The 2017 Fstoppers Complete Holiday Camera Equipment Buying Guide

The 2017 Fstoppers Complete Holiday Camera Equipment Buying Guide

As you're doing your holiday shopping, it can be a bit daunting evaluating all the numerous options out there. To help, we've put together a complete guide of all the best cameras, lenses, lights, drones, and accessories.

Best All-Around Cameras

Canon 5D Mark IV

The 5D Mark IV is the latest update in Canon's popular line of full-frame cameras, which are the bread and butter workhorses for a lot of photographers. It received a decent bump in resolution (30.4 MP), dual-pixel autofocus, and highly improved file latitude. 

Nikon D850

The latest in Nikon's high-resolution offerings, the D850 couples a gorgeous 45.7-megapixel sensor with a ludicrous continuous rate of 9 FPS, along with an 8K time-lapse feature and strong ISO performance.

Sony a7R III

Sony built the a7R III around the a7R II's sensor, managing to pull another stop of dynamic range out of it and adding a range of features sure to make photographers happy, including a doubled frame rate (10 fps), improved Eye AF, an AF joystick, and dual card slots.

Fujifilm X-T2

The X-T2 is an excellent option for users looking for professional-level results in a compact form, featuring the stellar Fuji lens offerings, a 24.3-megapixel sensor, improved autofocus, dual slots, and Fuji's lauded film simulations.

Best Entry Level Cameras

Canon 80D

The Canon 80D is an excellent step up from the company's most basic offerings, including more advanced autofocus and video features, a 24-megapixel sensor, and a 7 fps continuous rate.

Nikon D7200

With a 24-megapixel sensor, no optical low-pass filter, 51-point AF system, built-in Wi-Fi, and 6 fps shooting, the Nikon D7200 is a great option for beginners that can take them well into the semi-pro realm.

Sony a6300

Featuring a 24-megapixel sensor, OLED EVF, 11 fps shooting, internal 4K, and a highly regarded AF system, the Sony a6300 is a small beast of a camera. 

Fujifilm X-T20

The X-T2's little sibling, the X-T20 features the same 24-megapixel sensor, up to 14 fps with the electronic shutter, a 91-point AF system, and Fuji's highly regarded ergonomics.

Best Prime Lenses 

Prime Super Wide: Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The widest f/1.4 full-frame lens in the world, this Sigma is certainly unique. With a minimum focusing distance of 10.9 inches, a nine-blade aperture, and that crazy maximum aperture, you can create some strikingly unique images with this lens

Prime Wide: Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II

We were big fans of this lens in our review: it's sharp, has fast and accurate autofocus, L-series ruggedness, and features Canon Blue Spectrum optics. 

Prime Standard: Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens

With a declickable aperture, excellent AF performance, dust and moisture resistance, 11-blade circular diaphragm, and Zeiss optics, this lens is a beast. 

Prime Tele: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens

Reviews of this lens have been overwhelmingly positive, and with a declickable aperture, lauded AF performance, dust and moisture resistance, an 11-blade circular diaphragm, and outstanding image quality, that's no surprise. 

Prime Super Tele: Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM

This is of course more a specialty lens for sports and wildlife shooters, though it can also work for portraiture in certain situations. Nonetheless, like all Canon super telephotos, it's amazingly sharp, built like a tank, and offers unbelievable AF performance coupled with excellent image stabilization. Simply put, it's an outstanding lens.

Most Innovative/Interesting Prime: Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 Lens

This lens really needs no introduction as to why it's so interesting. With that insane maximum aperture, you can create some really unique photos with it. It's manual focus only, but with the great focus aids of the Sony line, it's not too hard to adjust to that. There are also versions for many other mounts

Best Zoom Lenses

Zoom Wide: Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens

Canon's third iteration of its wide-angle zoom is a real winner. With dramatically improved corner sharpness over its predecessor, dust and water resistance, and a constant f/2.8 aperture, it's an awesome option for landscape, wedding, and event photographers. 

Zoom Standard: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

If you had to own one lens that would effectively cover almost any situation you might find yourself in, a 24-70mm would be a good choice. Canon's is sharp, has excellent autofocus performance, and is highly resistant to the elements, making it a great choice for photographers of all genres.

