Last year was a tumultuous year for my camera bag, but with for 2017 I’ve settled on the camera equipment (at least until the Nikon D760 and D900 are released) I’m going to be using. If you read the photography posts on this blog, you might know that I went mirrorless last year with the Sony a7R II..and then went back to Nikon DSLRs.
Aside from that proving to be a costly proposition (although not nearly as bad as it could’ve been thanks to photography gear holding its value pretty well), it meant some changes to my bag. In addition to re-acquiring some equipment, I was also able to make some upgrades along the way.
I didn’t write a version of this post last year, as I’ve tried to keep my Ultimate Photography Guide for Disney Parksup to date, but I seem to end up going through more camera gear than Disney has seasonal cupcakes (and that is saying something!), so maybe this is due. Plus, I’ve met a lot of people at Disneyland and Walt Disney World recently ask, “…so which camera areyou using now?”
If you want to see sample photos from any of these cameras/lenses, the best option is either their individual reviews or in my photography portfolio. The EXIF data there has some of that info…
Because cycling through cameras wasn’t enough, I also cycled through 3 camera bags this year! I started with the the Lowepro Flipside Sport 20L AW camera bag, which I previously dubbed the “Best Camera Bag for Disney.” I still have that, and still use it for hiking, but due to hiking with it a lot, it looks like I’ve rolled around in the mud with it. Not exactly “presentable” for the parks. (I opted not to buy an identical copy because LowePro no longer makes it.)
When I went mirrorless like all the cool kids do, I thought that made me cool, too. So, I got the Peak Design Everyday Messenger bag. If you’ve ever met me, you know I’m the approximate anthesis of “cool,” a fact I realized after owning this bag for a bit. (That, and I realized messenger bags just aren’t for me.)
So, I moved on to the LowePro ProTactic 450 AW. This bag is literally about as dorky as a camera bag could possibly be, meaning it was a perfect fit for me. I look like a Ninja Turtle while wearing it, except minus all the ninja awesomeness. Looks aside, I really love this bag in terms of its functionality. Great size, great pouch layout, and easy to open for bag check at the parks. It’s not totally perfect (I wish there were a good spot to stuff a coat) and it really does look clunky, but I’m okay with that.
Canon G7 X Mark II – “Hey Sarah, wouldn’t it be fun to try fun to vlog together?” “IDK, we’re awkward and uncomfortable on camera…and you’ll probably lose interest quickly.” “Perfect, I’ll buy a new camera!” That’s not exactly how the conversation went, save for me looking for any excuse to buy a new camera. I have no regrets. The Canon G7 X II is a very capable point and shoot that performs nearly as well as the Sony Rx100 series for photos, and nearly as well for video.
Nikon D750 – Last year, I wrote an article titled Nikon D750: The Best Camera for Disney Photography. After using myriad cameras since, I stand by that. Obviously, there’s no one size fits all camera, but this comes close. Budget allowing, I think this is the most well-rounded and versatile camera for most people wanting to get into Disney photography. The autofocus is fast and accurate for dark rides, the camera has great dynamic range for landscapes, the low light performance is wonderful, the articulated LCD screen is great for low or high angles, the camera isn’t too bulky, and the file sizes are manageable.
Nikon D810 – Since I’m low key scheming for artificial disc replacement (one step closer to my dream of becoming a cyborg) surgery before age 40, I carry as heavy of a camera bag as possible. Usually, that entails bringing the Nikon D810 (my backup camera for Disney) in addition to my D750. There are some situations–primarily during sunset, sunrise, and nighttime landscape shooting–when I reach for the D810. It does slightly outperform the D750 when shooting on a tripod thanks to its base ISO and slightly better dynamic range and color depth. (Emphasis on slightly.) For those same reasons, this is my primary camera when photographing the National Parks.
For my lenses, I’ll organize them in terms of how frequently I’ve used them in the last few months (based on stats from Adobe Bridge). The photo above each lens was taken with that lens…
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8– My most used lens every single for the last 4 years, and part of the reason I returned to shooting with my Nikon DSLRs. The Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8’s reputation precedes it: fast, wide, and tack sharp corner to corner. I love this lens, and it really suits my style. It’s excellent for landscapes, architecture, and even dark rides, making its versatility another big part of why I use it so much. It’s also great for low light situations, as the f/2.8 aperture plus its wideness makes it easy to shoot handheld with slower shutter speeds at sunset and dusk without busting out the tripod. Check out my full Nikon 14-24 review.
