You might want to consider things like weight (for longer focal lengths) and purpose (is it only for shooting flowers up close, or do you have other expectations?).

For our pick, we again chose based partially on price, but we also considered quality and usability. The 100mm f/2.8 is a macro lens, so it’s going to do all the macro shooting you want it to do – but it’s also good for portraits. It has excellent quality and sharpness.

Best Creative Lens

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM

There are several different options for “creative” lenses in any brand. Canon has lenses such as tilt-shift, fish eye, and extreme telephoto. These can be fun to add to your collection, or they might be central to your photography – it all depends on your style. These have dramatic price differences – especially when you’re considering the extreme telephoto lenses.

Our pick for this category is the inexpensive “pancake” 40mm f/2.8 lens. This is a fun, portable lens that gives you some options for creative shooting.

 

There are so many Canon lenses available — you can find exactly the right fit for your subject and shooting style.

 

 

Beginner’s Guide to the Best Nikon Lenses

If you have joined the world of DSLR with a new Nikon, congratulations! Perhaps you’ve been wondering about adding additional lenses to your camera bag, but you’re not sure where to start. That’s understandable – after all, Nikon has around 100 lens options for DSLR cameras.

In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the basics of Nikon DSLR lenses, including how to read and understand DSLR lens terminology. This guide is meant to introduce new photographers to Nikon lenses, so we’ll also offer some recommendations of our favorite lenses.

Why Buy Additional Lenses?

There’s a good chance that your Nikon DSLR came with the 18-55mm kit lens. This is an excellent lens for you to start with if your experience with DSLR shooting is limited. You can get to know your camera settings and how to use it, as well as get some good shots in the meantime.

The 18-55mm kit lens has a focal length between 18mm and 55mm. For you, this means that it gives you a fairly good range of shots for things like landscapes or pictures in the backyard of your family. The narrow aperture will make it a bit tricky to shoot in low light conditions, however. That might be one of the driving forces for you to grab another lens.

Aside from the limitations you might encounter with your kit lens, adding new lenses to your repertoire helps you become a better photographer. You can find the best lens for your favorite kinds of shots, and you can look for lenses that will help you push yourself as a photographer. Your DSLR camera has a ton of potential with just a change of the lens.

It takes quite a bit of time to learn about DSLR photography. There are many terms and settings to learn, and taking good pictures is more about skill than the equipment you use. However, as your skills develop, purchasing lenses that match your specific purposes will help you put your skills to good use.

Finally, when you invest in lenses, you’re making a long-term investment. When you first start shopping for lenses, you will probably be shocked at the prices. Most lenses are much more expensive than even the camera body you purchased, and you can spend thousands of dollars on a single lens. But these lenses can be used for years to come, including on new camera bodies if and when you decide to upgrade. (This is typically the case, but always double check lens compatibility to be sure.)

Now that we’ve discussed why you should consider additional lenses, let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll want to know and do before you buy.

Before You Buy

As we mentioned, DSLR lenses can be very expensive. However, it is worth it to save your money and get the lens you actually want and need rather than buying what you can afford at the time just to get a new lens. We strongly recommend spending some time figuring out what you want out of a lens.

We also recommend getting to know Nikon’s terminology and types of lenses so you understand what each lens can do for you and what the names of each lens means. (For basic DSLR terminology, check out our Beginner’s Guide to DSLR.)

Nikon Lens Terminology

  • NIKKOR: This is the name of Nikon DSLR lenses.
  • Autofocus: Expressed as AF on the barrel, you might also see AF-D (AF with distance information), AF-S (AF with Silent Wave Motor), or AF-P (AF with Stepping Motor, a new, ultra-quiet motor).
  • Sensor: APS-C (cropped) sensor, or DX, is probably what you have – all entry level and the majority of mid-range DSLRs have a cropped sensor. A full-frame sensor, or FX, is a more expensive, professional-level format. Both DX and FX lenses are compatible with the APS-C sensor. However, if you have an FX full-frame camera, you probably won’t want to use the DX lenses (that’s a discussion for another time!)
  • Focal Length: This a number (sometimes a range of numbers) followed by millimeter (mm). It tells you the range of zoom you have. Focal length affects the perspective of the shot, so it’s worth learning more about focal length before you buy (especially if you’re looking at telephoto lenses).
  • Aperture: Typically this number indicates the maximum aperture of the lens, but it also may show a range (f/3.5-5.6) which simply means that the aperture narrows as you zoom. This number is always preceded by f/.
  • Vibration Reduction: When the lens has VR in the name, this means that it has optical image stabilization. This is an important technology added to lenses that use slow shutter speeds – it helps to counter shake and provide sharper images.
  • Focusing Motor: AF-S and AF-P lenses have built-in focusing motors and can be used on any current Nikon body with or without a focus motor. Lenses without a focus motor are AF NIKKOR lenses.