Zoom Tele: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Lens

Many photographers build entire careers using two lenses: a 24-70mm and 70-200mm. Nikon's is highly lauded for its autofocus, vibration reduction, and excellent image quality.

Alternate Zoom Tele: Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens

The Nikon 70-200mm lens is a great option, but it's also rather expensive. We pitted it alongside the Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens in this review, and the results were very good. Plus, the Tamron is half the price. 

Zoom Super Tele: Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens

Fuji's super tele zoom gives you the equivalent of 150-600mm in full-frame coverage. As their bodies have gained increasingly better autofocus performance, they've become viable options for many different genres, and Fuji's corresponding super tele zoom offers all the requisite needs: good autofocus performance, weather resistance, image stabilization, and excellent image quality.

Most Innovative/Interesting Zoom: Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens

We were big fans of this lens in our review. It's one of those lenses that can instantly enable you to get images other photographers can't, and it's an absolute blast shooting with it. Build quality and image quality are both stellar.

Storage

Best Memory Cards: SanDisk

They're fast and reliable, and you can never have enough memory cards as a photographer. 

Best Hard Drives: Western Digital

I personally use Western Digital for all my hard drives and have never had performance or reliability issues. They also have some nifty features, like automatic memory card backup in certain models

Portable Drive: Samsung T5

With lightning-fast connectivity, hardware encryption, USB 3.1, and a ludicrously small footprint, the Samsung T5 is the perfect travel drive for demanding photo video work.

Lighting

Studio Lighting High-End: Profoto D2 1000Ws AirTTL Monolight

With a 1,000 Ws output and 300 W modeling lamp, the Profoto D2 has ample power to spare. It features a built-in AirTTL receiver, fast recycling times, an ultra-short 1/50,000 freeze mode duration, 20 fps burst, 10-stop range, and HSS of up to 1/8,000 s, plus you get compatibility with Profoto's deep library of modifiers. 

Studio Lighting Budget: Elinchrom D-Lite 400W/s RX 4 Flash Head

The Elinchrom D-Lite RX 4 is a great option with good power and a list of features that can make it an excellent bridge light for those starting out, including a built-in Skyport receiver, 0.35-1.6 s recycling times, 5-stop power range, and auto dumping.

Location Lighting High-End: Broncolor Siros L 800Ws Battery-Powered 2-Light Outdoor Kit 2

The Siros L kit is an awesome location kit with power to spare. It features a fast-charging battery, quick recycling, speed mode flash duration of 1/18,000 s, a 9-stop range, and built-in wireless. You also get Broncolor's legendary color temperature control, and with an exposed tube, it takes full advantage of a large range of modifiers.

Location Lighting Budget: Godox AD200 TTL Pocket Flash Kit

With built-in wireless, HSS, TTL support, and a small footprint, the Godox AD200 is a favorite of a lot of photographers looking to travel light and still do on-location work. 

Most Useful Modifier: Broncolor Para 133 Reflector Kit With Focusing Tube

The Broncolor Para 133 is one of the versatile lighting modifiers out there, with its true parabolic shape creating a beautifully sculpting light and the focusing rod feature allowing one to change the hardness and contrast of the light on the fly.

Most Useful Location Modifier: Westcott 32" Rapid Box Duo Speedlite Modifier

This is a great option for wedding or portrait photographers using speedlights. With a double shoe mount bracket, you can put two speedlights in the octabox to help up the power, while the built-in tilt bracket makes it easy to angle as needed, and the double diffusers make it easy to soften the output. It comes with an included case and is easy to set up and break down (I own one myself).

High-End Speedlight: Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

Canon's flagship speedlite is powerful, has a built-in wireless transceiver with great range, TTL, a large zoom range, and HSS, plus it runs on standard AA batteries. Mine has never missed a pop and is still going strong.

Budget Speedlight: Yongnuo Speedlite YN600EX-RT II for Canon Cameras

Once I bought the Canon version of this and fell in love with it, I bought four of the Yongnuo version for a little over the price of one Canon version. Performance has been just as good for me, and I've had no issues. 

Aerial 

Entry Drone: Mavic Pro

Yes, the Spark is neat, but I recommend the Mavic Pro. It's nearly as portable, and for professional work, you get serious upgrades, like the ability to shoot in raw, 4K, more flying time, and more. 

