You might be surprised to hear that you don’t need a lot of gear if you want to take photos.  Realistically you can just use your phone, but very few people will take you seriously, or will outright not want their picture taken.  So yes you will need some gear if you’re going to be taking photos.  So how much gear do you need?  A body and a fast lens is all you need.  No flashes or anything extra is needed especially since they can be a distraction to the dancers. Do you need to spend a bunch of money? I’ll give you my thoughts below!

Gear to start?

If you’re starting out, there isn’t a lot of gear that you need, but you do need a little bit. An example is, the Nikon D3400 & Nikon D5600 camera bodies use the same sensor, so realistically the picture quality will be identical, but the additional feature and ease of use will vary.  The D5600 has the touch flip screen, extra focus points (really helpful), and some additional options. The older D3200 is also the same sensor in it, so you can even use an older camera and get the same quality photos that the sensor can produce. So from a camera body perspective, you can start for under $600 pretty easily.  The Canon bodies are also comparable. Depending on your budget, you can get the Nikon D3400 & a 50mm 1.8g nikkor for about the same price as you can just for the D5600 Body. I started with the D5600 & the 50mm 1.8g nikkor lens.

What about the bundles which you can get with a lens or two? They aren’t a bad option, but you WONT be using those lenses for dance photography, they just aren’t fast enough. You’ll use those “kit” lenses (they come as a kit with the body) sparingly for outdoor pictures, and mostly you wont use any telephoto lens that is included.  If you do go for a kit, go for the one with a single lens in the 18-55mm or 18-140mm range (d5600 kit), but do avoid the 70-200 or 70-300 kit lens, the ones in the kit do NOT come stabilized and save yourself the money for additional lenses.

Photo from my LG G5 at Burning Tango 2017

Outside of getting a 50mm 1.8g lens, you can get the 35mm 1.8g lens as well, but  note that some the 1.8g lenses are for the DX style body. If you get a DX (crop frame) lens, they do NOT work as well on the better FX (full frame) camera bodies. The 50mm 1.8g is one of the few lenses that are made in both the FX and DX styles with similar pricing. These lenses will get you started for taking photos for tango and indoor events pretty well.

What about zoom lenses? I love my zoom lenses, but they do cost quite a bit extra.  If you want a wide angle zoom that can work well on a DX body for tango events, the Sigma 18-35mm 1.8 ART lens is a good option, but note, it costs more than the camera bodies mentioned above! Also note, the Sigma 18-35 is meant for DX bodies only, so if you upgrade your camera to a FX camera, chance are you wont be using the lens anymore.

Photo from my D5600 at Portland Tangofest 2017

Most other lenses you will be looking at in the zoom range for tango photography or event photography are going to cost a bit, so saving up or using the monthly payments through amazon can be a life saver and allow you to get them and pay over time.  Note that zoom lenses, the fastest you’ll get will pretty much be an F2.8.  There are cheaper F4 lenses, which are great for almost all other situations, except for low light and dance photography due to them being slower.

Upgrading gear!

So let’s say you have a budget for some nice lenses and a good body. What should you go for?  Well here you start getting into professional grade equipment, and when it comes to bodies, you have a lot of manufacturers to choose from.  I’m a Nikon shooter, Canon works well, and Sony has really jumped into the market blazing. There are some other camera brands that are also some good options. Nikon and Canon are currently working on releases new Mirrorless cameras which Sony has been dominating the market so far, so we shall see if Nikon and Canon can match up. Sony has also finally gotten a LOT of new professional lenses in the past year, making them a BIG contender for you to look at. These camera bodies though are around $2k-4k+ (Sony A7RIII) so if you’re looking at those options and lenses that also range at $1k+ then I’d suggest you do some of your own research. If you have a big budget for a good body ($3k+), I’d say wait until both Nikon and Canon come out with their mirrorless and compare them. The features on the new mirrorless tech is so much better than anything in the DSLR lineup, by leaps and bounds (Thank you Sony!).

But what about something mid-range for $1k-2k prices? Since I’m a Nikon shooter, the mid-range full frame (FX) Nikon body I’m aiming for is the D750, due to the great ISO performance and I have lenses for the Nikon mount.  I’m waiting for the Nikon mirrorless to come out before upgrading as there will be an influx of good used ones coming out on the market at that time. The same can be said for other manufacturers, there are some good DSLR bodies in the FX lineup from everyone for around the $1400-1800 price range (Sony A7RII & Canon 6D Mk II)

So bodies are available to upgrade to, and here are many choice to choose from.  When I picked my Nikon, I did it because the feel was better in my hand and the ISO performance did seem better (it was the feel in my hand mostly). If I was going to shoot more videos, I’d have gone with Canon due to their Dual Pixel Auto Focus tech. The Sony has good video Auto Focus, but outside my price range. So pick to comfort and what feels good to you when it comes to the body in my opinion with what is in your price range.

Photo from my D5600 at Connect 2017

Lenses are another topic!  If you have a body in mind, and you are shopping for good lenses, oh boy are there a lot of choices! Within the past couple years, both Tamron and Sigma have upgrade their lens catalog with new versions that rival directly with the lenses produced by Nikon, Canon, and Sony. The prices for Tamron and Sigma lenses are also a LOT cheaper than the other brand equivalent! 5 Years ago many people would still say to save up for the more expensive ones, but now, getting Tamron or Sigma lens are kinda the way to go most of the time, and hits the mid price range for this writeup!

The Tamron 70-200mm 2.8 G2 Lens is around a grand, the Sigma is about the same price.  The Nikkor version is around twice as much, and performance differences aren’t anything to really talk about. So considering the price is about 1/2 for Tamron for negligible quality difference means getting the Tamron or Sigma is the way to go.

So what lenses are good to get? For primes you can get a 50mm 1.4 (Sigma), an 85mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.4 (Sigma), or even a 105mm 1.4. As for zooms you can get the 24-70mm 2.8 (SigmaNikkor) or the 70-200mm 2.8 (SigmaNikkor). The primes work best in lower light as they are faster, but the zooms are much more versatile and if you have better light, then you don’t have to move to get the right reach for the shot.

Photo from my D5600 at Portland Tangofest 2017

You can get away with a camera body in the under $1000 range to start, even sub $500, but you will need at least some basic 1.8 lens to go with it if you’re wanting to photograph tango indoors. Yes it will take some initial investment to get some gear and not using a point and shoot or a cell phone, but a nice thing is, if you’ve been with Amazon for over a year, there is a chance you can do monthly payments through them! Only applies to a single item at a time and has to be sold by amazon, not another seller, but can be a good option.  I do my lenses that way, so every 5 months can get another lens at an affordable monthly price.

Fair warning, if you like taking photos and start into this hobby, could be almost as addictive as tango, but much more expensive!

Do you have any questions, suggestions, or comments about camera gear for tango/indoor photography?