What camera gear to get for $5000?

Geysir, Iceland

Geysir, Iceland

When aspiring photographer look at photos like these they assume that if ONLY they can get their hands on proper gear then capture photos. So one of the most frequently asked questions is:

I’m looking to get into landscape photography and would appreciate it if you would tell me what camera gear should I get?

It seems that everyone assumes that having the right kind of gear is needed to get started in landscape photography. And why not? There is nothing more thrilling then to hold that brand new Sony a7rII in your hands…right? Not really. The truth is that this is exactly what I assumed as well when I got started back in 2001. Armed with $5000 worth of gear, I was convinced that I was on the right track to get some great shots of the Olympic Peninsula.

Then the reality hit home… I found out that I lacked the technical skills to capture great photos.

Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park, WA

Captured with my brand new Canon D30 – ol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park, WA

After this embarrassing episode, I decided to study up on the technical skills. I learned about aperture, shutter speed, filters, manual exposure, ISO, and Liveview. In two years, I was able to use every mode and function of which my camera was capable. Armed with my new found mastery of the technical skills, I was once again ready to capture photos that were going to make everyone say WOW. Or at least that is what I thought when I went back to Olympic National Park. Once again I was reminded that I had quite a bit of learning to do.

  • 101_0168_RT16

    What I captured – Olympic National Park, 2003

  • Siblings

    What I envisioned – Olympic National Park, 2010

After shooting landscape photography for over a decade, my creativity and my workflow are going through a constant evolution. I am always discovering new ways of taking photos and this is what makes photography such an interesting recreational activity for me.

Even today I am always discovering new ways of doing things. Just when you think you know enough, you are always encountering situations that make you realize that you have a long way to go. What should a photographer to do in this case? Enjoy the experience of being outside in some of the most beautiful places in the world. After all, what is better than learning new stuff and making mistakes while watching the sea lions on a remote beach in New Zealand or photographing lava dropping into the ocean or bumping into a sea turtle at the beach?

So if I had to do this all over again would I have spend $5000 on that brand new camera that I did not know how to use? Not a chance.

I would have purchased a more affordable camera with a kit lens and a tripod, and put rest of the money toward creating memorable experiences (travel) and towards learning how to capture great images. Looking back I cannot recall opening the box of my brand new Canon D30 (yeah that dinosaur), but I will definitely remember how I felt when I saw this scene that I captured with it at Glacier National Park.

Transient Light, Glacier National Park, MT

The only question is how would you spend $5000 on landscape photography? Please feel free to leave comments below.

About Author Jay Patel

I could startoff like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.

Patience is a virtue...unless you are chasing your dreams


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3 replies
  1. Mark Allen Bowers
    Mark Allen Bowers says:


    This is a good thought to write about as I am fairly certain we all go through this same game in our heads as one point or another. I have been struggling on the decision to upgrade my Canon 6D for some time now but he cost of the next best thing is fairly prohibitive and doesn’t really seem like that much of a step up. For now, my 6D works fine and I am able to travel the country full time with my wife so I am happy enough!


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