We've received a lot of comments to the previous post (below this post)—210 total as I write this. I've added a number of new "Featured Comments" this morning and there are may more new ones now posted in the main Comments section.
Personally—here comes my own opinion—I find myself at a crossroads. I'm 85% sure I'll eventually get either a GX8 or whatever its successor is, because I need IBIS and I like the GX8's viewfinder. (The OM-D E-M1 Mark II is too expensive for me, as is the Sony A6500 when you add the Zeiss prime I'd want, the 24mm.)
Historically, I've been a two-prime guy, a moderate wide and a moderate tele. But I fell in love with the Panasonic 12–35mm zoom when I had it here to test, so I'm considering trying an OCOLOY (one camera, one lens, one year) with that camera and lens. (I keep flirting with an OCOLOY and then backing off...it doesn't really mix with my job very well, you have to admit.)
Liking that zoom is ironic, because the two-prime choice in Panasonic is so over-the-top excellent. I'd pick the 20mm ƒ/1.7 ($267.99) and 42.5mm ƒ/1.7 ($347.99).Unexciting, in a way—neither lens is exotic or super-fast, both are light and tiny, neither is expensive. (And I get no extra credit, because I own neither at the moment, although I've tried the 42.5mm and I know the 20mm well, having used it heavily for several years.)
But oh, so fine. The 20mm does have a few flaws that stop it short of being perfect—it's a bit slow to focus (not bad, but noticeably not as fast as the 12–35mm) and it's not stabilized. But its beautiful optical qualities make up for that. Flawless bokeh (out-of-depth-of-field blur) and a beautiful, smooth, 3-D look. The 85mm-equivalent is maybe even a little better...a near-perfect short telephoto, very close focusing, very sharp wide open with minimal falloff.
In fact, I sometimes wonder if the Panasonic GX85 with those two lenses might be an ideal setup for a serious beginner. Not too expensive but not too cheap, everything you need to comprehensively start exploring generalist photography. If I were the teacher I'd recommend sticking with that one camera and two lenses for at least three years, resisting all temptations to add any more gear for at least that long.
Just one guy's comment to add to the pile!
(Thanks to the 210+ comment-writers)
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Rob: "I would say that the ideal kit for a beginner depends on what that beginner is interested in and who, or what, they are inspired by. When I was a beginner (back in the late '90s when I was in high school) I was inspired by David Hume Kennerly's book Shooter. On the cover of that book was a picture of Kennerly in fatigues and a combat helmet with two Nikon F's slung around him. One F had a 200 ƒ/4 mounted on it and the other had a shorter telephoto prime, likely a 135mm or an 85mm. So at 17 years old I bought a Nikon F and a 200 ƒ/4—just like Kennerly's—and that was my only lens for quite awhile before I bought an 85mm ƒ/1.8 Nikkor-H and an F3 to put it on. Loved both lenses; wish I still had them. Ever since then I have been more comfortable with telephotos than any other kind of lens—currently my favorite is the Fuji 90mm ƒ/2 on my X-E2. So my advice to a beginner looking to buy a lens would start with the questions: 'What inspires you? What interests you? What photographers do you admire?'"
Mike replies: Worked for you, and that's good, but for a majority of students, starting out with just a 200mm-e prime lens and nothing else wouldn't work very well. Although your story does illustrate the advantages of getting to know one focal length well before moving on.
It's not always the best idea for beginners to copy the equipment used by the photographers they admire. Those photographers are usually much more experienced and have worked through a lot of issues already. What would you say, for instance, to someone who loved David Hume Kennerly's book On the iPhone? Should they get an iPhone? I'm not saying your advice is bad. Just playing devil's advocate.
I ran into David Hume Kennerly in a park in Georgetown back when I was in art school and, trying to make conversation, I asked him what camera he used. He said emphatically, "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter." So there's his opinion on it!
DA: "The difficulty I find with your advice as it pertains to what is great for you, Mike, is that you are not a beginner. You can't be farther from one. And you also have a very defined style and interest in photography, which a beginner has not come close to figuring out. I find many of the comments to be in the same vein and I am not sure how helpful they would be to a novice.
"First, I would define a beginner as someone excited about photography, but without any technical (or even artistic) knowledge of it. When I started, as the saying goes, I didn't know an f-stop from a bus stop. But I loved pictures. All kinds of pictures, from pretty models on sets to planes in the sky and everything in between. I still do.
"To that end, I would recommend a serious beginner get an affordable camera from Canon, or Nikon. My preference would be for the Rebel line. Get a T6i because it has the image quality and the fast controls to let you do anything you could want, and it is far cheaper than many mirrorless cameras. Too expensive? Get a used T5i/T4i/T3i. Get the kit zoom, or grab a used zoom with better specifications—especially a third party one with an ƒ/2.8 max aperture. That's the 'one lens' of today that lets the beginner really learn what she/he can do. Then add a 70–300 that you can afford. There are lots of examples for $500, or less. There's little one can't do with that kit and it won't break the bank. Learn from there and add as needed.
"You don't like this advice, because it is so 'old school' and so traditional. You've moved on and it has become popular to shake one's head at 'Canikon' and how lame and behind-the-times they are. Yet, there is no system as complete and versatile as the Canon/Nikon ones. No better system to actually learn anything you want to learn using real photographic tools rather than Photoshop and/or cobbling together adapters and manual lenses.
"And to the serious beginner I would say once you learn photography and what you like about it using these excellent and inexpensive tools you can switch to anything you want and pursue photography the way you want to pursue it."
Mike replies: I'm not a beginner but I've been a teacher, and I think like one. And I've recommended Canon T[x]i cameras to various people in the past, including good friends about to go on big trips. I don't think they're optimal for beginners, though, and I know zooms aren't. We'll just have to disagree on that score, I guess.