There are many, many more terms to know when it comes to lenses, but this should help you understand a bit about lens purposes, features, and naming conventions. For more, check out this article from Nikon, which offers a comprehensive look at their DSLR lens types.

A Note on Third-Party Lenses

As you embark on a quest to find your next lens, you will likely come across third-party lenses. These manufacturers, like Sigma and Tamron, offer less expensive options that mount on different camera bodies.  First-party versus third-party lenses inevitably opens up a debate about the pros and cons of buying third-party. It’s definitely worth conducting your own research to decide whether you want to go the third-party route in your lens purchase. Our aim in this guide is to stay out of that debate and just recommend Nikon produced lenses, just to keep it simple.

Finding Your Lens

By the time you’re ready to start shopping, you will hopefully have some ideas about what you need. You can narrow selections down by purpose (landscape, sports, etc.) or by types (prime, telephoto, etc.). You may also be limited by your budget.

Purpose

While photographers shoot all sorts of different types of subjects and scenes, there are a few fairly standard purposes that can help refine your lens needs. Each has a specific feature that suits that purpose; for example, sports and action shots need a fast shutter speed. Here are a few of the primary categories you’ll see regarding lens purposes:

  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Wedding
  • Sports
  • Wildlife
  • Architecture
  • Creative

Types of Lenses

There are a few types or categories that you’ll see when you’re looking at lenses.

  • Standard/Kit Lenses: Come with the camera body
  • Prime: Has only one focal length
  • Telephoto zoom: Gives you a range of focal lengths
  • Wide angle: Allows shots with a very wide perspective
  • Macro: Designed for shots that are up close

The focal length of any lens can help you determine what purpose and/or type of lens you’re looking at. Telephoto, for example, is 70-200mm. Wide angle is 21-35mm, while ultra wide angle has a range of 10-21mm. A standard or portrait lens will typically be 35-70mm.

Zoom lenses are considered to be more versatile because they have more options in focal length. Prime lenses, on the other hand, are usually faster and clearer, with less distortion. Prime lenses are often great for low light shots and for portraitures with good bokeh.

Price

DSLR lenses range in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Of course, your budget will dictate which lenses you can add to your camera bag, but we do recommend saving up for lenses you actually need instead of simply buying less expensive gear.

However, spending on gear like lenses is an investment in your photography. Most upgrade to a new camera body at some point – especially if they start out with an entry-level model and develop their photography skills. Lenses, on the other, might be a one-time purchase – most lenses will work on upgraded camera bodies. At the very least, a lens is something that can last you a long, long time, and move with you to both new cameras and contribute to richer photography skills.

Our Lens Recommendations

To make our recommendations, we took into account several things. First, this list is designed for newcomers to photography, so our lens selection is meant for entry-level DSLR cameras (and perhaps some mid-range/enthusiast bodies). We considered purpose, usability, versatility, and price for each of these categories.

There are, of course, so many lens options on the market. Our list is by no means exhaustive, but these recommendations are our favorites for budding shutterbugs who want to make the most of both their camera and their budget.

Best Budget Lenses

Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8

The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 is the clear winner as the very first lens you should add to your camera bag. It’s affordable and will give you sharp, beautiful images. This lens is a prime lens, so you have just one focal length. This can be a useful way to consider composition and aperture without worrying about how adjustments to focal length affect your perspective.

