I was intimidated to buy my first camera. There are so many options, features, and a variety of price tags that made the process really confusing. All I knew was that I had 3 MAJOR requirements:

  1. No huge learning curve. That always drives me nuts. Let me pick it up, tinker with it, watch a few youtube videos, and go out and start practicing.
  2. Be able to take high-quality pictures. Must of us carry around an 8-12 megapixel camera every day in our pocket. I needed something with a little bit more firepower.
  3. DO NOT BREAK THE BANK! Getting nice gear on a budget can be tough.

I was living in the Florida Everglades at the time and I had this overwhelming gut feeling that I needed to be photographing the beautiful plants, bugs, animals, and landscapes I was fortunate enough to see every day. I set off researching top brands, megapixel rates, crop body vs. full body, different lenses, and just about every other option a camera can have.

After a few weeks of serious searching, I finally found what I was looking for! The perfect camera for an avid adventurer with little photography experience. Now I am really excited to share that same set up with you!

Before we dig into the details I’d like to mention there are affiliate links throughout this post that generate a small commission for each purchase. Your purchases are what allows me to continue creating content and trying new gear that will help you start and enhance your own adventures. If any of these items sound like what you are looking for, I would appreciate if you followed the links here to make your purchase. You are all the best! Okay, now to the goods…

Camera body: Nikon D5300

Camera body

Lightweight, perfect size, and packed with the exact features I wanted most in a camera. It shoots in 24.2 megapixels, weighs just over one pound, and has built-in wifi that allows you to use your phone to take and view pictures. The Nikon D5300 has continuously done everything I’ve needed from a camera, and then some! I really knew nothing when I got the camera besides articles and videos I watched online, but learning how to operate the camera on the fly was really fun and pretty intuitive.

I bought the camera body separate from any lens so I could spend more money on getting a lens I really wanted rather than the standard 18-55mm lens the package comes with. If you’d like to start with the standard 18-55 mm lens, I’d recommend this option instead: Nikon D5300 with 18-55mm NIKKOR Zoom Lens.

Lens options:


 Being new to the camera world, the wide variety of lenses didn’t make sense right off the bat… I found myself scratching my head as I wondered what in the hell “f/1.8G” was or if AF-S had a secret meaning. After lots of research, these are the two lenses I use in my daily kit.

Nikon Nikkor Zoom Lens 55-200mm  

This was the first lens I bought with the camera body because I knew I’d want to have a decent amount of zoom right away. While this doesn’t offer an insane amount of zoom, it’s was my best option for the price. I think having an option to zoom is crucial in nature photography since you don’t always know what kind of distance you’ll have with your subject. Birds and animals are rarely going to pose for you in the wild. It also allows you to put your own perspective on smaller things like fungi, insects, and plants!

Nikon Nikkor Prime Lens 35mm:

The 35mm lens has been my go-to lens for night/star photography. It’s also great for portrait style photos or landscape photos. The 35mm lens on a crop body camera (just like the D5300) is about equal to what you see out of your eyes. This makes it really easy to frame a photo in your mind before you start looking through the viewfinder. This lens is a prime lens which means it has a fixed focal length, unlike a zoom lens. This typically means the lens operates more quickly and has much lower f-stop capability (think better in low light conditions and faster shutter speeds).

SD Card: Lexar Professional 32GB SD Card

A good SD card is essential for storing your photos. It is beneficial to always have 2 SD cards, so you have a backup always in your camera bag in case one gets lost or you leave it at home! I’ve forgotten mine at home before and it is a total bummer.

Photo Editing: Affinity Photo

Like many people, I didn’t want to pay the monthly subscription for Adobe Photoshop so I looked around for alternatives. Affinity has been a great tool for me! There are also tons of helpful videos on how to edit in all sorts of situations.

I use the Mac version, but they are just now rolling out a PC version of the app. Check it out here!

Tripod:  Pantan Q1 Tripod

TripodThe lightweight aluminum build of this tripod is the main reason I picked this model. As an adventurer, you need to be conscious of the weight of the gear you are traveling with. For as light as it is, it’s sturdy and very easy to set up. A tripod helps for lots of situations especially landscape shots, group pictures, and star photography.

Camera Bag: 

I will often use a small daypack for my camera gear, just because I had it already and it has worked for me. If you want something more substantial and designed especially for a camera, check out the Lowepro Passport Sling . I like this sling bag because it makes your camera readily accessible, instead of always having to reach back into a backpack. There is ample room for a camera with a lens attached, an extra lens, and accessories!

I’ll be doing some future posts on my favorite types of photography such as star photography, birds, landscapes, and people in nature! Let me know what else you’d like to learn about. As always, shoot me any questions you have about this gear or ideas you have for future blogs.


Until then… get a haircut and get a real job! 🙂

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