When you are new to photography what you need is a camera you can use and abuse. You need to run that shutter ragged and let the camera get scratched to bits. If you buy a camera you care too much about, the chances are you wont use it much. It will sit in a box and you will care about its shutter count, it cost you a lot to buy and you don’t want to hurt it.
Everyone goes through a sort of progression with camera gear, mostly beginners want EVERYTHING, to have all the gear in the hope it will make them better. I have owned a lot of camera gear and im coming full circle back to simplifying what I own and use.
But how I started was on a Canon 40D and then a 5d mark 1, way back in 2010 this was already old gear. But you know what. Those cameras are just not as far behind as you might think.
A 5d mark 1 cant shoot well at high ISOs but when you are starting it’s not really an issue and may never be. It makes really beautiful images. A while ago I used the mark 1 alongside my 5DS and I often had to check to see which took what shot.
The kind of kit you could start out with for portraits might look like this:
Canon or Nikon:
5d mark 1 or 2 OR Nikon D700
50mm 1.8 or 1.4
Then get cracking.
You see its human nature to think that if you buy a better camera you will be a better photographer. And there is some truth in that. I don’t fully buy into the “its the photographer not the camera” It doesn’t quite literally hold true but I agree with the sentiment. A better camera will take better photos, that’s a fact. But a better photographer will too and ultimately being a better photographer is what we are after becoming, not owning the best camera.
So my recommendation is to become a good photographer on an old but still good camera and then upgrade when you really know its time to upgrade ( and then only if you really want to ).
I think it’s quite a different experience to be able to shoot in a carefree way with a camera that you know you wont keep. There is also a strong argument for limitation inspiring creativity. Throughout history, its being in a tight spot that has forced us, as people, to come up with ideas and solutions to a variety of problems, creating images is no different.
If you shot your whole first year on an older camera body with just a 50mm lens you would be forced to create. Indeed, I think its possible to shoot your entire portrait photography career on one focal length lens if you chose to. But the point is that the idea that we NEED EVERYTHING is simply not true.
The other thing that not enough people are talking about is just how damned good these older cameras still are.
AS someone who has worked professionally with 5d mark 1, 2, 3, 5DS and nikon D3s D700 D810 D600 and more I can tell you that you would be amazed at really how little the gap is between these cameras under most normal controlled conditions.
So to put my money where my mouth is, here are some images shot in 2017 on my 5d mark 1 which I still own and still use. These were shot with the 5d mark 1 and 200mm 2.8 L lens.