Even experienced Nikon users love this lens. Its wide aperture lets you create background blur, instantly improving your ability to take portraits and other pictures that focus on a single subject. It also works great in low light, so this lens paired with your kit lens should keep you busy for quite some time.

Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6

Our second pick for budget lens is this ultra-affordable zoom lens. There’s quite possibly no other telephoto lens on the market that gives you more bang for your buck. It includes Vibration Reduction (VR) image stabilization and produces great bokeh.

This is another excellent choice for a first (or second) lens and it offers a lot of versatility for an incredible price. The autofocus is pretty good – and considering the price, that’s saying a lot. The main drawback of this lens is that it feels inexpensive.

Best Lens for Portraits

Nikon 50mm f/1.8

Like the 35mm we discussed above, this is a wallet-friendly prime lens that provides sharp photos and excellent low-light functionality. If you are after great bokeh or tend to shoot primarily portraits, this is a great go-to camera that’s suitable for everyday use. Bloggers looking for a versatile camera will love this one, too.

The 50mm is actually an FX lens, though it works perfectly for crop frame bodies. This is a great investment if you think you may someday make the switch to full frame. Even if not, this is an excellent lens for beginners and enthusiasts alike. Like the 55-200mm, the only complaint we have is that it is primarily plastic, and feels inexpensive. That shouldn’t deter you from picking it up if it will be a good fit for your needs, but it is something to keep in mind on all lenses that are at this price point.

Best Lens for Landscapes

Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6

The 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 is a big jump in price from the lenses we’ve covered thus far. However, we think that for the price, this is the best option for landscape shooting. We like the versatility of the lens, and the sharpness coupled with the width makes this a really excellent lens that you will get a lot of use out of.

This is also known for being a great travel lens due to its specs and size. The 16-85mm has a great autofocus and the image quality can’t be beat for this price range. You’re still looking at a price that’s significantly under $1000 for this lens. Many landscape lenses are above $1000, so we think it’s a pretty sweet deal if you can budget for it.

Best Lens for Action

Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6

There is a newer version of the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 out, but we’re including this older version here for both its price and the fact that we haven’t checked out the brand new version yet. This is an excellent lens for action – outdoor sports, busy kids, and so forth. It has quick AF and produces clear, crisp shots.

Price-wise, you can’t do much better than this for a lens that works well for action shots. Typical sports lenses are pretty expensive, making them out of budget for beginner or even enthusiast photographers. This is also a popular choice for nature photographers, with a great zoom range and quiet shutter.

Best Wide-Angle Lens

Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5

When your kit lens just isn’t cutting it for landscapes or architecture shots, you’ll want to make the leap to a wide angle lens. Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 is our pick for a wide angle lens that is still (relatively) affordable. It is still a bit pricey, but when you want the best in photography for your passion projects, you have to spring a little for results.

The Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 features excellent engineering and gives you a versatile range coupled with extra-low dispersion glass (to reduce chromatic aberrations) and a silent AF system. This lens also takes great macro shots with a unique perspective. We definitely think this one is worth the money – and worth saving up for if you are into nature or architectural shoots.

Best Macro Lens

Nikon 40mm f/2.8

When shooting macro, it feels more natural to have a lightweight, compact lens over a bigger, bulkier one. This one fits that bill and takes stunning up-close shots with excellent detail. It is another budget-friendly lens that users who want the ability to take great macro shots will be glad to add to their camera bag.

The Nikon 40mm f/2.8 includes Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor, so you’ll see fast, quiet AF. Because it’s meant for macro shooting, Nikon has the Close-Range Correction system, which provides superior performance at those close distances. It performs best for macro, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for other shots, as well. For the price, it’s a great addition to your lens selection.

Most Versatile Lens

Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3

For those who want just one lens to cover a wide range of situations, the Nikon 18-300 f/3.5-6.3 is where it’s at. This incredibly versatile all-in-one takes the place of two lenses, which makes it ideal for traveling. For the price, there’s simply no better lens in terms of flexibility and usability.

There will be some limitations to this lens, of course – with such a huge focal length range and relatively low weight, there are tradeoffs (aperture, for example). But for users with an entry level DSLR learning how to shoot and desiring a versatile lens, this really is a sweet lens that will last you a long time. This lens takes quality shots and lets you leave the other lenses at home.

