Even if the current economic times weren’t so dire, the smart photographer is always looking for a bargain — which is why the 2nd-Hand market for lenses is so dynamic. However, there are always items that you want – nay need – and, now, you’ll want to make sure you can get these amazing items without shattering your anemic bank account.
A Super Wide-Angle Zoom is pretty much mandatory for most photographers — regardless of your skill level, having one of these flexible lenses (i.e. Sigma’s 10 – 20mm f/4-5.6) gives you a lot of options in capturing dynamic and arresting images.
The thing about having a lens like this, is that it gives you great range along the wide-angle spectrum so that you can compose startling images by using the distorting quality of a short lens (say around 17mm focal length) or just expand your angle of view ever so slightly further up the focal length. A super wide-angle zoom is a robust tool for interior and landscape photography.
You can pick up the Sigma for $479 at Amazon, but a used lens is preferable, because with the right testing for flaws or scratches, you can add an amazing piece of hardware for an unreasonably cheap prices.
An External Flash with a Cord is a great and under-appreciated accessory to have in your photographic arsenal, mainly because when you’re shooting indoor and can’t control the light (which is the vast majority of non-studio situations).
The flash cord gives you a lot of flexibility when you are using a flash. Whether the camera is attached to a tripod or your holding, you can move the flash around the subject any way that you light to get the “best” lighting; the flash cord gives you options that you can only dream about when the flash is attached directly to your camera. A solid external flash and cord will run you about $35, which is a small price to pay for the rich flexibility it gives you and your external flash.
Another must-have item is a Reflector; you can pick up a new or used reflector for a steal, and with adequate practice you’ll be able to raise the quality of your exterior portraits and group photos. While they might seem a little bulky (just keep it in your camera bag), they enable you control and direct light – that ever important element in photography – and reduce the contrast on faces. “Why is reducing contrast important?” you might ask. It’s because digital cameras, nearly all P&S cameras and a vast majority of dSLRs, do not handle large contrast ratios very well (and, to remind you, with digital photography once you “blow the hi-lites” you can’t “find” that image information again in Photoshop, no matter how much tweaking and adjusting and massaging you try to do). A Reflector enables you to achieve better exposures on your subject, and therefore get more aesthetically pleasing photos.
Once you start using a Reflector and seeing the results, you might find it hard to do without it when working outside (or inside for a soft light boost than what you’d get with lights or a flash).
A Tamron 18 – 200mm f/3.5 – 6.3 XR Di II is perhaps the must-have full-spectrum zoom lens – taking you from the edge of wide-angle photography to impressive telephoto photography. Why a Tamron instead of a Canon or Nikon or Konica or Pentax OEM lens (as the Tamron is compatible with these three manufacturers), price mostly, but Tamron has made a darn good lens. With this zoom lens on your camera, you’ll rarely need to change lenses — and the build quality of the lens is amazing. The lens is specifically designed to take advantage of a dSLR’s razor sharp resolution. It has a minimum focus distance of 17.7-inches, which is pretty amazing. The only draw back with this lens, is that it won’t work on the new full frame dSLRs. You can pick up one for as little $202 new and $180 used.
A Cable Release, which will maybe set you back $20, but this item might not be a “must-have” although it will become a “I wish I had.” Mainly because it enables you to do studio work more intimately and it’s a must for any long shutter speed work.
These are some simple things to get — but the simple things really fill in the gaps that you need for great photographs.