How important is the choice of gear?

"Very" but not necessarily based on brand name.

I have used Nikon cameras for over twenty years, and have owned about a dozen over the years. I presently own 2 digital bodies and one film body with seven lenses from 24mm to 300mm with 1.4 & 2X converters. I chose Nikon for their durability as well as their lens quality.

I learned from my retail days that there may be faster, lighter, or electronically superior units available at any given time, but few offer the consistent lens quality and the durability to last years like Nikon.

I would say your first consideration, however, should be system affordability.

I used to get customers demanding to buy the "best" Nikon camera but would later add a cheap non-name brand lens to the system. Ah yes, the ever popular $150.00 "Fuzzitar" 28-300 f5.8-6.9. It may not be sharp, or fast, but it's only 1" long !!

With very few exceptions, I have not found many of theses lenses to be of "pro" quality. Many are sharp, or fast enough for "family fun" but not for pro use.

I too fell victim to the sales hype, but later on I wished that I could have most of the film shot with this inferior glass back, and the blown photo ops to re-shoot.

In short, as a general rule, stick to the name brand glass, you only get so many opportunities in this game so don't waste them on bad glass.
Now these lenses do tend to be more expensive so that's why I said system affordability. Choose a camera that you can afford to buy good lenses for.

Please note. These days there are more non-name brand lenses that are of higher quality than ever before, some rivaling even name brand lenses, but please make your choice carefully as there are still an awful lot of "house brands" out there.

Also note that in order to compete with the multitude of non-name brand lenses, the camera manufacturers themselves will make a cheaper series of "name brand" lenses that may be of lesser quality construction or are much slower than their high end equipment.

I did use one non-name brand lens. That was my Tamron 400mm f4. I had the opportunity to give it a good trial before buying it. I was very skeptical of the quality at first but soon found that even wide open with the 1.4 converter attached, this lens was razor sharp. It is also a fast f4.

Tamron was always one of the few independent brands that I didn't feel guilty about selling to my retail customers.

Whatever system you buy, it should also feel comfortable. Not only in the ergonomic sense, but, in your own familiarity with your chosen photographic "tool".

I have known many gadget freaks over the years. By this I mean the guy who always bought the newest camera. The problem with doing that is the cameras change so fast that they never really got used to their camera. They would often miss shots because of basic lack of familiarity with their equipment.

I have used the same cameras for many years now. Another advantage with sticking to a system is the manufacturer will often keep similarities from one model to the next.

I feel that you will get consistently better photographs if you are actually paying complete attention to your subject rather than having to think about the basic mechanics of operating your camera.

When I'm twenty-five feet away from an 1800 lb. rutting bull moose that I've just called out of the bush, I've got enough to think about just to get the shots and not get dead. It's nice not having to take my eye off him to find my exposure compensation button for an example.


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