 

 

 

A Basic Guide to Birding

If you type in “what are the most popular outdoor activities in the U.S.?”, you’ll get a response you probably weren’t expecting. Birding ranks in the top 25 most popular outdoor activities in the U.S. The activity isn’t too complicated beyond what its name suggests, but there is no denying that it is a nearly billion dollar industry with a friendly community that spans the entire world.

In this guide, we’ll give you a general overview of birding and the best practices and equipment for you to consider when planning your next outdoor adventure.

What is Bird Watching?

We’ve compiled the massive history of birding (also called bird watching) for you to see just how far back this hobby has existed and how it seems to have flown under the radar literally and figuratively. Nearly 40,000 years!

It seems simple enough, but birding goes beyond the act of watching the thousands upon thousands of species of birds around the world go about their day. The activity will depend on how far one is willing to see a type of bird. Sure, you see starlings, ducks, and geese almost every day, but have you ever stopped and just watch them more than a couple of minutes? Perhaps you’ll notice something interesting about their behavior that you didn’t see before. For birds and humans, the sky is the limit regarding what you might see on any given day.

Who’s up for it?

There is no barrier to entry concerning age for birding. Families of all sizes and individuals of all ages are known to engage in birding on the regular. Not only is it a cheap hobby to get into, but it also combines one’s love of the outdoors with the desire to see wildlife in their native habitats.

Prices on travel and optics will be the largest concern. It depends on whether you are looking to just see the birds or take pictures of them, which will raise the question of what type of optics you should buy. The birding community is split about 50/50 in terms of who sees with their optics (binoculars/spotting scopes), and who takes pictures (cameras).

Equipment

While it’s perfectly fine to see birds with the naked eye, there’s no telling what conditions, locations, and distances you’ll be encountering. For these reasons, optics such as the following are used to view birds in their natural habitat without the risk of disturbing them—

To keep your valuable optics safe, a safety harness may also be in order if you are planning to go near uncertain terrain. A typical safety harness fits around cameras and binoculars. You’ll have to be even more cautious when handling a spotting scope or telescope on uncertain terrain. A tripod for your spotting scope or telescope will be absolutely necessary.

To get the most out of each day spent bird watching, consider investing in a Perception HD 20-60x60mm Spotting Scope or a pair of Perception HD 10x42mm Binoculars, both sold by Upland Optics.

 Finding Birds

Birding can be a little intimidating at first. You want to see all the birds within a given amount of time but there’s only so much light during the day. That is why some communities, particularly the  Cornell Lab of Ornithology, have built apps and tools specifically for helping you find birds.

To be successful at birding, the first step is identifying the bird you’re looking at. Here’s a quick how-to on identifying birds on the go. Field guides—usually picked up from a chamber of commerce, ranger station, or nearby bookstore—will usually detail most if not all the birds in the area.

Bringing birds to you

You can expect that not all birds are going to appear when you want them too. Some are shyer than others, and the sight of a big lumbering human like yourself will easily frighten them. Getting birds to come to you does seem like the more economical reason, and you can still get a wide variety of birds to visit depending on where you live.

There is a way you can bring them to yourself. Most of us are quite enthralled by the sight and smell of food and shelter, and so are birds. Birders skilled in woodcraft and overall construction place birdhouses, baths, and other structures to draw birds to within feet of their own houses.

  • Bringing a birdhouse out into the wilderness with you would be a little tedious.

A hummingbird, for example, is drawn to the nectar given off by certain flowers, and some birders put their gardening skills to good use by planting the flowers that are most desirable. Houses, baths, and plants range all over the place regarding price. As long as you provide an incentive for the bird to come to you, you’re all but guaranteed some visitors in the days and week.

Seasons and Travel

One aspect of birdwatching that you should take into consideration is the change in season. Birds never stay in one place for too long (unless you’re a penguin on Antartica), and usually, migrate towards warmer climates (unless you’re an owl who stays in a hollowed out tree for the winter).

You can’t count on a bird being in one place all the time unless it has a massive population worldwide. Rare birds will pay closer attention to the seasons than others and thus are harder to track.

