I get asked quite often what sort of camera I use and what lenses etc. So, I’ve decided to list it all out here for you along with a couple of items I am thinking about purchasing. This page is going to look at the equipment I use. If you want to know more about the photo editing software I use click here.
B&H Photo Video
Before getting into the gear that I use, I’d just like to take a moment to say where I get it. Any Bermudians reading this know that it can be difficult getting anything shipped into the island. Not so with B&H Photo Video. They have a huge selection of camera equipment and beyond (I even ordered my laptop from them). When it comes to shipping they are excellent. The cheapest option available is always the fastest. They typically dispatch your order in one working day. The next day you’ll see it’s arrived on island and the day after that you’ll get a phone call saying it’s ready for delivery. On top of that, they have online customer representatives available for chat. These guys will typically do their best to get you what you want AND save you money on your product selections!
I’m using a Canon 5d Mk II purchased at the beginning of summer 2011 and love it. It’s what’s called an “enthusiast” camera meaning it’s somewhere between amateur and pro. Something I thought was cool was that it uses the same full frame sensor as Canon’s top of the line model; the Canon EOS-1D X. It makes a few sacrifices in other areas to get the cost down including reduced frames per second in burst mode and the level of weather proofing. I’m writing this shortly after returning from Niagara Falls where the camera took a good dousing and has pulled through fine.
That being said, it did go a little funny shortly after. It began firing off the shutter on its own accord and I could only stop it by turning it off. It didn’t take long to return to normal though and there doesn’t appear to be any lasting damage. I know that most travel photographers travel with a back-up body and after this experience I’m thinking it’d be a good idea to get one. It’ll be a while until I buy another body, but when I do I’ll get something that compliments the one I have. As such, it will likely be the Canon EOS 7D as this would give me a good option for shooting wildlife the next time I get the opportunity as it has a faster frame rate, would extend the reach of my 70-300mm lens due to its crop sensor, and has a more advanced focusing system. It’s also priced at about half the cost of a Canon 5d Mk II which just makes sense to me for a backup camera body.
EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM: This is the lens that I use most often and is typically what I can be found walking around with on my camera. It’s good in most landscape situations as the 24mm end is actually very wide whereas the 70mm end can allow you to single out specific features in a scene. It’s also my fastest lens, so it’s my best bet when shooting moving subjects.
EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM: This is my big lens. It lived on my camera while I was on canoe safari ready to pick off any animals that wandered into view. I’ve also started using it more and more in landscapes for a technique called compression. Basically, this allows you to increase the impact of the background by getting further away from your subject and zooming in. This allows you to make mountains loom ominously or pull distant features out that would have been lost while keeping your foreground. I’ll add an example here once I work one up (I have one in mind).
EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM: I love this lens. I’ve always liked the look of wide-angle photos and this lens is super wide-angle. Apparently it’s as wide as you can go without moving to a fish-eye. The ability to capture such a wider area than the human eye can see, along with the resulting distortions, almost always makes for interesting scenes. As such, I use this whenever I can. This typically requires that I can get close to my subject. This is also my first prime lens (fixed focal length) and I think it’s great. It really forces you to move around to compose the best shot, which I think can result in better pictures. I also like it for candid street shots as it’s so wide it always looks like I’m pointing the camera off in some weird direction.
The only problem I have with this lens is that it won’t take my filters. This is due to the bulbous shape of the glass making screw-on filters unsuitable. It does have a mount at the rear of the lens (where it joins the camera) for gel filters which I may have to investigate.
I currently use a Benro Travel Angel. It’s got a great number of positives and a couple of negatives, which actually irritate me quite regularly. I’ll start with the positives. Bare in mind that I need a tripod that travels well so this is where I see the most positives:
1. Weight: It’s constructed from aluminum so weighs in at just 4lbs.
2. Size: It shrinks down to a length of 15.7in so will fit in carry on luggage. This is important to me as I wouldn’t want to check my tripod and then arrive somewhere to discover I’m without it. I’ve also had a bit of difficulty (traveling in Africa) with bringing a tripod on planes in my hand rather than in a bag.
3. Cost: I mentioned above that B&H Photo Video try to find solutions for your needs at the lowest cost possible. One of the big benefits of this tripod was that it provided the benefits of more expensive carbon fiber models at a much lower cost of just $200.
4. Functionality: The most important factor in selecting a tripod is how well it supports your camera. This tripod is rigid and really does the trick. On top of that, the locking grips used to extend and retract the legs are really efficient and allow you to set up quickly. Coupled with the W/BH1 Ballhead setting up and framing photos is really easy and efficient.
As mentioned, I have two negative points about this tripod. The first is the center column. It’s not removable, so, despite the fact that the legs can be locked out in a horizontal position it’s not possible to shoot from ground level because you’ll have to raise up the center column.
The second problem I have with this tripod is that the legs keep getting loose. This becomes a real pain when repositioning the tripod because the legs don’t stay locked in the correct position so you’re constantly having to pull them back out again.
As such, it’s difficult for me to recommend this tripod. If your budget allows for a more expensive tripod, go for it. However, if you’re on a budget and need a tripod that’s light and transportable this one will do the trick. You’ll probably find yourself itching to upgrade though. I’m currently eying up the Gitzo GT1542T legs. I expect I’ll be upgrading sometime in the future.
Just before going to Africa in September of 2011 I bought the Lowe Pro Flipside Backpack. It’s a great bag for a number of reasons. The first of which being that’s it’s discreet. It looks like a typical backpack, which won’t highlight it for theft. A further security feature is that the zipper for the main compartment is on the backside of the back, meaning that it can’t be opened while it’s on your back. The other bonus of this is that you can do up the waist belt and spin the bag around to your front. It will then lay out flat in front of you leaving your hands free to reach in and swap out lenses. It’s also quite amazing what you can fit in here. It’s perfectly possible for me to go away for a long weekend with just this bag for my camera gear and changes of clothes.
Recently, I added a lens pen to my pack. If you don’t have one, get one. One end of the pen has a retractable brush for removing bits of dust or whatever ends up on your lens. The other end has a little pad that you polish your lens up with. It makes cleaning your lenses and filters while you’re on the move incredibly easy. They also take up far less space in your bag than the usual lens cleaning setup and you don’t need to carry any liquids (cleaning fluid) through the airport security lines.