What’s In My Camera Bag?
I have a not-so-shocking confession: I love cameras and photography gear. When I open up a box with a new photography toy, I’m like a child on Christmas morning; when I finally visited the B&H Supercenter in New York recently, I was like a kid in a candy shop (although, oddly enough, the thing I found most captivating was the inventory conveyor system-thing). I have tested out a lot of photography toys, and I’ve reviewed a number of them here. Still, a pretty common question is regarding what gear I use when I go to the parks.
Obviously, I don’t regularly use (or even own) all of these things. I do have way too much camera gear scattered around our house (or so I’m told!), but not everything comes with on a trip. There are only a few items typically in my camera bag, and these items are more or less the same on each trip I take, unless I’m borrowing a new toy, trying to travel light, or just looking to do something different. The photo above shows my camera bag (Lowepro Flipside 300) with all of my regular gear in it.
I thought it would be worthwhile to do a post on what’s in my camera bag, in case the more comprehensive photography reviews page we have is overwhelming. Plus, so long as I keep this updated, now I can just email a link to people rather writing up a list each time people ask!
Here’s what I generally carry in my camera bag…
Nikon D600 – I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Nikon recently. I hate that they released the D610 (which is not a substantive improvement over the D600) instead of recalling the D600. I hate the Df. I hate that they haven’t made an earnest attempt to penetrate the mirrorless market. However, I love the photos the D600 produces, and what this “basic” full frame camera is capable of suits my needs perfectly. Excellent dynamic range, ideal megapixel count, and stellar high ISO performance are just a few of the reasons why I’m willing to overlook the things I hate about Nikon. The D600 is a great camera, and the one I take with me on any shoot that matters. Here’s my full D600 review.
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 – Now sporting a battle scar from a spill it took last year, the Nikon 14-24 is by far my most used lens (~30% of all photos I take are with this lens). It’s tack sharp and an incredible lens for landscapes. I like using it to intentionally introduce distortion into a situation for dramatic effect, but it’s also good for architecture, in general. It’s also great for low light situations, as the f/2.8 aperture plus its wideness makes it easy to shoot handheld with slow shutter speeds in low light. Check out my full Nikon 14-24 review.
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC – The Tamron 24-70 is my second most used lens (~20% of all photos). I suspect for most full frame shooters, this would be their #1 lens. It’s a sharp lens covering the “meat” of most shooters’ focal range. It can be used for shallow depth of field work or landscapes. Thanks to VC, it’s great in low light. It’s just a really versatile lens. I used the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 many times (and even owned it for a bit), but I ultimately decided the Tamron was a better fit. It’s a little less sharp than the Nikon, but still very sharp. However, the Nikon lacks image stabilization, and the presence of stabilization in the Tamron puts it over the top for me and more than offsets the slight IQ difference. If the Nikon and the Tamron were priced the same, I’d still own the Tamron. In actuality, the Nikon costs around $600 more.
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 – Since going full frame, I had been looking for a replacement for my beloved Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens (review here). I finally found that–and then some–this year with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4. Although it’s not a comparable focal length, I’ve found that I prefer this focal length for general walk-around shooting. The colors, contrast, and bokeh quality are all exceptional. Really, I can’t say enough good things about this lens. Since getting it, I’ve used it a lot (~18% of all photos), going hours at a time some days without switching back to another lens. That is really rare for me, especially with a prime lens. Here’s my full review of this lens.
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR – I definitely don’t use the Nikon 70-200 enough (~10%). It is a great lens, especially for full frame, and is great for creative composition. (Contrary to popular belief, telephoto lenses aren’t just for reach.) Its bulkiness causes me to leave it in our hotel room too often (and also caused me to purchase the Nikon 28-300mm), but when I do use it, I have a blast with it. One goal of mine for 2014 is to use this lens more at night.
