Photographer & Gentleman

Journal

A journal of stories and photographs by Calgary photographer, Riley J.B.

Showing Off:: What is in my Camera Bag

I have received a few emails about what gear I work with. I enjoy seeing what other photographers have in their camera bags, because as you know I suffer from G.A.S. {Gear Acquisition Syndrome}. The important thing to remember while taking in this camera porn, is that "gear is good, but vision is better." -David DuChemin

Camera Bodies

Canon EOS 5D Mark III - I love this camera body. It is very versatile. It is a great landscape body, handles itself with portraits and is great at events. The auto focus is light years ahead of the 5D Mark II which is what I upgraded from last year. When the Canon 6D came out I had an itch to switch to that for the WiFi. But the 6D misses out on a lot the 5D has and in the end you'll have to pry this from my cold dead hands.

Canon EOS Rebel XS - This is the first camera body I ever owned. Santa brought it for me for Christmas back in the mid 90's. It is a 35mm film camera and not to be confused with the digital Rebel of the same name. I recently found it a few years ago at my parents and of course all my EF lenses mount to it.

Lenses

Canon EF 17-40mm F/4L USM - This is my ultra-wide-angle lens. I bought it when I upgraded to full frame and needed to replace the EF-S 10-22mm. I know it is a bit mushy in the corners but it does the job. It is super light and can take a beating. The f4 aperture suits me fine as I usually make landscapes at smaller apertures. When the fabled 14-24mm lens finally arrives I will probably keep this one. At $700 it isn't worth selling and it can take filters.

 Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L USM - The kit lens that came with my 5D Mark II. It was also my first Canon 'L' lens. I do prefer prime lenses but this zoom will always have a place in my bag. It is very sharp at higher apertures and covers a really great focal length range.

Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II - This is 'the' sharpest lens that Canon makes. Sure you have to make some trade offs for that sharpness: manual focus only, big and heavy, learning curve. It is a beauty. It shifts to keep the perspective proper and to make panoramic photos. It tilts to control the focal plane. This is a landscapers lens. It also has a fully metal body and can be used to knock out a wannabe criminal's teeth.. I assume. This replaced my Zeiss 21mm f/2.8, which is also a great landscape lens.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM - I think 35mm is probably my favourite focal length. It is perfect as a walk around lens and I love making environmental portraits with it. Once my Fuji X100S shows up next month I am not sure how much use it will get. The big f/1.4 aperture will surely still have a place in my heart. Stopped down to f/1.8 or f/2.0 my copy of this lens is ultra sharp.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM -  This is the 3rd Canon 50mm lens I have owned. I started with the 50mm f/1.8II. It is a great budget lens. Produces really great photos, especially for a photographer who has not owned a fast prime before. But it is built like it costs, cheap. I moved up to the 50mm f/1.4 USM. More expensive, bigger aperture and better build quality. I used it a few times but the sound the focus motor made was a really pain for me. As well the focus didn't turn smoothly. It might have been my copy but the 50 1.4 is notorious for focus issues. So I finally pulled the trigger on Canon's Boss Hogg of the 50s. With a light sucking f/1.2 aperture it produces amazing images that have a 3D quality to them. The photos of my lenses above {sans the one of the 50mm} were taken with this lens at f/1.8 where it is quite sharp. It is also a good portrait lens for my style of shooting.

Strobist®

Canon Speedlite 580EXII - This is a great flash for anyone looking to get into off-camera lighting. I have had it for a few years now and have no desire to upgrade to the 600. I use this as my main strobe whenever I am doing off camera lighting which I am hoping to start doing more of again. It has a sync port which is handy and powers from 1/1 down to 1/128 in 1/3 stop increments.

Canon Speedlite 550EX - I bought a lens from a local photographer who was switching from Canon to Nikon. He had this left over so he through it in for free. A pretty good deal. I use a hotshoe adapter to sync it to my triggers.

Vivitar 285HV - This is a funny flash. It cost $85 and does whatever I tell it. It is really simple. Just turn a few knobs to change the power output and it's good to go. It has a sync port but you need a funny looking cable to stick into it. It doesn't get much use as I rarely do a 3 light setup and this is the last in the queue to go into service.

Westcott 45" Umbrella - I have two of these babies. They are a white satin shoot-through umbrella that has a black cover making them the traditional reflecting umbrellas.

Interfit 8' Light Stand - I bought 3 of these. One is not air cushioned so when I try to adjust it, it drops into itself. Really annoying. If you are buying light stands make sure they are air cushioned.

