5 Holiday Gear Buying Tips


Ahhh, the holidays. Such a wonderful time of year.

It’s one of those times when you just want to sit down with a hot cup of coffeeand order some new photo and video gear from B&H!

In this guide I want to break down my top five tips for buying a new piece ofgear for the holidays. All these tips apply whether you are buying gear foryourself or as a gift for a loved one. ALSO, all these tips are geared toward peoplelooking to make photography a serious hobby or eventually maybe even a career.

1. Buy USED GEAR!

Many people are afraid of used gear. But in the photo world, it can be a great wayto save some money. There really isn’t that much that can go wrong with cameragear, especially if it is fully tested (I really recommend buying from a trusted companylike B&H, KEH or mpb).

Just go on those websites and look for equipment that has a “condition rating”high enough that you know you’ll be getting a good product. Lenses and camera bodies are very durable and rarely have usage issues if they have been treated properly. I highly recommendfinding out how many shutter actuations a camera body has made before purchasing that camera. Thiscan be an important indicator of condition. Most low-end cameras are rated to a max of around 50,000 clicks, while more professional bodies can handle 300,000or more! You’d want to make sure the camera you’re looking at isn’t too near that max rating and will still last you for years to come!

2. Spend more on lenses than you do on the camera body.

This one is huge. So many people think that the fastest way to improve theirimages is to spend more money on a new camera body. The problem is that mostcameras don’t really change that much from version to version. Instead, lenses canreally unlock your creative and technical abilities by giving you new optical options that you can’t get with lower-quality lenses.

Let’s give an example. Most people buy a “kit” camera for their first camera.These cameras are usually pretty low-end and come with “kit” lenses which arealso pretty marginal. I recommend that people start with a kit camera, butinstead of buying it bundled with low-end lenses, buy it as a “body only”and select your lenses separately and individually.

To get into the specifics, B&H has a deal right now on a Canon Rebel T6 with an18-55mm and a 75-300mm, all for $400. Instead of picking that up, I would grab aused Rebel T6 on its own and also a 50mm f/1.4 lens and call it a day. The 50mm f/1.4 will beat home in your camera bag whether you are a professional or someone juststarting out. The goal is that you buy gear that you’ll enjoy using for the longest period of time.


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3. Have a plan.

No, you don’t need a new camera just because it’s on sale. I think far too manypeople see a fancy new camera in the store and think, “I need that.” There aresome great deals out there, but try to filter your wants down to the things that youactually wanted before you saw that it was on sale.

This is especially true in the high-end. If you are a professional using a 5DMark III and you see the Canon 5D Mark IV on sale, that doesn’t mean you need one.Maybe it’s smart to wait until next year when we will (hopefully) see the 5DMark V.

Luckily B&H has a super useful filtering tool on their “Holiday Deals” page ontheir website. You can easily filter by brand, type of item (and more) to findexactly what you’re looking for.

4. Don’t forget accessories that you need.

Most people think that the holidays are time to score a great deal on a cameraor a lens. What they don’t realize is that a lot of peripherals are also onsale. It might be time to pick up an SSD to speed up your photo/video workflow,or maybe grab that variable ND filter you’ve been eyeing for a few years.

Personally, I have a mental list of photo accessories that I’d like to buy. WhenI see one on sale, I pick it up then and then I don’t need to look for it anymore.The holidays can also be a fantastic time to snag a deal on a new editing laptop ordesktop. Head over to the RMSP Community if you are looking for help choosingthe right computer for you. The options are pretty endless and finding the right onecan be a challenge for a lot of people, so asking about it on our forum of experienced instructors and graduates can be a great way to gain more insight.

5. Look for add-ons.

This one is a pro tip. Most people don’t know that the deals they get over theholidays are usually a manufacturer discount and not offered by the retailer.That means that the same “doorbuster” is usually available from multipleretailers. Don’t believe me? Compare the Best Buy Black Friday deals flyer toB&H’s Holiday Specials. See the resemblance?!?

So, how do we choose who to buy from? Many retailers like to sweeten the dealswith bundled items. For example, B&H usually offers free memory cards, bags,batteries and other accessories with their cameras. If you buy the same camerafrom Best Buy you still get the low price, but you miss out on the B&H bundleditems.

This can save you a lot of money as the items that get bundled are usuallynecessary to use the camera! Sweet!

Lastly, if you are interested in learning more, check out a recent livestream we did answering questions about buying gear for the holidays!

About the Author

  • Forest Chaput de Saintonge directs Rocky Mountain School of Photography with his wife, Sarah. He has been immersed in photography since he was born. He grew up in Missoula and began taking photos with an SLR when he was seven years old. He started working for Rocky Mountain School of Photography at age 13. During his free time, he likes to become a master at new things, build stuff, run, hike, bike, photograph, and be an amateur astronomer. Forest has a BA in Astrophysics, just because. He really enjoys teaching and loves to help students understand concepts thoroughly. Forest has vast experience working with and teaching Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, and has worked many hours in the black and white darkroom.