Firstly, let’s define the situation you’re in so you know what gear to buy. It doesn’t matter what size, or type of show you are shooting when it comes to the price tags of concert photography lenses and cameras. The show’s lighting conditions are the most significant impact, and then the limitations of what you can shoot are the second. Often, you can only photograph during the first three songs, and you’re almost always not allowed to use a flash or strobe. I’m sure you can already see why your choice of concert photography lens and other camera equipment is essential.
I must point out, I don’t necessarily own or have directly used all of this equipment, but I’m also not getting any commission for recommending this stuff.
What kind of camera should I buy?
There isn’t one answer to this, but there are always suitable cameras available for beginners on a budget.
Firstly, get yourself a reliable DSLR camera. There are a lot of different cameras out there, but point and shoot cameras are not suitable because they don’t let you change lenses. Your photography would be pretty limited without being able to change your lens.
Whether you choose Canon, Nikon, Fuji or something entirely different, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to need to grow to use the camera well, so it’s important that it feels good in your hands and you can reach all the camera’s settings. Every camera body is built differently, so naturally, it’s going to feel different in your hands.
You’re also going to want choices, and the brand you choose is important because like Sega and Nintendo did back-in-the-day, only that brand’s lenses are going to be compatible with its body. Nikon and Canon are both prominent camera brands out now, but that doesn’t mean you have to choose a camera body produced by either of them.
Should I use a crop sensor or full-frame camera for concert photography?
Cameras with a crop sensor are generally less expensive than full-frame cameras. That doesn’t mean they are worthless, but there are a few downsides. Regardless, the disadvantages will only become evident after you’ve become a little more experienced.
Crop sensor cameras have (yeah, you guessed it) smaller sensor sizes. Small sensor sizes produce noisier photos (tiny specks of grain) and capture less light. Noise often softens your image and can detract from the photo’s impact. I recommend you start out with a crop camera sensor and benefit from the cheaper cost, and workaround the additional noise in post production process.
So what camera should I get for concert photography?
Canon 5D Mk III (~$3,295)
Canon 6D ($1,899)
Nikon D810 (~$2,699)
Nikon D750 (~$1,279)
Canon 7D Mk II (~$1,980)
Nikon D500 (~$2,999)
Nikon D7500 (~$2,099)
What are the best concert photography lenses?
Just a warning – concert photography lenses can be more expensive than the camera body itself. Now that we have that out of the way, it’s easy to find a lens that is cheaper than your camera body. The salesperson will most likely try to sell you a lens that automatically comes with the camera body. These lenses, known as ‘kit lenses,’ often are not suitable for concert photography. The lenses are too general and broadly suited to many genres of photography, you won’t see much benefit from them.
The majority of kit lenses have apertures that don’t open wide enough to capture enough light. The more light you catch, the easier time you’re going to have to get great, clear shots. You want a lens that opens to at least f2.8, and ideally up to f1.8.
Kick it off with a prime
You can save some money by avoiding zoom lenses and wide angle lenses. Lenses with fixed focal lengths are called prime lenses. Prime lenses are great for learning how to frame subjects because you can’t rely on the zoom to fix your composition challenges.
These lenses are all great for beginners on a budget but also open wide enough to allow you to use a fast shutter speed and ISO that doesn’t create too much grain:
Canon EF 50mm f1.4 ($385 – $550)
Canon EF 50mm f1.8 ($125 – $170)
Canon EF 85mm f1.8 ($430 – $550)
Nikon 50mm f1.8G ($200 – $300)
Nikon 85mm f1.8G ($500 – $650)
Want to know what I use?
The above is the answer you need, but it might not be the answer you want. Good equipment does not make you a good music photographer. There is no step-by-step process for that. But if you’re dying to know what I use or how to get started with music photography, I’ve written a 103-page music photography guide that tells you everything you need to know – including what gear I have in my camera bag.