Intermediate Drone: Phantom 4 Pro

The Phantom 4 Pro is the sweet spot of drones in my opinion. The upgraded sensor size and resolution make a noticeable difference in image quality, while you also gain higher bit rates, mechanical shutter, variable aperture, and more collision sensors. If you're looking to make professional-level work without breaking the bank, this is the model to get. 

Professional Drone: Inspire 2

For true cinema work, the Inspire 2 is where it's at. With your choice of gimbal cameras and lenses, you're not limited to a certain focal length, and with an advanced set of features for professionals, there really isn't much it can't handle. 

Miscellaneous

Best Tablet: Wacom Intuos Pro Creative Pen Tablet (Medium)

Simply put, we're fans of it. Nothing will change your post-processing workflow quite like a good tablet, and the medium version is ideal for most photographers. It's accurate, responsive, and comfortable. 

Wild card: iPad Pro

The iPad Pro is a dream to work with, as we detailed in our review. It's responsive, the display is a dream, and culling and editing on the go with the Apple Pencil make it a complete mobile workflow solution.

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29 Comments

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Kim Ginnerup's picture

How can this be a guide?
It looks like a list of some pretty expensive gear. That are out of most peoples reach with a few exceptions.
In my view a guide woulde be:
If you are Canon shooter here is a guide for you
Ditto Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Olympus, ...

Jeff McCollough's picture

If someone can't afford that gear then they need to be charging more.

Not everyone visiting Fstoppers is shooting professionally.

Johnny Rico's picture

As a Para owner, you will never sell me on "Most Useful Modifier: Broncolor Para 133".

Anonymous's picture

I'm poor so my most useful modifier is my 5-in-1 reflector. :P

Anonymous's picture

What if photography is just a hobby?

Johnny Rico's picture

I'm assuming it's some Affiliate Commission Structure. Shit guide because it's not a guide.

"Best" has to take budget into consideration which, presumably, this list does since it doesn't include any medium format cameras or super-telephoto lenses, etc. If you're, then, going to take budget into consideration, why not include the best gear for more modest budgets which probably describes the majority of Fstoppers readership?

The fact it's supposed to be a holiday buyers guide is the problem. No one, considering any item on this list would, or should, make a decision based on such succinct descriptions. If your wife were considering buying you something in this price range, would you want her to pick something from this "guide"? Buying guides are for toasters and vacuum cleaners, not such expensive, technical items.

So, if you didn't have any Nikon lenses, you'd be fine with her spending over $3000 for the D850!? "That said", what does "Holiday...buying guide" mean? Who spends thousands of dollars on themselves for the holidays??

Exactly! Why would anyone buy something off this list without reading multiple, detailed reviews or technical descriptions?

At this point, you're clearly trying to reframe the discussion so you can satisfy your need to be right. Have a nice night. :-)

Your first paragraph is lacking any reasonable sense for reasons which should be obvious to all but the most casual observer.

Anyone having done "a bit more research or "already know some things" would have no need for such a list.

Bottom line: there are very few such articles because it makes no sense, framed as a holiday gear list. Lists assume some relationship. There is none in this "list".

You have admitted to a need to be right in past comments. And, you have yet to make any reasonable assertions in this thread.

I'd love to stay up and play but I really need to get to bed. Good night.

Really? You seriously believe the stuff you write? ;-)

Yes, but they're not writing the things you do. ;-)

michael buehrle's picture

i would not say it was a complete guide. and i agree with kim. there are so many cheaper options than the ones on this list.

Jason Chambers's picture

I appreciate the work that went into this guide. But a guide that completely ignores the existence of either Olympus or Panasonic is a joke. Utter rubbish.

The article doesn't specify best "overall".

You have no idea what their intent was. To imply you do is not reasonable.

Nothing in that sentence states, or implies, "overall".

Clearly, I was referring to your use of the word, "overall".

"Overall" has to include budget ranges. This list does not. The target audience for these products has no use for such a list. Those in need of a list will not be served by this one.

Had it been presented as a "Best of 2017" or something like that, the comments would be very different.

Anonymous's picture

If the aim was to provide a list of the absolute best gear regardless of price, this list fails. If the aim was to provide the most affordable gear, this list fails. If the aim was to provide the best "bang for the buck" value buys, this list fails.