Nikon 50mm f/1.8 – This is by far my least used lens of the main ones (<%5), and that’s really a shame. I am not a fan of this lens for crop sensor cameras, but it’s great for full frame. I probably don’t use it as much as I should because the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is nicer and the Tamron 24-70 is more convenient, but this really is a great prime lens for full frame. In fact, I’ve read that it’s better than the costlier Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens. Another goal for 2014 is to use it more!
Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye – In 2011, my fisheye was my most used lens. My use of it dropped off considerably in 2012, and plummeted again in 2013 (~5%). I have a lot of fun using it, but I’ve become more cognizant of the gimmicky look it produces. I found myself trashing way too many shots from previous years that seemed to use the fisheye as a crutch to force an interesting composition, so I’ve tried to use my ultra wide angle more or search for a better composition if nothing is there with the ultra wide. Still, this is a great budget fisheye lens, and its small size (it and the 50mm f/1.8 fit in the accessory pouch at the top of my bag) guarantees it a place in my camera bag. Here’s my full Zenitar fisheye review.
Nikon SB-600 Flash – For a good portion of 2012, I didn’t have a flash. My old SB-600 broke, and I kept forgetting to replace it. I finally needed a new one late in the year, so I bought another used SB-600. I like this flash because I can bounce it, diffuse it, and adjust its intensity. I like having a Nikon-branded flash so I can use the CLS for off-camera lighting, on the rare occasions I want to do something like that. I prefer this to the SB-700, 800, and 900, not because I think this is better, but because those are overkill for me given their cost.
Luxi L III Tripod – I’ve gone back and forth on tripods, but recently I made the switch to the Luxi L III for everyday use for its blend of weight, height, and stability. No sooner than I reviewed it here did it “get lost” flying from California! I’m coming to the realization that I’m not going to see it again (thanks a lot, US Airways!), so I guess I need to order a new one. Fortunately, it’s much cheaper than a carbon fiber alternative.
Random Accessories – I carry a wide variety of accessories in my camera bag, from remotes (after breaking 3 wired remotes in 2013, I’m switching back to smaller, IR remotes for now) to memory cards (trying to upgrade to cards 32GB in size or larger) to flash gels to neutral density filters (read about which ones I recommend here) to step down/up rings to a camera poncho (no matter the weather, I always keep one in my bag). I often have other stuff in there, too, depending upon what else I might need in a given situation.
Phew, I think that’s it. Suffice to say, my bag is packed to the gills. So, if you’ve ever wondered or asked “what camera and lens did you use for that photo?” chances are you now have your answer. For those of you who have asked that I provide this information for each individual photo, sorry, but that is never going to happen. If you really care, just install an EXIF viewer plugin into your browser–that’s way less work than me typing it up for each photo.
Again, this post was created for the specific purpose of letting people know what’s in my camera bag. If you want more in-depth reviews of a broader selection of equipment, I suggest checking out my Photography Buying Guide. Most people probably shouldn’t just buy what I have, as everyone has different needs and a different budget. Most photographers looking to purchase DSLRs are going to be fine with crop sensor DSLRs (you could make a great, less-expensive-but-still-high-end kit with the Nikon D7100, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, and a telephoto lens).
If you’re interested in improving your photography, check out a few of my top photography blog posts:
Best Books for Improving Your Photography
5 Indispensable Tips for Better Vacation Photos
Choosing the Best Travel Tripod
Choosing the Best Camera Bag for Travel
For trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and Disneyland Trip Planning Guide.
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What’s in your camera bag? Any favorite lenses that you’d recommend to others? Have you used any of the ones listed here? Share any thoughts or questions you have in the comments!
This will be a good preparation for a trip, I see the benefits from that. Thanks
Excellent list. Very helpful for people who are slowly expanding their photography gear (We are expanding our travel photography gear). This has helped us a lot. Thanks, Tom!
I was wondering since this is an older post are you still using the flipside 300 and how is it holding up?
Tom, great job! I follow your blog and obviously have tried to recreate some of the photos without success. Do you offer workshops? If Disney ever had this magnificent idea of a night walking photography workshop count me in! and by the way if you ever detash equipment let me know!!!!
