Night Photography Gear for any Budget

I've had a lot of inquiries about selecting camera gear to do the type night photography I do. This is a very hard question to answer, but usually it comes down to budget. So I decided to create a list of recommended gear based upon budget to help people get started.

This post was harder to write than I ever imagined. My head is spinning with all the options.

See my post on Lenses for Night Photography to see why I recommend Rokinon lenses.

Don't forget to factor in a quality tripod and ballhead! Don't skimp on this! See my review of Oben tripods for a low cost, high quality option. For ballheads I think the Acratech GV2 is one of the best out there.

I also recommend an Intervalometer; for a fraction of Nikon or Canon's offerings you can get a Vello Shutterboss. I have the wired which works great, the wireless worked okay until it stopped working recently.

Note about lenses:
Before diving in I want to clarify which lenses are my favorites and why I recommend them. To see even more options see my Recommended Lenses for Night Photography.
For cropped sensors I recommend the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8, it's a high quality lens that give a great range and fast aperture, generally speaking you won't need anything else.
For full frame sensors my favorite lens is the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4, followed by the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8, these are my main lenses and anything beyond that has specific uses. My next favorite lens is the Sigma 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye, then the Rokinon 35mm f/1.4.

$1000-$1500
With the release of the Nikon D5300 I am more comfortable actually recommending this camera for those starting out in night photography, it has the same sensor as the D7100. The Canon 60d on the other hand is not all that impressive for this style of night photography and I generally would not recommend it.

Nikon D5300 / Canon 60d
Tokina 11-16 2.8

$1500-$2000

Option 1 (Cropped Sensor)
Nikon D7100 / Canon 70d
Tokina 11-16 2.8

The D7100 is an impressive camera for a cropped sensor, it's a great jumping off point if your budget is limited but want very good quality, or if you already have a lot of cropped sensor lenses and are not prepared to upgrade to full frame. See my Review of Nikon D7100. I haven't tested the Canon 70d, but it looks like a solid performer as well.

Option 2 (Full Frame)

Nikon D700 (Used) / Canon 5D MKII (Used)
Rokinon 24mm 1.4

These two cameras are getting a bit old, but are still good performers if you can pick one up used. The large 1.4 aperture of the 24mm will allow you to shoot with lower ISO's which will help these older cameras out.

$2000-$2500

Option 1 (Used body with an extra lens)
Nikon D700 (Used) / Canon 5D MKII (Used)
Rokinon 14mm 2.8
Rokinon 24mm 1.4 

Option 2 (New body with one lens)
Nikon D610 / Canon 6D
Rokinon 24mm 1.4 

If you will be able to afford new lenses in the near future go with option 2, otherwise stick with the older body and have more flexibility in lenses.

$2500-$3000

Nikon D610 / Canon 6D
Rokinon 14mm 2.8
Rokinon 24mm 1.4

$3500-$4000

Option 1
Nikon D610 / Canon 6D
Rokinon 14mm 2.8
Rokinon 24mm 1.4
Sigma 35mm 1.4 (in my tests the Sigma out performs the Rokinon by a significant margin, but is double the price)

Option 2
Nikon D800 / Canon 5D MKIII
Rokinon 14mm 2.8
Rokinon 24mm 1.4

These two cameras are quite good for night photography, but the cheaper full frames out perform them at night. They are still a good choice if you primarily do landscapes and do night photography occasionally. If you're looking for the ultimate night camera though, these are not it. 

$4500-$5000

The Nikon D3s is one of the best night cameras ever made and is still quite relevant if you can find a good deal on one.

Nikon D3s (used)
Rokinon 14mm 2.8
Rokinon 24mm 1.4 

$5000-$5500

Nikon D3s (used)
Rokinon 14mm 2.8
Rokinon 24mm 1.4
Sigma 35mm 1.4

$6500-$7000

Nikon D4
Rokinon 14mm 2.8
Rokinon 24mm 1.4

$7500-$8000

Nikon D4
Rokinon 14mm 2.8
Rokinon 24mm 1.4
Sigma 35mm 1.4

$8500-$9000

Top of the line. The 1Dx is incredible, with a price tag to match. Check out Ben Canales' review Canon 1Dx or 5D3 the Best Night Shooting Camera? and decide for yourself. 

Canon 1Dx
Rokinon 14mm 2.8
Rokinon 24mm 1.4
Sigma 35mm 1.4

What would I do if I was starting from scratch with an unlimited budget?

Canon 1Dx
Rokinon 14mm 2.8
Rokinon 24mm 1.4
Sigma 35mm 1.4
Sigma 15mm 2.8 Fisheye
Sigma 8mm f/3.5 Circular Fisheye
Total - $10,200

The ultimate setup in a 'reasonable' budget?

Canon 6D or Nikon D610 (The 6D is a bit better than the D610)
Rokinon 14mm 2.8
Rokinon 24mm 1.4
Sigma 35mm 1.4
Sigma 15mm 2.8 Fisheye
Sigma 8mm f/3.5 Circular Fisheye
Total - $5,400

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