Over the next couple of post’s we will be taking a look at what gear I use for my work as a photographer. Starting out we will be looking at the Camera & Lens bag.
This bag ( Think Tank Photo – Airport International V2 ) has been with me for the last 6 years or so and is still going strong.
The video below goes over the kit that is stored in this bag for any given job.
I have built this kit up over a number of years and a lot of it is older generation and used. If you are starting out as a photographer or looking to build a solid kit to get your work done, don’t discount the older bodies and lenses because
A. They are still great today.
You will save a ton of money.
1. Canon 5D Mark II A – The main body.
2. Canon 5D Mark II B – The backup body.
3. Canon 5D Mark II CR - The Backup backup and rental body for studio hires.
4. Fuji X100 – The every day camera. This also gets used at weddings and events because it’s small, quiet and discrete.
5. Canon EOS M3 – This is the BTS and video camera. A great little camera for video but I rarely shoot stills with it. - Due to be sold
All I want a camera to do is work and get out of my way, the 5D II does just that and provides enough resolution for most work and they also shoot great 1080p video.
If I was to mention the one thing that I love about the 5D II the most it would be the sensor, there is just something about the colour it produces and the way it handles skin tones. The only camera that I have worked with that has better colour is the Canon 5Ds but that thing is £2000 which translates to NOPE.
The Fuji X100 is the original one and it’s the one camera that I love and hate at the same time, it’s a great camera but it’s a fussy bugger at times. Not as quick to use as the 5D II’s or as accurate focus wise but what it does bring is great files, great colour, 1/1000th sec sync and the ability to sneak those candid moments without people knowing you are around.
The Canon EOS M3 is the replacement for my video camera of old (Canon 60D) and it’s been great for BTS & tutorial video content production. It shoots great looking 1080p video, provides a flip up screen and HYBRID CMOS AF III which makes things easier when setting up by yourself. The video AF is not as good as the bodies with Dual Pixel AF but it gets the job done for now. I rarely shoot stills with this camera as the 5DII’s offer far better IQ but now and again it will get used for a BTS image.
I am looking to add a 3rd DSLR to the kit this year., this body will be the backup to the backup as my main 5DII will be going in for a service soon with the current backup not be far behind it. Basically, I don’t want to ever turn up to any job with less than 2 cameras… clients don’t like the My Camera Broke excuse.
The 3rd DSLR body will not be a Canon 5D III, 5D IV or 5Ds but will be either another 5D Mark II ( this is the most sensible option ) or a Canon 1DS Mark III. Let me explain why.
I have always been a advocate for having a working kit with identical camera bodies, if one body fails they you grab the backup and get back to work with a camera that has all the same features and layout. The 1DS Mark III option is a different body, battery but the sensors are so similar they look pretty much the same bar the high ISO performance.
5D III Upgrade
If I was to buy a 5D Mark III that would cost me £1300 used for a body and grip. I would then need to pick up a couple of SDHC cards at £120 for two 128gb versions which means the upgrade is £1420 for one body.
I can buy 3 5D Mark II bodies with grips for that money, or of course use the money saved elsewhere in the business.
As good as this camera is I am not prepared to drop £2827 on a body+Grip+Batt+cards. It would be stupid to spend that kind of money on a camera body right now.
Plus the 5DIV files are so different than the 5DII that I would end up with a second 5DIV in the kit at some-point which means £5654 total for two identical cameras that will not bring 5k's worth of value or improvements to my photography.
Oh boy. I have looked at this dam thing too many times.
The colour from this sensor is the best I have seen from a Canon sensor and OMG 50mp.... but the reality is few actually need that resolution.
I have shot with the 5Ds and it's great but very unforgiving and it's definitely not a low light camera both from a ISO performance perspective and from a camera handling one. You have to keep the shutter speed up on this thing.
A 5Ds body would be a one body purchases as it would not be a camera that would cover all work. It's a studio /good light camera... a camera for hero bride & groom portraits, so if I added one to the kit it would be the 3rd body and it's not really a true backup for all work.
It would cost £2264 for a used body, grip , battery, and a couple of 256gb SD cards.
None of these camera bodies mentioned above will solve any problems for me at this point in time and no client is asking for anything that they bring.
I could drop £1300-5654 on new cameras or I could spend £450-550 on another 5D Mark II and the money saves can be invested in marketing and growing the business. What would you do? - Update (19/09/18) I bought another 5D Mark II.
All the lenses that I buy and work with are Canon and I won’t buy any others for one simple reason.
They just work.
I have used third party lenses before and had problems with them over time, but I have never had an issue with a Canon lens that was not the result of it being dropped or damage by me.