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 – I’ve shot with almost every lens Sigma has released under the “Art” label, and this (the first) is still the gold standard. The bokeh is beautiful, the lens is insanely sharp, and the photos have a certain distinct “look” to them that pops straight out of camera. It’s also the perfect focal length for walk-around shooting if you’re going to be using a prime (and that’s often the case for me, since I currently don’t have a mid-range zoom). I can’t say enough positive things about this lens, and it’s one of the few lenses that I think belongs in every full frame photographer’s camera bag irrespective of their style and what they shoot. Here’s my full review of this lens.
Nikon 85mm f/1.8– The main reason I purchased this lens was for the Halloween and Christmas parades, where it can deliver tighter portrait-style shots of performers (or floats in the distance). For those parades, I used this lens a lot, which has sort of skewed the rankings. The pros of this lens are its sharpness, speed, and price. In an ideal world, I’d buy the new Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art for its superior bokeh, but I can’t quite justify the price…yet.
Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 Fisheye – There was a time when the fisheye was my most used lens, and I was one of the few Disney fan photographers using it. The lens was almost part of my “style.” Now, open Instagram, and a good percentage of the photos I see are shot with the fisheye. After years of decreasing my usage of the lens, I actually increased it for the first time in a while this year. In some cases, I used it rather than the Nikon 14-24mm, knowing that I would correct for distortion later because I wanted something a bit wider. I know it can be gimmicky, but I suppose I’m a sucker for the gimmick. Here’s my full Rokinon 12mm fisheye review.
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII – One silver lining, if you want to call it that, of having to re-purchase Nikon gear was that I found the VRII version of this lens with a great rebate, so I splurged on that. I couldn’t be happier. (Of course, now an even newer version is out, and getting rave reviews.) While I appreciate the zoom this lens offers, just as often I find myself reaching for it to compress a scene or try to use it creatively. You don’t often hear this lens described as versatile, but I think that’s apt. The only downside is its size and weight, which often cause me to leave it behind if I’m sick of feeling like a sherpa.
Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art– This is the newest addition to my camera bag, and I’m really happy with it so far. I was initially a bit skeptical, worrying that I’d have minimal uses for it, but I’ve found that forcing myself to shoot with this lens has produced a high number of creative keepers that are unlike other photos I have. I’m still using it far less than other lenses, but it’s hit-to-miss ratio is incredibly high. Subject isolation on wide angle shots is really cool with this, and the bokeh is good. Here’s my full Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art Review.
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC* – This is one lens that has ridden “Tom’s Carousel of Lenses,” and for a while, it was my most-used lens. Unfortunately, I dropped the lens, and had to replace it…right when there was a rebate on the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8…so I bought that. I then sold that lens when going mirrorless, leaving me without any 24-70mm lens. I was hoping for a Black Friday deal on the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8, as it offers the best bang for buck out of any lens in this range. It’s sharp, has good bokeh, and the VC makes it great in low light. I really missed having VC/VR with the Nikon 24-70mm, and if I wanted that version of the Nikon, I’d be paying triple the price of the Tamron. Not worth it. I’ll buy this again at some point soon, so long as I can find a deal and don’t get distracted by another shiny object in the interim. Neither one of those are guarantees. Here’s my full Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC Review.
Luxi L III Tripod – I’ve searched high and low for the perfect Disney tripod, and I keep coming back to the Luxi L. I have tried a lot of tripods, and I’ve completely convinced that there is no better mix of weight, height, stability, set-up/take-down quickness, and price. I reviewed the Luxi L here a few years ago, and still agree with that. I even use this sometimes when I want to keep my bag light for hiking. Every tripod is a compromise in some regard, and I think the Luxi L is the best compromise. I just wish it were more readily available in the U.S.
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.
Phew, I think that’s it. Well, aside from accessories. I don’t want to bog down this post (even more) listing off all of those. I recently wrote about the ones I use in my Top 10 Photography Accessories for Disney post, and those are still the same ones I use most regularly.
Suffice to say, my bag is packed to the gills. If you want more in-depth reviews of a broader selection of equipment, I suggest checking out my Ultimate Photography Guide for Disney Parks. In addition to covering options for less expensive/crop sensor cameras, that post also has a bunch of resources for helping to improve your Disney photography without buying anything. While I’m clearly addicted to buying new photography toys, I’m also addicted to learning about photography. Taking great photos depends so much more on an insatiable thirst for knowledge than it does a fat wallet. 🙂