Traveling is what will separate the amateurs from the life long enthusiasts. If you want to have the best possible chance of seeing rare birds, you will need to plan your traveling far in advance and study the migration and flying patterns of these particular birds.

  • If you dig deeper into your travel search, you’ll most likely find cabins and houses marketed specifically for birders that coincide nicely with certain migration times.

Listings

When you first decide to invest in birding, consider if you plan to pursue it as an amateur or professional. There is nothing wrong with either path, but keep in mind the latter will involve more time and money.

If you plan on seeing the most birds possible in your life time, it will be important to take detailed lists of the birds you’ve seen. Why? Two species that look identical could be different on the slightest level. You don’t want to spend lots of money to see a particular bird when you’ve already seen the same bird!

Some things to note about the birds you saw can be—

Name and family (scientific name)
Location
Body make up
Color and feather pattern
Migration pattern
Social interactions
Hunting habits

Not only will your lists help you determine which birds you haven’t seen but they will help other birders in the same situation or who are just starting out.

Community

The birding community is a vast and expansive collection of people around the world who are dedicated to helping you get started. We can almost guarantee you that there is a birding organization not too far away from where you are right now.

The reason why you probably don’t hear much about birding is similar to the activity itself. Keeping noise to an absolute minimum is necessary to get some of the more rare birds to emerge from their homes.

We’ve made a list of communities that are ideal clubs to help you get your birding career get off to a flying start.

What does Birding do for the environment?

We’re glad you asked! Birding is not only a popular hobby, but it also aids aviation and wildlife experts in keeping track of all species, particularly those that are threatened and endangered. Wildlife officials routinely utilize those lists, mainly the dates and times, to make correct judgments on habitat preservation and restoration.

Your work can be of great impact and we appreciate your concern for the wildlife.

 

Review of the Best Canon Mid-Range DSLRs

Canon has a fantastic lineup of entry-level DSLR cameras in their Rebel line. Canon is no slouch when it comes to mid-level cameras, either. With five different models falling within Canon’s “intermediate” category, there is plenty to choose from at nearly any price point.

This guide will cover the current mid-range models of Canon EOS DSLRs. Two things to note first: the Rebel T6s is considered intermediate, but we reviewed it in our Canon Rebel guide here . And second, the Canon 70D has been replaced by the 80D, but is still available through many sellers at a great price.

Without further ado, here is Canon’s current lineup of mid-range/intermediate DSLRs.

Canon EOS 77D

The 77D is the lowest price mid-level (excepting the Rebel T6s), and it’s the most recently released. Its features put it somewhere between a Rebel T7i and the 80D. It’s a solid model, but nothing overly exciting.Canon EOS 77D

Here are some of the key specs:

  • 24MP sensor with Dual Pixel autofocus
  • 45-point all-cross-type phase-detect AF system
  • Digic 7 processor
  • 3″ fully-articulating touchscreen LCD
  • Top plate LCD
  • 6fps continuous shooting
  • 1080/60p video capture with microphone input

We like the AF system and the touchscreen, and the image quality is fantastic. However, it lacks the ability to capture video in 4K, which is very disappointing given both DSLR trends and the 77D’s status as a mid-range DSLR.

The 77D does feature Wi-Fi connectivity, which is a plus. The overall functionality of the touchscreen LCD is outstanding, and the top plate LCD is handy. In short, the EOS 77D is a good – though not great – camera.  If you’re looking for a bit more oomph, we recommend saving your dollars for an 80D.

Canon EOS 80D

The next step up from the 77D is the fantastic EOS 80D. It is under $1000 for the body, and it has a ton of excellent features. We chose the 80D as one of the best DSLRs for video in our review of the best DSLR cameras.Canon EOS 80D

Here are a few of the specs on the EOS 80D:

  • 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor with Dual Pixel AF
  • 45-point AF system with all cross-type points
  • 3″ 1.04M-dot articulating touchscreen
  • 1080/60p video capture
  • 7 fps continuous shooting with AF
  • 7560-pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor
  • Weather-resistant body

Based on the specs and the price, you might think that this model was designed to appeal to a broad range of photographers. We would agree. The 80D works fantastic for a variety of shot types, and the sensor, AF, and design work well for everything from nature shots to weddings. It’s really a great buy, especially for an enthusiast upgrading their entry-level DSLR.