I'm not entirely sure what the goal of this list is supposed to be. You list the Broncolor Para, but for your studio monolight, you're listing the Profoto D2, which doesn't work well at all with that particular modifier due to its recessed bulb. For cameras, you list an option each for several of the major brands, but when it comes to lenses, you only list one total for each general focal range, which doesn't follow the previous pattern. M43 and medium format are also completely ignored for no given reason.

Suffice it to say that this guide is rather strange...

It's a pointless list.

Michael answered your question very well. If you disagreed with, or didn't understand, his reasoning, mine wouldn't satisfy you either.

And I answered. Michael is probably too busy picking something for Aunt Martha, from the list. ;-)

Anonymous's picture

Well that element of subjectivity is the problem with any list of this type, right? The question of "What is the best camera?" depends completely on intended purpose. The D850 is probably better than the 5DIV for stills, but the 5DIV is better for video. On the Nikon end, the D850 is probably their best camera for landscapes and daylight shooting while the D5 beats it out for action and low-light shooting. An alternative way to go about it could have been either to focus on one brand at a time (eg. Canon Holiday Gear Guide, Nikon Holiday Gear Guide, Sony Holiday Gear Guide, etc.) or to break it down by purpose (eg. Best Landscape Camera, Best Sports Camera, etc.). That's all completely ignoring the fact that there is not single definition for "the best" since every bit of camera equipment comes with certain trade-offs (auto-focus vs. optical quality, megapixel count vs. low-light performance, in-body technology vs. available lenses, etc.).

Having a section such as "Best Telephoto Lens" is just silly because you're always comparing apples to oranges since outside of third party manufacturers, you're not going to be using the same lens for a Pentax or a Canon. For each brand, if you pick a particular focal length, there is usually only one realistic choice for which brand lens is best at that focal length. It would probably be better to have a field like "Best 3rd Party Telephoto" and pit companies like Tamron, Sigma, and Tokina up against each other since you can use their lenses on multiple different camera systems. As a Nikon shooter, it means nothing to me that the author rated Sony's 85mm the best (something I question given the existence of the Zeiss Otus 85mm, but that's a different story) simply because it's not like I'm going to go out and get that lens or ditch my entire system for that lens. I'm sure Sony shooters would feel the same way about Nikon's 70-200mm. The way that this section is done is not really useful.

The "Most Innovative/Interesting Prime" is a joke. It's literally just a really fast lens. What's particularly innovative or interesting about it other than a really small DoF? It's not like it's the first lens to hit that aperture nor is it probably the best since I would wager that Leica's is better.

In the lighting section, it makes no sense to recommend a Profoto light as the best monolight and then recommend the Broncolor Para as the most useful modifier knowing full well that Profoto lights due to their recessed tubes do not actually work well with that modifier. If you're going to do that, you would do well to at least point out that fact when you list that modifier and give an alternative recommendation that works best for that modifier as this is not immediately obvious information for the uninformed consumer.

In terms of the storage recommendation, he just lists Western Digital for hard drives and states that it's because that's what he uses. The link given is just a generic one that leads to every Western Digital product under the sun. Are they all good? Are they all useful? Western Digital, like many other companies, make both high and low end items. They also have different series of drives (labeled by color) for different purposes. Also, if you're going to continue the pattern of giving better (and higher priced options), it would probably be better to recommend specific WD harddrives for particular purposes (OS, scratch, storage) in conjunction with a good RAID array for the storage drives.

The memory card recommendation suffers from a similar problem. "Sandisk" is the given answer. But is Sandisk really the best in all categories? Why not break it down to card type because I'm pretty sure that they don't actually have the best performance for every type of card (certainly not for XQD, which they don't even make last time I checked).

In the speedlight category, once again, it's just a single brand manufacturer. Since the Canon speedlight is best (no actual reason given for why it's better than any other brand's flagship), is the Fuji shooter supposed to run out and get one? Why even bother having this category? The best speedlight for any given brand is probably going to be the most expensive one that the particular brand offers. Either that or just list the Profoto A1 or something since you already recommended the Profoto monolight and cost is clearly not an issue in this article.

