What’s In My Camera Bag – 2015 Edition

tom-bricker-camera-bag

Wondering what’s in my camera bag? I previously shared the camera, lenses, tripod, and other photography equipment I carry, in response to questions I receive about what camera I use, how I carry my gear into the Disney Parks, and other assorted questions.

That was nearly a year ago, and some things have changed since then. I realized this when going to find the link to send in response to an email over the holiday weekend, and figured it might additionally be useful for those of you doing Christmas shopping for the photographers in your family. (Or if you’re doing my favorite kind of gift giving: for yourself! ;))

Although I own a lot more camera gear than what is on this list, these are the items I typically carry in my camera bag on a normal day in the parks. Unless I’m borrowing a new toy, trying to travel light, or just looking to do something different this stuff is all in my camera bag. Yes, all of it. I’m a gear sherpa. The photo above shows my camera bag packed as it would be for a normal day, weighing north of 25 pounds.

I’m guessing most sane people won’t want to carry all of this while running around the parks, but it underscores another point (and responds to another couple of questions), yes, you can bring this much photography equipment into the Disney Parks and yes, you can take this much photography onto every attraction at Walt Disney World besides Sum of All Thrills. (It’s a bit of an awkward fit on Space Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but it does fit.) You are not required to use lockers on any other attractions at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, but if you’re heading to the Universal parks, too, be aware that you will have to use lockers at most attractions there, and that this bag is too large to fit in the normal lockers outside of each attraction, but it will fit in the lockers at the front of the park.

With that said, here’s what I generally carry in my camera bag…

nikon-d750-tilt-screen-tripod

Nikon D750 – This first camera may come as a surprise to regular readers, especially after my praise of the Nikon D810 in that review. I purchased this camera along with the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens last week when new Nikon rebates were released, and am loving it thus far. I view this as the perfect full frame camera for Disney Parks. The autofocus is fast and accurate for dark rides, the camera has great dynamic range for landscapes, the low light performance is wonderful, and the file sizes are just right. Add to that the tilt screen which is great for how much I’m doing low angle work (I will not miss pressing my face to the sidewalks in the parks…) and a price point that is $1,000 cheaper than the Nikon D810, and this camera is my no-brainer pick for the best all-around full frame DSLR for photographing the Disney Parks. (For my recommended cheaper option, check out the Nikon D5200.)

Nikon D810 – With all of that said, I do love the D810, but as a blogger and ‘documenter-of-everything’, that camera and its huge file sizes were a bit of overkill. This point was really driven home after our fall trip to Asia, when I returned with nearly half a gigabyte of raw files. This camera is dynamite for photographers who are primarily landscape photographers, and I’m currently carrying it as my “backup” camera to use during sunset and nighttime landscape shooting when it does slightly outperform the D750 thanks to its base ISO and slightly better dynamic range and color depth. However, it’s only still in my bag because I haven’t yet had a chance to sell it; I can’t justify having this expensive of a camera as my backup. Soon, this camera will be replaced in my bag with my 3rd string camera, the Nikon D600. (Yes, I have a camera hoarding problem…but I’m working on addressing it!)

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A bit of an aside here, but carrying two cameras in the parks does represent a paradigm shift for me, but it’s one I will keep up. I upgraded to the LowePro Flipside 400 AW to hold two bodies, and also switched to the BlackRapid Yeti Dual Strap so I could carry two–or one–cameras on my strap. I rarely have both out at the same time, but it’s nice to not have to change lenses during a parade or other time sensitive, ‘crunch-time’ shooting where having two different lenses might be nice…even if it comes at the expense of looking like a crazy paparazzi.

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 – Still sporting a battle scar from a spill it took last year, the Nikon 14-24 is “old reliable” for me, and is by far my most used lens. It’s tack sharp corner to corner and is 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.