While it doesn’t have 4K video options, the 1080/60p capture is excellent. Regarding changes from the 70D, which it replaced, it absolutely matches and elevates performance and has additional features that make it a worthy successor. The body is comfortable and well-designed. Overall, we think this is one of the best mid-range DSLRs on the market.

Canon EOS 6D

The EOS 6D is the first of two full frame DSLRs in the mid-range category. It is essentially a “budget” full frame; for a nice price you can pick up a full frame DSLR that features Wi-Fi and GPS.

Let’s take a look at a few of the specs:Canon EOS 6D

  • 20.2MP full frame CMOS sensor
  • DIGIC 5+ image processor
  • ISO 100-25600 standard, 50-102800 expanded
  • 4.5 fps continuous shooting
  • ‘Silent’ shutter mode
  • 1080p30 video recording, stereo sound via external mic
  • 11 point AF system, center point cross-type and sensitive to -3 EV
  • 63 zone iFCL metering system

One of the best parts of the 6D is its ability to focus in low light levels. It also has in-camera HDR and is ergonomically appealing. We’re fans of the LCD screen on the 6D. And the important stuff: the image quality is excellent.

There are two drawbacks to the 6D however. The first is that it only has one memory card slot. The second is that it lacks a built-in flash. If you can handle those missing features, this affordable full frame EOS 6D will impress the heck out of you.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

The second full frame mid-level option, and Canon’s highest price point for intermediates, the 7D Mark II is an excellent choice for enthusiasts. It has made it to the top of many “Best” lists, and it remains a popular option for a mid-range DSLR.Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Here are some of the exciting specs of the 7D Mark II:

  • 20MP Dual-Pixel AF CMOS Sensor
  • 10 fps continuous shooting with AF
  • 65 all cross-type AF sensor
  • 150,000 RGB + IR pixel metering sensor
  • Dual Digic 6 processors
  • Compact Flash (UDMA) & SD (UHS-I) slots
  • USB 3.0
  • Built-in GPS
  • Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th seconds
  • Shutter rated to 200,000 cycles (vs 150,000 on 7D)

The 7D Mark II captures gorgeous images and offers high ISO performance. It also features enhanced environmental sealing, making it an excellent camera to take out into the elements. The built in GPS is a nice addition, but the 7D Mark II lacks built in Wi-Fi (it’s only available with an adaptor).

The fixed LCD is one drawback in addition to the missing Wi-Fi. However, we still think it’s a great option for a move to full frame – and, while still priced high for a mid-range, it’s still a decent price for the specs and full frame sensor. The design is intuitive and comfortable, and it’s a well-loved DSLR by pros and new enthusiasts alike.

 

Review of the Best Canon Rebel DSLRs

Canon’s Rebel series is one of the best known across the world. Several of the models are considered by many to be the best among entry-level options for DSLR cameras. There are numerous model numbers in the Rebel series, and it can be tricky to keep them straight. This guide will take a look at all of the current entry-level models of the Canon Rebel line.

 

The Solid Starter: Canon EOS Rebel SL2

The Rebel SL2 just came out, and it’s earning raves all around. It replaces the ultra-small, ultra-lightweight SL1 (one of the best rated entry-level DSLRs). It keeps the spirit of the SL1 in its compact and light design (though it is a bit larger), but adds a ton of features that make it feel much more relevant.

Here are the key specs of the Rebel SL2:Canon EOS Rebel SL2

  • 24.2-megapixel image sensor
  • ISO 100-25,600
  • 9-point AF system
  • 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen display
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF during Live View and video recording
  • Continuous shooting up to 5 fps
  • DIGIC 7 image processor
  • Full HD video recording at up to 60 fps
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth

The improvements from the SL1 to the SL2 are really notable. The sensor is much improved, and the addition of the touchscreen and movable screen help it be both functional and highly usable for new shutterbugs.