Thanks for the kind words. At this time, I don’t offer workshops. I’ve considered the idea, but ultimately, I don’t think it’s something I could do well (I wouldn’t do them in the Disney parks, anyway).
Hi Tom. DO you ever do guided photography trips in the parks?
No, unfortunately I do not. Sorry!
Found your website after you posted the D810 review. Nice review and nice site by the way.
I recently got the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, I opted for the 16-35 VR a couple years ago when I switched to FX mainly because of the difficulty to use filters with the 14-24. Well a few months ago I switch lenses and cannot believe I waited so long. I love the 14-24.
Regarding the 70-200mm f/2.8 I would recommend you try the lighter f/4 version. I have owned and loved all iterations of 80-200 and 70-200 2.8 zooms but wanted to find something lighter and a bit smaller. So far the f/4 version has been sensational, its sharpness is amazing. You loose a stop which may be an issue at night but with the high ISO capabilities of the new bodies I haven’t find it a problem so far.
Thanks for the tip on the 70-200mm f/4. I’ve heard that from a couple of friends as well. I’ve been using my 70-200 more and more, and I really love the quality of its images. I might check out the lighter lens, though!
What a great collection 🙂 I agree with you – Nikon were very cheeky in the way they dealt with the D600 and then released D610 with minor “improvements” and a much higher price. I did buy the D610 in the end (used to shoot with D80) and loved the features that it offered as compared to D80. Still on a learning curve, but yes, the excellent low light performance is what makes me the happiest.
I also let go of my heavier lenses and bought the 28-300 (not light as you would know, but at least provides the range) and also carry a 50mm f1.8.
What tripod do you have ? Have you any experience of using the Manfrotto BeFree with your setup ?
Here’s my post covering the travel tripods I use: https://www.disneytouristblog.com/best-travel-tripod/
These type of articles should come with sort of warning. Now you have me wanting to go on Amazon and B&H and spent a boatload of money. It’s only been about eight months since I started shooting and I’m already itching to jump to full-frame.
Great and informative article, as always!
Love all of your posts! Do you normally carry a laptop with you when you go to Disney (or the many other places you go)? If so, do you carry it in a separate bag?
Also, have you had the same issue as others with oil spots showing up in your photos from your D600?
I carry a laptop, but never to the parks. It stays in our room for dumping photos at night.
Speaking of- maybe you could do a post someday on your computer/hardware/software situation for photo editing.
Hello all your picutres are awesome I just wanted to know cause Iam a new to taking pictures what kind of flash do you use for the night shots? Cause i wish some of my photos can look this way.
I tried posting twice yesterday, with no luck, so…third time’s the charm, right?
Two questions, just to get your view:
1. You clean lenses with your shirt, don’t use UV filters as a form of lens protection, but you have a protective screen over your LCD. It could be this just comes with Nikons (I’m a Canon shooter, so obviously clueless)…but in case you’ve added the protection, what is your reasoning?
I’m finicky with my gear, have every piece of protection possible – but nothing on my LCD. Now I’m wondering if that’s something I should invest in.
2. I don’t see a battery grip on your camera. Something you just haven’t gotten to with the newest camera, or something you don’t use? I never used them until I started doing sports photography, and shooting 5000+ photos in a day resulted in way too many battery changes without one. Now the camera doesn’t feel right without one (I don’t have one for my new Canon 7D, and it’s driving me nuts, but I had to choose between buying the camera or the grip. I think I made the right choice).
I always find it interesting to see what gear people use, and why.
1) Don’t give me too much credit. I took that photo the day I got the camera, and long ago removed the protective screen because it annoyed me!
2) I don’t use a battery grip. I rarely take photos in portrait orientation, and I don’t want anything making my camera even bulkier. Perhaps I’d feel differently if I used one for a bit, but I’m fine without.