I’m not hating on third party lenses not at all, I have just made up my mind to stick with Canon.
1. Canon EF 35mm F1.4 L II – This replaced my Canon 35mm F2 (great lens) and it’s amazing. I freaking love this lens and my brain is wired to see in 35mm and 85.
2. Canon EF 50mm F1.8 II – This thing is other wise know at the plastic fantastic or nifty 50 and it’s a great little lens even though it sounds like a pissed off wasp when the AF starts.
I used this a lot when I shot APS-C sensor cameras but it see’s very little use these days as I will grab the 35 over the 50. - Update - Sep 2018 - this is now sold.
3. Canon EF 85mm F1.8 USM – This lens is a bargain at £350 new and less used. Great for portraits, head shots & low light work. Mine see’s a lot of use and is my most used lens. The one I have now is my 2nd copy as the first one has a AF failure due to it being dropped (not by me). * This has now been replaced with the Canon EF 85 F1.4 L IS and the 85 F1.8 has been sold.
4. Canon EF 100mm F2.8L IS Macro - This lens was added to the kit to pull double duty.
It’s great for portraits and gives me more perspective compression in the studio than the 85 does. It also sees use for product work and detail shots at weddings/events. The 100 is an amazingly sharp lens with great IS and it’s also weather sealed which is why I went for the L over the non L version.
5. Canon EF 24-105 F4L IS – The most flexible lens in the kit. I bought mine for a very good price off a friend when he moved to Fuji. It’s been repaired a few times due to drops but it always works.
Great for events and weddings, group shots, portraits and it renders real nice color and contrast.
Another reason I like the 24-105 is that it’s not too sharp, when working as a portrait photographer you are not always looking for the sharpest lens in the bag.
If I had to start form scratch kit wise I would pick up a used 5DII and a used 24-105. You can do a lot with that combo.
6. Canon EF 70-200 F2.8L IS (V1) – This was added to the kit for it’s range and mostly for weddings/events. It rarely sees use in the studio as I prefer working with the 85 or 100 but when you are at the back of a church you need something this long on a FF body to get anything.
This lens renders real nicely, it’s plenty sharp enough and has great IS but THE ONE thing I hate about it is how it hunts for AF and loses contrast when shooting in to light. I have other lenses in the kit that handle it fine, this thing however has a brain fart and gives up.
I have heard the version II is better but to be honest I am more likely to replace this with the Canon EF 135 F2 L, I just need to get some hands-on time with the 135.
The Other Bits
Along with the Cameras and Lenses, I keep a range of other items in the bag to help the working day go smoothly.
1. Sekonic L-358 light meter.
2. Pixapro ST-III wireless trigger.
3. Pixapro ECO 2.4 Ghz wireless trigger.
I keep a couple of triggers in the bag, so I can just take this roller to the studio with out having to bring the location lighting bag. The lights at the studio have built in receivers that work with both triggers.
4. Lens pens & cloths. – Although I use my shirt a fair bit.
5. Clips, Bungies, Gaff Tape
6. Umbrella – for clients.
7. Mittens not kittens.
8.C47 – AKA the clothes peg. Great for holding small reflector cards during detail shots or for helping with wardrobe issues.
9. Multi tool for fixing things.
10. XRite color checker passport – For building color profiles.
11. 52mm Vari ND filter. This see’s little use these days now my lighting kit gives me High Speed Sync.
12. Spare batteries for the cameras, light meter & triggers.
13. Rocket Blower.
14. Artic Butterfly – for sensor cleaning.
15. Peak Design Slide camera straps ( Two )
16. Peak Design Capture – Clip
17. Bag of sync cables and spare CF card.
18. Business cards.
19. Note book – This holds lighting notes and AFMA values for lens calibrations.
20. Think Tank – Memory card wallets (2). They hold all the CF and SD cards.
Regarding the memory cards, I have about 22 CF cards in the bag so I can rotate cards out and keep jobs on the cards for anywhere between 2-6 weeks depending on the jobs I have in. Doing this provides another fail safe.
As well as the fail safe having a large number of cads allows me to swap out cards regularly when covering weddings and larger jobs.
21. Western Digital 4TB Passport USB 3 Hard Drive – This is used for stage 2 of the backup and is a temp store which gets wiped at years end. I will cover more on the workflow on this blog soon.
This kit continues to serve me and my clients well. New cameras will come at some point, the lenses will stay. For now I’m good with this kit for the next 3-5 years at least.
What about switching to ( insert camera brand) ?
The last thing I want to have to deal with now is learning a new camera or system, I have more important things to be doing. It just takes too much time and money to switch and upgrade.
Thanks for reading.
If you have any questions drop them in the comments below.