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: