I’m a total gear head. No two ways about it. I’m a geek at heart and love electronics.
One thing I get asked about a lot is what is in my bag. Honestly, it really depends on the shoot or assignment as to what I am going to carry.
Canon vs Nikon.
I am a Canon man. For the really scientific reason that my step-dad bought me a Canon Rebel X film camera in high school for my photojournalism class. I just stuck with it. I used that through college, but never bought a real lens for it. So that is my really great reason for being exclusively Canon for the past decade and a half.
I always suggest either Canon or Nikon. I don’t suggest the other brands (Sony, Pentax, Olympus) for a number of reasons, but the primary reason is that you just can’t get the same lenses as you can for Canon and Nikon and the availability is not as widespread. Some lenses here and there will match up, but the complaint I hear time and again from shooters of the non-Canikon is that their lenses are hard to find and hard to find used.
Prime vs Zoom
I am a huge proponent of prime lenses. I love them. They are faster, sharper, lighter and provide higher image quality. That said, there is a place for zooms. Particularly the 70-200 2.8. That should be a mainstay in any professional’s bag because it is probably the most versatile lens there is.
I also really believe that all new photographers should start with just a 35mm or 50mm lens. Canon and Nikon both make very inexpensive, but good 35mm 2.0 and 50mm 1.8 lenses. Get that and sell your kit lens piece of trash on Craigslist for whatever you can get. I had the 50mm 1.8, but when I sold my 40D, I gave it to the student I sold it to. Hope you like it, Jason!
- Canon 5D Mark II
- Canon 7D
- Canon 1D Mark III [Link goes to a Mark IV, since the Mark III has been discontinued]
Different bodies for different things. The 5D2 is great for portraits, weddings and low light. The 7D is great for action. The 1D3 is kind of a combination of the two. Personally, the 1D3 irks me in a couple ways. First of all, I wish it had two CF slots, not a CF and a SD. Second, the buffer is incredibly slow. Luckily, the files are small, since it is only 10MP. But it is a good compliment to my 7D. All are good bodies, but the 5D2 is incredible.
The 5D2 and 7D also do 1080p video. I am starting to get into video, and don’t really know what to tell you about it. Check out Vincent Laforet for video stuff. I will never know as much about HDSLR video as he does right now.
- Canon 14mm 2.8L II
- Canon 24mm 1.4L II
- Canon 35mm 2.0
- Canon 35mm 1.4L
- Canon 45mm 2.8 Tilt-Shift
- Canon 85mm 1.8
- Canon 85mm 1.2L II
- Canon 135mm 2.0L
- Sigma 150mm 2.8 Macro
- Canon 300mm 2.8L IS I
- Canon 400mm 2.8L IS I
- Canon 400mm 5.6L
It is hard to pick a favorite, but if it has an L on it, it makes the cut. The 135L is probably my favorite of the group, followed by the 400 2.8L IS.
Three of my primes are really specialty lenses. Some would even call them gimmick lenses. The 14L is incredibly wide. It works for some things, but I just don’t use it much. The tilt-shift was made more for architecture and is a standard architecture lens. I use it some for that and some for portraits for a different effect. The 150mm macro is a great little lens that lets me get incredibly shallow in the DOF. Being a 150mm macro, I can work fairly far from the subject, which would be great for a bug photographer. I really have no interest (or patience) for that, so I really only use it for weddings and the detail shots.
- Canon 16-35mm 2.8L II
- Canon 17-40mm 4L
- Canon 24-70mm 2.8L
- Canon 24-105mm 4L IS
- Canon 70-200mm 2.8L
- Canon 70-200mm 2.8L IS I [Linked to the newer, MUCH better model. I have the older one.]
This is easy to pick a favorite. The 70-200mm 2.8L IS. Second is the 24-105L. The 70-200 2.8 is just a lens that every serious photographer should probably have. It is incredibly versatile and has great image quality. The 24-105L gives up a stop on the 24-70L, but it makes that up with the image stabilization. The 24-105L is much sharper and is also much lighter. I feel like the 24-70L has a tough time resolving the huge 22MP sensor of my 5D Mark II. I used the 16-35L a lot on my 1D3 and my older bodies I sold (40D and 50D especially.) However, I rarely feel the need to get wider than the 24mm on full frame.
What’s the perfect bag? There isn’t one. They kinda suck that way. But if ever there will be a perfect bag, Think Tank will probably make it.
- ThinkTank Airport Security v.2.0
- ThinkTank StreetWalker HardDrive
- ThinkTank UrbanDisguise 50
- LowePro Computrekker AW [I think discontinued]
- Cheap Target Backpack (cause I like to not look like I have a bunch of cameras with me sometimes)
- ThinkTank Steroid Speed Belt 2.0
I am a big fan of David Hobby and his blog about using speedlights.
The LP160 is cheap (just $150) but it puts out light on par with the 580EX II. However, the flash is dumb. It doesn’t read through the lens like the 580EX does, so you can only set it manually. Because I typically only use them on a light stand, that is perfect for me. The LP160 also uses a 1/8″ monojack (like the same thing in your ipod, only mono, not stereo) which is much easier to use than the stupid, stupid PC jack that Canon and Nikon use. I use my 580EX on camera when I have to, but mainly use the LP160s off camera. Oh yeah, and three LP160s cost the same as one 580EX II and less than one SB-900 if you are a Nikonian.
I’m an Elinchrom man. I just have the entry level strobes, but they are by far the best deal for your money if you want to start a small home studio. 400w/s of Swiss-engineered goodness.
The Elinchrom Skyport Universals are my go to triggers. They come in a nice little case, and I can fit a transmitter, three receivers and wires to connect them to the lights in the amount of space that about two PocketWizards would take. The plusses are that they are small, and the receivers are rechargeable. Also, the transmitter and receivers go for around $100 each. The minuses are that they have a little antenna that you could break off (I haven’t) and the on-off button is easy to trigger when you don’t want it to be triggered. The PocketWizards are pretty much the industry standard. The PWs go for about $200 each and any one can be a transmitter or receiver.