Most users coming to the SL2 are likely not upgrading from the SL1, so the improvements in the new model really don’t mean much. So we’ll say this: if you’re looking for a user-friendly, lightweight, and affordable DSLR, look no further than the SL2.

The Budget Beauty: Canon EOS Rebel T6

This model is the lowest price point of the current Rebel models (not to be confused with the T6i – More on that next up!), the T6 is a super affordable entry into DSLR cameras.

Here are some of the specs of the T6:Canon EOS Rebel t6

  • 18 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-6400
  • 9-point AF system
  • 1080/30p video capture
  • Fixed 3″ 920k-dot LCD
  • 3 fps burst shooting
  • Built in Wi-Fi with NFC

The Rebel T6 will likely appeal to newcomers, especially those who simply cannot stomach the thought of spending so much on a camera. In that regard, this is a nice introduction to DSLR shooting and the price tag does give you room to add on gear or lenses.

If you are serious about shooting DSLR, though, we recommend spending a bit more for the SL2 (above) – you get more bang for your buck and lots of additions that will make a big difference in your photography. Having said that, if the T6 meets your budget needs, it will make a great camera to learn on.

The Essentially Mid-Level: Canon EOS Rebel T6i

Canon considers the T6i to be entry-level (they list it as “beginner”), but this baby is so great we think it deserves to be an honorary mid-level (“intermediate”) DSLR. Price wise, you are looking at a few hundred bucks more than the T6, but it’s just a bit more than the SL2.Canon EOS Rebel t6i

Let’s take a look at some of the key specs:

  • 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • 19-point autofocus system
  • 7560 pixel RGB + IR metering sensor with skin tone detection
  • 3″ fully articulating touchscreen LCD
  • 5 fps continuous shooting
  • 1080/30p video
  • Wi-Fi with NFC

Looking at the specs, you’ll see a pretty huge difference between the T6i and even the SL2. Many reviewers have called the T6i the “best Rebel yet,” and it’s pretty easy to see why. The primary difference for many shoppers is going to be price. Because this camera is approaching the high end of entry-level DSLRs, the price might be the tipping point. Of course, we love the SL2, so you can’t go wrong there. However, if you have a bit of extra cash, it might be worth grabbing the T6i.

The Intermediate: Canon EOS Rebel T6S

Canon considers the T6s an “intermediate” DSLR. It’s nearly identical to the T6i with just a few other features added to it. The price is very similar to the T6i, as well.

Here are the specs:Canon EOS Rebel T6S

  • 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • 19-point autofocus system
  • Hybrid CMOS AF III focus system (live view)
  • 7560 pixel RGB + IR metering sensor with skin tone detection
  • 3″ fully articulating touchscreen LCD
  • Eye sensor for use with optical viewfinder
  • LCD information display on top plate
  • Quick control dial on rear
  • 5 fps continuous shooting
  • 1080/30p video
  • Servo AF in live view
  • Wi-Fi with NFC

So what’s the difference between the T6i and the T6s? The T6s is slightly more money through most vendors for one. In terms of features, the T6s has a top mounted LCD and a more customizable control dial. The T6s control pad has exposure compensation, a feature important to pros but not so much for beginners. And finally, the T6s can shoot video in HDR video.

These small differences might not alleviate the price difference for novice photographers. They will come in handy for intermediates and pros, though, and the additional price isn’t too terribly much more.

The Peak Entry-Level: Canon EOS Rebel T7i

The final Rebel model that is considered entry level is the Rebel T7i. While this is still under $1000, it has a high price point for a beginner DSLR. However, investing in this model gives you a ton of great specs and should minimize the desire to upgrade for quite some time.Canon EOS Rebel T7I

Here are some of the key specs of the T7i:

  • 24MP APS-C sensor with Dual Pixel design
  • 45 point AF
  • 1080p video at up to 60 fps
  • Fully articulated 1.04M-dot rear LCD
  • Built-in Wi-Fi with Bluetooth and NFC

Obviously, you’re getting quite a bit when you jump from any of the lower priced models to the T7i – most notably, the additional points of AF. The T7i also includes the connectivity features that are becoming standard in Canon DSLRs.

