The Canon 5D Mk III has been announced, and while it is quite the powerhouse there are photographers that wouldn’t necessarily upgrade or go right for it. Indeed, the 5D Mk II is still an excellent purchase. But as photographers, we all have upgrade envy at times. We don’t need to upgrade our cameras though.
We’ve said this mantra many times and we’ll say it again: your lenses and lights will outlive and perform the life of your camera. Besides taking courses, a way to step up is to consider lighting and lenses. Here’s a complete list of products to consider if you’re considering upgrading. Chances are that they won’t break the bank either.
ExpoImaging Ray Flash- Ring lights give off a specific look that many fashion and portrait photographers love. To clarify, what they do is take light and spread it out in an even way right around the lens. Usually, it results in a shadowless and extremely flattering look. They’re a favorite item of mine.
The Ray Flash takes the light from your hot-shoe camera flash and spreads it across in an even circle of light output. They’re fun to play with, built extremely well, and don’t suffer from a ton of light loss. In practice, that means that your flash won’t be working in overdrive mode and also shouldn’t overheat.
ExpoImaging Rogue Flash Benders- Hot shoe flashes are typically just light other lights: they are often best diffused, bounced, etc. Hence, the need for modifiers.
The Rogue Flash Benders have to be one of the most simple yet brilliant flash modifiers ever invented. My personal preference leans towards the largest version of the trio (which are available in a medium and small kind as well.) Capable of acting as a large bounce card primarily, their strength lies in the fact that they can reflect light in nearly any direction you can think of. Additionally, they can simulate the look of a softbox or a snoot if configured right.
Though I don’t use them as often as I used to (I don’t shoot events as often any more and I’m generally finding that speedlites don’t provide enough power for me) they are a mainstay in my camera bag for the pure versatility that they provide.
Impact One Light Umbrella Kit- The beauty of an umbrella is the fact that they can spread light out over an extremely large area. Shoot through umbrellas do this while also acting a bit like a softbox. Impact’s one light kit offers photographers this option at an affordable price. It includes a large shoot-through umbrella, light stand, and tungsten constant light. When shot through the umbrella, they two work together to help deliver some really nice skin tones.
The Orbis Ring Flash- Speaking of skin tones, here’s another Ring Light attachment for your hot-shoe flash. The cool thing about the Orbis is the fact that of all the ring light units I’ve tested, this one has schematics that seem to render the light output to be warmer. It’s just warm enough to work well with skin tones: and for that reason I truly feel that the Orbis was designed to be used for portraiture.
My only peeve with it is the ergonomics: I don’t exactly find it to be the easiest item to use. But the light output is some of the most beautiful I’ve seen from a flash modifier.
Chris Gampat Beauty Dish Hack- Sometimes when we get bored as photographers, we hack things…or at least I do. Wanting to use a beauty dish with my speedlites, I shoved a Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible into the end of a Beauty Dish: and therefore created this Frankenstein item. The results have contributed to my addition to Beauty Dishes generally over softboxes, especially for portraiture.
RoundFlash Ring Flash- As the largest hot-shoe flash diffusion item on the list, the RoundFlash also benefits from having not only an absolutely perfect circle of light with extremely little light loss, but also has the most beautiful output of any hot-shoe flash modifier I’ve used.
We warned though, it can be a bit cumbersome to use.
Phottix Odin Wireless TTL Triggers- Phottix’s triggers win my vote hands down for being the current best wireless triggers on the market. With a fairly far range of radio transmission, the Odins also provide the user with TTL metering with the Canon cameras and flashes. Tack on a simple to use interface, reliability, and a fairly decent built quality combined with an affordable price and you’ve got yourself The Phoblographer’s Editor’s Choice in flash triggers.
If you need something more powerful than these, take a look at our reviews of:
Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS- I generally recommend this lens over the 24-70mm f2.8 L because of the extra range and the fact that it has IS built in. For the most part though, this lens stays in my camera bag and has taken a back seat to my trifecta of prime lenses.
Canon 85mm F1.8- Canon’s 85mm f1.8 is perhaps one of the best purchases one can make when upgrading lenses. At the time of writing this post, it is currently rated as Canon’s fastest focusing lens due to the combination of USM motor drive and the light glass elements. Indeed, this lens isn’t very large and also is quite light.
There are fringing problems when shooting wide open, but when stopped down to f2, they go away. Additionally, it is also known to be one of Canon’s sharpest lenses.
Canon 35mm F1.4 L- My favorite lens: 35mm is such a versatile focal length. On a full frame sensor is it a full 35mm while on a cropped sensor camera it is around 50mm (in terms of field of view.) This lens is super sharp and also has been noted to be one of Canon’s sharpest lenses. On top of that, it’s built like a tank (but doesn’t have weatherproofing.) This lens was my mainstay around the end of my wedding photography career and I often use it to shoot 2/3rd portraits.
It’s something that needs to be experienced to really fall in love with. My words can’t do it justice.
Canon 50mm F1.8- The essential upgrade lens for nearly every Canon users really shouldn’t be on this list; but if you’re going for a 5D Mk III, then you’ll be damned if you haven’t used this lens already.
Get this, then consider upgrading once you’ve outgrown it. In fact, many professionals go for this lens instead of the more expensive ones because they can’t justify the price.
Canon 50mm f1.4- In terms of 50mm lenses, this is where I currently am. I can’t justify the f1.2 L version to myself and the f1.4 version is quite sharp enough as it is. This is the best option of Canon’s three 50mm lenses faster than f2. It focuses speedily, is sharp, provides extremely shallow depth of field, and isn’t extremely heavy. In fact, it’s very light.
It is a perfect compliment to the 85mm f1.8.
Zeiss 25mm f2- Though many may complain about the fact that Zeiss’s lenses don’t offer autofocus, there are many strengths to consider. First off, Zeiss has perhaps the best built lenses out there for Canon users. Not only will they take a beating, but they have the largest focusing ring of any lenses meant for Canon EF mount and their focusing scale/depth of field scale is also really quite good. Plus they have a focusing confirmation chip to tell you when something is in focus.
Finally, they’re super sharp wide open and often give a totally different color rendering when shot wide open. Stop the lens down a bit, and the color will be, “normalized.” Additionally, the lens will become even sharper.
Sigma 85mm F/1.4 EX HSM (Canon mount)- Sigma’s 85mm f1.4 is my favorite lens from the company. It is sharp wide open at f1.4 and providing that you’ve either gotten a perfect version or you’ve micro-adjusted your copy, you’ll never want to take this lens off your camera.
It has an excellent build quality as well; plus if you’re a cropped sensor camera user there is an addition to the lens hood to help add some extra contrast.
Why didn’t I buy this lens? I have the 85mm f1.8 and I stop down anyway. So it’s not worth the money for me. If I shot wide open all the time, then this would be the only lens I go to unless I spring for Canon’s f1.2 L.
Sigma 50mm f1.4 EX (Canon EF)- Sigma’s 50mm f1.4 EX destroy’s Canon 50mm f1.4 in every way: it is better built, focuses nearly just as fast, is sharper, and overall has better image quality. It is often recommended to those that want to upgrade from the f1.8.
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