Paul C. Buff Cybersyncs - These are the triggers I use to fire my off camera flashes. They are awesome. I highly recommend them. You buy the transmitter that goes onto the hot shoe of your camera and then a receiver for each of your flashes you are using. They have always worked for me. The only time they didn't was because their batteries were dead or I had them programmed to the wrong channel.

43" 5-in-1 Reflector - I bought this on eBay so it doesn't have a make. It comes in handy every now and again. It has a reversible cover so it has black, white, gold, silver and a thing white that can be used as a shoot through. I use the black and white as headshot backgrounds and just the white to kick some light back onto a subject.

Support

Gitzo 1542T Traveller Tripod Legs - A great tripod. Especially for travelling like the name suggests. It gets really small and it is really light. There is a sacrifice with having a compact tripod and that is stability. This is not going to be great with big lenses on it in a windstorm. But it does the job for me and I have not notice any camera shake in my long exposures with my  lenses.

Really Right Stuff BH-30 Compact Ballhead - A small tripod ballhead to go with a small tripod. It works great. My only complaint is the lever that I use to open or close the clamp I put my camera into sometimes is a bitch to open. Especially with freezing cold fingers.

Really Right Stuff L-Plate - If you're buying an arca swiss plate for your camera body I recommend a L-plate. It allows you to mount your camera body on the ballhead in portrait orientation. This is way better than mounting it horizontally and using the little notch in the ballhead to make a vertical photo. It is light when it is off my camera but I seem to notice its weight when it is on my camera.

Joby Gorilla Pod Focus & Ballhead X - I bought this thinking I would take it with me when I did not want to carry my Gitzo. So far I have never used it.

Straps

Blackrapid Sport Slim - I hate, hate, hate, hate having a traditional strap that goes around my neck. It hurts my neck and looks stupid. The straps that are included with cameras are absolutely horrible. I think people mostly wear them so others can see that have a NIKON D800 as it is embroidered onto the strap. I found Blackrapid a couple of years ago and I love their straps. The camera sits out-of-the-way at my hip and easily slides up the strap for me to make a photo in a jiffy.

Holdfast Gear MoneyMaker - I just bought this strap a week or so ago and I cannot tell you how much I love it. It is modelled after the classic holster used by TV Detectives. It has a similar principle as the Blackrapid.. it is attached to the camera body at the tripod mount, it slides up the strap while the strap itself stays in place. This strap is designed to have two cameras on it but does work good with just one. The biggest advantage I say this has over the Blackrapid is the look. When I am wearing a collared shirt I find wearing a black nylon strap takes away from my look. This strap is made of leather and is really a classy looking strap when you want to wear more than a t-shirt. In fact I probably won't wear it with a t-shirt because it causes the shirt to bunch up and the strap rubs my neck. With a collared shirt it feels great. The only downside is when I am pulling the camera up to my eye a 'D' ring slides up the strap... if I don't hold the camera away from my body as I do this motion my shirt can get caught in between the 'D' ring and strap. If that makes any sense.

Filters

Lee Filter Foundation Kit - I opted for a Lee Filter system for my landscape needs. The foundation kit attaches to a lens adapter so I can use it on all of my lenses. The filters slide in and out and I can turn the holder 360°.

Lee Big Stopper - This is the best 10 stop ND filter that is made. The biggest advantage to the Lee system is I can compose my shot, focus and then drop the filter in a press the shutter. With the screw on filter I had before unscrewing it each time was painful. As well this will work with all of my lenses and a screw in will only work on one diameter of lens unless you buy step down rings. Most ND filters have a magenta colour cast to them while the Lee has a blue colour cast which seems easier to correct in post.

Lee Filter Lens Adapter - I have 72mm, 77mm and 82mm so all my lenses are covered.

Lee Filter ND Soft Grads Kit - This came with 3 filters of varying strength (.03, .06, .09). I only use the .06 and .09 as the .03 doesn't really do enough for the sky. I do stack them occasionally. I am not near any oceans or completely flat prairie so I opted for the soft grad instead of a hard one. In time I will probably buy a .09 hard grad.

B+W Circular Polarizer - I have a 72mm and 77mm of these. Eventually I will get the Lee 105mm Cir Pol for use on my Foundation Kit but it is expensive and never in stock anywhere.

Roddenstock 3-stop ND Filter - I have this in 72mm for my 50L and 35L so I can shoot wide open in the sunlight while keeping my shutter speed below 1/8,000th of a second. Works good.