Laura – the plastic LCD protector like Tom shows would irritate me, but I installed a thin glass protector (<$4 on Amazon) and have been completely happy.
Wonderful and timely review. My birthday is coming up and my wife and kids are asking if there is anything I would like? I am toying with the idea of a new camera bag. I’ve always wanted to get more of a backpack than gadget bag that I have now. I am not sure with what will work best for me. I like the thought of having the gear resting on my back instead of my shoulder. I will have to look into this bag. I usually carry 3-4 lenses around at a time with one camera body. Thanks for this blog entry.
I’ve found that a dedicated backpack is a much more efficient use of space than just a random gadget bag.
Although I could stick with DX format and be pretty satisfied there’s a few reasons I may go for FX. First being that fantastic 14-24 lens, and the second being the sigma 35mm 1.4. I’d also like to be able to go above ISO 3200 and get reasonably good results.
I definitely don’t regret going full frame, although it’s definitely important to know that you’re looking at an incremental improvement over the best of what DX has to offer, but at a significant cost.
Thanks for sharing! There’s also a website for folks who don’t want to commit to a plug-in: http://exifdata.com/
What’s your favorite lens to use if there are people in your park pictures?
Toss up between the 24-70 and the 35 1.4. The 24-70 is more versatile, but the 35 1.4 produces better images. Of course, this answer is confined to in-park portraits where the setting is less controllable than studio portraits. Neither are portrait lenses, per se.
So that whole post might has well have been written in Mandarin Chinese :). You are a master of your hobby (obviously). Wish you gave lessons!
Haha! I’m not so sure people would actually want lessons from me. I can explain things well (hopefully?) in writing, but that’s because I slow myself down (and write a lot of things out of order as I fill in gaps). That’s not quite how I function ‘on the fly.’
I was just searching your blog the other day to see if you had a blog that stated what was in your bag. Good timing! I currently am shooting with a D90 and have a Nikon 50/1.8, a Sigma 70-200/2.8, and a sigma 24-70/2.8 (which I’m considering trading for a Tamron 17-50). I’m considering buying a couple new lenses.
-Rokinon 8mm fisheye
If you could pick one or two of those which would you choose?
By the way the company I work for designed and installed that conveyor system at B&H Photo! Pretty cool system!
Is there any particular reason you’d want to trade the Sigma 24-70? If you’re planning on staying on crop sensor indefinitely, it makes sense, but otherwise, I might stick with the Sigma, given that you already have it, and it’s nice to pair with the 70-200.
The obvious gap in your lineup is ultra wide. I’d start with that, and get the Sigma 30 1.4 if you feel you want a lens that’s faster than f/2.8.
Awesome that you work for the conveyor system company–small world, I guess!
My bag is an odd assortment. On a basic day in the park, I’ll carry a small bag with an all-weather cover. Inside I carry my Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8, while my D610 with attached 28-70mm f/2.8 is out and ready to shoot. Also inside my bag I carry a rugged Mophie and phone charging cable, extra camera battery, variable ND filter and remote shutter. Depending on what day it is, I’ll have a Manfrotto BeFree strapped to the side of the bag, too.
I went with older lenses because it allowed me to jump to full frame sooner. Though neither lens has image stabilization, I don’t miss it too much. The 80-200 also has straight aperture blades, which is really fun to play with at night as I can create perfect starbursts in camera without any filters. My only qualm with the 28-70 is that the zoom ring rubber comes off sometimes, so I’m going to contact Nikon to see if I can get a new one. I know I’m not the only one with this issue.
Also, have you started following the B&H conveyor belt on Twitter? @BHTrolley
Can’t say I disagree with the strategy of starting with the older lenses to enable you to go full frame sooner rather than later. I’d definitely recommend upgrading those lenses over time, though. They don’t compare to the ‘holy trinity’ of Nikon lenses, and a camera with the resolving power of the D600/610 really highlights that.
Hilarious that the conveyor belt has a Twitter account. What am I saying? Of course it does. Everything has a Twitter account these days.