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 – This is the other new addition to my camera bag. I’ll admit that I’ve waivered on this lens a bit, as I believe the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC offers better value. Unfortunately, I dropped that lens and its focus is messed up, so I had to replace it…right as Nikon offered rebates on this lens. I opted for this lens instead of another Tamron copy because of its superior bokeh and slightly better image quality. I’ve only had it a couple of weeks and I’m definitely pleased with the bokeh (especially for Christmas light photography!), but I really miss image stabilization. I’m still debating selling this lens and getting a new copy of the Tamron because of that, but I’ll probably just stick with the Nikon as it’s less of a hassle. You really can’t go wrong either way, and if money is an issue at all, definitely get the Tamron. As for this lens, it’s tack sharp, has great bokeh, and covers the meat of the normal zoom range.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art – After going full frame, I wanted a replacement for my beloved Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens (review here). I finally found that–and then some–with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art. 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. I tested the similar, new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art recently, and while I was very impressed with the lens, it wasn’t different enough from the Sigma 35mm for me to be able to justify owning both.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VROne of my photography resolutions for 2014 was to use this lens more. I succeeded, more than doubling how much I used it. Part of this was because I stopped letting its bulkiness cause me to leave it in hotel rooms in favor of the more utilitarian Nikon 28-300mm. I love this lens for a variety of styles of photography, but I think where it really shines is using it in “unexpected” ways for creative composition where zoom isn’t really necessary. It’s also great for parades, wildlife, shows, and is a ton of fun to use at night (Mmmm…bokeh).

Duffy hanging out in Disneyland Paris' Main Street Emporium.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8 – This lens is small, cheap, and offers great image quality. The field of view is also great for full frame. It’s perfect for dark rides, food photography, and general walk-around use (although I do prefer the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art for that)!

Walt Disney World ResortEpcotSpaceship EarthThe grand and miraculous Spaceship Earth as captured with a fisheye lens after the guests had left Epcot. More on Epcot: https://www.disneytouristblog.com/tag/epcot/

Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye – This is another change for this year, and it occurred because my Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye got a scratch on the glass that caused weird flaring (by the way, I swear I’m not totally careless with my gear–but I am on the move a lot and traveling, especially hiking, takes its toll). I reverted to using this lens, which is for crop sensor cameras but also works on full frame, until the Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 fisheye is released. I don’t use fisheye as much as I used to, but I still have a lot of fun with it, and the gimmicky look it produces. This is a great budget fisheye lens, and it doesn’t take up much space in a camera bag. Here’s my full review and sample photos from this lens.

Nikon SB-800 Flash – 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 also have the SB-600, which is a better budget option.

Luxi L III Tripod – I own a couple of tripods, but I use the Luxi L III for everyday use in the Disney Parks for its blend of weight, height, and stability. I reviewed it here and basically gushed over it. Every tripod is a compromise in some regard, and I think this is the best compromise that is much cheaper than a carbon fiber alternative.

Random Accessories – I carry a wide variety of accessories in my camera bag, from remotes to memory cards 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 like gum and novelty hats, but I don’t think that stuff is really relevant to this post.

I want to reiterate that I am a bit crazy when it comes to photography. Not just in terms of how much I carry, but what I carry. If you clicked some of the links to the gear mentioned here and cringed at the prices, it’s important to know that you do not need to spend this much to achieve high quality photos. For a couple years, I shot with an entry level Nikon D40 and Nikon 18-200mm lens, exclusively, and I still managed to capture some good (I think) photos. More expensive gear is obviously nicer, but the law of diminishing returns definitely applies, and it’s only nicer if you know how to use it. Plus, most of the improvements are not in terms of image quality, but functionality of the gear itself. I mention in case anyone thinking of getting started in photography is scared away by this post. Photography does not have to be prohibitively expensive. (With that, I will say that buying new photography toys is addictive, and “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” (GAS) is a real and serious disease that affects thousands of photographers per year, killing or seriously injuring their bank accounts in the process.)

If you want more in-depth reviews of a broader/cheaper selection of equipment, I suggest checking out my Photography Tips & Buying Guide. You 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 do want to purchase anything photography equipment from Amazon, please use the links here (like this one). You can also find equipment at B&H Photography by clicking here. Using the links here help support this blog at no cost to you, and help us continue to provide you with great good okay content. 

If you’re looking for other photography equipment recommendations or photography tips in general check out a few of my top photography blog posts:

Photography Buying Guide: Everything from Underwater Cameras to Software
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

Your Thoughts…

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!


44 Responses to “What’s In My Camera Bag – 2015 Edition”
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