The T7i is responsive and the autofocus is the cross-type that Canon includes on the 80D. The clarity even at higher ISOs is great. And the design of both the body and controls is intuitive, comfortable, and easy to use for longer periods of time. This model is worth every penny if you can work it into your budget.

 

 

Beginner’s Guide to Astronomy

There’s no wrong age to get into Astronomy (not to be confused with Astrology). People from all walks of life can enjoy looking at the stars no matter their age or skill level. Companies like Celestron, Meade, and Vixen have dedicated themselves to producing telescopes accessible to all. What may be classified as an advanced telescope because of its price can usually be understood quickly, now that technologies such as WiFi and hands-free controls are being implemented.

You don’t need the fanciest or most expensive telescope to see the planets in our solar system. However to see further into space, where some of nature’s masterpieces lie, more sophisticated optics will be needed.

If you’re a bit clueless as to handle a telescope in general, check out our guide to handling telescopes for beginners.

Starting Out

Location, Location, Location

Your first step towards a successful, continuous experience with astronomy is to scout the area around you for a good place to set up a telescope. Keep in mind that densely populated areas such as cities will have a lot of light pollution. Light pollution is the accumulation of all the light generated in a particular field. For example, a city will have street lights, cars, buildings, and various other generators that will interfere with the light given off celestial objects and a telescope’s ability to see them.

  • Our recommendation will always be the suburbs or in an open field, away from large sources of light.

If you do decide to go off-trail and away from solid ground, make sure your telescope is equipped with adequate power and stability. Chances are you’ll probably take a trip away from your home to get a good view of the night sky.

Getting a telescope

One question on every beginner’s mind—what sort of telescope should I buy? To start off, we have a couple of questions for you to help narrow down your search:

  • What do I want to be able to see?
  • What is my budget?
  • Am I still a beginner?
  • What constitutes a beginner’s telescope?
  • Am I into astrophotography?

What you shouldn’t do is buy the first fancy looking telescope you see on the internet. If the option is available to you, head into an optics store or dedicated telescope merchant to see and handle telescopes for yourselves and possibly hear from experts. Head on over to our list of best telescopes to check out the ones we think you should be interested in.

Most versions of telescopes have interchangeable optics such as eyepieces, which will keep your wallet safe from having to purchase another telescope if something happens to your optics. However, the lenses are directly proportional to the primary tube. If you want to buy a bigger or smaller tube of the same version of the telescope, make sure your parts can all fit together!

Star Maps

You can look up into the sky each night for the rest of your life and always find something new. The companies that sell telescopes will usually, but not always, include a star map or database full of celestial objects. These will be of great help to you if you desire to look at a particular planet or distant nebula.

It can be difficult to understand or read star maps at first, but one thing you can do is point out a familiar constellation. Asterisms (minor aspects of constellations) such as the Big Dipper and Orion’s belt are some of the easiest to see with the naked eye, so it would be a good idea to use those sets of stars as a foundation for viewing other, harder to find objects.

Set up

Great! Now that you’ve purchased your telescope, you’re just about ready to see the stars. Most telescopes nowadays are becoming increasingly user and assembly friendly. That’s not saying that all of them are going to be easy to deal with, but the precedent remains that you should take great care with handling your new telescope.

  • Handle the optics (eyepieces, lenses) with care. A stray fingerprint or scratch will ruin your view!
  • Don’t apply too much pressure when mounting the primary tube on the tripod or the mount. Most telescopes are designed for flexibility, not durability.
  • If you’re telescope runs on a battery, make a note to give it fresh batteries (if they are interchangeable).
  • If it runs on a rechargeable battery, ensure that it is charged and ready for each excursion.

Viewing

Congratulations! You’ve set up your telescope, powered it up, and it is now ready for the next nightfall. Wait for a clear night, preferably during the spring or summer when the skies are mostly clear. You can’t do much which thick, nighttime cloud cover.

Bring all your spare eyepieces with you. Eyepieces give you magnification, and no object is going to be in the same position each night. Distances and light spectrums shift all the time, and even the slightest of differences can leave you scratching your head wondering where Jupiter went.

Enjoy the stars!