UV/Haze Filter - I have a whole bunch of these. I very rarely use them. Instead I use lens hoods to protect the front element. I find they cause glare and degrade the image. Some lenses require them to be considered "weather sealed". The only time I use them is right near the ocean or somewhere else where particulates are flying through the air bigger than normal dust.

Bags

Thinktank Retrospective 7 - I love this shoulder bag. Mine is the pinestone colour and it looks great and not like a camera bag. Fits my iPad, 5dmk3 and a few lenses. I initially bought the Retro 5 but it was a bit tight for my camera body and it looks more like a purse than a man satchel.

DaKine Photo Sequence - I bought this backpack and sold it.. and then bought it again. It is a very well made bag. Holds pretty much all of my kit and I can strap my tripod to it. Access to the camera compartment is on the side that faces my back which I really like. When I put it down on the ground to get my gear out of it, it won't get my back dirty when I put it back on. It is also good so someone cannot sneak a lens out in a crowded place.

Thinktank Urban Disguise 40 V1.0 - My first Thinktank bag. I don't really use it anymore since buying the Retro 7. It is black and looks like a laptop bag. Like all Thinktank bags it is very well made and does its job.

Process & Print

27" Apple iMac 3.4Ghz Intel Core i7 - I bought this in the Fall to replace my 2008 iMac. I actually bought it from the Apple refurbished store and I recommend everyone do the same if you're in the market for one. The only way to tell it was a refurb was that it came in a plain white box. Other than that it appeared new and works great. I wanted to buy this before the new thin iMacs came out. I like having a superdrive which the thin ones do not.

Adobe Lightroom - This is my go to processing program. I love it. It handles the RAW files perfectly and I love printing from it. I always recommend it to anyone who asks.

Apple Aperture - I bought it and I never use it. I think it is crappy. The sliders are not very responsive. There is a lag despite having 24GB of memory in my computer. Just not good at all.

Adobe Photoshop CS6 - I do not do a lot of photoshopping of my images but there was a great deal on it for owners of Lightroom so I picked it up. I am really enjoying learning to use all it has to offer but I have not scratched the surface.

Epson Stylus Photo R2880 Printer - I print my photos mostly myself. I like having the control. This printer does a really great job. It prints up to 13" wide and can use a roll of paper which is nice for panoramic photos. I generally print on satin paper as glossy I think looks cheap. This printer has really come down in price since I bought it ($500 now). A full set of inks costs $115.00 but they last a fair while.

Accessories

Canon RC-1 Wireless Remote - A great little wireless remote. Use it when doing long exposures or self portraits.

Hotshoe 3-Axis Bubble Spirit Level - I bought this on eBay for $6. One of the axis' bubble spirit level is not exactly level. That's ebay for you.

LensPen - I love these. They are great for taking smudges off a lens or filter.

Blower - It does what it says. A must for any gear bag. If you have 1 lens then you need one of these.

Batteries - I have extras of batteries for everything I use that requires a battery.


My Wish list

Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L - It is Canon's wider Tilt-Shift lens. Why not complete the wide-angle set? Oh, because it is $2,700 new. This will likely just remain a wish.

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM - This is a much more likely purchase. I rented one in the fall and it is a great telephoto prime. Really fast, super sharp and I love the out of focus bits.

Paul C. Buff Alienbee B1600 - I had an opportunity to buy one used. I almost did it, but I could not justify it for my use. I don't have a studio and I don't know if I want to drag this along with me outside. Speedlites are much more convenient for that. Also I would have to buy a Vagabond Mini battery pack for it if I was venturing away from a plug-in. Which would double the price. But I long for a modelling light. Who knows? Maybe I will find one on my front step one day.

Fujifilm X100S - This is a wish but will be a reality when it starts shipping. I pre ordered it back when it was announced. I had a Fujifilm X100 and loved it so I cannot wait for this. I always go back in forth in my mind whether to trade it all in for a X-Pro1 or XE-1. Fujifilm is doing some exiting things that play right into my style.

Thinktank Airport Airstream - This is another item that I will likely be buying soon. I want a nice carry on bag to bring my gear on a plane. I have outgrown using my Retro 7 with my gear but I don't want to be forced to check a big backpack.

Wrap-up

So that is the current photo gear inside my camera bag. This blog post will definitely be a living document as I buy and sell and acquire and reacquire. I will update as needed.

If you have your own blogpost or photo of what's in your camera bag, post a link in the comments below.

Update: I have since sold all of my dSLR gear and now only use a Fujifilm X-Pro1 & X100s. I will keep this post up here for nostalgia purposes.