Also, as I mentioned, Micro 4/3 is completely ignored despite plenty of people using it and the fact that Olympus boasts some really sweet in-body tech. Also ignored category is medium format even though it's what many professionals use in the upper echelons of the industry (along with their Broncolor lighting setups). No reason is given for the absence of companies such as Olympus, Pentax, Hasselblad, Phase One, etc. despite excellent cameras coming from each of them that would either rival or beat out cameras that are listed.

I will grant that aside from perhaps the "Most Innovate/Interesting Prime" thing, each section is populated with a good piece of gear that is technically part of the respective category. The issue I have is that the list as a whole doesn't seem to speak to anyone in particular. It seems like the author began in the camera section with the idea speak to consumers of all brands (hence, the reason an option is listed for several different brands) and then by the time he hit the next section, decided that was just too much work to continue doing, which is why we're left with a seemingly random assortment of gear in the rest of the article.

I'll admit freely that I'm not sure that I could have done any better (at least not without flat out being dishonest and rating equipment I've never used) since not being a reviewer or anything, I have not used such a variety of gear to be able to make that kind of determination across a wide range of products, but this is essentially what happens when you take such large and nuanced topics and try to condense it all into a single article. At very least the author shouldn't make the claim that this is a "complete guide of all the best cameras, lenses, lights, drones, and accessories." because it's clearly not.

I wish I could upvote you twice! :-)

Anonymous's picture

Subjectivity absolutely compromises the list because there's no objective definition for what makes for "the best camera" or even what makes for "the best overall camera". Without knowing what criteria actually went into determining what the best overall camera is, the list itself is limited in usefulness because we have no idea what the author is actually valuing in the cameras and whether those values are consistent with ours (meaning it's a good idea to lean on the author's expertise). Sure there are little blurbs that accompany the cameras, but they don't really compare the cameras to the other ones listed so there's little reasoning given that helps us understand why they are all equally sharing the spotlight.

Granted, if we're talking simply about "the best" 85mm lens, then you would certainly be right. Nikon need not be on the list if it's not. But then why bother presenting 4 different options as "the best overall cameras"? On a purely technical level (for stills), one could very much argue that the D850 beats out the 5DIV and the A7RIII beats out the Fuji X-T2 and given the fact that those two cameras are tied on DXO as far as their sensor performance goes, you could present them as equal options depending on whether you prefer DSLR or Mirrorless. Why bother having the Fuji and Canon in the mix if the intend is not to try to spread the love?
Also, is the Sony 85mm G really better than the Zeiss Otus 85mm or the Sigma 85mm Art? The latter two actually scored higher on DXO's tests and they are both available for multiple mounts, unlike the Sony 85mm G. Granted, I'm not particularly fond of DXO scores, but they're probably the closest thing that we have to a consistent and somewhat objective test result.

Yes, it would be an impossible task to speak to everyone, but it seems like that fact didn't stop the author from attempting to do so in the beginning by listing options at several different brands for the cameras. Maybe he should have just stuck to the same policy that he did with the lenses from beginning to end by just listing a single camera as "the best overall camera" and "the best entry level camera" to have more consistency across the board and to avoid confusion.

Frank Withers's picture

+1 Michael, this list is moronic. As a professional photographer of 8 years, none of this would make sense as gifts for me lol. I shoot Phase One and Sony A. But besides that point, most people aren't gifting each other $4000 of gear, it's just not a very sentimental type of gift. I would be shocked to open a Broncolor Para from my girlfriend. Delighted but also, what the fck?

If I created this list, I would have compiled a list of far more agnostic pieces of equip. that may apply to more shooters, and be more attainable. Useful things like pelican memory-card cases, portable greycards, 5-in-1 reflectors, a rogue light-bender kit or any other small speedlight modifier kit for the strobist in your family, a lensbaby, prism filters, a nice mem. card, nice card.reader, a small lacie rugged drive, a nice camera strap like one from peak designs or holdfast, etc, etc, and the list could've been broken down to "gifts for fashion photographers, wedding photographers, wildlife photographers, etc. so there would be some more sense to the items listed. Above really is just an expensive clusterfuck.

Alex Cooke's picture

That's good to hear; I've heard excellent things about the a6300 and have been looking for a compact, do-it-all camera I can toss in my bag. Another Fstoppers writer actually recommended it for this list. Thanks for sharing your experience with it too!