5 Holiday Gear Buying Tips

by Forest Chaput de Saintonge


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

It’s one of those times that you just want to sit down with a hot cup of coffee and 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 of gear for the holidays. All these tips apply whether you are buying gear for yourself, or as a gift for a loved one. ALSO, all these tips are for people looking to make photography a hobby that they eventually plan to do more with.

1. Buy USED GEAR!

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

Just go on those websites and look for equipment that has a "condition rating" high enough that you know what you’ll be getting. As a bonus, I highly recommend finding out how many shutter actuations a camera body has before purchase. This can be an important indicator of condition as most low-end cameras are rated to around 50,000 clicks, while more professional bodies can handle 300,000 or more!

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 their images is to spend more money on a new camera body. The problem is that most cameras don’t really change that much from version to version. Instead, lenses can really unlock your creative and technical abilities.

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 are also pretty marginal. I recommend that people start with a kit camera, but instead 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 an 18-55mm and a 75-300mm, all for $400. Instead of picking that up, I would grab a used Rebel T6 with a 50mm f/1.4 lens and call it a day. The 50mm f/1.4 will be at home in your camera bag whether you are a professional or someone just starting out.

3. Have a plan.

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

This is especially true in the high-end. If you are a professional using a 5D Mark III and you see the 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 5D Mark V.

Luckily B&H has a super useful filtering tool on their “Holiday Deals” page on their website. You can easily filter by brand, type of item (and more) to find exactly 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 camera or a lens. What they don’t realize is that a lot of peripherals are also on sale. 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. When I see one on sale, that’s one less thing I need to remember. This can also be a fantastic time to snag a deal on a new editing laptop or desktop. Head over to the RMSP Community if you are looking for help choosing the right one for you. The options are pretty endless and finding the right one can be a challenge for a lot of people.

5. Look for add-ons.

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

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

This can save you a lot of money as the items that get bundled are usually necessary 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

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.

Instagram