A couple weeks ago, I decided it was finally time to upgrade my camera equipment. Up until now, I have been working with a Nikon D3100 DX-format camera body, a 18-55mm Nikkor stock lens (meaning it’s the less-than-great lens that came with the package), a 55-200 Nikkor lens (also stock), and a 50mm Nikkor prime lens (meaning you can’t zoom with it).

I had been interested in photography for a few years when my wife and I got married, but I was working with a pretty rudimentary camera that was on its last leg (read my About page for more information on that and the history of the name “Pushpin Pictures”). For our first Christmas together, she got me the Nikon D3100 camera kit (minus the 50mm lens which I later acquired), and I had a great time learning more about cameras and photography using that equipment.

Since I’m starting to do photography more seriously (as in I’m hoping to make money at it rather than just Facebook likes), I invested in a all-new camera kit. I bought a Nikon D610 FX-format camera body, a 24-70mm f/2.8 Tamron zoom lens, and an 85mm f/1.4 Samyang portrait stock lens. Since I’m relatively poor, I decided to go with third-party lenses instead of Nikon lenses for the time being. I had read great reviews about both, so I decided to give it a shot with Tamron and Samyang.

While visiting my family in Colorado a few weeks ago, I got to test out my equipment for the first time (the camera gear actually arrived in the mail just a few hours before we hit the road). My aunt asked if I would do school photos of her boys, so we met at my grandma’s house to take some rustic ranch-style portraits. We started in the old tool shed behind the house which had some incredible lighting and provided a really cool background with old saddles and farm tools. I used the 85mm portrait lens because it has a really wide aperture (f/1.8) which takes in more light and allows me to shoot in low-light scenarios. (For more information on how aperture works and how it affects the depth of field in a photo, here’s an interactive demo).

Overall, I was very happy with the Samyang lens’ performance. Since it’s a manual focus prime lens, it’s a little difficult at times to get everything focused exactly like you want (and with the aperture set to f/1.8, the depth of field is razor thin making it even harder to get it right). Thankfully, the Nikon D610 camera has a fantastic thing called manual focus assist which alerts me when the point I’ve specified is correctly focused. It’s extremely helpful.

After the tool shed, we moved outside to the wood pile next to the shed and the old grain silos on my grandparents’ property where I used the Tamron lens. We then went out to the ranch to take some photos on the little mountain overlooking the pasture. It was a fantastic location, but not the best time of day because of the harsh shadows.

In the end, I was very happy with how the photos turned out, and I’m looking forward to using the new kit for many more photo shoots to come.